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Impeachment Testimony Continues; U.S. Envoy Revises Impeachment Testimony. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired November 5, 2019 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You have special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker there on the left side of your screen and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland there on the right.
So, these two men -- this is key here today -- Volker quit right before he was supposed to testify and then released text messages that indicated some of Ambassador Sondland's direct involvement in Ukraine policy.
We will get to Volker here in just a second.
Let me focus on Ambassador Sondland. He is the one who outright denied any quid pro quo when confronted about it in released text messages.
So now we're seeing that he told House committees in amended testimony that there was a quid pro quo, that there was a quid pro quo involving military aid to Ukraine.
Sondland also reveals more details about just how big a presence Rudy Giuliani was in the U.S. policy with Ukraine. Let me just read one exchange.
This is Sondland speaking here -- quote -- "Again, people usually smiled when they heard Rudy's name because he was always swirling around somewhere."
Question: "Yeah, but, I mean, he was causing serious issues in the Ukraine, the U.S. relationship with Ukraine. Did you raise those concerns with..."
Sondland: "Listen, the State Department was fully aware of the issues, and there was very little they could do about it if the president decided he wanted his lawyer involved."
Question: "Does that include Secretary Pompeo and his counselor?"
Sondland: "My speculation is yes, that they hit a brick wall when it came to getting rid of Mr. Giuliani."
Let's go first to Manu Raju, our senior congressional correspondent, up on Capitol Hill. And so you have been reading through.
Let's start with the Sondland testimony. What are your key takeaways?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a significant development here, this amended testimony saying that aid was likely linked to this public declaration by Ukraine of investigations that could help the president politically, investigations into Joe Biden, Joe Biden's son, who served on a board of the company Burisma in Ukraine, also 2016 elections, looking into this theory, this conspiracy theory of sorts that Ukraine was the one that was interfering in the U.S. elections.
That was part of what Rudy Giuliani had been seeking. And what Gordon Sondland here is testifying in his amended statement to the committee is that this aid, nearly $400 million or so, was essentially held up until that -- those investigations had been announced.
And he also testifies that it was Rudy Giuliani who was pushing it and it was also the ask of President Trump to deal with Rudy Giuliani, as it came to Ukraine.
Now, in this amended statement, he talks about meeting with Andriy Yermak, who's the top aide to the Ukrainian president, Zelensky.
He says -- he's talking about the September 1 phone call. "I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak, where I said resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks."
So he's making it very clear in his testimony that what he learned through the course of his interactions with Rudy Giuliani that Rudy Giuliani was seeking these investigations into the Bidens, into the 2016 elections.
And then he later says that this was tied to the release of aid, something that -- this is what the Democrats have been alleging here, is a quid pro quo, and something the president himself denied to Gordon Sondland.
Sondland, as you mentioned, did tell a separate individual that there was no quid pro quo, based on what the president said. But based on what he was privately telling Ukraine officials, it's different than what the president was saying.
Also, Brooke, significant in this testimony was him acknowledging that a meeting that had been sought by President Zelensky of Ukraine with President Trump in Washington essentially had been put on ICE until Rudy Giuliani's demands were met for these investigations.
So, two key matters here, the aid, $400 dollars, had been withheld, as well as this meeting in Ukraine essentially went nowhere until those investigations were announced publicly. And that is the core of what Democrats have been investigating in this impeachment inquiry.
And here you have the president's top diplomat to the European Union making this case in a pretty dramatic way and amending his testimony to make clear that military aid was likely tied to this call for investigations -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: OK, it's a perfect jumping-off point for these ladies to my right.
Manu, thank you very much.
Let's unpack all of this.
CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers is a former federal prosecutor. Melissa Murray is a professor at NYU Law School. And Gloria Borger is our CNN chief political analyst.
So, first, just on the legal, can you explain to all of us who are watching -- and we're honing in on this word refreshed. How can someone -- I guess, shouldn't you tell the truth the first time? Like, what is this refreshed testimony? Because we're learning new details about how he went and chatted with the secretary of energy, went and chatted with the president, told him to go tell the truth.
Round two, he goes back and says, OK, yes, essentially quid pro quo, not just with regard to this meeting with Zelensky at the White House, but also with regard to the $400 million in military aid.
How does that work?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, usually, you should, of course, tell the truth the first time and you should have prepared for your testimony by using documents and any other means to refresh your recollection the first time.
But, oftentimes, if what you really want is the information, what you really want is what Sondland knew and when and what people told him, et cetera. So they give him another chance. You can come in, you can amend your testimony.
Now I think they're going to want him back in person to answer more questions.
RODGERS: But what they want from him is the truth. So they will give him another chance to come in, correct the record where all those times he said, oh, I wasn't sure, I can't remember.
RODGERS: Now he remembers. Let's get the real answer. And he likely won't face any consequences for that.
BALDWIN: Let me come back to that in a second.
But, Gloria, over to you in Washington. So two pieces of reporting been out just in the last couple of
minutes, number one, that Sondland said he called Rick Perry, the energy secretary, the day before his deposition to refresh his memory of that July 10 meeting at the White House, and, number two, that Sondland told the committee he had a brief exchange with President Trump during a White House gathering where the president told him to go tell the truth.
And, again, I come back to the man was under oath. And the president of United States said, tell the truth.
Your thoughts on that?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, one would presume you would tell the truth if you were under oath, correct?
BORGER: Correct. Correct.
But I don't think Donald Trump is going to be very happy with the truth.
BALDWIN: The truth he told.
BORGER: The truth be told, which effectively outlines a quid pro quo and gives a very different timeline from the one where -- we were told originally, and which says that, as of September 1, the Ukrainians were very well aware of what was holding up the military aid, because he told them.
Sondland makes it very clean -- clear, as Manu pointed out, that he told the Ukrainians that aid would not -- would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.
And that anti-corruption statement was about Biden and Burisma. And, of course, that statement never occurred. And Ambassador Volker told them to drop it because he thought it was ridiculous.
But it's very clear here that the Ukrainians knew that there was a quid pro quo. And that they were being asked to do something they felt very uncomfortable doing, because they didn't want to get involved in domestic politics over in this country.
And, also, they thought it had been investigated at one point and was ridiculous.
BALDWIN: Melissa, why does this point on, yes, there was a quid pro quo, yes, the president did withhold this money in order to do this investigating on a political opponent in 2016, why does it matter, big picture?
MELISSA MURRAY, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, big picture, I think it matters for a lot of reasons. The question of the quid pro quo is the central question of the impeachment inquiry. Obstruction of justice, the witnesses, that's all ancillary to this. Figuring out whether there is a quid pro quo and for what is the key question.
And if I were a Republican strategist right now caucusing with this White House, I would be saying that, yes, there was a quid pro quo, but it was only about anti-corruption, not about getting this dirt on Biden to be used in the 2020 election.
And, of course, if I were a Democrat strategizing right now, I would be trying to link up the dots that this was really about Joe Biden and looking prospectively, not retrospectively at the 2016 election.
BALDWIN: To your point about Republicans caucusing and getting on the same page, it sounds like, Gloria, they kind of did.
It was "Washington Post," I think it was, reporting yesterday that it all pivoted during last Wednesday during the lunch, when all the Republicans are like, OK, OK, OK, there was quid pro quo, but -- and then minimizing it that it wasn't corrupt intent.
BALDWIN: But two key people, correct me, but two key people have said that there was no quid pro quo, number one, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and, number two, the president of United States.
BORGER: And don't forget Mick Mulvaney, who said there was a quid pro quo, but then he said there wasn't a quid pro quo.
BALDWIN: Right. Exactly.
BORGER: So I think what the Republicans are trying to do is say, it was inappropriate, but not impeachable. And you can think it was inappropriate without believing that it's an impeachable offense.
That, however, is a problem for the president of the United States, who continues to say that what occurred in that -- in his phone call and now, as we find out about this foreign policy, was perfect.
So you have Republicans who are looking for a way to defend the president, and a president saying you can't use that defense because I don't agree with it. Defend me on what was said in that phone call where I asked about Joe Biden.
And there are lots of Republicans who are not willing to do that. In the end, it doesn't matter much, because if they're not going to vote for impeachment, they're not going to vote for impeachment, so they will be on the president's side no matter what.
But there is a difference in kind about how they're going to go about doing that. Whether that will make the president feel any better or not, I have no idea.
BALDWIN: Let's pivot to Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, to my legal ladies, and his role in all of this.
When you read some of the initial bits of the Sondland transcript, he described -- he was asked about, how much did you talk about him with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo?
And I'm paraphrasing, but I think there was a line about, well, he rolls his eyes and says he's swirling, he's swirling everywhere.
The other point, Sondland worked with Giuliani and others to prompt Ukraine to make a public announcement about its investigation and that any announcement would need to be on TV, so that President Trump would see it.
What's your impression of Rudy Giuliani's role in all this foreign policy regarding Ukraine? Why are you smiling?
MURRAY: Because the whole transcript paints this picture of Rudy Giuliani as the Tasmanian Devil just swirling around in this like cloud of dust, making a mash of everything.
And the transcript makes really clear these were career Foreign Service professionals who were absolutely aghast at how this administration has just run roughshod over every protocol.
I mean, having foreign policy conducted through the president's personal lawyer, who is doing the work pro bono, none of this makes sense to any of these career people, and they are just absolutely agog at this.
BALDWIN: But, Gloria, did Secretary Pompeo allow for this?
BORGER: Sure. Absolutely. Look the other way. Rolled his eyes and said, yes.
I mean, this is from Sondland's testimony. He said, Pompeo rolled his eyes and said, yes, it's something we have to deal with.
In fact, they didn't really deal with it, as far as we know, because nobody was willing to go to the president of the United States, as far as we know, and say, Mr. President, this is inappropriate. The conspiracy theories are ridiculous and have been debunked. You are getting in the way of important foreign policy of the United States of America, which, by the way, has been -- the money for military aid to Ukraine to use against the Russians has already been appropriated by the United States Congress, and you cannot do this.
So far as I can tell, Pompeo just rolled his eyes, not to mention the fact that he also lied on television a couple of times. Well, that's not a criminal act, as we all know. But -- so he wasn't being truthful with the American public about all of this because he was not willing to confront the president.
And I just think that Rudy Giuliani, who had no security clearance, who was doing this on behalf of the president, maybe to line his own pockets in Ukraine, we have -- we don't have any idea about that -- is absurd on the face of it. It's just absurd.
BALDWIN: OK. I have so many more questions. Nobody move a muscle.
We are seeing the other transcripts as well today from the other key witness who testifies that there was no validity to the conspiracies involving the Bidens and the Ukraine -- what Kurt Volker testified.
You're watching CNN's special live coverage. I'm Brooke Baldwin. We will be right back.
BALDWIN: As we continue to pore through what these two key witnesses told lawmakers behind closed doors, some really blunt revelations from Kurt Volker. He is the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine.
And so let me just read one exchange for you where Volker told lawmakers that there was no validity to Trump's Biden allegations.
So, from the transcript.
Question: "You did not believe there was any validity to the two allegations as we..."
Volker: "No, I did not."
Question: "... called them earlier. And yet that's what President Trump wanted Zelensky to commit to investigating before he could get..."
Question: "... a visit to the White House."
CNN's Lauren Fox is with me now with more on what she is gleaning from these transcripts.
So, Lauren, what's jumping out at you?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, Brooke, one talking point we're hearing a lot from Republicans over the last few minutes is the fact that, in this closed-door deposition, Volker told them that he wasn't aware of a quid pro quo.
When he was pressed, he said -- quote -- "You asked, what conversations did I have about a quid pro quo? None, because I didn't know there was a quid pro quo."
But this isn't old good news for Republicans. As you pointed out, Volker was very concerned about that July 25 phone call. He was surprised and troubled that the president was trying to push for investigations into his political rivals. And, as you read, he didn't believe there was any validity to those arguments.
He also said he was concerned about Rudy Giuliani's role and what it would do to the U.S. relationship between the U.S. and Ukraine, in part because there was bipartisan support on Capitol Hill to give this military aid to Ukraine.
There was a belief that -- from the Ukrainians that if they got involved in U.S. electoral politics, it could damage their relationship with the U.S. So that's just a few highlights from Volker's testimony.
Of course, we're still going through what is several hundreds of pages -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: I will let you keep reading.
Lauren Fox, thank you very much.
Melissa and Jen and Gloria are back with me.
And so, Jen, on surface level, after reading through this whole Volker thing, how does he come across to you?
RODGERS: Well, he actually doesn't come across that well to me, because, on the one hand, yes, he did resign and came in and presumably told the truth.
On the other hand, what you get from at least the excerpts that I have seen is, this whole thing is amateur hour, including with Volker. I mean, he's talking about how, as they get to the end of the process of negotiating this statement, Rudy Giuliani says, these two things have to be in the public statement. You have to put in the Biden investigation, you have to put in the 2016 election interference investigation.
And you have the Ukrainians telling him, well, is that actually an official Department of Justice request for these assistance on investigations? Is that where this is coming from?
And he says, I don't know. Let me find out, and comes back and says, no, it's not.
Well, then, actually, Volker says, then, probably, actually, you shouldn't put them in. So, never mind, because that is totally inappropriate.
So what is Volker doing over there? It just seems like really...
BALDWIN: To have Ukraine say, this gone through DOJ?
BALDWIN: Right. Right. RODGERS: And he didn't even know enough or wasn't even with the
program enough to ask that question in the first place before he even approached them.
BALDWIN: Melissa, what's your impression?
MURRAY: Well, it's not just amateur hour for Kurt Volker. It's amateur hour all the way up.
And we have the president, who is listening to Rudy Giuliani, who's spinning these witch's tales about the Ukraine and their involvement in the election. And he seems completely fixated on trying to show that Russia did not hand him the 2016 election. And so he's buying into this Ukrainian stuff.
And then Pompeo is also letting it go down, even though earlier, as CIA chief, he did suggest that there had been Russian interference in the 2016 election.
So we just get like the idea that there are a lot of different pots on the fire in this administration, but nobody's actually watching the stove.
BALDWIN: Which is a problem. Which is a problem.
Gloria, Volker told Zelensky about the -- quote, unquote -- "Giuliani factor," that Rudy Giuliani was amplifying this negative narrative about Ukraine. What's the significance in that?
BORGER: Well, I think it just amplifies the chaos that was surrounding the whole policy, which should have been pretty much cut and dry, since Congress had already appropriated money.
And Rudy Giuliani was somebody who was representing the president himself, who knows what, never -- wanted to be secretary of state at one point, never became secretary of state, but was certainly acting as secretary of state here.
And these were people -- I'm going to be a little bit more positive towards Volker. I think they were trying to figure out a way to work around Giuliani. I think Volker wanted to do the right thing, but wasn't quite sure how to do it.
So he played along a little bit with Giuliani, and tried to kind of figure out what he could get out of Giuliani that he could -- then he could tell Ukrainians about, open up a dialogue with them, so that they could get their aid, because I believe he thought that this is an existential issue for the country.
BORGER: And that was -- and that that was most important, and he did whatever he had to do.
Only, in the end, it was Volker who said, just bag it. We're not going to do this statement. Forget it. Let's just move on. BALDWIN: Yes. yes. Ladies, thank you.
We're getting more breaking news here as we're going through these transcripts, House Democrats calling on the White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to testify this week.
And, also, while other administration officials refuse to show up to answer questions, the vice president's senior adviser will likely testify in this impeachment investigation.
You're watching CNN. We will be right back.
BALDWIN: In other news today, House impeachment investigators are ratcheting up their investigation into one of the president's top aides.
They have requested acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to testify on Capitol Hill this coming Friday. And it appears unlikely that Mulvaney will comply with that request.
This is coming as sources tell CNN that a senior adviser to Vice President Mike Pence is likely to comply with a request later this week.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House.
And so, Kaitlan, let's start with Mulvaney here.
Any -- what are the chances that he shows up?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Pretty much slim to none.
COLLINS: But it's notable, because he's the closest aid to the president so far who House Democrats have said is someone they want to speak, that they have called to speak.
And while, right now, they have scheduled his deposition to happen on Friday, we are being told it's not likely that he's going to show up, though that's not definitive yet. We will know on Friday whether or not he shows up.
But, of course, they say that he has firsthand knowledge and substantial information, which is why they want to speak with him. And, of course, recently, he found himself at the center of this scandal, because he gave that briefing to reporters where he admitted and then later denied that the president did tie the holdup in that military aid to his political motivations.
But, right now, we're not expecting to see Mulvaney. And while he's the more interesting name here, there's someone else who may not be as well-known who is also equally as notable.
And that's this senior aide to the vice president, Mike Pence, who we should know, Jennifer Williams is not a political appointee. She's a career official, worked at the State Department, is now working in the vice president's office, is detailed to him, handles Ukraine, Europe, other affairs for the vice president.
She is someone who has also been scheduled to testify on Thursday. And we're being told that she is expected to show up. That's notable, because she was on that July call with the Ukrainian president, something that we should note Mick Mulvaney was not on the call.
She was on, in addition to Pence's national security adviser