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Transcripts From One Of The Most Compelling Witnesses In The Impeachment Inquiry Have Just Been Released; Public Testimony In This Impeachment Inquiry Begins Next Wednesday; In Amsterdam, Dutch Authorities Say They Are Currently Investigating A Suspicious Situation On Board A Plane At Schiphol International Airport. Aired 2- 2:30p ET
Aired November 6, 2019 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He was intending on reopening in the Burisma case implicating Hunter Biden in some way. All that's important. So this is now going to tell us all the context we've been lacking since reading that 14-page document.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right, thank you guys so much and "NEWSROOM" with Brooke Baldwin starts right now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Brianna will take it. Thank you so much. Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN on this Wednesday afternoon. We begin with Breaking News, the transcripts from one of the most compelling witnesses in the Impeachment Inquiry -- thank you, Jay -- have just been released.
In fact, here you go, hot off the presses. Excerpts from the deposition William B. Taylor, Jr. sources say when Ambassador Bill Taylor appeared before three House committees last month, his testimony reverberated even among Republicans on Capitol Hill.
So as we start sorting through this transcript, let's begin this hour with CNN national security reporter, Kylie Atwood who is in Washington and Kylie, I know we're all just, just starting to read this transcript. What do you know about any key excerpts so far?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes, well, Brooke, we were just going through this. It's over 300 pages, detailing everything specifically, that Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine told lawmakers and what was key about Bill Taylor's testimony is that we saw the opening statement, that in and of itself was 15 pages.
And he went through a very detailed account of everything that he has documented over the last few months as the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine. And after he gave that opening statement, in which he told lawmakers that he was told by Ambassador Gordon Sondland, that everything including U.S. security assistance -- Ukraine getting that security assistance -- was dependent on Ukraine coming out and publicly saying that it would be opening investigations into Burisma, Biden and the 2016 election.
So he said that in the opening statement, which of course, we have now learned after Gordon Sondland went back and revised his testimony that he did in fact, tell Bill Taylor that.
Now, Gordon Sondland is a key player here because he was in touch with President Trump repetitively over the last few months. But the interesting thing is, as you look at this transcript, the first few pages after that opening statement is that lawmakers are questioning how Bill Taylor came up with such a detailed account here.
And Bill Taylor says -- tells them there are three ways that he did that. It's the WhatsApp messages that we have now seen copies of some of those between himself and Kurt Volker, who was the Special Envoy to Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, the Ambassador to the E.U., and he also had a small notebook, he says that he brought with him to all of his meetings. He took detailed notes in that notebook.
And in addition to that, he had a spiral notebook on his desk, which he also took notes. And so he had a very, very specific way of keeping notes and that's how he was able to provide such detailed testimony. But we are still now getting to the heart of what he told lawmakers beyond what was a very explosive opening statement.
BALDWIN: Okay, Kylie, thank you. For now let's go to Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill, who is also looking through this transcript and Manu, what have you been able to read so far?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is just coming out now. We're learning about some of his interactions that he had about why that security aid had been withheld and his interactions with the key player in all of this, which is Gordon Sondland, who was is the European ambassador to the European Union, someone who had told him that the President had wanted to withhold U.S. security aid to Ukraine in exchange for this public declaration of these investigations that could help the President politically.
I'm reading an excerpt here, where he says that Ambassador Sondland explicitly connected investigations within Oval Office meeting for President Zelensky. Now, that meeting has been central to this investigation.
President Zelensky of Ukraine in addition for pushing for this vital security aid to combat Russian aggression, also wanted to have a meeting with President Trump after Zelensky had been inaugurated earlier this year. He wanted to have a meeting to show support in Washington.
But according to what Bill Taylor is testifying here, he said that was conditioned to the declaration of investigations, and that backs up with other witnesses who have also testified, too, that these investigations were predicated until this decision was made about announcing these investigations.
Even Gordon Sondland himself indicated that the President would not move forward bolstering this effort to improve this alliance until there was a public declaration or until he dealt with Rudy Giuliani, the President's personal attorney who is dealing with Ukraine policy outside of normal diplomatic channels.
RAJU: But you know -- but, Brooke, we are still reading a lot of the details here. As Kylie mentioned, this is an extensive transcript that really goes to the backbone of this Democratic Impeachment Inquiry that the President sought a foreign power to investigate his political rivals, and according to Bill Taylor's testimony, he was told that this is all linked to that push to release aid that had already been approved for Ukraine.
So we'll get more into the details as we look at this little further, but he is a key witness here, the first witness who will come forward next week, who will essentially provide the backbone to the Democrats' investigation of the President's push in their view to interfere and to urge a foreign power to interfere in the 2020 elections, and also in their view, abusing the power of his office -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: Manu, thank you. Take a beat. Keep reading for me. Let me bring in two more incredible minds. John Dean, CNN contributor. John Dean was Richard Nixon's White House counsel and cooperated with the Watergate investigators against Nixon. Paul Callan is a former prosecutor and now a CNN legal analyst.
And so gentlemen, here we go. Just a couple of notes. Just to remind everyone, this is -- we are talking about Bill Taylor, who served under every Democrat and Republican administration since 1985. Right? So he was this career public servant, came out of retirement to take the job.
I remember reading his opening statement, he talks so much about how he cares so much about Ukraine and the U.S. relationship with Ukraine, talked about how necessary that that military aid was, talked about the thousands of Ukrainian soldiers that have been killed in the war.
And John Dean, first to you, sir, just to piggyback off of Manu's point that he is the first witness, you know, for the public testimony next Wednesday. Why is he so key for Democrats?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he is obviously in a position, Brooke that he can lay out generally what happened. He can give Americans an overview, and he is a very credible witness. He has got great credentials to explain what's going on. He is privy to much of what went on, and that will be very powerful.
He is not somebody who necessarily is a never Trumper, somebody who has got an axe to grind. And obviously, the Committee has already seen him and his abilities in closed session. So they've probably selected him based on that and said, this is the man to start explaining this to Americans.
BALDWIN: This is the man with the notes, Paul Callan. This is the man with the proverbial receipts. You've been reading a little bit and I see stars. What are your takeaways?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: One of the things that jumped out at me was reference to a July 10th meeting with Ukrainian officials --
BALDWIN: The one at the White House, right?
CALLAN: Yes, that John Bolton, National Security adviser to the President was attending and someone raised the question of the investigations and was Zelensky supporting the idea of investigations. Bolton became so angry he said we don't do politics here and he terminated the meeting immediately.
So this suggests that John Bolton who has always been a major conservative voice in the Trump administration, felt that any discussion of these investigations was totally improper in terms of the way to conduct foreign policy. And I think that's a very, very important corroborating witness for the Democrats that will prove to be very damaging to the President.
BALDWIN: That's John Bolton. I think at the end of the day, though, isn't part of the challenge for Democrats to try to connect the dots and to connect this to President Trump, who gave the directive to withhold this military aid?
CALLAN: Well, it would be -- the Democrats would think it wonderful, of course, if they could find somebody to connect it directly to the President.
CALLAN: But you can connect events to the President through circumstantial evidence. This is done in all kinds of court cases. You can also connect in a second way, and you can do that by looking at sort of the code language that the President was using with Zelensky to send the message that if you don't do this investigation, they will pay a price.
There are other ways to put this together, and I think it's interesting that we're all with John Dean now, and John Dean could tell you that when the Watergate hearings were going on, and John Dean testified, John Dean had one of the most remarkable memories in the Watergate testimony.
But even with that remarkable memory, the Nixon defenders were saying he is lying, the President never would have done this. And the thing that really validated John Dean's testimony was the existence of the Nixon tapes.
Now, I don't think we're going to have such tapes in this case, so we're going to have to depend upon the John Deans of the Trump administration to testify.
BALDWIN: Right. To that point, John Dean, you know, we know that the White House is apparently most concerned about this witness, about this career public servant, Bill Taylor. Can you understand why?
DEAN: I can he can be a very, very bad witness for the President. While he may not have had direct dealings with the President on these issues, that won't matter in the long run. He can, as was said, paint a circumstantial case that can be devastating for the President; that it only could have happened because of the President.
One of the difficulties they're having right now is getting witnesses to continue to come up to testify, and one of the things they're going to have to do is build the case that it's the President that's blocking these.
Now, this -- Taylor knows a lot about this, and is the sort of witness from his vantage point that can explain this to the audience or to the American people, who we are all the audience, and there is a theater element to this.
Let me tell you, Brooke, I didn't realize when during Watergate, people said to me afterwards, we enjoyed your show.
BALDWIN: Like, this is real life.
DEAN: That's right. It wasn't a show to me. But now that I'm on the other side, I can see what they're talking about.
BALDWIN: Sure. I want to get into all of that because that begins for this entire country next Wednesday with this man, with a top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine. I have so many more questions. We also have more key excerpts that we're pulling from this testimony that's just been released from Capitol Hill from Bill Taylor. So hang with us. I'm Brooke Baldwin. John Dean and Paul Callan will all be back after this.
BALDWIN: Welcome back to the Breaking News. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You know the story up on Capitol Hill, the public testimony in this Impeachment Inquiry begins next Wednesday, and the very first witness to be called is a man by the name of Bill Taylor.
He is the top U.S. diplomat into Ukraine, and it is his transcripts. He has already testified up on Capitol Hill as part of this whole the closed-door testimony and we're now getting his transcript. We're reading through it. Manu Raju is reading through it and so Manu, popping you back up here, what more has stood out to you?
RAJU: Well, he makes very clear that he was alarmed when he learned from through channels with the U.S. government that the White House Office of Management and Budget had withheld the security aid to Ukraine and that he had learned that the directive had come from the President.
This came in the aftermath of his push to try to release that nearly $400 million of military aid to Ukraine because it was so vital to fight back against Russian aggression. They were dependent on this military aid that had already been approved by Congress.
Then he learns through the course of his tenure while serving the top diplomat in Ukraine why it was withheld, and he says he had a conversation with Gordon Sondland, who is the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union. And Sondland makes very clear that President Trump had told him --
According to Taylor, President Trump had told Ambassador Sondland that he wanted President Zelensky of Ukraine to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 elections.
Now, Burisma of course is in reference to the company in which Hunter Biden, the former Vice President's son sat on the Board of. The President and Rudy Giuliani had pushed for investigations and the 2016 election interference is pursuing the theory, a conspiracy theory of sorts that Ukraine was involved in interfering in the elections of 2016, something that the President potentially could point to and try to push back against the notion that it was Russia that interfered to help the President.
So what Taylor is saying here is that he learns from Gordon Sondland that the President had told Sondland that he would not release this aid until these investigations were publicly announced and that essentially corroborates what other people have said also in their testimony.
Now he goes on to talk more about his conversations with Gordon Sondland and a lot of this I should note, Brooke, we've learned from the release of his opening statement, which details a lot of these conversations, but it provides a lot more -- this transcript provides a lot more detail. We're going through those details, several hundred pages worth of back and forth, but he makes very clear that he learns through his colleagues, through other U.S. officials, that that's the reason why this aid had been withheld.
He had tried to push for its release and raise concerns about the notion of a quid pro quo throughout his conversations and ultimately, this aid was released. So he is making clear his belief that the President was directly involved in this quid pro quo, tying it directly to the President.
Now the Republicans have already said that he doesn't know that because the President didn't tell him directly, but he testifies that he spoke to an individual who talked to the President who made that very clear, which is why that aid had been withheld.
So that is a significant development, something we will hear in public when Bill Taylor testifies next week -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: I'm going to use that point as my springboard, Manu. Thank you very much. I'll have you keep reading. John Dean is back with me as is Paul Callan and also joining us now, CNN Legal Analyst, Laura Coates and so, Laura, you're fresh up on this, so you first.
[14:20:00] BALDWIN: To Manu's point about how Taylor had testified that
Ambassador Sondland said that he wanted Zelensky to say, you know, publicly that they will -- that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and any, you know, alleged interference in the election.
Let me just read part of this because I just -- why not? This is Bill Taylor talking. He says, "Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he made a mistake by earlier telling Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelensky was dependent on a public announcement of investigation. In fact, Ambassador Sondland said everything was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance." Right? So this is the $400 million in the military aid.
He said that, "President Trump wanted President Zelensky in a box by making public statement about ordering such investigations." And so Laura to Manu's point, it's not directly coming from President Trump, but it sounds like it's Trump to Sondland to Taylor. Is that good enough for Democrats here?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly doesn't suggest all this has been freelance and remember, we talked about was good enough, frankly, talk about prosecutorial discretion and prerogative in a criminal case.
When it comes to impeachment, Brooke, we're talking about whatever it is Congress says is sufficient to actually constitute an abuse of power. And certainly, the pure breath of this testimony that you're seeing outlines the abuse of power that is part and parcel to the Impeachment Inquiry for a variety of reasons.
And what I want to direct you to, is of course, the notion that what Bill Taylor seems to be very concerned about is the overwhelming and cannot be overstated leverage that the United States has with respect to Ukraine.
COATES: He even outlines it and describes what would be called the Russian nightmare scenario, where Russia is watching this all happen, seeing that Ukraine is beholden to America and most importantly, that they will wade in by that being in the boxed television interview, they will wade into the controversy. They will assert themselves as being partisan, and they will lose the bipartisan support that granted them the very aid that we're talking about.
That testimony sounds a whole lot like what Lieutenant Colonel Vindman talked about when he immediately along with Dr. Fiona Hill, went to National Security Council lawyers, and also to John Bolton and said, hold on a second. We can't wade into diplomatic matters. We can't have people become political puppets and marionettes. We already have congressionally appropriated funding and diplomacy is on the line.
And if I can say one more thing about that, there's one line that I thought was really important, and that is -- he talks about it on Page 9 what we're talking about here is he actually says when Bill Taylor speaks to Ambassador Sondland, he says -- he said, in that same call about the being in the box, I told Ambassador Sondland that President Trump should have more respect for another Head of State, and that what he described was not in the interest of either President Trump or President Zelensky.
So even then he was saying, this is not in the interest of the United States of America and having zero respect in a diplomatic setting, that sounds a whole lot to me like grounds for an abuse of power allegation.
BALDWIN: Hold that thought everyone. We're getting some more breaking news from overseas and then we'll come back to this. This is the Breaking News now in Amsterdam where Dutch authorities say they are currently investigating a suspicious situation on board a plane at Schiphol International Airport. CNN's Nic Robertson is following this for us, of course, Amsterdam, a huge international hub. Nic, what's going on?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, sure, Brooke, an absolutely massive airport; 67,000 people work there. There are more than 500 outlets within the complex of the airport itself.
What we know, a suspicious situation is currently taking place on an aircraft that's began a little under an hour ago. This is what the Royal Dutch police have announced. They say standby for more details.
What we understand from the Dutch National Broadcast at the moment is that multiple emergency and security vehicles have been seen heading towards the airport, that they -- the Dutch National Broadcaster -- says that they understand the situation that is underway at the airport has a threat to the wellbeing, a threat to life of people in the immediate vicinity.
That hasn't been clarified yet by the Dutch Police, but what we understand at the moment is that there is a huge security operation underway at the airport - that the aircraft and question is on the ground, that the suspicious situation is on board the aircraft.
It's not clear to us yet if the aircraft is still at the gate or if it's out on the taxiway, but what we do know about Schiphol which makes it different to so many other airports that it does security right at the gate, the very last thing before you get on board the aircraft is that security check.
At the moment though, we are waiting for the Dutch Police to provide more details -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: That's right, you go through those metal detectors as you are entering the gate there in Amsterdam. We will stay in close contact with you, Nic. Thank you very much. As soon as you get more when you say threat to life in the immediate vicinity, we want to know more. So thank you so much. We will stay on that. We're also getting new excerpts from this
explosive testimony in the impeachment investigation describing quid pro quo on Ukraine. Standby.
BALDWIN: And we're back with more breaking news.