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Details From Excerpts CNN Obtained of Testimony From Two Key Witnesses, Volker & Sondland; Sondland Told Lawmakers Giuliani's Push For Ukraine To Investigate Bidens Was Potentially Illegal; Key Testimony Shows Pompeo Not Pleased With Giuliani Involved In Ukraine. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired November 6, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: These transcripts we were waiting for were just released. These are excerpts from depositions from the former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker and also Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, who was ordered by Trump to work with Rudy Giuliani in this shadow foreign policy with Ukraine.
Let's go to Kylie Atwood.
Kylie, you've been pouring through these excerpts. What are you learning?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: So this is developing. We're still looking through these.
But one thing that Ambassador Sondland referenced in his opening remarks before this testimony that he was concerned about the role that Rudy Giuliani was playing.
Now we are getting some more examples of the fact that Secretary Pompeo was fully aware of the role that Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, was playing in the U.S./Ukraine foreign policy, which should be owned by the State Department and national security officials.
Let's read that excerpt from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., testimony. He was asked, quote, "Did you ever discuss Rudy Giuliani with Secretary Pompeo?" He responded, "Only in general terms." "And what did you discuss," he was asked. He responded, "That he's involved in affairs. And Pompeo rolled his eyes and said, yes, it's something we have to deal with."
So the other thing Sondland told lawmakers was that the State Department and Pompeo were fully aware of the issues relating to Giuliani, indicating there were no efforts to set up guardrails between what Giuliani was pushing, an investigation into Joe Biden in 2016, and what the formal U.S. policy with regard to Ukraine was.
And the other thing that Sondland references in this testimony is that those asks from Rudy Giuliani became more and more insidious. They started out by asking Ukraine for investigations, and then they ended pushing for the Ukrainians to investigate 2016 and the Bidens specifically.
So Gordon Sondland really demonstrating here he was worried about that push but he was part of that push.
We know that, because Ambassador Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, said he was told by Sondland that this U.S. assistance, this security assistance to Ukraine was not going to be let go unless Ukraine did, in fact, announce they would be carrying out these investigations into 2016 and Joe Biden -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Kylie, thank you so much for putting that into context.
There's been a lot of testimony and it's so important to say where it all fits in.
I want to talk about another excerpt we're seeing from Sondland's testimony before these House committees so we can talk about it with our panel.
This has to do with demands that Ukraine investigate the former Vice President's son and that those demands were improper.
The question asked of Sondland was, "When you said on page eight 8 of your statement that you did not understand until much later that Mr. Giuliani's agenda might also have included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son or to involve Ukrainians directly or indirectly in the president's 2020 reelection campaign, why did you think that either of those activities are problematic?"
And Sondland answers, "Because I believe I testified that it would be improper to do that."
The question is, "And illegal, right?" He answered, "I am not a lawyer, but I assume so."
Let's discuss this. And we have some lawyers here to talk about it.
What do you think about that, Ross?
ROSS GARBER, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so we're still going through the excerpts of the transcript. And Sondland was in there for 10 hours, so I'm going to be very interested to see the rest of his testimony.
But I'm struck by a few things. One is, as you just noted, Sondland made clear that he thought, if there was this exchange, it would be improper. So he's not trying to justify it. He's not trying to say it was all cool, it was all legal, everything is fine. He's saying if that's what was going on, that would be improper and maybe illegal.
The second thing that strikes me is his involvement with Rudy Giuliani. So far what we haven't seen is an explanation from Sondland for why he thought that was OK. Why is he dealing with the president's personal lawyer on issues involving diplomacy? Which I think is --
KEILAR: Let me ask you about that. He clearly thinks it's not OK. He brings it up and yet he proceeds.
GARBER: Right. What does he think Giuliani is doing there? He thinks it's weird. He thinks it's odd. He thinks maybe it's not OK. But what does he think Giuliani is doing there?
Giuliani has said repeatedly he's looking out for the president's personal interests. He said that over and over again, including up until very recently.
If that's what's going on, what does Sondland think he's dealing with, with the president's personal lawyer advocating his personal interests? What does he think he's doing?
KEILAR: At some point, he says, I made the Biden-Burisma connection. Then the transcripts of the call was released. I can't tell you when, what dates, but that's kind of what happened.
But, again, it's sort of -- he's making -- he's indicating that it was sort of like late to the game that he figured this thing out.
I mean, do you think that's believable, Kevin?
KEVIN CARROLL, FORMER CIA CASE OFFICER: Ambassador Sondland says he's not a lawyer, but you don't have to be a lawyer to understand the law. He understood from the get-go that this was, in his own words, insidious and improper.
One of the things that stood out to me, Brianna, was when he recounts his conversation with the president after the text exchange with the ambassador in Ukraine.
He said President Trump said, "I want nothing, I want no quid pro quo, I want Zelensky to do the right thing."
It almost sounds like a wiretap in a mob case. You're creating a record to say, no quid pro quo, but do the right thing.
ROSS: The president is speaking Latin, it sounds like there.
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The problem here is that, you're a high-ranking official and you're told to take this on but talk to someone outside the administration. You don't know, the president doesn't tell you what it is. The State Department doesn't tell you what it is. But you're figuring it out on your own. Then the president eventually tells you, make it public if you find
out something, if you get any commitment from Ukraine.
It sounds like a movie. It sounds as if they wanted him to figure something out and find something. They didn't want fingerprints on this. It sounds very suspicious.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and throughout this transcript, aside from -- we should say there's a lot of, I do not recall. These are excerpts of the full transcript where he doesn't -- you know, maybe he doesn't recall.
But you lawyers can tell me if that's kind of the "you don't want to answer this question" line.
RYAN: The stay-out-of-trouble line.
BASH: The stay-out-of-trouble line, yes.
But throughout it, both he and -- we're going to talk about the Volker transcript soon -- but the broad takeaway is they were trying to figure out, what is it is holdup with this aid?
Aside the questions of phone calls trying to arrange that, a meeting, trying to arrange that. This aid was appropriated, it was approved by Congress, it was being held up. We did not know why.
KEILAR: Guys, hang on. We have a lot more to analyze ahead.
We'll be back in just a moment. This is CNN special live coverage.
KEILAR: All right, I want to go straight to Capitol Hill. We are getting excerpts in from two of the depositions in the impeachment inquiry.
I want to bring in Phil Mattingly.
And, Phil, you have been looking at excerpts of the transcript from Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special rep for Ukraine negotiations. What are you seeing?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot of attention paid, rightfully so, to Gordon Sondland's deposition, and we're reading through that. He was intimately involved with what President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and others were doing as well.
But Kurt Volker provides a fascinating window into how Rudy Giuliani had arose to be such a central figure and how this all worked.
At one point, talking about a meeting with the president where the president made clear that people needed to talk to Rudy.
But it worked in other ways, too, including one portion of the transcript saying the Ukrainians reached out to him to set up a meeting. He was asked why was that the case? And he said because Rudy Giuliani would convey that information to the president.
The question asked, because Rudy Giuliani would convey that information to the president, presumably, correct? Volker was asked that and responded, yes, that's the case.
Volker went on to say he set up a July 19 phone call between the top- two officials tied to Ukrainian President Zelensky and Rudy Giuliani. He didn't have much to say about that call except that he connected them.
But there's a recognition here that the Ukrainians, as this got later into the process, started to realize that basically the only way they could plead their case to the president for the aid was to go to Rudy Giuliani, essentially using official channels from the State Department to do just that. They felt that was the only option.
I want to check back a couple months prior to that. May 23rd, a very important meeting. A number of people have testified about this meeting. Kurt Volker was in that meeting.
In that meeting, officials from the administration, a Senator in that meeting as well, Kate, came in, in the wake of attending President Zelensky's inauguration. They came to pitch President Trump, that this was the guy, he was a reformer, this was a guy they should support.
In that meeting, Volker made clear in his testimony that the president made clear repeatedly that people in Ukraine were corrupt, saying, quote, "They were terrible people."
Despite what officials were telling him, saying they needed to talk to Rudy because Rudy -- and I'm paraphrasing here -- had basically made clear what was really happening on the ground in the president's perspective on the ground in Ukraine.
So you get a look at how Rudy Giuliani rose into the position of being a focal point not just for President Trump and President Trump's views on Ukraine and views on foreign policy of Ukraine but also the almost desperate need Ukrainians felt to connect with somebody in the administration to get through to President Trump.
They identified that after trying to go through official channels, failing to set up a White House meeting, failing to get aid cleared, though they said they were unaware the aid had been held up, they had to go to Rudy Giuliani. It was their only way to get the information through to the president that they felt they needed to present.
So obviously still combing through a lot of this. And to clarify, Kurt Volker said he was not aware of why the aid was held up, something Republicans pointed to as evidence there was no quid pro quo. But if you want an insider window into how U.S. foreign policy was
working and how Rudy Giuliani was such a central figure, read Kurt Volker's testimony. It's eye-opening -- Brianna?
KEILAR: Phil, thank you, and stand by. Thank you so much for that report.
We'll pouring through the excerpts of this testimony. We have it here. I have a number of experts with me here.
We'll be right back with more.
KEILAR: All right. We have been looking at excerpts from the depositions of two key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry. There were two yesterday, two more today. And they're painting a very interesting picture about this shadow foreign policy that Rudy Giuliani was conducting when it came to Ukraine at the president's direction.
And the State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo clearly not pleased, according to the testimony of United States ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, that they had to work through Rudy Giuliani but he seemed to acquiesce and know this is how it was going to go.
Let's talk big picture with my experts here on-set.
We've seen the testimony. Seeing bits and pieces. Connecting dots. But overall, we're talking about what is clearly a number of top administration officials aware of what is going on here. What Rudy Giuliani is trying to do.
Mike Pence, who didn't go to the inauguration of the Ukrainian president as originally planned. Rick Perry, who did. Right? Bill Barr has some awareness of what's going on. Mike Pompeo has awareness of what's going on, because he's normally the one in charge of the official track and Rudy Giuliani is off freelancing doing his own thing actually the prevailing foreign policy at the behest of the president.
RYAN: Authorized. He was authorized by the president to do his own thing.
KEILAR: By the president.
So we're seeing, this isn't just something that siloed with President Trump and Rudy Giuliani. Does that matter?
GARBER: Mick Mulvaney --
KEILAR: Mick Mulvaney.
GARBER: -- and John Bolton. Right?
KEILAR: He had awareness. Certainly. He, according to one witness, basically called it a drug deal and didn't want much to do with it but was aware.
GARBER: For me, one of the big questions. All of these people were aware. It wasn't a secret. Is anybody telling the president -- we don't know the answer to this -- did anybody say, look, you can't do this. There are problems with this. You've got to stop. Can't have Rudy going out and doing foreign policy.
We don't know the answer to that. Maybe somebody did. We've heard that Bolton was alarmed, disturbed, he asked it be reported to lawyers. We don't know if he went to the president.
KEILAR: Should the president understand that you don't enlist a foreign country to investigate a political adversary when he just went through a whole investigation to see if he enlisted a foreign country to help hurt a pollical adversary?
BASH: Should? Of course. Did he? What we are seeing here what we saw in the White House release summary of the phone call, that the president had with the Ukrainian leader, the answer to your question is, if he understood, we don't know, but did he do it? Yes.
We're just getting more information about whether or not there really was a bribery, to use Leon Panetta's term, to say we're not going to give this aid Congress appropriated unless you do this investigation.
But we know because of the president's only comments on the lawn of the White House, because of his comments in the phone call with the Ukrainian leader, he did ask for that.
And what we see in the excerpts we're starting to read through now, Ambassador Volker says really clearly how unusual, how basically inappropriate it was and how much it hurt the relationship with Ukraine.
KEILAR: Stand by all of you, if you will.
We are looking at transcripts of two key depositions in the impeachment inquiry.
CNN's special live coverage continues after this.