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Key Witness: Diplomat Said Trump Cared More About Biden Investigation Than Ukraine; First Public Hearing Further Ties Trump To Ukraine Pressure; Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) Discuss About The Public Hearing; Top Diplomat In Ukraine Details "Unusual" And Alarming" U.S. Policy Toward Ukraine; Top Diplomat In Ukraine: Trump Wanted Ukraine Pres. In A "Public Box" By Committing To Investigations; Top Diplomat: I Sent Cable To Pompeo, Never Heard Back. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired November 13, 2019 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: As this historic process continues in the days and weeks ahead, we'll be there every step of the way. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight breaking news, a major revelation during today's first public impeachment hearing of President Trump. Trump himself overheard talking about the investigations and Ukraine. Bill Taylor, the top U.S. Diplomat in Ukraine and George Kent, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State testified today for about six hours.

Taylor providing this crucial new evidence. Here he is telling lawmakers about a phone call which took place one day after Trump asked for a favor from the President of Ukraine when Zelensky brought up military aid.


BILL TAYLORM, TOP U.S. DIPLOMAT IN UKRAINE: In the presence of my staff at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kiev. The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone asking Ambassador Sondland about the investigations. Ambassador Sondland told President Trump the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.


BURNETT: Taylor then revealing what took place immediately after Ambassador Sondland, that of course is Gordon Sondland, the Ambassador to the EU, right after he hung up with President Trump.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): And I think you said that after the call when your staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought of Ukraine, his response was that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, is that right?

TAYLOR: And Burisma, yes sir.

SCHIFF: And I take it the import of that is he cares more about that than he does about Ukraine.

TAYLOR: Yes, sir.


BURNETT: Trump today was asked about this new revelation, about this phone call and what he told Ambassador Gordon Sondland. Here's what President Trump said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know that you did spend a lot of time glued to the TV today, but there was one moment where Ambassador Bill Taylor recount the conversation that an aide of his overheard - it was the day after the phone call with Zelensky on July the 26th in which the aide says that he ever heard you say to Sondland how are things going with the - proceeding with the investigations?

Sondland repeated back to you according to this aide that Ukraine was prepared to do everything that you wanted it to do. Is that correct and can you fill in some more ...

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know nothing about that, first time I've heard it. The one thing I've seen that Sondland said was that he did speak to me for a brief moment and I said no quid pro quo under any circumstances and that's true. The other, I've never heard this.

In any event, it's more secondhand information but I've never heard it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you recall a conversation with Sondland ...

TRUMP: I don't recall. No, not at all. Not even a little bit.


BURNETT: Not even a little bit. Not even a little bit does he recall speaking to Sondland. He says he knows nothing about it. But however, he does seem to remember telling Sondland no quid pro quo. Alex Marquardt is out front with more on the historic testimony today.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT(voice-over): The momentous hearing gabbled into session.


SCHIFF: The impeachment inquiry into Donald J. Trump ...


MARQUARDT(voice-over): Ambassador Bill Taylor, Trump's top diplomat in Ukraine and George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State laying out what they saw and heard as the Trump administration held up military aid while demanding investigations into Trump's political enemies.


TAYLOR: The odd push to make President Zelensky publicly commit to investigations of Burisma and alleged interference in the 2016 election showed how the official foreign policy of the United States was undercut by the irregular efforts led by Mr. Giuliani.


MARQUARDT(voice-over): Taylor and Kent testifying that Rudy Giuliani, the President's personal lawyer, was leading what Taylor called a highly irregular channel with Ukraine.


REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): What interests do you believe he was promoting, Mr. Kent?

GEORGE KENT, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS: I believe he was looking to dig up political dirt against a potential rival in the next election cycle.

TAYLOR: I agree with Mr. Kent.


MARQUARDT(voice-over): Both men making clear how unsettled they were with the rogue Ukraine policy and the demands on the Ukrainians.


TAYLOR: It's one thing to try to leverage a meeting in the White House, it's another thing, I thought, to leverage security assistance. Security assistance to a country at war dependent on both the security assistance and the demonstration of support. It was much more alarming.

KENT: As a general principle, I do not believe the United States should ask other countries to engage in selective politically associated investigations or prosecutions against opponents of those in power because selective actions undermine the rule of law regardless of the country.



MARQUARDT(voice-over): Republicans led by ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes blasted the hearing. The GOP united in their defense that the President never actually demanded investigations.


REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): I think one of the mothers of all conspiracy theories is that somehow the President of the United States would want a country that he doesn't even like, he doesn't want to give a foreign aid to, to have the Ukrainians started investigation into Bidens.


MARQUARDT(voice-over): Jim Jordan of Ohio who was added to the Intelligence Committee for the sole purpose of questioning the impeachment witnesses, making the point that Taylor and Kent never actually spoke with the President.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): You're their star witness. You're their first witness. You're the guy.

TAYLOR: Mr. Jordan.

JORDAN: You're the guy based on this, based on - I mean, I've seen church prayer change that are easier to understand than this. Ambassador Taylor recalls that Mr. Morrison told - now, again, this is I hereby swear and affirm from Gordon Sondland.

Ambassador Taylor recalls that Mr. Morrison told Ambassador Taylor that I told Mr. Morrison that I had conveyed this message to Mr. Yermak on September 1st ...


MARQUARDT(voice-over): Kent and Taylor were steadfast that hundreds of millions of dollars in crucial security aid and a meeting between the presidents in Washington were held back unless Ukraine promise the investigations.


DANIEL GOLDMAN, HOUSE COMMITTEE MAJORITY COUNSEL: Mr. Kent, is pressuring Ukraine to conduct what I believe you've called political investigations a part of U.S. foreign policy to promote the rule of law in Ukraine and around the world?

KENT: It is not.

GOLDMAN: Is it in the national interest of the United States?

KENT: In my opinion, it is not.


MARQUARDT(voice-over): Taylor calling it crazy.


TAYLOR: ... that security was so important for Ukraine as well as our own national interest to withhold that assistance for no good reason other than help with a political campaign make no sense. It was a counterproductive to all of what we had been trying to do. It was illogical. It could not be explained, it was crazy.


MARQUARDT: This hearing, of course, was just the beginning. There are nine more people scheduled to testify in open hearings. Next up on Friday is Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled by the President in May after what she called a concerted campaign against her by Giuliani and his associates.

Now, Yovanovitch is expected to speak more to the partisan game that she said she watched unfold in Ukraine. And Erin also on Friday, that aide to Ambassador Taylor, David Holmes, who overheard that call between the President and Ambassador Gordon Sondland, he will also be testifying but behind closed doors, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Alex. And out front now one of the Democratic Congressman on the Intelligence Committee who questioned the witnesses today, Congressman Denny Heck. Congressman, I appreciate your time.

So here we are, six hours, two witnesses in, are you satisfied with what happened at the public hearing today?

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): Well, it's just the beginning, Erin, and the rest of America has been given an opportunity to learn what we've learned through all those many weeks of depositions behind closed doors. I thought the two gentlemen today presented themselves very credibly.

One; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, a 27-year veteran of the Foreign Service and quite distinguished. And, of course, Ambassador Taylor, who was a West Point graduate. In fact, we learned today he was graduated fifth out of 800 and a Vietnam veteran and a distinguished career in the Foreign Service.

They made a compelling and clear cases they had during their depositions. My hope going forward, frankly, is that as many Americans as possible will tune in and evaluate this. I asked them to keep an open mind in taking this information, because the fact of the matter is there is a mountain of evidence.

BURNETT: So do you think anything happened in that room today that will actually move the needle for Americans who are tuning in for the first time or Americans who may support the President but are tuning in for the first time or perhaps Congressman or any Republican senators who are trying to keep an open mind on which way they'll vote?

HECK: Absolutely. I thought going into today there are kind of three buckets, those who haven't tuned in at all, and they would have an opportunity to see and hear this for themselves. And I thought, again, it was very compelling.

Secondly, there are people who have been paying close attention and they may have read the depositions. But, again, that's just ain't going to page, they got to see and hear from two incredibly credible witnesses.

Thirdly and I thought the least chance would happen is that new information would be revealed. But lo and behold, I was wrong, there was, of course, a bit of a mini bombshell when Ambassador Taylor revealed that his aide actually literally overheard Ambassador Sondland and President Trump talking the day after the July 25th phone call, wherein President Trump inquired about the status of the investigations.

That's a bit of a smoking gun, Erin.

BURNETT: So let me ask you about that aide, David Holmes, as we mentioned he is scheduled to be deposed behind closed doors by your committee on Friday.


Here's, I guess, the key question on this, we had the testimony behind closed doors with Taylor, you had it, you released the transcript. Now, he's in public. This is completely new information that his aide shared with him. Do you have any idea why Holmes did not come forward with this information sooner?

HECK: Well, I know that Ambassador Taylor just learned about it within the last week and that's why he revealed it. No, I have no idea. That'll be one of many, many, many questions that we'll ask Mr. Holmes. But mostly we want to hear from him exactly what it is he heard in that phone call between Ambassador Sondland and President Trump in which President Trump again inquired about the investigations.

BURNETT: All right. So President Trump, as I mentioned, was asked today about that call with Sondland which Holmes overheard. And I want to play, again, just a part, Congressman Heck, of what the President said when he was asked if he remembered this conversation with Gordon Sondland. Here he is.


TRUMP: Not at all. Not even a little bit. The only thing and I guess Sondland had stayed with his testimony that there was no quid pro quo, pure and simple.


BURNETT: Is it possible he doesn't remember.

HECK: Well, listen, Erin, here's what we do know, he has instructed everybody around him that he can exercise authority over not to come forward. He has prohibited the State Department and others from providing the documentation and the documents that the House Intelligence Committee duly subpoenaed.

What we know is that he is trying to stonewall this thing from beginning to end. So it would not be consistent for him not to remember and to do that when if any of those people frankly had exculpatory information. Information that could cast him in a more innocent light.

He would be driving them himself down to the Capitol Building and sitting next to them in the witness chair, but that's not what he's doing.

BURNETT: Now, from a legal perspective and certainly it may not matter whether we hear it from the President's mouth or not and yet, we haven't until this phone call that's been overheard, which you're going to get more testimony about. But everything else has been what other people - someone had a conversation with Gordon Sondland or other instances.

And Republicans in the hearing were pushing that key line of defense, they're saying it's hearsay.

HECK: Erin, what you say is not true.

BURNETT: What are you referring?

HECK: The memorandum of call, the transcript of the conversation ...

BURNETT: In which he asked for a favor, that's right, but a direction of saying we're going to do this for that. So far we have gotten from people saying Gordon Sondland said it to them, Rudy Giuliani. We hadn't heard it directly from the President, that's all I'm saying other than the phone call transcript itself.

HECK: Erin, it is an interesting legal standard you're creating, which would suggest that if anybody were ever arrested and indicted for a crime unless there was videotape evidence of them and an eyewitness of them committing the crime they could never ever, ever be convicted. And, of course, that's not the case.

BURNETT: Well, what I just said was legally you may not need that. I don't know if you heard how I said it. I said legally you may not need it, but it is what Republicans are pointing to. You heard them do it again and again today. Is that a problem? Is that a problem?

They're quoting, you heard Jim Jordan quote from a piece of testimony from Taylor, where Taylor says, "Well, I had a conversation with this person. I had a conversation with that person. I had a conversation with that person." And they're using that against him to say, look, this is a game of, what was it, a game of - a church conversation, I believe Jim Jordan called it. Is that a problem for you in the eye of the public?

HECK: Erin, they're going to use any excuse they can to defend the President as they have from day one without an open mind getting at the truth and letting the facts speak for themselves. There is a mountain of evidence, a mountain of evidence to suggest that the President did it.

He just did it. It's is compelling. It's almost inarguable at this point. There is more evidence to suggest that he did it than there is evidence that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.

BURNETT: All right. Congressman Heck, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much, sir.

HECK: You're welcome.

BURNETT: And next, how Bill Taylor's testimony completely contradicts this.


TRUMP: Let me just say, I hardly know that gentleman.


BURNETT: Plus, publicly President Trump says he's not watching the impeachment hearings.


TRUMP: Are you talking the witch-hunt, is that what you mean? Is that what you're talking about? I hear it's a joke.


BURNETT: But what's really happening behind closed doors? And all eyes now turning to Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony. Could Trump's handpicked ambassador, his campaign donor be his biggest threat?



BURNETT: Tonight, all roads lead to President Trump. That is how House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is describing the revelation from Bill Taylor, the top U.S. Diplomat to Ukraine that one of his aides overheard President Trump discuss a possible Ukraine investigation of the Bidens with Ambassador Gordon Sondland.


SCHIFF: But what this call indicates as other testimony has likewise indicated is that the instructions are coming from the President on down. Are we prepared to say that asking a foreign nation now to intervene in our elections is something that is a perk of the office of the presidency. I don't think we can allow that to be the new normal, acceptable in any way, shape or form.


BURNETT: Out front now, Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto, CNN Political Correspondent Abby Phillip, former Assistant FBI Director and Republican State Senator in Nevada Greg Brower, Ambassador Nancy McEldowney, she served in the State Department for 31 years and has known Bill Taylor for 25 years. David Axelrod, also Senior Adviser to President Obama, now the Host of THE AXE FILES on CNN and former Federal Prosecutor Laura Coates. Thanks to all and you're going to be with us for the hour. [19:20:00]

So Greg, let's start with this phone call. I don't know if you heard Congressman Heck say, well, the one bucket he didn't expect there to be anything in is we learned something new today. But this was very new, how significant is this phone call which was overheard between the President and Gordon Sondland?

GREG BROWER, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Well, first I would agree with Congressman Heck, Erin. I wasn't expecting anything new not like that today, but I think it is significant. Look, I think that the July 25th summary of call puts the President right in the middle of this quid pro quo deal.


BROWER: But the new testimony gives us an additional piece of evidence that Ambassador Sondland is going to have to clarify and it certainly puts the President, if not in the middle beyond the middle that he's actually working it himself. He's not just aware of it. He's not just talking to the President of Ukraine about it, but he's actually talking to Ambassador Sondland, checking up on it.

BURNETT: Right. It's a follow up call the next day, checking up, directing.

BROWER: Very hands on which is what we would expect from this president based upon the way we know he likes to talk about how he handles things and how he does business.

BURNETT: And so David, look, Taylor made it clear that Sondland said that President Trump's focus was on Biden, right again, in this overheard phone call. Here's what he said.


SCHIFF: And I think you said that after the call, when your staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought of Ukraine, his response was that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, is that right?

TAYLOR: And Burisma, yes sir.

SCHIFF: And I take it the import of that is he cares more about that than he does about Ukraine.

TAYLOR: Yes, sir.


BURNETT: David, was this a big deal?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, there's no question about it. I mean, because unless you get John Bolton or unless you get Mulvaney, there aren't that many people who are talking directly to the President about this. Sondland was and here you have someone not the ambassador, but his aide who was reporting on a conversation in which the President was checking up on the caper here and after Sondland reflected his view of the President's attitude, which was the Bidens were the key thing.

It really puts enormous pressure on Sondland. I mean his testimony is going to be the single most important aspect of this because of the fact that he played this central role.

BURNETT: And he's the one talking to the President. I mean, Abby, what's interesting about this is Sondland, of course, is the President's handpick the ambassador and perhaps they weren't great friends in the past. Sondland though was a million dollar donor to the President's campaign and he was, again, his handpicked ambassador.

So when Sondland was sort of on team Trump on this, the President called him a great American highly respected, then when Sondland talked about - admitted there was a quid pro quo, Trump completely changed. Here's Trump before the quid pro quo and after.


TRUMP: The text message that I saw from Ambassador Sondland, who's highly respected was there's no quid pro quo. He said that.

Let me just say, I hardly know the gentleman.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a classic Trump move. He only does this with people that he once knew who he wishes that he no longer knew. But in this case, I mean, it's so clear that Sondland is at the center of this.

And he was put at the center of it by the President. Yes, he is the President's handpicked EU Ambassador, but he was also handpicked for a special assignment that is not within his purview as EU Ambassador. He was assigned to do the situation with Ukraine along with Rudy Giuliani.

And clearly, this is not the first conversation that we know about that Sondland has had with the President. It is at least the second. So you can only imagine that there are probably other conversations that we don't know about. And speaking of the pressure this put Sondland under, he now has proven himself to not have been truthful on the record in his first congressional testimony.

BURNETT: Right. He's already clarified once.

PHILLIP: He's already clarified once. He's clearly going to have to clarify a second time and now the pressure is on, how many more of these clarifications are there going to be before we get the full truth and the full picture from the person who was dealing directly with the President.

BURNETT: Right. And Jim, now it's the President and Rudy Giuliani and then the other person that he knew well enough, his million dollar donor, his handpick guy to call and check in on his caper or as David said or direct.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: He's one pretty high level coffee boy. Gordon Sondland would be, given that he was Trump's appointee to be Ambassador to the EU, many hundreds of billions of dollars in economic strength, et cetera, high level, a million dollars to inauguration. But as Abby said, he was entrusted with what was clearly a priority for this president, which was pursuing an alternate foreign policy track with regards to Ukraine via his personal lawyer and as you said, the EU, Ukraine is not in the EU, so it's outside of his job.

So it's just preposterous to claim that he didn't know what he was up to, given that we also know that the President was speaking to him and getting updates from him the day after that call to see where these investigations stood.


BURNETT: And Laura, one thing that's important on this and I know Congressman Heck was threading the needle there. You may not need, you may have such a preponderance of evidence that you don't need the President of the United States' direct voice on this because it may be clear what he did.

But nonetheless, this call does put his direct voice on it and in that and certainly in the court of public opinion and in terms of Republican talking points of hearsay, it could be very significant.

LAURA COATES, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It is and the fact you don't need the direct evidence. It's very compelling. It's persuasive. I as a prosecutor, if I was in a court of law would want that to really meet my burden of proof.

But here's the thing, the only reason I can't give you that direct testimony, Erin, is because you are stonewalling and not allowing the people who have information. For example, perhaps, John Bolton or Mick Mulvaney as opposed to somebody like Gordon Sondland, then you can't really tell me that I can't meet my burden of proof.

But the ultimate issue here, remember with Sondland that in particulars he didn't just clarify as Abby and Jim were talking about after the fact, he also clarify when he spoke to Ambassador Bill Taylor, how? When he said, "You know what, I was actually mistaken, Bill Taylor, it's not just the White House meeting that is at issue here, it's everything."

So he clarified in favor of a point that actually scores a particular area and category for the Democrats who are looking towards impeachment in this area.

BURNETT: Ambassador, there was something else that happened today that that seemed quite extraordinary. It was just a level of detail. We know a lot about Bill Taylor now, his decades of service, his service in Vietnam. I mean, his reputation is pristine.

And he shared something extraordinary about that cable, the cable he sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which he expressed his deep concerns about aid to Ukraine was being held up. Here's that exchange.


REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): Have you ever sent a cable like that? How many times in your career 40, 50 years, have you sent a cable directly to the Secretary of State?


MALONEY: This time.

TAYLOR: Yes, sir.

MALONEY: In 50 years.

TAYLOR: Rifle company commanders don't send cables, but yes, sir.


BURNETT: Ambassador, you know Taylor very well. What does it say that he says in his career one time, one time in his career did he go to the level of sending cable directly to the Secretary of State and it was Mike Pompeo, and it was about the Ukraine aid.

NANCY MCELDOWNEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO BULGARIA: It says two things about him. First of all, he's a very meticulous, very careful professional. You could see that throughout the course of his testimony where he took meticulous notes, was very precise in wording and dates.

Bill is not someone who speaks in broad brush. He speaks in great, meticulous, precise detail. He had to have been so concerned, so troubled by what he saw, what he was learning that was unfolding with Giuliani and Sondland and Volker that he felt compelled to lay out in this unprecedented move, which is a cable that goes directly to the Secretary of State.

We know for certain when these things happen that the Secretary reads it, it tends to go to the White House as well as to the Pentagon. So a number of senior officials in the administration must have seen this cable and during his closed testimony, Bill said that he understood that Pompeo had taken a copy of that message to the White House. So it's an exceptional step that conveys his very, very deep concern.

BURNETT: Right. And Pompeo, again, someone, to Laura's point, who has been held back by the administration in terms of speaking who also would have had many direct conversations with the President. OK. All of you are staying with me. Next, the Republican attorney zeroing in on Hunter Biden like this.


STEVE CASTOR, REPUBLICAN COUNSEL: Was Hunter Biden a corporate governance expert? KENT: I have no idea.


BURNETT: Did that work? Plus, Republicans not happy with their lawyer who did the bulk of their questioning today, so what will they do going forward?



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: President Trump claiming he did not watch the impeachment hearings, but he did not hold back on commenting about the investigation.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Are you talking about the witch hunt? Is that what you mean? Is that what you're talking about?

I hear it's a joke. I haven't watched. I haven't watched for one minute because I've been with the president because this is much more important as far as I'm concerned.

This is a sham, and it shouldn't be allowed. It was a situation that was caused by people that shouldn't have allowed it to happen.


BURNETT: Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT. She's at the White House.

So, Kaitlan, that's the public -- that's the public face of the president. What's really going on behind the scenes?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, and the president did have several meetings with the Turkish president today that kept him away from the TV, but he was being kept apprised on what was happening and what the witnesses were saying about him by aides inside the White House and when he was asked by the revelation from Bill Taylor about the president during that phone call asking about the status of those investigations that he wanted, some people in the White House were caught off-guard. They hadn't heard anything about the conversation. They were aren't expecting anything new like that about Bill Taylor because they thought a lot of the public hearings were just what you had heard behind closed doors.

But Taylor said that he had been told by that aide since he testified behind closed doors. So, it's really something new and that's kind of the feeling that the White House has been used to since they don't have anyone present in those closed-door depositions and they're waiting to hear what the witnesses are going to say. Now, the president is being kept updated and they are having the calls with surrogates and they had one shortly before the hearings got kicked off and that's something that they expect to keep happening over the next few days as the president is waiting for Marie Yovanovitch's testimony on Friday.

People in the White House were more concerned about Bill Taylor and the president has been bringing up the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine more often. And so, that is certainly something that they'll be keeping an eye on as they're waiting to see how these developments go and what happens next.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Kaitlan.

Everyone is back with me.

So, David, publicly, you know, you hear the president dismissing the hearings and others in the White House are also publicly saying the hearings were boring. Their words. Trump said he didn't watch a single minute.

Is this the right message to send?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's a better message than him live tweeting it which is what a lot of people anticipated that he would do, but clearly, they have to be concerned about it. I mean, the storyline is a terrible fact pattern for them, and you could tell it was a terrible fact pattern by watching all the arguments that the Republicans were putting out that were not going to the main -- the main point which was that the president had this call, that the aid was held up and there was a lot of conversation that suggested why it was being held up.

You know, there were process arguments being made. There were arguments about President Obama. There were arguments about Hunter Biden. But, you know, they don't really have a good answer to the main argument, and I think that that has to be concerning to everybody at the White House.

BURNETT: I mean, so to your point on some of those arguments, Laura, one key Republican talking point that we heard again and again today was OK, so what about whatever he did because the reality is Ukraine eventually got the aid and there wasn't an investigation.

So, here's Congressman John Ratcliffe making that point.


REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX): You have to ask yourself, what did President Zelensky actually do to get the aid? The answer is nothing. He did nothing.


He didn't open any investigations. He didn't call Attorney General Bill Barr. He didn't do any of the things that House Democrats say that he was being forced and coerced and threatened to do. He didn't do anything because he didn't have to.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: Now, Laura, just to be clear, the aid obviously that was held up, it was ordered to be held up in July. It wasn't released until September 11th which was after the whistle-blower report had been filed and there was bipartisan outrage about the aid, right? It would appear that was the reason the aid was released and not because there was no quid pro quo.

Does this GOP talking point have any air in it?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No. I think it was also after he had scheduled an interview with this very network, I believe, as well. So he had presumably met some of the conditions he had to meet in order to get the aid.


BURENTT: Zelensky was supposed to give an interview on CNN announcing this investigation.

COATES: Exactly. And so, it doesn't have the air because, of course, Erin, that would mean that every single attempt-related crime would just go out the window, because if I said to you, I'd like to pay you money to commit a crime and maybe to kill somebody's spouse and you would do it and get prosecuted for it, there is a whole line of cases, a whole line of documents say that a crime to endeavor to do something is actually a crime, and a legislator who is in charge of making the law should know that.

This is essentially a big way of saying, you know what? It's the same talking point of either A, get over it, we heard from Mulvaney, or B, it may be inappropriate, but it's not impeachable. That's simply not persuasive given the fact that we know that crimes exist and that would constitute a crime even if they did not act on it. It's not an abuse of power.

BURNETT: And, Jim, you know, they tried various talking points and perhaps that was why as we were reporting the GOP said the counsel was effective, so they were trying to make point points in different ways. One of them was, oh, well, President Trump did more for Ukraine than President Obama because of the javelins. Here is that.


STEVE CASTOR, REPUBLICAN COUNSEL: Was Hunter Biden a corporate governance expert?

GEORGE KENT, STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I have no idea what Hunter Biden studied at university of what his CV says.

CASTOR: Is he the Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of the Ukraine?

KENT: I have no awareness or knowledge of what his background was and what he may have done on the board.

CASTOR: So you don't know whether he has any business experience in Ukraine prior to joining Burisma's board? KENT: I've heard nothing about prior experience.

CASTOR: Do you know if he speaks Ukrainian?

KENT: I do not.


BURNETT: Obviously, that wasn't the javelin sound bite, but that was the other point which was to go in on Hunter Biden. Was that effective?



SCIUTTO: Well, OK, separate from the -- let me say something about the javelin.

BURNETT: I'll come back to the javelins.

SCIUTTO: It is true that the Obama administration did not provide lethal aid to Ukraine and under Trump, the U.S. did provide that aid. Both the military assistance to Ukraine that was delayed while Trump was seeking the investigation of Biden, but also the javelins.

To be clear that was money passed by Congress and to be clear what we now know is both those forms of crucial military aid to Ukraine which was fighting a war with Russia, as we speak, which has killed 13,000 Ukrainians were delayed by this president, one to demand a political investigation or a politically motivated investigation to Joe Biden and the javelins, we now know from the testimony, were delayed by Mick Mulvaney to December 2018 because he was worried about a negative reaction from Russia.

I've covered this story for months and years and whenever I pressed on Trump's response to Russia and Ukraine, I would hear from Republicans or the administration is javelins and Ukraine assistance. But what we know is that both those things were delayed by this administration in the face of opposition by Congress bipartisan support and one for the Biden investigation and the other because they were worried about Russian reaction to it. So the facts, as often do, undermine the argument.

BURNETT: Which gets -- which gets back at the point when you get to this military aid, right? It had been approved by Congress and this was the president in charge.


BURNETT: And he withheld.

BROWER: Without telling Congress.

BURNETT: Without telling Congress, right. They thought it was some procedural delay when meantime now we know it was something else.

BROWER: Which is a reason why I can't understand why Republicans in Congress who approved that aid weren't surprised it was withheld. They should have been all over this.

Senator Johnson at one point did inquire with Ambassador Sondland, what's going on here?

But getting back to the attempt issue, this is all about an attempt to pull off this scheme.

BURNETT: Right, back to the point where they say it actually was released without the investigation, so who cares?

BROWER: We all concede that they didn't quite pull it off. And Congressman Ratcliffe is a former prosecutor and we served as U.S. attorneys together. He's a good lawyer. I guarantee you, he has prosecuted many attempt crimes in his career, many conspiracy to commit crimes in his career.

So, he knows and we all know that you don't actually have to pull off the entire criminal scheme to be guilty.


This is an attempt case.

BURNETT: Ambassador, what do you make of the sound bite I just played about Hunter Biden. That was the general counsel or the counsel who was asking the question on behalf of Republicans that's sort of drilling down on Hunter Biden's lack of experience and not living in Ukraine, the amount of money he was being paid and not speaking the language.

Was that effective at all?

NANCY MCELDOWNEY, SERVED IN THE STATE DEPARTMENT FOR 31 YEARS: I don't think it was. I think it was part of the Republican effort to sort of throw chaff in the air, put a bunch of things up and see what is possibly going to land and when George Kent answered those questions as we saw just now he said no, he had no knowledge, but any evidence that Biden had done something wrong was completely lacking. And so, it was a part of this continued effort that they had made to say nothing happened and there was only a second or third hand.

The other thing besides the crime that I believe was committed, there's been very serious damage to our national security, as well as to our credibility around the world. Rule of law in both countries was undermined by this scheme.

BURNETT: Abby, we are also hearing, you know, as the president says, he didn't watch, right? Didn't even watch a minute.

Jamie Gangel was reporting that the White House was emailing Hill Republicans sometimes six to seven e-mails an hour and there were six hours of this and the members were inundated they complained and one telling her, you know, they were backstop spamming me.

What does that say to you that they were -- it was an onslaught?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they may have overshot the mark here. This was the White House's attempt to convince Republicans on the Hill that they're on top of this, that they have a plan and they're not just going to kind of wing it as they have in the past. And so, they set up pretty hastily a sort of pseudo kind of war room effort to get kind of rapid response to all of this and they clearly did a little bit too much.

But you have to imagine that if Republicans on the Hill felt that these e-mails were helpful, they would have been complaining about the volume of them. They must have felt that the content of the e-mails were not advancing their interests or helping them defend the president in a useful way. So I think it's very interesting that that was the reaction to -- from the House Republican because many of them have complained in the past that they don't get enough communication from the White House at times like this and this is the White House's attempt to fix that and it was clearly according to Jamie's reporting not received well.

SCIUTTO: It also somewhat belies the point that the president and the White House weren't paying any attention to these hearings, right? You know, Stephanie Grisham called them boring, the president said he wants to pay attention and they had a whole operation and the participants with e-mails. So, they were paying attention.

BURNETT: All right. All of you stay with me.

And next, the high-stakes impeachment hearing is -- the next one is less than 48 hours away. That is when the former ambassador to Ukraine who was removed by Trump, you may remember, she will testify.

They were center stage during today's impeachment hearing. So who are these guys?



BURNETT: Tonight, Trump's hand picked ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland, well, he's got a lot of explaining to do because obviously he's been a major Trump ally and donor to the president. He's going to testify publicly next Wednesday.

But he was central today. He was sort of the elephant in the room. Ambassador Bill Taylor saying Sondland was on the call with President Trump and President Trump was overheard by somebody talking loudly through the phone asking for an update on investigations and according to Taylor, Trump told Sondland also that he cares more about investigations into Biden than about Ukraine.

So everyone is back with me.

Laura, Sondland obviously, he's been central to this from the beginning, right? He flew in from Brussels as ambassador to the E.U. for his first testimony and he said the White House said don't go, and he did show up and he completed edited and changed his closed-door testimony, he remembered that there was a quid pro quo which he didn't remember the first time, and now there's this whole phone call where the president's asking about investigations and he didn't mention that.

We've not heard that from Gordon Sondland.

COATES: I mean, it would be surprising to give the benefit of the doubt to one major epiphany, Erin, but to have two major epiphanies would be an oddity, nonetheless. He has a very -- he's kind of the lynchpin for all this, because he's the person to where Republican talking points were saying you've never heard anyone have a direct conversation with President Trump about any of this.

Remember, he clarified a point that it was actually conditioned on not just the White House meeting, but also everything in terms of being in the box and also had the epiphany of it being a quid pro quo, was one of -- spent five hours to get back to Bill Taylor on the question of whether it was a quid pro quo and had the direct conversation and he is the person who as one person can disrupt that entire talking point.

BURNETT: So, David, a key Republican talking point today was that Taylor and Kent, obviously, the assistant secretary who was there today, they were based on hearsay, right? Not direct conversations with President Trump. Here's how Jim Jordan put it.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): You didn't listen to President Trump's call and President Zelensky's call?


JORDAN: You never talked with chief of staff Mulvaney?

TAYLOR: I never did.

JORDAN: You never met the president?

TAYLOR: That's correct.

JORDAN: And you had three meetings, again, with Zelensky that didn't come up.

TAYLOR: And two of those they'd never heard of it as far as I know. There's no reason for it to come up.

JORDAN: President Zelensky never made an announcement. This is what I can't believe and you're their star witness, and you're the first witness.

TAYLOR: Mr. Jordan --

JORDAN: And you're the guy -- you're the guy, based on this. Based on -- I mean, I've seen church prayer chains that are easier to understand than this.

TAYLOR: Let me just say that I don't consider myself a star witness for anything.


BURNETT: David, here's the thing. It's not just that what Taylor says has been corroborated by so many others, is that we're going to hear from Gordon Sondland who's now been overheard in a conversation of the president of the United States talking about this. That is not hearsay, he spoke to Trump multiple times.

So, this whole argument is going to go out the window.

AXELROD: Yes. This has been the problem arguments from the beginning and first, closed-door hearings, we then see the transcripts and the transcripts come out, but we're still in secret hearings. Now, they're public hearings.

[19:50:00] Now, it's all hearsay.

And you're right, this is -- this card is going to fall on them as well. Interesting, Jordan was, you know, placed on this committee for this purpose. He is a designated hitter who they brought in because they didn't think Nunes was capable of delivering this kind of sophistry that we saw today.

But they -- you know, my impression today is for the faithful, they probably threw out enough smoke for people to grab on to and for, you know, for right-wing media to carry forward. But for people who are listening, I don't think it was terribly impressive, and as was pointed out, it felt like they recruited their lawyer from traffic court when this required something a little bit more.


AXELROD: So, I think they have to go -- they have to go back to dry dock here and kind of repair for the next round. I think particularly next week, when Sondland comes, you know, this thing is going to get a lot tougher.

BURNETT: And that's going to be an incredible day. And then, you know, obviously the White House very focused on today, as we all know, Ambassador. And what Taylor would say, in particular.

But we understand that the president is extremely focused on the next hearing, right? Which is Marie Yovanovitch and she will be on Capitol Hill on Friday. Obviously, she was the ambassador to Ukraine up until May when Trump got rid of her.

You know her. What do you expect her to say?

MCELDOWNEY: Well, Ambassador Yovanovitch is an incredibly professional. She's someone who's been loyal for many decades. She probably knows more about Ukraine than almost anyone else in the U.S. government, so she brings tremendous credibility and when she speaks, like we saw from both Bill Taylor and George Kent, she will do so with precision.

She will lay out the facts of a campaign that has been undertaken against her by Giuliani and his henchmen for well over a year. And she will also say, in public, as she said in her private testimony, that she literally could not believe what was happening. That an American ambassador and the work of an entire U.S. embassy would be undermined by private political interests and that our relations with such a crucial country, that is really a bulwark against Russia could be thrown to the winds simply for these personal political interests.

BURNETT: All right. All of you, stay with me.

New, the two attorneys, you heard how David Axelrod referred to one of them, these were the two who caught Trump's attention.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I see they're using lawyers that are television lawyers. They took some guys off television.


BURNETT: Who are they?



BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump taking a swipe at the lawyers who did a bulk of the questioning today.


TRUMP: I see they're using lawyers that are television lawyers. They took some guys off television. You know, I'm not surprised to see it because Schiff can't do his own questions.


BURNETT: Just who are the two lawyers who were front and center today?

Athena Jones is OUTFRONT.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Will come to order.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a historic day, with millions watching, two career lawyers who have been questioning witnesses behind closed doors for weeks took their turn in the spotlight.

DANIEL GOLDMAN, DEMOCRATS' COUNSEL: When you say, all of what we were trying to do -- JONES: Daniel Goldman, a former prosecutor --

CASTOR: You expressed some concerns --

JONES: And Steve Castor, a veteran attorney in several high-profile House investigations, publicly questioning today's witnesses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

JONES: Goldman, a senior adviser to the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, set out to prove acting Ukraine Ambassador Bill Taylor's text messages show he was concerned the administration was holding back nearly $400 million in foreign aid in exchange for investigations into president Trump's political rivals.

GOLDMAN: You texted Ambassador Sondland and Volker and the text message should be on the screen in front of you. And if you could read what you wrote.

TAYLOR: As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.

JONES: A former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York for a decade, Goldman made a reputation for himself trying mobsters from the Genovese crime family on racketeering and murder charges and winning convictions.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Dan worked with me at the southern district of New York. I supervised him in two units. He's great. Very smart. Very aggressive. Tenacious.

JONES: Goldman is no stranger to television, spending a couple years as an NBC legal analyst.

GOLDMAN: It's hard to imagine a worse client than President Trump.

JONES: Steve Castor, a veteran of the House Oversight Committee, who was leading the cross-examination for the GOP, zeroed in on Hunter Biden.

CASTOR: You don't know whether he has any business experience in Ukraine prior to joining Burisma's board?

KENT: I've heard nothing about prior experience.


JONES: Castor played a key role in high-profile investigations like the Fast and Furious probe into a botched gun trafficking operation and the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi.

The Philadelphia-area native once called Trump a very different kind of president during a speech at Wayne State University Law School last year.

CASTOR: Somebody of the president's personality being president, just operating on Twitter, is -- is just -- nobody could have expected that.

JONES: Support us call him an institutionalist and he spoke about the importance of fairness at a Federalist Society event in 2018.

CASTOR: Once an investigator is reveal revealed to be biased, it's hard to trust the integrity of the process.


JONES: Skill set was deemed so valuable that he was added to the intelligence committee so that he could participate in these hearings. Still, some Republicans said he could have been tougher, pointing out that Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican who was a fierce defender of the president, and was also brought onto the committee precisely for these hearings took a much tougher, combative tone than Castor did -- Erin.

BURNETT: Athena, thank you very much.

Jim Sciutto, Abby Phillip, Greg Brower are back with me.

So, Greg, you know, certainly, Jordan did take that combative tone. The lawyers were supposed to be -- you kill with calm.


BURNETT: How -- how well did Goldman and Castor do today?

BROWER: Well, Goldman -- Goldman and I are the same DOJ family. He's a very experienced former prosecutor. He was very smooth today and I thought did a very effective job.

I know Steve Castor from my time at the FBI when he was can the committee and we had some dealings together. Professional, competent guy.

Let's face it, Castor doesn't have a case, right? He's trying to defend the indefensible in many respects. And so, he doesn't have much to work with. I think that came through today.

BURNETT: Hmm. So, Abby, some Republicans were not happy with Castor's performance. Do you -- are they going to do anything about it? Are they -- I mean, you know, as Greg's saying, if it's about the case, it may be about that more than the lawyer.

PHILLIP: You know, this reminds me of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings when there was sort of in independent person doing the questioning and Republicans also weren't happy with how she questioned Brett Kavanaugh's accuser. And as a result, they actually removed her from those proceedings.

So, I wouldn't be surprised if there was rethinking of the strategy here. Republicans were not happy with the lack of what seemed be drive in his questioning. And I think that that is something that he can fix certainly, but it's hard as Greg pointed out when there's not much of a case there. There's not much for him to drive at.

BURNETT: And, Jim, obstruction seems to be working. Your takeaway.

SCIUTTO: Listen, Republicans were crying hearsay today. The witnesses that could speak directly to the president's statements or desires are being blocked by the White House with the exception of Gordon Sondland. But to that point, you can argue that obstruction is working for the Republicans.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you, all, very much. Thanks to all of you for watching.

Anderson starts now.