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Impeachment Hearings. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired November 16, 2019 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. Thanks so much for joining us. This is CNN's special live coverage of the public impeachment proceedings. I'm Jim Sciutto.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow. We're so glad you're with us this Friday evening.
Week one of public testimony is in the books and the revelations pretty significant. We'll spend the next hour combing through what we have learned this week.
But as the ousted ambassador to Ukraine ended her televised hearing today, another major development was unfolding behind closed doors.
SCIUTTO: Listen to this. Because CNN obtained the opening statement of a State Department aide who overheard a public conversation in which President Trump asked about Ukraine launching investigations. He said an ambassador told him the President quote, "didn't give an expletive about Ukraine. He was all about investigating the Bidens".
CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly tells us more about what we learned from that closed-door hearing that went late into the evening.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Poppy and Jim -- it was detailed in various places. It was damning for President Trump. And it was exactly what Democrats have been looking for to some degree in their impeachment inquiry.
David Holmes, political counselor to the U.S. embassy in Ukraine laying out what Ambassador William Taylor first exposed on Wednesday of this week in his own testimony. Noting that a staffer had overheard in a meeting President Trump on the phone talking explicitly about investigations.
It turns out what Taylor testified was not just backed up. It was backed up with explicit detail.
David Holmes in a nearly six-hour deposition behind closed doors with lawmakers saying in his opening statement which we obtained by CNN that quote, "At one point I then heard President Trump ask, so he's going to do the investigation. Ambassador Sondland replied that he is going to do it. Adding that President Zelensky will do anything you ask him.
At various points, detailed but also profane as he recalled some of the interactions going through the very specifics of a meeting that he had over a meal with Ambassador Gordon Sondland where Sondland called President Trump who talked about a meeting he just had with the Ukrainian president.
But the testimony goes further than just that meeting that has now become a central part of the impeachment inquiry. It details what Holmes saw about the decision to withhold U.S. security assistance to Ukraine including saying at one point that Ambassador John Bolton thought it was being withheld until President Zelensky could prove to President Trump that he was willing to work with President Trump.
Also talking about several elements about Ambassador Gordon Sondland who will be testifying in public next week in his role through all of this.
And another important point. The fact that Rudy Giuliani was continuously a factor in all the things that were going on behind the scenes -- something we also heard today from Marie Yovanovitch, former Ukraine ambassador. But one thing that I think also stands out. And this hasn't actually been picked up by a lot of people up to this, part of the reason why is most people don't have the opening statement.
But we do and one piece of this is key. In his testimony, in his opening statement, Holmes makes clear the reason he called Ambassador William Taylor and informed him of this meeting, informed him of the specific details that are now spilling out into the public is because he was paying attention to the impeachment inquiry. And he saw that people were saying all of the information was hearsay -- a key and central Republican argument. He realized that he had first person information and he decided to bring it to Congress -- guys.
SCIUTTO: Phil Mattingly, thanks.
That's a very important point there.
In the witness chair for the televised hearing as well, Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to the Ukraine who was fired earlier this year by President Trump. She told investigators she was, quote, "shocked and devastated" that the President attacked her during his call with Ukraine's president.
CNN's Alex Marquardt has more on the chilling effect Yovanovitch claims the firing had across the board in the State Department.
MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Our Ukraine policy has been thrown into disarray. And shady interests the world over have learned how little it takes to remove an American ambassador who does not give them what they want. ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A blistering
opening statement by Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch highlighting her of dangerous decades of service as she took aim at the smear campaign to oust her from her post.
YOVANOVITCH: I mean there is a question as to why the kind of campaign to get me out of Ukraine happened. Because all the President has to do is say he wants a different ambassador. And in my line of work, perhaps in your line of work as well, all we have is our reputation. And so this has been a very painful period.
MARQUARDT: The President has criticized Yovanovitch repeatedly including on the July 25th call with President Zelensky calling her bad news and saying she would go through some things.
YOVANOVITCH: I was shocked and devastated that I would feature in a phone call between two heads of state in such a manner where President Trump said that I was bad news to another world leader. And that I would be going through some things. So I was -- it was a terrible moment.
MARQUARDT: Terrible and threatening.
YOVANOVITCH: It sounded like a threat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you feel threatened?
YOVANOVITCH: I did.
MARQUARDT: Yovanovitch quickly called out Rudy Giuliani, the President's personal lawyer for leading the smear campaign against her.
YOVANOVITCH: I do not understand Mr. Giuliani's motives for attacking me nor can I offer an opinion on whether he believed the allegations he spread about me.
MARQUARDT: Republicans didn't defend Giuliani's role or his parallel policy in Ukraine.
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: I'm not exactly sure what the ambassador is doing here today. This is the House Intelligence Committee that has now turned into the House impeachment committee.
MARQUARDT: They argued that the President has the right to recall any ambassador he likes. But Yovanovitch said the way she was attacked with no defense from her bosses, and then suddenly pulled out has created a chilling effect.
YOVANOVITCH: Not only an embassy caved (ph) but throughout the State Department because people don't know kind of whether their efforts to pursue our stated policy are going to be supported. And that is a -- that is a dangerous place to be.
MARQUARDT: What was clear in this hearing today was how profoundly disturbing this experience was for Yovanovitch. A 33-year career coming to a crashing halt after she had been asked to extend her tenure in Kiev, to be yanked out of her post by a 1:00 a.m. phone call and told to get on the next plane home.
She used those words -- shocked, appalled, devastated. Then when she read the transcript of the July 25th call when the President talked about her going to go through some things, she said the color drained from her face and she had a physical reaction. So it's no surprise that Yovanovitch thinks there's been a chilling effect -- Jim, Poppy.
HARLOW: Alex -- thank you very, very much for that. All right.
So as the ousted ambassador detailed that smear campaign waged against her, she endured another attack in real-time. This one from the President's Twitter feed today. He wrote, quote, "Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad."
SCIUTTO: You know, basically saying she is responsible apparently for Somalia. House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff read that tweet live during her hearing and the President was asked about his intention with that tweet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have the right to speak. I have freedom of speech just as other people do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir -- with your freedom, were you trying to intimidate Ambassador Yovanovitch?
TRUMP: I just want to have a total -- I want freedom of speech. That is a political process. The Republicans have been treated very badly.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you believe your tweet, your words can be intimidating?
TRUMP: I don't think so at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Well, it's by no means the first time this President has at least been accused of trying to intimidate witnesses or influence testimony.
Our Brian Todd has a look back.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jim and Poppy -- Donald Trump during his term in office does have a history of weighing in publicly on witnesses and others who have testified against his interests or have otherwise given information detrimental to him to investigators.
Friday's is the latest example. In the middle of Marie Yovanovitch's testimony, this tweet from the President starting with "Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad."
Then he criticizes her record in Somalia and Ukraine. Adam Schiff and the Democrats now accuse the President of witness intimidation. Yovanovitch herself calling the President's tweet quote, "very intimidating".
Trump and the White House deny that. The White House saying Trump was simply expressing his opinion. The President saying he has the right to speak.
Now, just about three weeks ago, another example. Trump disparaged a witness in this same inquiry. The day after diplomat Bill Taylor testified behind closed doors on the Ukraine scandal, Trump tweeted that Taylor was a quote, "never Trumper" and then immediately called all never Trumpers human scum.
Taylor, a career public servant and bronze star recipient has denied being political.
Trump has also demanded that the whistleblower's identity be revealed. And in late September, the President talked openly about going after the whistleblower's sources. That came in a private talk with diplomats which someone recorded and gave to the L.A. times.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Who is the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that's close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart, right? The spies and treason. We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: The President has also been openly accused of threatening a witness. His former attorney Michael Cohen. Earlier this year, Cohen postponed his testimony in the House. Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis saying that was due to ongoing threats against Cohen's family from Trump.
In TV interviews, Trump talked about alleged wrongdoing by Cohen's wife and father-in-law. And they warned -- he warned that they would be exposed. A Trump tweet in January saying of Cohen, lying to reduce his jail time. Watch father-in-law.
Cohen denied any wrongdoing by his wife and father-in-law. Trump himself denied threatening Cohen saying Cohen was only threatened by the truth.
But Trump has also denigrated a prominent witness who was not in the public domain who came forward very reluctantly and very uncomfortable in spotlight. That was Christine Blasey-Ford who accused then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school which Kavanaugh denied.
Now in October of last year at a rally Trump mocked Blasey-Ford's testimony, specifically her memory of the alleged assault.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: How did you get home? I don't remember. How did you get there? I don't remember. Where is the place? I don't remember. How many years ago? I don't know. I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Trump repeatedly says he has a right to confront his accusers and challenge his critics. But the President's critics say it is public remarks like that from Donald Trump which could make other potential witnesses in politically charged cases shy away from coming forward -- Jim and Poppy.
HARLOW: Wow. Pretty remarkable to see all of that.
Brian Todd -- thank you very much.
SCIUTTO: It is. Look at the pattern. Look at the pattern.
So will witness intimidation become part of a potential article of impeachment? How does the President's behavior impact the future more broadly of U.S. diplomacy abroad?
We'll discuss with our experts including the former chief of Russia and Ukraine operations at the CIA.
HARLOW: Also ahead. You'll want to see this.
A CNN exclusive -- new reporting tonight that one of Rudy Giuliani's associates claimed he was on a, quote, secret mission for President Trump and he is just one of many Ukrainians tied up in all of this.
We will break down the key players and who they are as you watch our special live coverage of the impeachment hearings this week. It continues, next.
SCIUTTO: One of the biggest developments today, a closed-door where career Foreign Service officer David Holmes testified about overhearing himself a key phone call between ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland and President Trump.
HARLOW: That call happened during a very, very busy week for the President back in July.
Here's a time line and an important reminder for you. On July 24th, the special counsel in the Russia probe Robert Mueller testified to Congress about 2016 election interference. The next day, President Trump talked by phone with Ukrainian President Zelensky and pushed him to investigate the Bidens. SCIUTTO: On July 26, Gordon Sondland follows up with the President
speaking to him directly assuring him that Zelensky will do quote, "anything you ask him to do". And he used some choice language to drive that point home.
HARLOW: Joining us with their expertise former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers is here; Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor at "The Atlantic"; Steve Hall joins us, former CIA chief of Russia and Ukraine operations; and Politico congressional reporter Melanie Zanona.
Good evening, guys. Thank you all.
Or good morning. Thank you.
HARLOW: It was a very, very consequential week. But Ron -- I wonder if you would agree that as moving as Yovanovitch's testimony was today and as important as it was to this probe and the central question in the impeachment inquiry, I wonder if you think that what happened behind closed doors that we did not see with our eyes but have read now the opening statement of David Holmes was even more crucial?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. It may have been of. I mean look, as you know, I think the hearsay argument it kind of collapses almost on contact in the sense that it requires you to believe that Sondland and Giuliani and Volker were cooking this up on their own and somehow engineered the hold on American security assistance without the knowledge or complicity of the President.
But certainly putting his words directly, you know, into this story is powerful and important. And it is also raising the stakes for Ambassador Sondland's testimony next week. I mean it is one of those exquisite accidents of history that this new information which he has not provided to the committee comes on the same day that Roger Stone is sentenced to prison for lying to Congress.
So he faces some very difficult decisions, consequential decisions for himself and for the country over the next few days.
SCIUTTO: No question. Steve Hall -- your experience in Russia. I want to read a section from Holmes' sworn testimony. His opening statement which gets at the big picture issue here which is the President putting his own political considerations above national security interests regarding Russia and Ukraine.
Let's read this section here.
"In particular I asked Ambassador Sondland", this is David Holmes speaking, "if it was true that the President did not give a shit", excuse the language, "about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland agreed that the President did not give a shit about Ukraine. I asked why not. And Ambassador Sondland stated that the President only cares about big stuff." "I noted that there was big stuff going on in Ukraine like a war with Russia. And Ambassador Sondland replied, that he meant men big stuff that benefits the President like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing."
That's a big deal, is it not -- Steve Hall? Ukraine is an ally. It's at war with Russia? We were trying to help them defend themselves against the Russian invasion. And here you have the President's own appointed ambassador to the E.U. saying the President just doesn't care about any of that. He just cares about getting Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes -- Jim. I agree even deeper than that. Certainly Ukraine is obviously a very important strategic partner for the United States because it's a front line state. It's got the Russian bear breathing down its neck and it has also been invaded. It is at war with Russia right now and of course, you know, Russia annexed part of Ukraine -- the Crimea.
So it knows that really the only way it can stand up against Russia is with the United States' help. So the whole idea of some of sort of quid pro quo is a little silly because, you know, I was in Ukraine back in Maidan protests and it was quite clear that the government knew for a long time that if there was any chance of having a democracy, a real democracy in Ukraine despite all the corruption, and to be free of Russia, that they needed a big partner to help them. And that was the United States.
HALL: And that's really the way it's going to be for the foreseeable future for Ukraine. It's very important to the United States' national interests because of the Russia angle.
So it can be complicated for people who aren't familiar with that area of the world. But as you saw Ambassador Yovanovitch today that sort of deep knowledge that she and her fellow diplomats have is what's really critical in pushing U.S. national interests forward as opposed to Donald Trump's personal interests.
SCIUTTO: It's a David versus Goliath conflict (ph), right. You have this little country trying to defend itself against Russia.
HARLOW: Exactly. You know, up until 3:00 in the afternoon Eastern time today, Melanie -- the Republicans' argument and the administration's argument is that look, you don't have people with firsthand knowledge of the President ordering these investigations testifying. You just don't have that. And that's right.
But that changed, did it not when David Holmes spoke behind closed door. If I could just read for people part of what he said because, you know, Tuesday morning, this guy could have been at Starbucks with no idea that Bill Taylor was going to talk about this conversation he heard and then he would be brought to testify under oath on Friday, right. All of that changed in three and a half days.
Here's what he said. "I came to realize that I had firsthand knowledge regarding certain events on July 26 that had not otherwise been reported."
So how significant is it that that claim is now gone?
MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": It's a huge problem for the GOP because their entire strategy thus far has really relied on the idea that all the witnesses are not giving first-hand accounts. That they're hearing it secondhand.
And now you have someone who did hear directly from Trump's own mouth that there was this intense interest in these investigations. And what we've really seen this whole week is that all of the GOP's defenses have crumbled under the weight of all this evidence.
And part of the problem is that Republicans don't know what is around the corner. You know, this week they felt like they really finally had a solid defense when it came to arguing that all of this is hearsay. And now here's another potential witness that could provide a firsthand account.
Gordon Sondland also next week, is a firsthand account witness himself. So the Republicans really have to sit down and try to decide how are they going to defend the President going forward. Are they going to shift gears? Are they going to try to throw some of these folks under the bus?
And I just don't have the answers right now because I think a lot of them were really surprised by what came out this week. And they're going to have to figure this out next week.
SCIUTTO: So Jennifer Rodgers -- help us set up for this Wednesday's testimony with Gordon Sondland. I mean now with what we learned today, he's even more (INAUDIBLE) of this. He was on the call. He's describing, based on you know, David Holmes' testimony, exactly what is the essence of the allegation against the President which is that damn the consequences of U.S. national security interests in Ukraine with regard to Russia. Get me a Biden investigation.
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. And this is now his third bite at the Apple, right, because he went in and testified. Clearly misled Congress in that testimony. Came back, amended his answers. Now he's back a third time with more details that he has not disclosed before.
He really is at the heart of this. Remember he, of course, is the E.U. ambassador. I mean there's a big question as to why he's even there in the first place. It looks like he is there because he was willing to do the dirty job for the President. So he has a lot of explaining to do, a lot of gaps to fill in, and if he's smart and has a good lawyer, he'll be telling the truth.
HARLOW: But Ron Brownstein, conversely if he does testify on Wednesday, how questionable is his credibility meaning how much weight and emphasis can Democrats then put on what he says?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I mean Mr. Holmes says they are confirming witnesses to what he heard at the lunch. And there are some reports that they are willing to come forward.
As I said, I think the other argument is just kind of absurd on its face, I mean because you know, we say that Ambassador Taylor is a hearsay witness. Well, he heard directly from Ambassador Sondland that, you know, what they wanted Ukraine to do in order to get anything -- the military aid and the visit.
BROWNSTEIN: And the alternative, as I said, to believe the President was involved in this is that somehow these individuals took it up on their own and somehow leverage the federal government into following their lead.
I mean the other thing -- I mean to me, there are two big things that's come out this week is the magnitude is of this effort. How long and extensive this pressure campaign was. This is not a one off casual comment by the President in a single phone call.
BROWNSTEIN: And the other thing is that the mechanism that they chose to do this ultimately advanced Vladimir Putin's interests in Ukraine. I mean there a lot of ways they could have put pressure on Ukraine. They did it in a way that undermined, weakened their ability to defend themselves against Russia.
And that is not inconsequential as I think all of the diplomatic witnesses this week have really underscored what this meant not only for the integrity of our 2020 election but for our national security interests in Ukraine.
SCIUTTO: No question. And we're going to -- I'm going to get to you on that -- Steve. As Nancy Pelosi said, all roads lead to Putin. It would (INAUDIBLE) in these decisions here.
Stay with us. We're going to get to it. We want to get to your take on President Trump's attacks on Ambassador Yovanovitch as well.
And why House Republicans almost seem to go out of their way to compliment her instead.
SCIUTTO: We witnessed a remarkable moment on Capitol Hill today, one that would have been impossible in any previous impeachment hearing.
The ousted U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine was testifying under oath when the President tweeted an attack against her. He has more than 60 million followers. She was asked to respond to the President's tweet in real-time.
HARLOW: The Democrats were quick to accuse the President of witness intimidation which could wind up potentially included in an article of impeachment. And even some Republicans went out of their way to praise Yovanovitch for her public service, knowing the President was watching. Look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): We are lucky to have you in foreign service. And I again want to thank you for your tremendous public service.
REP. MIKE CONWAY (R-TX): I hope that whatever you decide to do after the Georgetown fellowship, that you're as successful there as you've been in the first 33 years.
REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): You're tough as nails and you're smart as hell. You're a great example of what our ambassadors should be like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: All right. Our experts are back with us.
The President attacking her. Jennifer Rodgers -- to you. Witness intimidation like many Democrats were saying? I think let's just, on that note, let's listen to Nancy Pelosi talking about this on CBS. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House said it was just his opinion. He was not trying to intimidate. What do you think?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The President and perhaps some at the White House have to know that the words of the President weigh a ton. They are very significant and he should not frivolously throw out insults.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: I think everyone can agree he should not do that. I mean even Republicans have a problem with him doing it. But legally speaking, is there a case for witness intimidation here?
RODGERS: So legally I wouldn't expect that anyone would bring a criminal case even if we were in a world where that could happen. You have to prove the intent to actually dissuade someone from testifying or intimidate them. And that's hard to do, you know.
She's already there testifying. Is he gearing it toward other witnesses? Maybe. So, you know, I don't know that it is legally something that a prosecutor would charge because you really have to prove that intent.
But it's unquestionably inappropriate and an abuse of his platform and his power. And impeachment doesn't rely upon legal crimes, right. It relies upon the abuse of power.
SCIUTTO: So Steve Hall -- one clear result of the testimony to see Ambassador Yovanovitch there was just how U.S. policy toward Ukraine and Russia was hijacked by really BS including this conspiracy theory that it was actually Ukraine that interfered in the 2016 election, not Russia.
Listen to this exchange between Daniel Goldman and Yovanovitch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YOVANOVITCH: What continues to amaze me is that they found Americans willing to partner with them and working together, they apparently succeeded in orchestrating the removal of a U.S. ambassador. How could our system fail like this? How is it that foreign corrupt interests can manipulate our government?
DANIEL GOLDMAN, INTEL COMMITTEE MAJORITY COUNSEL: Now, are you familiar with these allegations of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election?
YOVANOVITCH: I mean there have been rumors out there about things like that. But you know, there was nothing hard. At least nothing that I was aware of.
GOLDMAN: There's nothing based in fact to support these allegations.
YOVANOVITCH: Right. Yes.
GOLDMAN: And in fact, who was responsible for interfering and meddling in the 2016 election?
YOVANOVITCH: Well, the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that it was Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: So conspiracy theories, Steve Hall -- hijacks U.S. policy there. I imagine Russia cheers that.
HALL: You know, the damage, Jim -- that this entire incident at the hands of President Trump is doing to U.S. foreign policy and specifically vis-a-vis Russia I think is not just limited to right now or even for as long as President Trump is in office. It's going to be decades before this goes any further.
So if you just start with Russia, you know, this sort of divisiveness that you're seeing now publicly in the U.S. government, and in the policy and in the foreign policy community, always (ph) in great favor to Russia.
HALL: You know, I remember a day when I was working in federal government that these conversations were all dealt, you know, as in family. I mean you talked, certainly as to ok, what is our plan going to be? And maybe you would criticize and at the end of the day, you would come up with policy. None of that was public. None of that came out.
And when you deal with these things as publicly as you are and especially when a president is denigrating his personal representatives like an ambassador -- it's all very chaotic and it shows your hand.
Down the road, other countries are going to remember this. When we go to a country five, six years from now and say, look, it is in U.S. national interests to do this for us or to help us with that, not in a personal sense but for the United States, they're going to remember and they're going to say wait a minute. Not too long ago you guys had a president who was, you know, pushing his own personal agenda. How do we know that's not happening here?
Russia, Vladimir Putin, is saying, look, you know, America is always saying, you know, that we're corrupt and that I'm the one running this place. They're no better than we are. So this is -- you know, every day Vladimir Putin wakes up, it is a new present from Donald Trump and it's great for him.
HARLOW: Let's take a step back because all of this, the goal of these hearings are to get facts and truth. But in part for the Democrats also in large part now is to persuade the American public. Or more of the American public that there is a case to potentially impeach the President.
So there were Republicans from the jump -- from beginning who are calling point of order saying they weren't getting in enough. And there was this series of exchanges between a young Republican congressman release the foreign aide and chairman Adam Schiff. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNES: I know Miss Stefanik you had a few quick questions for the ambassador. I'll yield to you, Miss Stefanik.
STEFANIK: Thank you -- Mr. Nunes.
Ambassador Yovanovitch -- thank you for being here today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The gentlewoman will suspend -- the gentlewoman will suspend.
STEFANIK: What is the interruption for this time? It is our times.
Since the chairman has gaveled out all of my colleagues with their unanimous consent, I'm going to read for the record many of the chairman's comments in September of the importance of hearing from the whistleblower.
The witness was able to answer questions, as you saw. The only people that were limited from asking questions were Republican members because we're muzzled by Adam Schiff. (END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: I mean the question we have is -- is that true, Melanie?
ZANONA: Well, they knew the rules going into this. The House approved these impeachment resolution rules that said the ranking member and the chairman can only yield their time to staffers.
So Republicans knew this going into it but they wanted to bait Democrats into this fight. They didn't have a role on the cards to play in that hearing but they though they could get Democrats to sort of fight them on process and then they can make the argument that they were trying to shut down these Republicans and that it was part of this quote-unquote, "sham process" that we've seen.
But really, you know, when you take a step back, Republicans just did not have a whole lot to go on. Nunes barely mentioned that Marie Yovanovitch in his opening statement. They went out of their way to actually praise her and thank her for her service. They did not want to turn her into a martyr and, of course, the President's tweets did not help there.
And significantly, the Republicans did not rebut the central claim that Yovanovitch made today -- which is that there is this smear campaign against her reputation to oust her. And that it actually helped Russians. That it elevated Ukraine corruption and that it undercut diplomats. And So Republicans were in a really difficult spot and it did not go very well for them. And Democrats felt they did what they needed to do.
SCIUTTO: And in terms of the question. Congressman -- they each had 45 minutes. That was part of the rules although the chairman did have the right as chairman to set some of those rules as well.
Listen -- thanks to all of you. We've discussed so much. And we appreciate you joining us so late or early in the evening. Depending on your time zone here.
The only place you wanted to be on your Friday night. We appreciate it -- one and all. Very, very much.
Coming up next, the tangled web of Ukrainian officials mentioned in the hearing today. If you were wondering, who is that? Who is that? We'll tell you who they all are, next.
HARLOW: All right. So anyone who has been following the impeachment proceedings closely likely, of course, knows the name Marie Yovanovitch, especially after today. She of course, the ousted U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. But all of those other people who came up during her testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): The beginning of the story is an effort to
get you out of the way. An effort by Rudy Giuliani and Fruman and Parnas and corrupt Ukrainians like Lutsenko.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Those are just a few of the many names intertwined in this increasingly complicated story. It is important to know them and their role.
CNN's Kara Scannell has been keeping up with the cast of characters. So Kara -- tell us how these people fit into the broader story here?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's start with the former Ukrainian prosecutor. These two men met with or spoke with Rudy Giuliani, the President's personal attorney and are part of the alleged smear campaign of Yovanovitch.
First, Yuri Lutsenko -- he's a former prosecutor general you met at least twice as Giuliani according to the whistleblower complaint and provided him information to use against Yovanovitch.
Lutsenko told the (INAUDIBLE) but that Yovanovitch gave him a do not prosecute list of people who are off limits to prosecute. Lutsenko later walked back that claim. He also spoke with Giuliani about opening an investigation into the 2016 election and Burisma, the Ukraine Company whose directors include Joe Biden's son Hunter.
Lutsenko was preceded in his role as prosecutor general by Victor Shulkin. Shulkin has claimed he was fired from his job because he was investigating Burisma and Hunter Biden. Giuliani had used that to claim Biden interfered to stop an investigation into his son. There is no evidence to support that claim.
Earlier this year Shulkin was denied a visa when he sought to travel to the U.S. to meet with Giuliani.
Yovanovitch testified that it was Shulkin's Liza was denied because the U.S. government viewed Shulkin as corrupt. Giuliani, she said, tried to overturn that decision.
[01:44:56] Now the Giuliani associates. Giuliani didn't work alone. He was assisted in Ukraine efforts by Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The business partners were indicted last month for campaign finance violations.
Prosecutors alleged since last year, they've been advocating for the removal of Yovanovitch. As part of that effort, Parnas and Fruman met with former Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas who wrote in 2018, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Yovanovitch had bad-mouthed the President.
According to the criminal indictment, Parnas and Fruman pledged to donate $20,000 to Sessions' campaign. Parnas and Fruman have been working closely with I Giuliani since at least 2018 in his effort to dig up dirt on Biden. At the same time they were pursuing information for Giuliani, they were pitching a Ukrainian natural gas company. One of Giuliani's contacts in the Ukrainian administration was Andrey Yermak, an aide to Ukrainian President Zelensky.
Yermak met with Giuliani in August and Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, testified that Yermak expressed concerns to him about Giuliani.
Now recently released text messages testimony showed that Yermak was an intermediary to try to secure a meeting for the newly elected Ukrainian president to visit the White House.
Yermak tells Ambassador Kurt Volker quote, "Once we have a date, we'll call for a press briefing and quote, Where they plan to announce, quote, "Burisma and Election meddling investigations. The Democrats have point to this as evidence that the meeting was used as leverage -- Poppy, Jim.
HARLOW: Kara -- thank you very, very much.
Ok. So Kara just laid out all of these key players. Of course, also including Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. In a CNN exclusive reporting by our Vicky Ward, we've learned that both of the men had a meeting with the President and Rudy Giuliani last year at the White House Hannukkah Party where they described what Parnas described as a sect mission to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
SCIUTTO: Days later, we're told that Parnas insinuated to people that he clearly believed he had been given a special assignment by the President. Some sort of and I'm quoting here, James Bond mission. The White House did not respond to repeat requests today for comment on this reporting.
Steve Hall is back with us now. First let's get to the role of these two men, who by the way, we should note are now under criminal indictment. They've been charged and arrested as they were trying to leave the country on a one-way ticket. By the way out of Washington Dulles Airport.
The President entrusted these two now criminals, or alleged criminals, with a kind of mission separate from stated U.S. policy in Ukraine. Tell us the significance of that. The broader picture here.
HALL: Yes. This is an example of essentially a shadow side of the diplomatic effort here with regard to Ukraine. And perhaps not surprising, when you're not dealing with seasoned professionals. Professional diplomats. Professional of intelligence people who will tell you more about who it is that you're dealing with.
Things can go sideways quite badly, excuse me, which is what happened in this case. You, know you've the Tres Amigos. You have guys like Rudy Giuliani, and then these two basically former Soviet criminals -- corrupt guys who are now in jail. And the idea was we need to find somebody. I think this is what was happening inside the Trump administration. The President was saying we need to find somebody who would be willing to pursue my interests.
In other words pursuing Biden and those types of theoretical corruption issues, as opposed to doing something for U.S. foreign policy, something in the national interests. Which is what folks like ambassador Yovanovitch and others would have pursued.
I think that it's more than likely that Donald Trump and his administration realized that if they went to the professionals and said here's what I need you to do. I need to you look into Biden and people associated with him. That there would have been some pause because these are professional diplomats who understand that they work for the government. Not for an individual who wants to pursue his own political goals. Which is what Donald Trump is doing.
HARLOW: One -- Steve -- one of the moments this morning that struck me the most in the Yovanovitch opening statement is when she talked about the pointy end of the sphere. The power of diplomacy versus the power of actual military might, if you will. On the world stage. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YOVANOVITCH: The State Department is a tool of foreign policy, often doesn't get the same kind of attention or even respect as the military might of the Pentagon. But we are as they say, the pointy end of the spear. If we lose our edge, the U.S. will inevitably have to use other tools, even more than it does today. And those other tools are blunter, more expensive, and not universally effective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: She says if we lose our edge. But given, you know, the degradation of morale at the State Department, what has happened to numerous diplomats on the world stage, questioned by the President in public, have they at least somewhat already lost that -- Steve?
HALL: Yes, Poppy -- I'm concerned that we are losing that edge.
I thought even more poignant in Ambassador Yovanovitch's comments were when she started referring to past heroes in the State Department.
HALL: Folks like Ambassador Chris Stevens, Lost his life in Benghazi and then of course, referring back to the hostages that Iran took decades ago.
What you're seeing from people like Masha Yovanovitch who again I served with in Moscow and I know her and scores of her colleagues who are great people at the State Department. I think why you're seeing people lining up to talk about things like this is because they realize that Donald Trump is essentially, you know, stomping on Ambassador Stevens' grave to get across something that he wants to accomplish something that he personally wants as opposed to using the proud tradition of the State Department for what it really is, which is to further the interests, the national security interests of the United States.
And the dulling of that spear, I think, is beginning to happen. It's already happened, and I think it's going to last for a considerable time into the future. It's going to take some re-sharpening and it can't happen with Donald Trump in the White House.
SCIUTTO: Yes. We've seen the President do that to other institutions of government as well. Steve Hall, thanks very much. >
This was, of course, just the beginning of these impeachment hearing. At least eight more witnesses are scheduled to testify publicly next week. A look at what to expect. A very important testimony coming up, when we come back.
SCIUTTO: Of course, the public impeachment testimony does not end here. There's lots more to come. Just hours from now Mark Sandy, a government attorney expected to testify behind closed doors about why Ukraine aid was withheld. He's got a view inside the White House.
Then the public hearings begin again on Tuesday.
HARLOW: You will see it all live here on CNN. Thank you for joining us for our special live coverage, we'll see you back on Monday morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.
SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. "CUOMO PRIME TIME "starts after a quick break.