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Fiona Hill Shatter GOP Conspiracy Theories; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) is Interviewed about Fiona Hill and Impeachment; Interview with Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA); Sources: WH Does Not Believe Trump is in Danger of Being Removed from Office; Trump Talks Impeachment at Lunch with GOP Senators. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired November 21, 2019 - 17:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room." We're following breaking news. The last scheduled public impeachment hearing has just finished. And it included some of the most powerful testimony yet.

President Trump's former top Russia adviser Fiona Hill shattered Republican conspiracy theories about Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, calling it a fictional narrative. Also, testifying, the diplomat David Holmes who overheard a phone conversation between President Trump and his European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland, Holmes said he had a clear impression that U.S. aid to Ukraine was directly connected to that country's investigating Joe Biden and his son.

Our Political Correspondent Sara Murray is here with us in "The Situation Room." She's got details.

Sara, we saw powerful statements today from these two witnesses.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And Fiona Hill really did kick it off when she came out swinging against those GOP conspiracy theories and of course then we heard from David Holmes who recounted the stunning conversation he heard between President Trump and Gordon Sondland.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you swear or affirm that the testimony --

MURRAY (voice-over): A U.S. diplomat in Ukraine recounted for lawmakers the moment he realized that President Trump cared more about having Joe Biden and his son investigated than anything to do with Ukraine.

DAVID HOLMES, COUNSELOR FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS, U.S. EMBASSY UKRAINE: The four of us went to a nearby restaurant and sat on an outdoor terrace. Ambassador Sondland selected a bottle of wine. During the lunch Ambassador Sondland said that he was going to call President Trump to give him an update.

MURRAY: The phone call David Holmes overheard came July 26th, just a day after Trump spoke with the Ukrainian President.

HOLMES: Well, Ambassador Sondland's phone was not on speakerphone, I could hear the President's voice through the ear piece of the phone. The President's voice was loud and recognizable. When the President came on, he sort of winced and held the phone way from his ear like this, and he did that for the first couple exchanges.

I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the President and explain he was calling from Kiev. I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland replied yes, he was in Ukraine and went on to state that President Zelensky, "loves your ass." I then heard President Trump ask, so he's going to do the investigation? Ambassador Sondland replied that he's going to do it, adding that President Zelensky will do anything you ask him to do.

MURRAY: After the call, Holmes pressed for more clarity.

HOLMES: I asked Ambassador Sondland if it was true that the President did not give a expletive about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland agreed that the President did not give an expletive about Ukraine. I asked why not? Ambassador Sondland stated that the President only cares about big stuff. I noted there was big stuff going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia. And Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant big stuff that benefits the President, like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing.

MURRAY: Rudy Giuliani's problematic role re-emerged as both Holmes and Fiona Hill, a former top White House adviser on Russia described how Trump embraced Giuliani's conspiracy theory. Also championed by some GOP lawmakers that Ukraine meddled in 2016.

HOLMES: Mr. Giuliani was having a direct influence on the foreign policy agenda. My recollection is that Ambassador Sondland stated, "Damn it, Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and fs everything up."

FIONA HILL, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FORMER TOP RUSSIA ADVISER: Ambassador Bolton had looked pained in the course of that discussion and said that Rudy Giuliani was a hand grenade that was going to blow everyone up.

MURRAY: Alarm bells were also going off about Ambassador Gordon Sondland's role.

HILL: He was being involved in a domestic political errand and we were being involved in national security foreign policy and those two things had just diverged.

MURRAY: Hill recounted Sondland's deal with Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to arrange an Oval Office meeting between President Trump and the Ukrainian President. HILL: He said that he had an agreement with the Chief of Staff Mulvaney that in return for investigations this meeting would get scheduled.

MURRAY: She recalled how John Bolton, then the National Security Adviser, told her to report it.

HILL: The specific instruction was, that I had to go to the lawyers, to John Eisenberg, our senior counsel for the National Security Council, to basically say you tell Eisenberg, Ambassador Bolton told me I am not part of the -- this -- whatever drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland are cooking up.

MURRAY: Amid the impeachment sparing, both Hill and Holmes offered sharp warning to lawmakers.

HILL: I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that Ukrainian government as a U.S. adversary, and the Ukraine, not Russia, attacked us in 2016. These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes.


MURRAY: They described the perils of the false Ukrainian meddling narrative.

HILL: This is a fictional narrative that is being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.

DANIEL GOLDMAN, MAJORITY COUNSEL: Why would it be to Vladimir Putin's advantage to promote this theory of Ukraine interference?

HOLMES: First of all, to deflect from the allegations of Russia interference. Second of all, to drive a wedge between the United States and Ukraine.

MURRAY: And Holmes left lawmakers with an urgent reminder, the Ukrainians never got that White House meeting and they are still under pressure to please the American President.

HOLMES: I think that continues to this day. I think they're being very careful. They still need us now going forward.


MURRAY: Now, we just got a statement this evening from Mick Mulvaney's new attorney outside of the White House, Robert Driscoll, it takes issue with Fiona Hill's testimony, he says, "Fiona Hill's testimony is riddled with speculation and guesses about any role that Mr. Mulvaney played with anything related to Ukraine." It also calls this inquiry a sham.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. Well, let's see if Mick Mulvaney shows up and testifies himself. We would love to hear what he has to say about all of this. Everybody stand by. I want to bring in our correspondents and our analysts. And Jim Sciutto, Fiona Hill spent two and a half years working for President Trump in the White House, the top Russia expert at the National Security Council and she had an ominous warning about what Russia is up to, not only back in 2016, but looking ahead to 2020. Watch this.


HILL: Right now Russia security services under proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election. We're running out of time to stop them. And the course of this investigation I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods, so clearly advance Russian interests.

I refuse to be part of an alternate narrative that the Ukraine government as a U.S. adversary, and the Ukraine, not Russia, attacked us in 2016. These fictions are harmful even if they're deployed for purely domestic political purposes.


BLITZER: All right. You've been spending a lot of time looking into this.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This is the thing, you -- we are one year away -- less than a year away from the next election, three years after Russia, with consequence interfered and meddled in the 2016 election. One thing is clear from everybody who testified is the President of the United States never expressed any interest in defending the U.S. against that kind of interference. In fact what he did, he was interested in a whole lot of other stuff that undermines that goal of defending U.S. election from Russian interference, one of which Fiona Hill highlighted there, which was presenting an alternate explanation, an entirely false one that it was Ukraine that somehow hacked the DNC server, not Russia.

So, you know, clear from the testimony that this is not a priority for the President protecting the election. But also clear that he was moving the machinery of government to pursue something that undermines that defense, repeating Kremlin talking points on Ukraine, not Russia.

And I just want to be clear, beware GOP sleight of hand on this argument about Ukrainian, you know, interference in the election. There's a lot of talk, you heard Jim Jordan talking about op-eds written by Ukrainian officials and so on. That's not the interference Trump was talking. Trump was repeatedly, and it's in the testimony, talking about the DNC server, it's actually in Ukraine, et cetera. That's where the President's attention was, not on protecting the election.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Beyond that, Wolf, today's testimony by Fiona Hill was devastating for the Republicans. We have seen extraordinary testimony from fact witnesses, from professionals, she was the gold standard. And so was David Holmes. And point by point she absolutely devastated the Republicans until at some point they were making statements where they said, I really don't have any questions to ask you. She completely took apart anything.

There has been no White House defense all along. There was no defense from the Republican members.


GANGEL: Absolutely.

BORGER: She disarmed the most of it because she would say, well, I kind of -- I agree with you on that, you know? We're all against Russian aggression. I agree with you on that.

Look, she took a meat ass (ph) to Republican conspiracy theories in a brilliant way, I thought, by -- she's a Russia expert, she is a Putin scholar, she has written a book about Putin. And in her own way she took about -- she said, look, folks, Ukraine is not the bad guys. Russia is the bad guys here. They were the bad guys doing the work.

And all the conspiracy theories, she said, are a fictional narrative that is exactly what Russia wants you to believe. It is in their interest to have you believe that Ukraine was doing all of these nefarious things. But honestly if you believe that, you're doing their work. You are in their camp. And then she took apart the Sondland/Giuliani narrative, which was, you know, we were doing this to get money. She said, look, what they were doing was a domestic political errand. Period.


GANGEL: Those are the three words.

BORGER: Period, end of paragraph. A domestic political errand. We were talking about national security. They were embarked on a domestic political errand. And those two things didn't really meet.

BLITZER: And Abby, she went a step further in making her point. Listen to this.


HILL: Based on questions and statements I've heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct campaign against our country and that perhaps somehow for some reason Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that is being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.


BLITZER: So the Republicans as you heard, they tried to respond to that.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And she broke it down for them. She explained actually point by point exactly why it makes no sense to equate any kind of innuendo about with Ukraine about what Russia did in 2016. She took the article, the POLITICO article that Republicans have been entering into the record for several days now, written by a good reporter that she affirmed was a good reporter, Ken Vogel, and she explained that that article did not say that Ukraine had the same kind of top down effort to interfere in the 2016 election that Russia did.

She also explained that in the lead up to the 2016 election, there were several other world leaders and ambassadors and officials and high level governments who are even our allies who wrote things that were unfavorable to President Trump, who criticized him publicly. And she said, Ukrainian officials did that, they probably shouldn't have, but that is not the same thing as election interference. And that was, I think, really powerful for her to do because she didn't just bat it aside. She took the Republican argument and she broke -- she tore it down piece by piece.


MURRAY: And she said the President hasn't had the same other issues with all of these other --

PHILLIP: Right, exactly.

MURRAY: -- all of these other leaders that he has had with Ukraine. It seems that Ukraine is the one that has really stuck with him where as in other countries, other world leaders were saying, like, critical things and, you know, he hasn't retaliated in the same.

BLITZER: Everybody stick around for a moment. We've a guest, Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. He's a member of both the Intelligence and Oversight committees and you heard him asking questions just a little while ago.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.


BLITZER: Fiona Hill seemed to shatter these Republican conspiracy theories today. But what was your reaction when you heard those exchanges with members of your committee and her?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think somebody said on your panel what I was about to say, which is that at some point they just stopped asking her questions because they weren't able to handle her responses. And I think at one point they asked a question and their time ran out and they were -- I think they were happy that their time ran out and the chairman, Chairman Schiff allowed them -- allowed her to continue responding and they were livid but that's the rules of the committee, you're allowed -- the witness is allowed to answer a question if it's outstanding.

I think that she obviously is a brilliant expert on the issues that we are talking about every day in the committee. But as a fact witness, she was convincing with regard to her conversations with Gordon Sondland and her pointing out that, you know, he was on a domestic political errand, where as she and the national security council were really trying to protect our national security, those are two totally different topics. And, you know, unfortunately we did -- the President did assign to Gordon Sondland something that he should never have, which is, you know, trying to get another power to investigate his political rivals.

BLITZER: What were your impressions, Congressman, of David Holmes, the counselor for political affairs at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine who overheard that phone conversation between the President and the U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I thought he was convincing. He gave facts that were, you know, consistent with his deposition testimony, and his opening statements, in both. And I think that he was also somebody who tried to stay in his lane, so to speak, and, you know, testified as to what he knew, what he saw, what he heard. And I think he really did hear the President speak on that phone. He talked about how the phone call was -- or at least the President was very loud on the phone, and Gordon -- Sondland, he gave testimony yesterday which was not contradictory for the vast majority of what was described today in that phone call.

BLITZER: Fiona Hill described what she described as this shadow policy in Ukraine --


BLITZER: -- as a domestic political errand. But your Republican colleague, Will Hurd of Texas, who's not seeking re-election, he said, yes, the policy may have been misguided, but not necessarily enough to impeach the President of the United States. What's your response?


KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, gosh, I'm withholding judgment on impeachment until we're completed with our assignment right now in the inquiry stage and it goes to the Judiciary Committee. But, I got to say there's a lot of evidence that's stacked up over the last couple of weeks that support any number of offenses from, you know, abuse of power, to coercion, to bribery, to obstruction. And so I respectfully disagree with Congressman Hurd that there isn't enough evidence to support an impeachable offense.

At the end of the day, this is what it's about, Wolf, which is, are we going to allow a President to use the immense power of the office to basically pressure another power to investigate his or her political rivals here? Not only that, but you're also using the full tools of the government to investigate a private citizen of this country. That's like the worst fear of any individual with regard to their government. So, I think this is very serious.

BLITZER: Congressman Krishnamoorthi, thanks so much for joining us on this important day.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, everybody stand by. Even though the White House is downplaying today's impeachment testimony, and it was very dramatic. So what's next now that President Trump's former Russia adviser has shattered Republican conspiracy theories about Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election as opposed to Russian meddling?



BLITZER: Another very, very important and historic day in the impeachment inquiry involving the President of the United States. Let's get some perspective from another key member of the House of Representatives, joining us right now, Democratic Congresswoman Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania. She's a member of the Judiciary Committee, which eventually will have to consider the recommendations of the Intelligence Committee.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): Good evening.

BLITZER: And, first of all, what was your reaction to Dr. Fiona Hill, the top Russia expert, the National Security Council for the past two and a half years, shattering the conspiracy theories during the course of her testimony?

DEAN: I had the opportunity to sit in the hearing room, when she made her opening statement and read along a written copy. What I found in her was an extraordinary patriot. Somebody standing at the ready to sound the alarm, not somebody who wanted to, but somebody who was a public servant who was ready to sound the alarm about the wrongdoing of this administration and directly about the wrongdoing of this President. So I saw somebody of extraordinary courage, somebody who spoke clearly, concisely, without embellishment of the facts and with precision.

BLITZER: What were your impressions of David Holmes, the political counselor at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine?

DEAN: Much the same. In him you saw -- and it was shared also by Dr. Hill, a love of and belief in our foreign policy and building on our relationship with Ukraine, recognizing the vulnerability of that democracy to Vladimir Putin, to the actual invasion by Russia, and then they saw the competing interests of this President who actually, as Fiona Hill, said so movingly and so clearly that Sondland was sent on a political errand, a private political errand while she was trying to work on diplomacy and peace and national security and global security. And those two agendas came into conflict.

BLITZER: Toward the end of today's hours and hours of testimony we heard from Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas, he's not seeking re-election. He's a former CIA clandestine officer, listen to what he said, his bottom line conclusion.


REP. WILL HURD (R-TX): An impeachable offense should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear, and unambiguous and it's not something to be rushed or taken lightly. I've not heard evidence proving the President committed bribery or extortion. I also reject the notion that holding this view means supporting all the foreign policy choices we have been hearing about over the last few weeks.


BLITZER: All right, have you heard such evidence?

DEAN: I certainly have. And it came firsthand, it came from those diplomats who did not have a political fight, they actually just wanted to do good for our country. So those comments by the retiring congressman are terribly disappointing. I don't understand it.

If not this, if this is not wrongdoing by a President, trying to change the outcome of an upcoming election, trying to withhold and in fact withholding aid to a foreign country that Congress had appropriated, to their peril, Ukraine was at peril as a result of holding that up. If he doesn't see that, if the representative doesn't see that as a high crime or misdemeanor or extraordinary wrongdoing, I don't know what he would call a high crime or misdemeanor. This is a President who has abused his power. And now we have confirmation from decades long public servants.

You know what else we don't have, Wolf? We don't have any exculpatory information from the Republican Party or the administration himself, the administration itself. The President had every opportunity to put forward witnesses who would say no, none of that ever happened, but, of course, no one can say that. Sondland confirmed it. Everybody was in the loop according to Sondland.


And so there was a shadow foreign policy, it was actually then being handled by the ambassador to the E.U. in a very puzzling manner as he said he thought he was in the middle lane. And you had a State Department who thought this was inappropriate or at least some members of the State Department thought it was inappropriate. This is an abuse of power. This is a President who wanted to seek only his own political personal gain.

What was interesting was you heard in the summary remarks by Adam Schiff, the notion of big things. What's a big thing to the Republican Party? What's a big thing in terms of global peace and national security? A big thing is not can you find me dirt on my political opponent? A big thing is how can we protect and help protect a democracy in peril?

BLITZER: Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, thanks so much for joining us.

DEAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. I want to go to the White House right now. Our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta is working his sources for us.

Jim, these public hearings, just wrapped up, so what are you hearing over there at the White House? What's the reaction?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, after a damaging week of testimony for the President over here at the White House, they still believe there is not enough evidence at this point, that these witnesses have not done enough damage at this point for the President to be convicted and removed from office if a Senate trial were to happen, given the likelihood that the President will be impeached in the House.

I will tell you I talked to officials earlier this afternoon who said, yes, they listened to Fiona Hill, yes, they to David Holmes. But they do not see those witnesses as being very good closing witnesses for the Democrats to close out this week.

Now they were certainly concerned about Gordon Sondland, the E.U. ambassador, this official I talked with earlier today said there were concerns inside the White House about what the E.U. ambassador was saying yesterday about the administration knowing full well there was a quid pro quo going on with Ukraine. But as the day was going on yesterday, White House officials were feeling more comfortable because they saw Republican lawmakers attempting to in their view showing that Sondland was drawing his own conclusions about the quid pro quo.

Now, there are some remaining big questions as to whether or not John Bolton, the former National Security Adviser, the Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, whether they will testify in all of this. But at this point, there just isn't enough, they don't believe to result in the President being removed from office.

And at this point, I talked to a GOP official earlier this afternoon, if the President is impeached, they do expect to have a trial in the Senate, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. And the President invited a bunch of key Republican senators over there today, I assume to try to deal with this, if there's an impeachment in the House by Christmas, there could be a full scale trial in the Senate in January.

ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf. And a lot of Republicans are worried about what these GOP senators might do, Susan Collins and Mitt Romney among them. You know that the history between Senator Mitt Romney, 2012 presidential nominee for the Republican Party and this President has not always been very smooth.

But Romney and Collins returned to the Capitol earlier this afternoon after having lunch over here at the White House and they told reporters that what they heard from the President did not very, very much, from what he said, publicly about this impeachment inquiry so far. And the words of Mitt Romney, he thought lunch was delightful. So at this point it doesn't sound like the President is twisting a lot of arms in terms of these Republican senators.

And at this point, Wolf, nobody in Washington believes there are enough Republican senators who will cross over and convict the President in the Senate barring some unforeseen bombshells that may not be -- or maybe yet to come, Wolf. BLITZER: Jim Acosta over at the White House, thanks very much.

Coming up, we're going to go back to Capitol Hill for an update on what's next in the timeline for possible articles of impeachment against the President.



BLITZER: More breaking news this hour. House Democrats now say they have enough evidence to move on to impeaching President Trump.

Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. Manu, what are you learning?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Democrats are telling me that they are moving closer to impeaching this President. They'd almost -- seems almost certain that that vote will happen this year, happen potentially before Christmas.

Democrats have made the decision that they are not going to go to court to pursue some of those witnesses who they have not had a chance to talk to but who could potentially shed more light about this Ukraine scandal and this effort by the President to push Ukrainian government to issue open investigations that could help him politically use his office to do just that.

Some of those witnesses -- including Mick Mulvaney, the Acting White House Chief of Staff, as well as the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the former national security adviser John Bolton -- all have resisted calls to testify.

Democrats say they have no appetite to pursue those matters in court because they could essentially delay the proceedings. Nancy Pelosi made that very clear today. So that could -- that could ultimately be up to the Senate -- the Senate when they -- it has its trial to bring those individuals in for witnesses, assuming they go that route.


Now, what Democrats say is that they have gathered enough evidence to move forward for -- to begin that process of considering articles of impeachment. So expect next week the House Intelligence Committee to finish up its report, detailing its findings.

Then that report will be submitted to the House Judiciary Committee, which will consider Articles of Impeachment likely in the first two weeks of December. That could be followed up by a full vote by House -- a vote in the full House that could make President Trump just the third president in American history to get impeached.

And, Wolf, Republicans are confident they are not going to lose any votes. I just asked House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy if he expects any Republican defections. He told me that he would not get and there -- that would be zero

Republican defections. He said they expect to pick up some Democrats to oppose impeachment at the end of the day.

But at the end of the day, expect a majority to support impeaching this president, assuming they go that route. And all signs are pointing to the fact that they are almost certain to go that route -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that week before Christmas could be really, really critical, the impeachment vote. Then it goes, in January, to the Senate for a full-scale trial. Manu, thank you very much.

We've got our correspondents, we've got our analysts, all of us ready to assess all the breaking news. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We're back. We're following the breaking news. Let's bring in our correspondents and our analysts.

And, Preet Bharara, it was another historic day, powerful testimony from these two witnesses today. What did you think?

PREET BHARARA, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Incredibly powerful. I mean, one thing people have to bear in mind is that you have courts of law, and you have -- the public can come -- sometimes come and sit and watch these proceedings. But most of the time, as with the Mueller investigation, people see testimony on the written page. You see transcripts later.

There's a world of difference between seeing something on paper and watching a live witness in real time, like the witnesses we had today, in particular, Dr. Fiona Hill. She is formidable. She was knowledgeable. She was prepared. She was alternately disarming and fierce and stood her ground.

And you saw some of the Republican members, I think, shy away from trying to get too tough with her because she knew her stuff, and what she said was pretty damning for the President.

BLITZER: It certainly was. You know, Kaitlan, at one point, she described her anger towards the U.S. Ambassador to the E.U., Ambassador Gordon Sondland. Let me play this clip. Watch this.


HILL: I was actually, to be honest, angry with him. And, you know, I hate to say it, but often, when women show anger, it's not fully appreciated. It's often, you know, pushed on to emotional issues, perhaps, or deflected on to other people.

And what I was angry about was that he wasn't coordinating with us. I've actually realized, having listened to his deposition, that he was absolutely right. That he wasn't coordinating with us because we weren't doing the same thing that he was doing.

So I was upset with him that he wasn't fully telling us about all of the meetings that he was having. And he said to me, but I'm briefing the President. I'm briefing Chief of Staff Mulvaney. I'm briefing Secretary Pompeo, and I've talked to Ambassador Bolton.

He was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security foreign policy. And those two things had just diverged. I did say to him, Ambassador Sondland, Gordon, I think this is all going to blow up. And here we are.


BLITZER: Yes. That was a very, very tough assessment.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was one of those fascinating parts of the testimony, I think, because she was talking about the tensions they had when they were both in the White House.

And she essentially thought he was going rogue, but she said she watched his testimony yesterday very closely. And she saw the messages with the Secretary of State, with the Chief of Staff, with the national security adviser, with all of these people, and she realized that Gordon Sondland was doing what he thought he was supposed to be doing.

Which makes this even more fascinating because, so far, it had been painted as these people, these irregular channels, are regular channels. And she is essentially saying that what these people were doing is what they thought the President wanted them to do.

Now, the -- or the Republicans have argued there is no explicit obvious showing of the President asking these people to do these things, but she makes pretty clear there that he's briefing all of these top officials including -- the President is another name she said she -- that he was briefing on what he was doing. So everyone was well aware what was going on.

SCIUTTO: And while he was briefing them, he was claiming to have a direct line to the President. David Holmes made this very clear. He portrayed himself as the conduit to the President. And Mr. Mulvaney talked about direct and frequent access to the President on Ukraine policy, that's Gordon Sondland.

And it just belies his -- his afternoon testimony yesterday where he -- he kind of played dummies like, well, I kind of thought that's what it was. He was claiming to -- to all the officials responsible for carrying out the policy, I'm getting this direct from the President.

BLITZER: Are we going to hear, Kylie, from any of these, Secretary of State Pompeo, for example? He could explain what was going on. He was working on this issue. John Bolton, the former national security -- are we going to hear from any of them?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: No, they have all -- they've been subpoenaed. There's no evidence, at this point, that they're going to show up. And quite frankly, there's no motivation for them to want to do that because they are siding with President Trump. They work for President Trump.

They are not folks like Gordon Sondland who is an ambassador. He is a political appointed ambassador, but he also has his own life. He's a millionaire. He can go back and live his life. There are other career foreign service officers who felt that they needed to, for moral reasons and for legal reasons, go tell their story.


But you have folks like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who has political ambitions here. He is not going to separate himself with President Trump right now. And Mick Mulvaney, the Acting Chief of Staff, has shown no sign of --

BLITZER: You know, but, Gloria, I just want your thought. Did anything, politically, really change today? Were any minds changed on the Democratic side or the Republican side?

BORGER: No, I don't think so. Not today. Because I think they're pretty set in stone. We saw it on that committee. Some of us were surprised to hear Will Hurd say that -- use the -- it was inappropriate, but perhaps not impeachable defense, which is I think where he'll -- where he'll end up.

But I want to talk one more thing about Fiona Hill because she also shredded some more artifice today, which was when Sondland said -- and everybody thought it kind of strained credulity yesterday when Sondland said that nobody really knew that Burisma equaled Biden.



BORGER: And she was asked about it and she said, yes -- yes, that she said it was not credible that he was oblivious, as she -- as she put it. So now, we know that Volker has said that and Sondland has said that.

Because these were the two men who were really involved in the -- in the Giuliani sort of piece of this. And they were all saying, no, no, no, no, we never knew that was -- that was Biden. It seems that everybody else knew.

BLITZER: We're going to ask --

MURRAY: Well, it's --

BLITZER: We're going to ask Rudy, ask Rudy, ask Rudy. That's what the President kept saying.

Everybody, stand by. There's a lot more on the breaking news, how key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry are countering Republicans main lines of defense of the President. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BLITZER: More now on the breaking news. Powerful testimony today in the final scheduled public impeachment hearing, including President Trump's former top Russia advisor, Dr. Fiona Hill, shattering Republican conspiracy theories about Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, calling it a fictional narrative.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, Republicans of the Intelligence Committee, they're sticking with their defense of President Trump.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are sticking with their arguments, Wolf, but what we found is that some key lines of defense from Republicans that they've been lining up for weeks have been refuted by some very credible witnesses.

Still, there are some points of contention, analysts believe, that the Republicans can continue to legitimately make.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They should be ashamed, and they ought to end the witch-hunt right now.

TODD (voice-over): One of the Republican central points of contention in the impeachment probe was that there was nothing expected of the new Ukrainian President and his team in return for a meeting at the White House for U.S. military aid. The President's side repeatedly shooting down the Democrats' favorite phrase.

TRUMP: No quid pro quo.

No quid pro quo.

No quid pro quo.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This phone call is a nothing burger in terms of a quid pro quo.

TODD (voice-over): That line of defense broken by a central player in the President's communications with the Ukrainian government, U.S. Ambassador to the E.U., Gordon Sondland.

GORDON SONDLAND, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.

TODD (voice-over): Another Republican point of contention, that President Trump wasn't obsessed with Ukraine digging up dirt on his potential 2020 election rival, but that the President only cared about one thing.

TRUMP: I don't care about Biden's campaign, but I do care about corruption.

TODD (voice-over): But some witnesses testified to what they believe the President meant when he and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, expressed interest in an investigation of Ukrainian energy firm, Burisma.

HILL: It was very apparent to me that that was what Rudy Giuliani intended, yes. Intended to convey that Burisma was linked to the Bidens, and he said this publicly repeatedly.

GOLDMAN: And, Mr. Holmes, you also understood that Burisma was code for Bidens?


GOLDMAN: And do you think that anyone involved in Ukraine matters in the spring and the summer would understand that as well?


TODD (voice-over): Another Republican line of defense, that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his team couldn't have been under any pressure for a quid quo pro from Trump after Trump asked him to launch an investigation for one reason.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH: And the Ukrainians didn't know that the aid was even on hold at the time of the call.

TODD (voice-over): But a key witness, top Pentagon official Laura Cooper, testified the Ukrainians mentioned it the day of the call between Trump and Zelensky.

LAURA COOPER, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA, UKRAINE, AND EURASIA: On July 25th, a member of my staff got a question from a Ukraine embassy contact asking what was going on with the Ukrainian security assistance.

TODD (voice-over): But analysts say Republicans have other arguments to continue to make in defending the President. They say Trump's allies can continue to assert that, in the end, the Ukrainians didn't give President Trump what the Democrats contend he really wanted.

MICHAEL GERHARDT, BURTON CRAIGE DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF JURISPRUDENCE, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: President Zelensky didn't ultimately provide the deliverable that Ambassador Sondland referred to. He didn't ultimately say publicly that he was opening an investigation into the Bidens.


TODD: And there are other points of contention which, analysts say, the Republicans can still hit on. They can say that Trump's behavior may have been wrong but was hardly serious enough to warrant impeachment. And they can keep raising the idea that the activities of Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company central to the impeachment probe, were probably worth at least looking into on some level -- Wolf. [17:55:01]

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thank you. Brian Todd reporting.

The breaking news continues next with more on today's truly powerful impeachment inquiry testimony and how the former top White House Russia adviser shattered a conspiracy theory Republicans are using to defend the President.