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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
House Judiciary Committee Continues Impeachment Hearing. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired December 9, 2019 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANIEL GOLDMAN, DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL: That Rudy Giuliani wanted to include Burisma and the 2016 elections, there was no White House meeting.
It soon became clear to them that the security assistance was also at risk. And that took on a renewed importance for them.
REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): Well, following the 25th call -- the July 25 call, Ambassadors Sondland and Volker worked closely with Mr. Giuliani and the Ukrainians to help draft a statement that the president could make, President Zelensky, wasn't that right?
And the report says they worked closely. And then there were also phone calls with the White House around the same time that they were working closely with the Ukrainians?
BASS: Do you know what that statement was supposed to say, according to Mr. Giuliani and the U.S. officials?
GOLDMAN: Well, the key difference is that it had to include that Ukraine would do the investigations of Burisma, which equaled the Biden investigation, and the 2016 Ukraine interference
BASS: But was there concern about doing investigations or what? Were they just supposed to make a statement about it? What?
GOLDMAN: Ambassador Sondland very clearly testified that all he ever heard Mr. Giuliani or anyone say is that they only needed the public announcement of the investigations.
BASS: And so did the committee find that, without that public statement, that there would be no White House meeting?
BASS: So, I was struck by how clear the evidence seems to be on this point. And I'd like to play another example.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. 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. Everyone was in the loop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASS: Mr. Goldman, did the investigative committees find that Mr. Giuliani played a role in the White House visit being conditioned on investigations?
GOLDMAN: The evidence showed that Mr. Giuliani not only played a role, but that he was essentially the president's agent; he was acting on behalf of the president, expressing the president's wishes, desires and...
BASS: So, what evidence did the committee find that corroborated the quote "Everyone was in the loop"?
GOLDMAN: Well, Ambassador Sondland produced for his public testimony -- and I think it's very important, in light of the testimony from Mr. Castor a minute ago with Mr. Buck, as to how many times that Mr. Sondland did not remember in his deposition, because we agree it was egregious.
But the advantage of doing closed depositions is that Mr. Sondland could not match up his testimony. So, as other witnesses came in, then he realized that he had to actually admit to more and more stuff. So he did admit to an e-mail that included Secretary Pompeo, Mulvaney...
BASS: I do want to make a point before my time goes out.
We have to think about what is going on today. So, President Zelensky is meeting with Putin today. And because of President Trump's actions, Zelensky is in a weakened position to negotiate with the leader of the nation that invaded his country.
If our military assistance had been provided, as Congress ordered it, and the White House meeting, President Zelensky would be meeting with Putin from a position of strength.
If you want the support -- well, we have to realize that the message that this sends to our allies is to -- and to our standing in the world, if you want the support of the United States, be prepared to help with President Trump's reelection.
President Trump's abuse of power has injured our nation.
REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): (OFF-MIKE)
REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE (R-TX): I thank the chairman.
The 299-page Democratic majority report mentions the intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkinson on pages 26, 33, 138, 140 and 143.
Mr. Goldman, you were present for the October 4, 2019, transcribed interview of the inspector general Michael Atkinson, correct?
RATCLIFFE: On pages 53 to 73 of that transcribed interview, the inspector general's testimony confirms the following, that the whistle-blower made statements to the inspector general under penalty of perjury that were not true and correct, that the whistle-blower first made statements in writing under penalty of perjury that were not true and correct.
The whistle-blower then made statements under penalty of perjury that were not true and correct in his or her verbal responses to the inspector general's investigative team. Because of the whistle- blower's statements in writing and verbally to the inspector general that were neither true, correct, or accurate, pages 53 to 73 of that sworn testimony reveal that the inspector general was not able to answer any questions, none, from me about the whistle-blower's contact or communication with Chairman Schiff's staff, of which Mr. Goldman is a member.
Mr. Castor, do you remember anywhere in this 299-page report that makes reference to the fact that, when the whistle-blower started this inquiry, he or she did so by making statements under penalty of perjury that were neither true or correct in writing, and then did so again verbally?
STEVE CASTOR, REPUBLICAN COUNSEL: I don't remember that.
RATCLIFFE: After the inspector general testified on October 4, and after media reports revealed that the whistle-blower and Chairman Schiff did not disclose their prior contacts or communications with one another, the whistle-blower contacted the inspector general to explain why he or she made statements under penalty of perjury in writing and verbally that were not true, correct, and accurate.
Mr. Castor, is that communication from the whistle-blower -- from the whistle-blower to the inspector general to explain prior inconsistent statements reflected anywhere in the 299-page report?
RATCLIFFE: On October 2, Chairman Schiff's spokesman, Patrick Boland, acknowledged publicly that the outlines of the whistle-blower's accusations against the president had been disclosed to the House Intelligence staff, and shared with Chairman Schiff.
Mr. Castor, is that disclosure and Mr. Boland's admission of that disclosure anywhere in this report?
CASTOR: I don't remember seeing it.
RATCLIFFE: It's not.
I think all members of Congress should be held accountable during this impeachment process. And, to that end, if I have made any false statements about the whistle-blower or the inspector general's testimony today, then I should be held accountable.
The way to do that would be to release the inspector general's testimony or even just pages 53 to 73. I would add that there's nothing in those pages that would in any way identify or place at risk the whistle-blower's identity, nor would it reveal any information that in any way relates to, much less jeopardizes national security.
Look, maybe there's a believable explanation for why the whistle- blower made statements that weren't true or accurate about his contact or her contact with Chairman Schiff in writing and then again verbally. Maybe there's a good explanation for why the words Congress or congressional committee was confusing or not clear to the whistle- blower.
Maybe there's a good explanation for why the whistle-blower also misled the inspector general in writing on August 12 by stating, "I reserve the option to exercise my legal right to contact the committees directly," when the whistle-blower had in fact already contacted Chairman Schiff's committee two weeks before he or she wrote that.
Maybe there's a believable reason why Chairman Schiff was not initially truthful about his staff's communications with the whistle- blower. Maybe there's a good reason that explains all of these statements in writing and verbally that just weren't true and correct.
Maybe there is. But there is no good reason for voting to impeach and remove from office an American president without allowing a single question to be asked of a single witness to get an explanation for why the inspector general was not told the truth about contacts between the whistle-blower and Chairman Schiff.
The bottom line is, we should all be held accountable. And next November, every member of the House will be asked this question. Did you vote to impeach the president without allowing any investigation into why the whistle-blower that started it all did so by making statements in writing and verbally under penalty of perjury that were not true?
Democrats may not care if that question ever gets answered, but the voters will
I yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman yields back.
REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D-LA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Goldman, I want to start off with facts and -- that you all uncovered through the course of your investigation. And I want to pick up where my colleagues Mr. Deutch and Ms. Bass left off.
They walked us through how the president used the White House visit to apply pressure on Ukraine to do his personal bidding.
I want to talk about how the president did the same thing with almost 400 million taxpayer dollars to pressure Ukraine to do his personal bidding.
So, I'd like to start with turning back to the July 25 call. It's a fact that, in the president's own words, and the transcript submitted by him, reveals that, after Ukraine asks for military aid, Trump says, "I would like you to do us a favor, though."
GOLDMAN: Right after President Zelensky thanks President Trump for the military assistance, then President Trump asks for a favor.
And, of course, by this point, President Trump had already placed the hold on the security assistance.
RICHMOND: Now, my Republican colleagues have suggested that the Ukrainians did not even know about the military aid being withheld.
Is that true?
There was significant evidence that, even as early as July 25, at the time of this call, that Ukrainian officials had suspected that the aid was being withheld.
And there was a "New York Times" article actually last week that wasn't included in our report, but from the former foreign -- or deputy foreign minister, who said that they -- that Ukraine -- the -- President Zelensky's office received a diplomatic cable from the embassy here the week of July 25 saying that the aid had been held.
And what I will also show you on the screen is that it was on July 25, also, the same day of the call, that the State Department e-mailed the Department of Defense noting that the Ukrainian Embassy was asking about the withheld military aid.
GOLDMAN: Yes, that's what I was referring to.
RICHMOND: I'd like to -- let's go back.
There was also discussion earlier during the minority questioning that Mr. Sandy from OMB said that the reason for the security assistance hold was related to the president's concerns about burden-sharing with Europe.
Is that consistent with the evidence that you all uncovered?
GOLDMAN: So, it's a good question, because Mr. Sandy did say that.
But, notably, Mr. Sandy said that he only heard that in early September, that that reason was never provided to him or anybody else before early September for the first two months of the hold.
And, of course, it was given at that point as this -- the gig was up, so to speak.
RICHMOND: So, that was after everything came out to light?
GOLDMAN: It was -- he wasn't sure of the timing, but he was ultimately told that the reason for the hold, after it was lifted, was for that reason.
But that's a -- I think an after-the-fact excuse, based on our evidence, because no other witnesses were ever told of that reason during the entire time that it was held.
RICHMOND: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to enter into the record evidence uncovered by the committee from the House Budget and Appropriations Committees that documents OMB placing a hold on the Ukrainian security assistance on July 25.
NADLER: Without objection.
RICHMOND: So, let's review.
On July 18, OMB announced to all relevant agencies that the military aid would be withheld from Ukraine. On a call with Ukraine on July 25, President Trump says, "Do us a favor, though," and asks Ukraine to investigate his political rival.
Also on July 25, in the hours following that call, both the Ukrainians and the Americans took action specifically related to that military aid.
The Ukrainians began asking about the status of their military. And OMB took its first official action to withhold that aid.
Mr. Goldman, I'm placing on the screen in front of you an e-mail from Ambassador Sondland to members of the White House administration, in which Ambassador Sondland says: "I would ask Zelensky to look him in the eye and tell him that, once Ukraine's new justice folks are in place, Zelensky should be able to move forward publicly and with confidence on those issues of importance to the president and the United States. Hopefully, that will break the logjam."
Did the investigative committees uncover any evidence on what Ambassador Sondland meant when he suggested that President Zelensky would have to move forward publicly on -- quote -- "issues of importance to the president" to receive military aid?
GOLDMAN: Ambassador Sondland said those were the two investigations that President Trump mentioned on the July 25 call, which Secretary Pompeo, who received that e-mail, listened in to. RICHMOND: So, the president was concerned about the two
investigations, and though that was the predicate for releasing military aid to our ally?
GOLDMAN: At the time of that e-mail, yes.
RICHMOND: Thank you. And I yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman yields back.
A little earlier, Mr. Armstrong had asked a unanimous consent request to insert into the record the I.G. report released today about FISA. And I had said we would take it under advisement. We have reviewed it.
And, without objection, it will be entered into the record.
REP. MARTHA ROBY (R-AL): I'm actually stunned by the process, or lack thereof, that is taking place in this institution.
I have many Democratic friends that I know to be thoughtful, deliberative members of Congress, even though we may disagree vehemently on policy. But these proceedings being led by the majority, like I said, it's stunning.
I cannot for the life of me figure out why the majority would approach this in such a way that will forever cast doubt on why and how they chose to affect history with the impeachment of a president of the United States.
And now to what has taken place here today. This is just bizarre. As a member of Congress serving on the House Judiciary Committee, I'm asking questions to staff as witnesses before us in an impeachment evidentiary hearing?
I mean no disrespect to staff. We have the most
I mean, no disrespect to staff, we have the most dedicated, hardworking staff and without these individuals, we most certainly couldn't do our jobs effectively. But we have not and we will not hear from any fact witnesses.
Whether you identify as a Republican, a Democrat, or an independent, whether you agree or disagree with the President, whether you like or dislike a president, the American people should be cheated -- should feel cheated by the way this is all taking place. This process is more than incomplete and the American people deserve better.
Today, history is being made and I, too, believe it is a dangerous precedent for the future of our Republic. It is worth a deeper explanation of the issue of a Minority hearing. The Minority members of this Committee have frequently asked the Chairman for a Minority-day hearing and all members on this side have signed onto a letter to the Chairman asking for a Minority-day hearing. I'd like to quote House Rule 11 Clause 2, whenever a hearing is conducted by Committee on a measure or a matter, the Minority members of the Committee shall be entitled upon the request to the Chair by a Majority of them before the completion of the hearing to call witnesses selected by the Minority to testify with respect to that measure or matter during at least one day of hearing thereon. The wording here is that the Minority shall be entitled, not if the Chairman deems the Minority worthy but shall be entitled.
Mr. Castor, with all of your experience in investigations here in the Congress, is it your belief, based on that experience, that ignoring the Minority's stated rights for a hearing under the Rules of the House severely undermines the future of this institution?
ROBY: I'd like to quote what we heard from the Democratic staff, Mr. Berke, in his opening comments, "It is the hope that in these discussions we can put aside political rank or disagreements and have a fair discussion."
That is far from what has happened here today or the days leading up to this. The American people deserve better than this. And I yield the remainder of my time to Mr. Collins.
COLLINS: Thank you.
Mr. Castor, we've heard a lot. This is always a good time I think to go back and remind people that there are four things that really haven't changed. Would you like to at least remind us of everything that's been discussed?
CASTOR: There's four things that will never change and that is the transcript that's complete and accurate, it shows no quid pro quo, no conditionality, that's number one.
Number two, there was no pressure. Both Zelensky and Trump have said that repeatedly. President Zelensky said that at United Nations on September 25th. He said it in subsequent news article on October 6th, October 10th, and December 1st.
Number three, the Ukrainians and Zelensky did not know about the pause in aid at the very least at the time of the call. And number four, no investigations were announced, the aid was released, and the White House afforded a meeting and President Trump met with Zelensky in New York.
COLLINS: Do you find it amazing that the Majority is -- one of their key prongs of this whole thing is that they're making the elected leader of the Ukraine out to be a liar?
Because if he says that there's no pressure, he's done it on many, many occasions since then. That undoubtedly, they believe him not to be truthful. So, didn't that strike you as a little strange especially in this circumstance?
CASTOR: It's unfortunate.
COLLINS: It is. It's just sad that we're calling an elected leader who is actually working on corruption and other things like that, we're calling him a liar simply because they don't agree with the Democrats' theory of a partisan impeachment.
With that, I yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman yields back.
JEFFRIES: Let's focus on the aid to Ukraine. Mr. Goldman, Congress allocated on a bipartisan basis $391 million in military aid to the Ukraine, is that correct?
GOLDMAN: Yes and it was signed by President Trump into law.
JEFFRIES: Does the record establish that the military aid to Ukraine is in the national security interests of the United States?
JEFFRIES: The investigation concluded that President Trump compromised U.S. national security by withholding vital military assistance and diplomatic support, is that true?
JEFFRIES: President Trump and his defenders claim that he withheld military aid out of alleged concern with corruption in Ukraine. Let's explore this phony justification. Donald Trump first spoke to the President of Ukraine on an April 21st call, correct?
GOLDMAN: That's right.
JEFFRIES: President Trump never used the word corruption on that April 21st call, true?
GOLDMAN: That is true and the readout from the White House after the call did say that President Trump talked about corruption.
JEFFRIES: That readout was inaccurate. In the May 23rd letter, Trump's Department of Defense concluded that Ukraine met the anticorruption benchmarks required to receive military aid from the United States, true?
GOLDMAN: Yes. And if I could just take a second to talk about that because that's very important and this goes back to what Mr. Collins was talking about with Vice President Biden.
There is absolutely conditionality on aid routinely in all sorts of different ways but it's done through official policy and these anticorruption benchmarks that you're referencing here was a condition of Ukraine getting the aid. But in May, the Department of Defense in conjunction with the other inter-agencies certified that Ukraine was making the necessary progress on anticorruption efforts to merit the aid.
JEFFRIES: And yet the aid was not released, correct?
GOLDMAN: The aid was subsequently held. It was supposed to be released. DOD announced the release and then President Trump held the aid without explanation.
JEFFRIES: Mr. Goldman, based on the evidence and testimony that you have reviewed, is there any reason to believe that the President cared about corruption in Ukraine?
GOLDMAN: No. The evidence really supports the fact that President Trump views corruption in Ukraine to be synonymous with the two investigations that he wants.
JEFFRIES: What the President did care about was a political favor from the Ukrainian government, and that is why he withheld the military aid, true?
GOLDMAN: That -- he told Ambassador Sondland himself that that is the only thing that he cares about.
JEFFRIES: Now, several witnesses testified as to the real motivation connected to the withheld military aid, including Ambassador Bill Taylor. Here is what he said in his testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR: To withhold that assistance for no good reason other than help with a political campaign made no sense. It was counterproductive to all of what we had been trying to do. It was illogical. It could not be explained. It was crazy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFRIES: Illogical, unexplainable, crazy. Mr. Goldman, according to the testimony from Ambassador Taylor, the only explanation for the withheld aid that made sense is that the President was seeking help with the political campaign, correct?
GOLDMAN: That is the only logical explanation as multiple witnesses said.
JEFFRIES: Ambassador Sondland is a Trump appointee who gave a million dollars to the President's inauguration and he testified that he came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations, correct?
GOLDMAN: Yes. And that was subsequently confirmed in a conversation with President Trump himself. JEFFRIES: Lieutenant Colonel Vindman is a decorated Iraq war veteran, purple heart recipient, and member of the White House National Security Council and he testified that it is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and a political opponent, correct?
GOLDMAN: Yes. That was the pretty much unanimous view of all 17 witnesses that came in to testify before the Intelligence Committee.
JEFFRIES: The evidence shows that President Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine as part of a scheme to extract a political favor and solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election, true?
GOLDMAN: Yes. And that -- the scheme part is very important because the Minority wants to focus on these four very narrow facts that ignore the vast majority of the evidence. And so, the fact that you use scheme is actually critical to the whole case here.
JEFFRIES: The President abused his power. The President must be held accountable. No one is above the law. I yield back.
NADLER: The gentleman yields back.
GAETZ: The last public opinion poll I saw showed Congress had an approval rating at about nine percent. By contrast, Muammar Gaddafi had an approval rating at 13 percent and his own people dragged him into streets and killed him.
This impeachment process demonstrates the worst in us and it is depriving us the opportunity to raise our gaze and meet the needs of the American people. Unless you have bipartisan consensus, impeachment is a divisive issue in the country. Many people would think it's being done for political reasons.
Nancy Pelosi, May 2018, and here we are, in the most partisan presidential impeachment in American history. As a matter of fact, when we opened the inquiry, no Republicans voted with the Democrats and you had Democrats voting with us in the only bipartisan vote to shut down this impeachment.
And that brings us to your role, Mr. Goldman. Are you here as a partisan advocate for the Democrat position or are you here as a nonpartisan investigator of the facts?
GOLDMAN: I'm here to present the report that we did on our investigation which was totally and completely reliant on the actual evidence that we uncovered, the witness testimony, and the documents.
GAETZ: Are you a partisan?
GOLDMAN: I'm not a partisan.
GAETZ: Mr. Castor, how long have you worked for the House?
CASTOR: Since 2005.
GAETZ: And same question, Mr. Goldman.
GOLDMAN: For the House? Since earlier this year.
GAETZ: Mr. Castor, do you make political donations?
CASTOR: I don't remember any.
GAETZ: Mr. Goldman, same question, do you make political donations?
GOLDMAN: I do, sir. I think it's very important...
GAETZ: Matter of fact, you've given tens of thousands of dollars to Democrats, right?
GOLDMAN: Sir, I think it's very important to support candidates for office. I think our...
GAETZ: Have you given over a hundred thousand?
GOLDMAN: Do you mind if I...
GAETZ: I just want to know the number. I don't really care the basis. Have you given more than a hundred thousand to Democrats?
GOLDMAN: You don't care about it?
GAETZ: The basis, I just want the number. So, it's tens of -- I think Mr. Berke...
GOLDMAN: I don't know the number.
GAETZ: Do you know how much money Mr. Berke has given Democrats?
GOLDMAN: I don't know and I don't see the relevance.
GAETZ: Does it surprise you that it's more than a hundred thousand?
GOLDMAN: Mr. Gaetz, I'm here to talk about this report...
GAETZ: So, you gave tens of thousands and Mr. Berke gave hundreds of or more than a hundred thousand. Do you think if you've given more money, you might have been able to ask questions and answer them like Mr. Berke did?
I guess it's something you're still pondering. Mr. Castor, have you ever tweeted anything at the President?
GAETZ: Mr. Goldman, same question.
GOLDMAN: I have made a number of tweets in my private capacity before I came to this job when I was working in the media, yes.
GAETZ: Matter of fact, this is one of those tweets, right, and you said, nothing in the dossier is proven false, but in fact, the dossier said that there was a Russian consulate in Miami when there isn't. The dossier said that Michael Cohen had a meeting in Prague when he didn't. The dossier said that Michael Cohen's wife was Russian, she's, in fact Ukrainian.
And so, as we sit here today, where you've -- I guess I got a tweet mentioning a pee tape presenting yourself not as a partisan, hired by the Democrats to pursuit the President, do you regret this tweet?
GOLDMAN: Sir, I would be happy to put my -- this investigation up with any of the nonpartisan investigations...
GAETZ: I just want to know if you regret the tweet, Mr. Goldman.
GOLDMAN: During my 10 years as a federal prosecutor...
GAETZ: Do you regret it?
GOLDMAN: I hope you read the evidence and I think you can judge for yourself...
GAETZ: You either regret it or you don't regret it...
GOLDMAN: ... whether it's partisan or not.
GAETZ: I guess you don't want to answer the question. You know what, Mr. Chairman, earlier in this hearing, you said in your opening statement that there is nothing more urgent than impeachment right now. This is the most urgent thing we could possibly do.
You know what, if you're a senior right now and you can't afford your prescription drugs, that's more urgent than this. If you're a manufacturer wanting to dominate the western hemisphere with the passage of the USMCA, that is more urgent. If you're a farmer who wants to open markets so that your family can survive and thrive, that is a lot more urgent than this partisan process.
If you're a desperate family member watching someone succumb to addiction, solving the opioid problem probably more urgent than this partisan impeachment. If you're a member of the next generation, dealing with the challenges of extinction and climate change, a budget that's out of control, driving up the credit card of young people in this country and what they'll have to pay back as a consequence of our poor decisions, likely more urgent.
But House Democrats have failed at all of these things. Matter of fact, I'd say the only thing under the Christmas tree for most Americans would be a lump of coal, but I think they're against coal, too.
The only thing under the Christmas tree for Americans would be impeachment. and investigations. I've heard over and over Democrats say that this is all about the President's personal interest and that he abandoned the national interest and it begs an analysis of how the nation is doing.
In November, 266,000 jobs created, 80,000 over the average, half a million more manufacturing jobs in the Trump presidency, 700,000 construction jobs. We are doing better than ever before. The American people are thriving. Why won't you help us move along the critical issues that are far more important than your partisan impeachment?
NADLER: The gentleman's time has expired.
CICILLINE: Let me begin by dispelling the claim that Mr. Gaetz just made. This has been one of the most productive congresses in modern history. We've passed nearly 400 pieces of legislation that respond to the urgent priorities of the American people, driving down health care costs, raising wages for the American worker, responding to gun violence, providing equal pay for equal work, responding to the climate crisis, 275 of those bills are fully bipartisan and 80 percent of those bills are sitting on the Senate Majority leader's desk awaiting action.
So, we will continue to deliver on the important priorities of the American people. But we are also elected to hold this President accountable, and we took an oath of office --