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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Soon: House Managers Resume Making Case Against Trump; Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) Discusses About Her Republican Wondering What They Are Hearing During The Session Of Impeachment Trial; House Managers Make Their Case Against Trump. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 22, 2020 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much for joining us. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT picks up our coverage.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. And welcome to our special coverage of President Trump's impeachment trial. A monumental day as the House impeachment managers begin to lay out their case against President Donald J. Trump.
Now, that trial is going to resume any minute. I want to go straight to Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill as we are awaiting the senators filing back in that room, going back to their desks.
Phil, you just came from inside the chamber, what did you see?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think the most interesting element here is the idea that senators, many of them, and I've heard this from several senators, Erin, are kind of hearing key points for the first time. We all assume because we've been paying attention to this inquiry throughout the course of the last several months that everybody knows what's going on.
I think what's been most striking as the House managers and speech after speech have gone through a sober, methodical presentation of what they found and what occurred during the House inquiry is watching the senators react. Now, it's been a long day. Senators are tired. They're stretching their legs. There's no question about it.
But in particular, when you see the use of video, specific testimonies, specific moments that you heard, even specific public quotes from President Trump himself, that's when the chamber comes to life. That's when you see everybody's head shift to the televisions as you recognize that while they may have been tangentially aware of what was going on, they are now seeing it for real.
And I think it's having an effect. What kind of an effect? We'll obviously still have to wait and see. Multiple days left and very long presentations to come, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Phil. A pretty significant statement to say. There are some of the talking points that some of the senators may have heard that are being factually disproven today, are they hearing that for the first time. I want to go straight now to Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono who sits
on the Judiciary Committee. And I know, Senator, you're going to be going back into that room in just a few moments.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Yes.
BURNETT: Have you spoken with any of your Republican colleagues? Obviously, you've just been out in break for a few minutes, that seems to be indicating I'm learning something here today, I've gotten something new.
HIRONO: As I listened to the testimony, I sit there wondering what the Republicans are hearing, because I don't see how you can listen to this chronology of events and what the President did and not think that this is more than inappropriate. These are impeachable actions by the President to lean on by the president of another country to investigate a U.S. citizen using taxpayer money as a bribe.
This is not usual stuff. I don't see how anybody can listen to this kind of narration and the presentation has been really effective and not think, oh, this is not OK. So I'm wondering what they're hearing. I have not talked with them about it, because the way I look at it is, Erin, that there are certain kinds of issues that they just need to make up their minds and figure out how they're going to see themselves doing the right thing.
BURNETT: So you're purposely not talking to them at this point.
HIRONO: No. I watched to see more ...
BURNETT: What's the scene of the room, Senator?
HIRONO: ... you know what, last night when they voted down every effort on our part to call witnesses and documents, it showed me a lot about where their heads are at. So they may be wringing their hands, but they're going right down the line with Mitch McConnell's program which is to protect this lying president. So, there you have it.
BURNETT: Well, Republican Senator John Cornyn today said he had a different take. He says it's getting repetitive, which obviously the House managers are doing on purpose. They want people to hear the same thing again and again in some senses and they want to present the chronology.
HIRONO: I think ...
BURNETT: He said, I just want to give you the quote, Senator, and give you a chance to respond.
BURNETT: He said, "Senators are struggling to try to see why we have to sit here, sit hearing the same arguments over and over and over and over again." But you think it's been effective even though he's, obviously, trying to diminish it. HIRONO: He's calling it repetitive because they don't want to hear
it. They really, I think, is painful for them to keep hearing how the President shook down the president of another country and abuse his power and is engaged in obstruction of Congress. I think they just don't want to face it.
But you know what, this is forcing them to face it and if they turn off their ears, whatever it is, then I am really sad for our country. But for him to say this is all repetitive, even as last night, by the way, note that they voted at every turn to turn away any new evidence or any new documents. So when he says what's new, hey, they made sure that there's nothing new, but what's already there is damning enough of what the President did.
BURNETT: Senator, I do know you need to go back into the room.
BURNETT: Before you go, there's been various reports from some of the press who are in the pen there, that some of the chairs are empty, people are sort of in the back talking or eating. My question to you is, is everyone in that room paying attention? I mean, it's understandable people may want to get up and go and get something to drink or something like that.
But do you feel that people are taking this with the sincerity and the seriousness that it deserves?
HIRONO: I certainly am and I'm taking notes. And I would think that I do think that most of my colleagues are doing that, but I also think that for the Republicans to hear what the President did is probably a very painful experience for them. It's not painful for me or for us, because we know what the President did and we've been trying to focus the country and everyone else, including my Republican colleagues on what he did.
But obviously last night and they were impervious to any calls for our fair trial and not just a fast trial to protect the lying president.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Senator Hirono. I appreciate your time.
BURNETT: And, again, I know you do need to head back into that room. This is going to begin any moment. Let me go to my panel. Laura, how did you, heard Senator Hirono's take here, Senator Cornyn, obviously, with a different take, how did the House managers do as you watch through the day Congressman Garcia and Schiff, Hakeem Jeffries, Jason Crow, how did they do?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, every prosecutor who's doing a case has to know the repetition is persuasive. You want to hammer some points home until you come up against the law of diminishing returns. At some point in time you have to ease off and make sure that they
either processed the actual point or that you are not losing your audience and having them feel the way that Cornyn did. Ultimately, though, they all did a great presentation of evidence in terms of compartmentalizing their role, why each one was the person to bring the case forward.
Demings talked about her role as a police chief and why she was talking about the drug deal as a parallel. Crow was talking about his role in the military to hammer that point home. So everyone had a nuance they were bringing in the table, but they got to be questioning and worrying about how effective they can be if they keep being so repetitive.
DAVID AXELROD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I guess it's a question of who they're trying to influence and whether the people they need to influence are able to be influenced at all which are the Republican senators. I was really struck by Adam Schiff's presentation, but particularly by the end of it, which really spoke to the gravity of this and I think it behooves all of us to step back and acknowledge that removal of a President of the United States by impeachment has never been done.
We're a deeply divided country. There are consequences to that and we ought not to take it lightly. On the other hand, there are consequences to not acknowledging that this kind of behavior is wrong. And I think the Republicans in the Senate having followed Trump down this rabbit hole are now in a position where they aren't free to say, look, what he did was wrong, and I think that sets a precedent that's very dangerous for our democracy as well.
BURNETT: I mean, it's an incredible moment, Scott. And one of the issues today is how many people in that room are hearing some things for the first time. Yes, it's being hammered again and again, but you know what, it wasn't in front of their chamber in December and maybe they weren't listening to everything. Maybe they were only listening to some talking points, so that's been one of the job the House managers have been trying to do is to take some of those talking points away.
One of them has been the aid to Ukraine was released and there wasn't an investigation to Joe Biden so it's all fine. That's been a GOP talking point. That talking point has never added up and Adam Schiff took it down today. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): On September 11th, the President finally released the hold on aid to Ukraine. Just like with the implementation of the hold, he provided no reason for the release. But the reason is quite simple, the President got caught.
In late August, President Trump learned about a whistleblower complaint. On September 9th, three House Committees announced an investigation into President Trump's Ukraine misconduct and that of his proxy, Rudy Giuliani.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So he went through the dates. He lays it out. The aid was released after the President learned that he was being investigated for withholding the aid. Totally different than, oh, just released the aid with nothing. The question is, are there Republicans in that room, Scott, that you think are open to hearing that or anything else?
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO MITCH MCCONNELL: I think that there are Republicans in that room who have varying degrees of discomfort with what happened. I'm sure some don't think it was a big deal. Some are probably moderately alarmed and some think maybe it was just galactically bad judgment.
BURNETT: Some have said that.
JENNINGS: Absolutely. And I think more maybe thinking that, but in this process there's only two choices, acquit the President or throw him out of office. And I think where republicans are coming up short on your question is are we really going to, to David's point, throw a president out of office for the first time in American history over this even if I have some discomfort with it.
Now, on the other side of the ledger, by the way, I'll tell you what I'm hearing out of Republicans down there ...
JENNINGS: ... is Schumer keeping the Senate in all night after complaining about midnight Mitch did not go over well with the Republicans. Number two, the Nadler accusing them of engaging in a cover up definitely rankled Republicans. And number three, Schiff today also said we have to throw the President out because he's going to steal the next election. Effectively that's what he said which Republicans do not believe in and that argument does not hold water with them.
So at the same time, he's laying out these facts, as you say. They've also said some things that if your goal was to influence a Republican, I think they undermine their case.
BURNETT: There's facts and there's hearts and minds, right?
BURNETT: And so those things are inextricably related.
JENNINGS: But you need sympathy that you are laying out a case in good faith. And when you say you're engaged in a cover up and the President stealing elections, that doesn't sound like good faith to a Republican.
BURNETT: Joe, how did you read the room today? JOE LOCKHART, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I
think it is, as David said, who you're trying to speak to. I think they know that there's only a group of four or five, six, maybe seven Republicans that they can move on. This isn't necessarily right now about the removal of the President. It's about whether we'll get to the bottom of this and get witnesses and get documents.
BURNETT: No, it's about the witnesses and documents, yes.
LOCKHART: And so that's the very narrow, I think, the much broader is you're speaking to the public. This in a large part is about trying to define this presidency as we go forward. There will be an election unless the President is removed and there will be election anyway.
BURNETT: Either way, yes.
LOCKHART: I think I have to say watching that I thought Adam Schiff's opening was brilliant. It was riveting - when it was over I couldn't believe that he's been speaking for two hours. I thought he'd been speaking for 30 minutes. And I think he did a lot of very important things there.
And to Laura's point, you're right about they're repeating the same thing over again. But I think they were very clever about how they did it in vignettes and stories.
LOCKHART: There was the Marie Yovanovitch story. There was the Dr. Hill story. There was the call. There was there all of these things. So basically, Schiff laid out a very broad story, but then each of them came in and told us a specific story.
Finally, I thought the use of Donald Trump on video was really compelling. Because about every 20 minutes, you remembered, he's at the center of this conspiracy. He's the guy who was directing it and it came out of his mouth.
AXELROD: Probably the only thing he would agree with of what you just said was that his video was very compelling. I think you would go along with that.
LOCKHART: Yes. Yes.
AXELROD: Scott, on this issue of people being offended, Republicans being offended at the suggestion that the President might cheat, why isn't that a legitimate concern? If Donald Trump gets away with this and is acquitted and he perceives this as exoneration, why wouldn't it be inducement to do the same kind of thing in the future?
JENNINGS: Republicans see it this way that there was this allegation that the only way Trump won the '16 election was by stealing it with the help of Russia. And they believe that this presidency for two whole years was held under that cloud only then in the Mueller report it didn't pan out. And now you hear Democrats going back to that same well saying, well, we have to throw him out because he's already trying to steal the next one.
And Republicans say, well, you lied about him stealing the last one, why should we believe you about this forward looking stealing the next one. That's how it would hit Republican ears. And they don't believe this talking point of he's trying to rig the election. I don't know Republican that sees it that way and I don't think that Democratic talking point has resonated with a single Republican.
Obviously, in the House, they didn't attract any Republican votes and so I don't know why that talking point would be more effective (inaudible) ...
AXELROD: But I'm asking this out of - I'm sorry, Laura. Go ahead.
COATES: Well, thank you. I was going to say the notion of stealing the election is the common motif that you have. Essentially, he's trying to take election from us when Trump used to use the media to try to say that they are trying to take and undermine the vote of so many people. Well, today, Adam Schiff put that on its head, essentially, when Cipollone said yesterday if he can do it to the President of the United States, he can do it to anyone of you.
Today, Adam Schiff said not one American can do what this President has done to try to be above the law, to thumb their nose at subpoenas, to take the course of conduct to try to use the foreign government to influence the elections and he turned on his head to say, this is really a rejection of that sort of argument of saying this is a stealing of the election. It's more so saying in a prospective way if somebody is already known to have looked at foreign governments and tried to interfere with the elections, well, at some point you have to believe the person they have shown themselves to be.
And as a Congress, are you going to simply say, you know what, keep going. Reckon that we have no power here, separation of powers means nothing. Or do you say in the urgent matter, I've got to arrest this right now, at least through the impeachment authority and that's the question.
BURNETT: So let me just bring Phil Mattingly in here, because as this whole conversation is going down, I mean, there are senators who no doubt will see it exactly as you're saying it. They're not listening. They may be there, they're not listening.
But Phil, what you're learning is that the impatient managers are specifically trying to target some of those other senators that Scott mentioned. The four or five, maybe six or seven, but the very specific group that they think actually will listen and may move.
MATTINGLY: That's exactly right and I think if you listen closely to the varying presentations that you heard from the managers today, obviously, they were speaking to the entire Senate. They understand that's the jury. Obviously, they were speaking to the American public. They understand public sentiment matters.
But there were specific calls that were directed at those four to six senators that may be willing to eventually vote with Democrats to subpoena witnesses and documents. You heard Adam Schiff, multiple times, referenced how the case could have more detail if somebody like John Bolton, the former National Security Adviser, was subpoenaed saying explicitly you have the power to do that.
And I'll tell you, Erin, I was watching very closely people like Susan Collins, people like Lisa Murkowski. A lot of senators were standing up walking around. A lot of senators might not have been paying attention as it moved on in hours.
Those two, in particular, did not move. Cory Gardner had notebooks filled with notes as well. They understand that they are only really kind of targeting their message to a core group of Republicans that they hope to bring their way and that is extremely important.
I also want to jump off what Scott said earlier, what happened last night with Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, really rubbed Republicans the wrong way.
BURNETT: When he accuse about the cover up.
MATTINGLY: And I think what you heard coming into the day - yes, exactly. Erin, this talked about treacherous votes and things of that nature, that went over very, very poorly. And I think what you saw the managers try to do today is really tailor their message to the senators they hope to bring to their side on the idea of if you want a fuller case, if you want the details we don't have, you need to subpoena these witnesses.
It's not for all 53 Republicans, it's for four to six. They know this is a numbers' game and they need at least four, Erin.
BURNETT: And obviously that's crucial. I understand what you're saying about Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Cory Gardner, just how closely they're paying attention, the notes they are taking. That's extremely significant.
All right. Everyone, stay with me. As I said, we're waiting for the Senate to come back, go back into session any minute. House managers are going to resume making their case against the President of the United States. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
BURNETT: Tonight, senators are filing back into the room after their break. Mitch McConnell is there. Susan Collins is there and Lisa Murkowski. Others are filing in.
I want to go to Jeff Zeleny live on Capitol Hill. Jeff, you've been able to speak to some of these senators in the break, who and what have they told you?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORREPONDENT: Erin, we have indeed. I was just speaking a few moments ago with Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware. And he said even he and other Democrats are learning from some of the manager's presentations here. He said in particular it was the testimony from Jennifer Williams, of course, she's the National Security Adviser to the Vice President who had that dramatic testimony a couple months ago during the House proceedings.
And he said something was going on in the Senate that day, so a lot of the senators didn't hear that. So he said that even a lot of Republican senators were paying attention to these video that we're showing on Capitol Hill and talking to other senators as they were leaving their brief dinner break here tonight. It's clear that they are refreshed after a bit of a break, but they're also not really showing their cards, particularly Mitt Romney.
He, of course, is a pivotal Republican senator here. He's not talking at all, commenting at all throughout the duration of this. He said he's going to learn and listen and wait (inaudible), Erin.
BURNETT: All right. We have gotten back in. Here's Chairman Schiff speaking.
SCHIFF: Thank you Mr. Chief Justice. Just so Senators have an idea of the evening, we expect to go about two to two and a half hours. I'll make a presentation, Representative Lofgren will make a presentation -- I'll make a final presentation and then we will be done for the evening.
As an encouraging voice told me, keep it up but don't keep it up too long. So we will do our best not to keep it up too long. I'm going to turn now to the part of the chronology that picks up right after that July 25 call, and walk through the increasingly explicit pressure campaign waged on Ukraine in order to get President Trump's deliverable. The investigations meant to tarnish his opponents and help his reelection.
Now remember by the end of July, Ukraine was aware of President Trump's requests for investigation to help his political efforts, and had come to know that President Trump put a freeze on security assistance. So this is by the end of July.
They also clearly understood that President Trump was withholding an Oval Office meeting until those investigations were announced. Both were very crucial to Ukraine as a sign of U.S. support, and as a matter of their national security. And their national security, of course, implicates our national security.
In the weeks after the July 25 call, President Trump's handpicked representatives escalated their efforts to get the public announcement of the investigations from Ukraine. So let's go through this step-by- step because the three weeks following the July 25 call tell so much about this pressure scheme.
Let's start with July 26. On July 26, so this is the day after the call -- Ambassador Volker sends a text message to Giuliani. And that text message says, "hi Mr. Mayor, you may have heard -- the president had a great call with Ukrainian President yesterday. Exactly the right messages as we discussed. Please send dates when you will be in Madrid. I am seeing Yermak tomorrow morning. He will come to you in Madrid. Thanks for your help. Kurt."
So here we are the day after that call, as my colleague demonstrates this same day -- so July 26, the date of that second infamous call between President Trump, this time, and Gordon Sondland that you heard, the diplomat David Holmes described.
So that same day, July 26 that we're talking about right now where there's this text message. Now, of course in that July 25 call the president wants to connect Rudy Giuliani with the president of Ukraine and his people.
And so this is a follow-up where Ambassador Volker is saying to Giuliani, it was a great call with Ukraine president. Exactly the right messages as we discussed. And we know of course those messages were the need to do this political investigation.
Please send dates when you will be in Madrid, I am seeing Yermak tomorrow morning -- he will come to you in Madrid. So here is Ambassador Volker, one of the three amigos, following up arranging this meeting between Giuliani and the Ukrainians.
Giuliani replied setting a meeting in Europe with President Zelensky's top aid for the very next week. "I will arrive on August 1 and until 5," he wrote. Now remember, on July 22 -
so a few days before this, and before the call, Ambassador Volker had connected Giuliani originally with Yermak and they agreed to meet, so this is a follow-up.
You have that arrangement being made by Volker and Giuliani before the call, then you have the call, and now you have the follow-up to arrange the meeting in Madrid. And so, they do meet in Madrid.
This is August 2 -- Andriy Yermak, Zelensky's top aid flew to Madrid, meets with Rudy Giuliani, who they know represented the president's interests. Both Giuliani and Yermak walk away from this meeting in Madrid clearly understanding that a White House meeting is linked to Zelensky's announcement of the investigations.
In separate conversations with Giuliani and Yermak after this Madrid meeting, Volker said he learned that Giuliani wanted the Ukrainians to issue a statement including specific mentions of the two investigations that the president wanted.
According to Ambassador Volker's testimony Yermak told him that his meeting with Giuliani was very good, and immediately added that the Ukrainians asked for a White House meeting during the week of September 16. Yermak presses Volker on the White House meeting date saying that he was waiting for confirmation, maybe you know the date. And this is a recurrent theme that we've seen through the text messages and other documents -- and that is the recurrent requests for this meeting, the pressing for this meeting by Ukrainians because it was so important to them.
Giuliani's objective was clear to Ambassadors Volker and Sondland who took over communications with Yermak. Here is Ambassador Sondland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONDLAND: I first communicated Mr. Giuliani in early August -- several months later. Mr. Giuliani emphasized that the president wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing Ukraine to look in to the corruption issues. Mr. Giuliani specifically mentioned the 2016 election, including the DNC server and Burisma as two topics of importance to the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Giuliani exerted significant influence in this process, in fact, when on August 4 Yermak inquired again about the presidential meeting, Ambassador Volker turned not to the National Security Council staff or to the State Department to arrange it and follow up, he turns to Giuliani again.
Volker told Yermak that he would speak with Giuliani later that day, and would call the Ukrainian president's aide afterward. Volker then texts Giuliani to ask about the Madrid meeting, and to set up the call that he had mentioned to Yermak. Giuliani replies that the meeting with Yermak was excellent, and that he would call later.
Phone records obtained by the committees show a 16-minute call on August 5th between Ambassador Volker and Giuliani. Ambassador Volker then texts Yermak, "Hi, Andriy. Had a good long talk with Rudy. Call any time. Kurt."
Separately, Volker told Ambassador Sondland, "Giuliani was happy with that meeting and it looks like things are turning around," a reference to Volker's hope that satisfying Giuliani would break down President Trump's reservations concerning Ukraine.
But things had not turned around by the end of that first week of August, by August 7th. The aid was still on hold and there had been no movement on setting a date for the White House meeting.
Ambassador Volker then reaches out to Giuliani to try to get things moving. Ambassador Volker texts Giuliani to recommend that he report to the boss -- meaning President Trump -- about his meeting with Yermak in Madrid.
Specifically, he wrote -- this is Volker, writing to Giuliani -- "Hi Rudy, hope you made it back safely. Let's meet if you are coming to D.C. And would be good if you could convey results of your meeting in Madrid to the boss so we can get a firm date for the visit." So this is Ambassador Volker following up with Giuliani -- Giuliani's met with the top aide to the president of Ukraine in Madrid -- and he wants Giuliani to convey to the boss, to Trump, how good that meeting in Madrid was about the investigations, so they can get the president of Ukraine in the door at the White House.
Think about how unusual this is. This is the president's personal lawyer, who is on this personal mission on behalf of his client to get these investigations in Ukraine. The president of Ukraine can't get in the door of the Oval Office.
And who are they going to? Are they going to the Security Council? No. Are they going to the State Department? No, they tried all that. They're going to the president's personal lawyer.
Does that sound like an official policy to try to fight corruption? Why would you go outside of the normal channel to do that?
You wouldn't. No, you go to your personal attorney, who's on a personal mission that he admits is not foreign policy, when your objective has nothing to do with policy, when your objective is a corrupt one.
Now, what does that mean, to have a corrupt objective? Well, it means an illicit one, it means an impermissible one, it means one that furthers your own interests at the cost of the national interest.
The willingness to break the law, like the Impoundment Control Act, by withholding aid is indicative of that corrupt purpose, the lengths the president would go not in furtherance of U.S. policy, but against U.S. policy. Not even a difference on policy at all.
The mere pursuit of personal interest, the pursuit of an illegal effort to get foreign interference is the very embodiment of a corrupt intent.
So here we are, August 7th, and Volker is saying, Rudy, if you're coming to D.C., let's get together. It'd be good if you can talk to the boss, because we can't get a meeting any other way.
Around that time, Ambassador Volker received a text message from Yermak who asked him -- and this is Yermak, asking Volker -- "Hi, Kurt, how are you. Do you have some news about the White House meeting date?" And Volker responds, "Not yet. I texted Rudy earlier, to make sure he weighs in, following your meeting. Gordon" -- meaning Sondland -- "should be speaking with the president on Friday. We are pressing this."
So there is Gordon Sondland is pressing this -- this is the man you've heard from already, Gordon Sondland, the man who says it was absolutely a quid pro quo. You've asked about a quid pro quo, there was a quid pro quo about this White House meeting, this is what they're talking about right here. "Gordon will be speaking with the president on Friday. We are pressing this." Ambassador Volker's contact with Giuliani spurred a flurry of communications. The patterns of calls from August 8th strongly suggest Giuliani's attempting to call the White House to speak to a senior White House official, left a message, then had a four-minute call with that official, later that night.
We don't know from the call records who that White House official was, but recall that Giuliani has publicly stated that when he spoke to the White House, he usually spoke to President Trump, his client.
Also on August 8th, Yermak texts Volker that he had some news. Ambassador Volker replies that he can talk then, and Ambassador Volker updates Giuliani in a text the next day.
Volker says to Giuliani, in the text, "Hi, Mr. Mayor. Had a good chat with Yermak last night. He was pleased with your phone call, mentioned" -- he's referring to President Zelensky here -- "making a statement. Can we all get on the phone to make sure I advise" -- and here, he's referring to President Zelensky -- "correctly as to what he should be saying? Want to make sure we get this done right."
So, here, August 9th, there is an effort by Volker to make sure that they get this statement right, about the investigations. Because if they can't get this statement right, he ain't going to get in the door of the Oval Office.
It also makes clear who is exactly in charge of this, and that's Rudy Giuliani. Ambassador Volker's checking with Rudy Giuliani about what he should advise President Zelensky. And we know that Giuliani is taking his orders from President Trump.
Text messages and call records obtained by the committee show that Ambassador Volker and Giuliani connected by phone twice, around noon on August 9th, for several minutes each. Following the calls with Giuliani, Ambassador Volker created a three-way group chat using WhatsApp that included himself, Ambassador Sondland and Yermak.
Ambassador Volker initiated the chat around 2:20 that day. And this is Volker chatting with Sondland and Yermak. It's a three-way chat.
And Volker says, "Hi, Andriy" -- meaning Yermak -- "we have all consulted here, including with Rudy. Could you do a call later today or tomorrow, your afternoon time?"
And Sondland says, "I have a call scheduled at 3 p.m. Eastern for the three of us, ops (ph) will call."
Call records obtained by the committee show that on August 9th, Ambassador Sondland twice connected with phone lines associated with the White House:
once in the early afternoon for about 18 minutes, and once in the late afternoon, for about two minutes. We know that Ambassador Sondland had direct access to President Trump. After all this activity, Ambassador Sondland and Volker thought they had a breakthrough. Finally, a breakthrough. Minutes after this call -- which was likely with Tim Morrison about a possible date for the White House meeting -- Ambassador Volker and Sondland discussed the agreement they believed they had reached and starts with Sondland in this text message - "Morrison ready to get dates as soon as Yermak confirms." Volker says "excellent, how did you sway him?" "Not sure I did," says Sondland, "I think POTUS really wants the deliverable." Well we know what that deliverable is, it's the political investigations.
Volker says "but does he know that?" And Sondland says "Yep, clearly lots of convos" - meaning conversations - "going on" and Volker says "OK, then that's good, it's coming from two separate sources." Ambassador Sondland told the committees that the deliverable required by President Trump was a press statement from President Zelensky committing to do the investigation into the Bidens and the allegation of Ukraine election interference that President Trump mentioned on July 25th.
But Tim Morrison testified that he "didn't know anything about the deliverable, he was just involved in trying to schedule the White House meeting, which everyone wanted to schedule as a sign of support for President Zelensky and our ally, Ukraine."
But Trump's agents wouldn't just accept Ukraine's word for it. Ambassador Sondland then recommended to Ambassador Volker that Yermak share a draft - a draft of the press statement to ensure that the statement would comport with the President's expectations.
So here on August 9th - so we're still less than two weeks after the July 25th call - or about - I guess we're about two weeks - Sondland says in this message "to avoid misunderstandings, might be helpful to ask Andriy for a draft statement (embargoed) so that we can see exactly what they propose to cover. Even though Z" - referring to Zelensky - "does a live presser, they can still summarize in a brief statement. Thoughts?" And Volker says "agreed."
At his deposition, Ambassador Sondland said that he "suggested reviewing a written summary of the statement because he was concerned that President Zelensky would say whatever he would say on live television and it still wouldn't be good enough for Rudy/the President," unquote.
Yermak in turn was concerned that the announcement would still not result in the coveted White House meeting. On August 10th, Yermak texted Volker attempting to schedule a White House meeting before the Ukrainian President made a public statement in support of the investigations into Burisma and the 2016 election.
So you can see what's going on here. The President and his agent, Giuliani, they want this public statement of the investigations before they'll give a date. And the Ukrainians want a date before they have to commit to making public they're going to do the investigations. And so you have this standoff where each is trying to get the deliverable first. But there's no debate about what the deliverable is on either side, there's no debate about the quid pro quo here - you give me this, I'll give you that, you give me the White House meeting, I'll give you the public announcement of the investigation into your political rival. No, no, no, you give me the announcement of the investigation into my rival and then I'll give you the meeting.
The only debate here is about which comes first. So it - August 10th, Yermak texts Volker "I think it's possible to make this declaration" - I mention all of these things which we discussed yesterday - "but it will be logic to do after we receive a confirmation of date. We inform about date of visit, about our expectations and our guarantees for future visit, let's discuss it."
Ambassador Volker responded that he agreed but that first, they would have to iron out a statement and use that to get a date, after which President Zelensky would give the statement. The two decided to have a call the next day and to include Ambassador Sondland.
Yermak texts Ambassador Volker "excellent. Once we have a date, we will call for a press briefing announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of U.S.-Ukraine relationship, including, among other things, Burisma and election meddling in the investigations."
Yermak was also in direct contact with Ambassador Sondland regarding this revised approach. In fact, he sent Ambassador Sondland the same text message.
Ambassador Sondland kept the leadership of the State Department in the loop.
On August 10th, he told Ambassador Volker that he had reported to T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, Counselor of the Department of State, whom Sondland testified frequently consulted with Secretary Pompeo. Sondland replied to Volker "I briefed Ulrich, all good." So Ulrich is in the loop.
Sondland and Volker continued to pursue the statement from Zelensky on the investigations. The next day, Ambassador Sondland e-mails Brechbuhl and Lisa Kenna, the State Department's Executive Secretary, about efforts to secure a public statement and a big presser from President Zelensky.
Sondland hoped it might quote "make the boss happy enough to authorize an investigation - an invitation." After first being evasive on the topic, Secretary Pompeo has subsequently acknowledged that he listened in on the July 25th call.
Now, since he was on the call, Pompeo must have understood what would make the boss, that is the President, happy enough to schedule a White House meeting. Again, everyone was in the loop. On August 11th, Ambassador Volker sent Giuliani a text message. This is Volker to Giuliani - "Hi, Rudy, we have heard back from Andriy again. They are writing the statement now and will send it to us. Can you talk for five minutes before noon today?" And Giuliani says "yes, just call." That's August 11th.
On the next day, August 12th, Yermak sent Ambassador Volker an initial version of the draft statement by text. Notably, as we saw earlier, this statement from the Ukrainians doesn't explicitly mention Burisma, Biden or 2016 election investigations that the President has been seeking.
So you can see what's going on here now. There's this game of chicken - you go first, no, we'll go first, you give us the date, we'll give you the statement, no, you give us the statement, we'll give you the date, and now realizing OK, they've got to give the statement first, Ukraine tries to give them a generic statement that doesn't really go into specifics about these investigations.
And why? You can imagine why the Ukrainians don't want to have to go out in public and say they're going to do these investigations, because they're not stupid, cause they understood this would pull them right into U.S. presidential politics, because it was intended to, which isn't in Ukraine's interest, it's not in our interest, either, and Ukraine understood that.
And so they resisted. First, they resisted having to do the public statement and then they wanted to make sure they'd get the deliverable and then when they had to make the statement, they didn't want to be specific for one thing, for another thing.
This is what Zelensky campaigned on, he was going to fight corruption, he was going to end political investigations. So he didn't want to be specific. So he sends the statement that doesn't have the specific references.
Ambassador Volker explained during his testimony that was not what Giuliani was requesting and it would not satisfy Giuliani or Donald Trump. Now presumably if the president was interested in corruption that statement would have been enough.
But all he was interested in was an investigation or an announcement of an investigation into his rival and this debunked theory about 2016.
Now the conversation that Volker referred to in his earlier testimony took place on the morning of August 13th when Giuliani made clear that the specific investigations related to Burisma, code for Bidens, and the 2016 election had to be included in order to get the White House meeting.
So the Americans sent back to the Ukrainian top aid, a revised draft that includes now the two investigations and you've seen the side by side. This was then the essence of the quid pro quo regarding the meeting.
And this direction came from President Trump. Here is how Ambassador Sondland put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SONDLAND: Mr. Giuliani's request were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election DNC server and Burisma.
Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States and we knew these investigations were important to the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Now according to witness testimony, as you might imagine, Ukrainian officials were very uncomfortable with the draft that Giuliani, Volker, and Sondland were negotiated. They understood that the statement was a deliverable that President Trump wanted.
But yielding to President Trump's demands would in essence, force President Zelensky to break his promise to the Ukrainian people to root out corruption because political motivated investigations are a hallmark of the kind of corruption that Ukraine has been plagued with in the past.
Mr. Yermak tried to get some confirmation that the requested investigation were legitimate. In response the draft statement, Yermak asks Volker quote, whether any request had ever been made by the U.S. to investigate election interference in 2016.
In other words, whether any request had made -- been made by any official U.S. law enforcement agency through formal channels as you would expect if it were a legitimate request.
Ambassador Volker tried to find a satisfactory answer. On August 15th Volker's assistant asked Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent whether there was any precedent for such a request for investigations.
At his deposition Kent testified that if you're asking me have we ever gone to the Ukrainians and asked them to investigate or prosecute individuals for political reasons, the answer is, I hope we haven't and we shouldn't because that goes against everything that we are trying to promote in the post Soviet states for the last 28 years, which is the promotion of the rule of law.
The next day, we're now on August 16th. In a conversation with Ambassador Bill Taylor, the U.S. ambassador in Kiev and Ambassador Taylor stepped in when Ambassador Yovanovitch was pushed out; Taylor quote, amplified the same theme and told Kent that quote, Yermak was very uncomfortable with the idea of investigations and suggested it should be done officially and put in writing.
As a result, it became clear to Kent in mid August that Ukraine was being pressured to conduct politically motivated investigations. Kent told Ambassador Taylor that's wrong and we shouldn't be doing it as a matter of U.S. policy. Ambassador Volker claimed that he stopped pursuing the statement from the Ukrainians around this time because of the concerns raised by Zelensky's aid. At his deposition and despite all of his efforts to secure a statement announcing these very specific political investigations desired by the president, Ambassador Volker testified that he agreed with Yermak's concerns.
And advised him that making those specific references was not a good idea because making those statements might look like it would play into our domestic politics. Without specific references to the politically damaging investigations that Trump demanded, the agreement just wouldn't work.
Ukraine did not release the statement and in term, the White House meeting was not scheduled. As it turns out, Ambassador Sondland and Volker did not achieve the breakthrough after all.
Now let's go into what finally breaks the law in June because that involves the military aid. With efforts to trade a White House meeting for a press statement announcing the investigations temporarily scuttled, Sondland and Volker go back to the drawing board.
On August 19th, Ambassador Sondland told Volker that he drove the larger issue home with Yermak, President Zelensky's top aide, particularly that this was now bigger than a White House meeting -- bigger than just a White House meeting and was about the relationship per se.
The relationship per se. Not just about the meeting anymore. It's about everything. It's about everything. By this time in late August the hold in security assistance had been in place for more than a month and there was still no credible explanation offered by the White House, despite some like Ambassador Sondland repeatedly asking.
There were no interagency meetings since July 31st and the Defense Department had withdrawn its assurances that it could even comply with the law, which indeed it couldn't
Every agency in the administration opposed the hold.
As the Government Accountability Office confirmed, concerned DOD and OMB officials had been right that the president's holding of the aid was an unlawful act but President Trump was not budging.
At the same time, despite the persistent efforts of numerous people, President Trump refused to schedule the coveted White House visit for President Zelensky until the investigations were announced it would benefit his campaign.
Here is what Ambassador Sondland said about the hold on funds and its link to the politically motivated investigations in Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SONDLAND: In the absents of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 elections and Burisma as Mr. Giuliani had demanded.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: From the embassy in Kiev, David Holmes reached the same conclusion. A conclusion as simple as two plus two equals four.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): Mr. Holmes, you have testified that by late August you has -- you had a clear impression that the security assistance hold was somehow connected to the investigations that President Trump wanted.
How did you conclude -- how did you make -- reach that clear conclusion?
HOLMES: Sir, we had been hearing about the investigation since March, months before. And we have been -- President Zelensky had received a letter -- congratulatory letter from the president saying he would be pleased to meet him following his inauguration in May. And we hadn't been able to get that meeting. And then the security hold came up with no explanation. And I would be surprised if any of the Ukrainians, you said earlier -- we discussed earlier, you know, sophisticated people, when they received no explanation for why that hold was in place, they wouldn't have drawn that conclusion.
GOLDMAN: Because the investigations were still being pursued?
GOLDMAN: And the hold was still remaining without explanation?
GOLDMAN: So this, to you, was the only logical conclusion that you could reach?
GOLDMAN: Sort of like two plus two equals four?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Sondland explained the predicament he believed he faced with a hold on aid to Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONDLAND: As my other State Department colleagues have testified, this security aid was critical to Ukraine's defense and should not have been delayed. I expressed this view to many during this period. But my goal at the time was to do what was necessary to get the aid released, to break the log jam. I believed that the public statement we had been discussing for weeks was essential to advancing that goal.
You know, I really regret that the Ukrainians were placed in that predicament. But I do not regret doing what I could to try to break the logjam and to solve the problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: On August 22nd, Ambassador Sondland tried to break that logjam, as he put it, regarding both the security assistance hold and the White House meeting. Ambassador Sondland described those efforts in his public testimony.
Let's listen to him again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONDLAND: In preparation for the September 1st Warsaw meeting, I asked Secretary Pompeo whether a face-to-face conversation between Trump and Zelensky would help to break the logjam. And this was when President Trump was still intending to travel to Warsaw.
Specifically, on August 22nd, I emailed Secretary Pompeo directly, copying Secretariat Kenna. I wrote: "This is my email to Secretary Pompeo. Should we block time in Warsaw for a short pull-aside for POTUS to meet Zelensky? I would ask Zelensky to look him in the eye and tell him that once Ukraine's new justice folks are in place in mid-September that Zelensky, he, Zelensky, should be able to move forward publicly and with confidence on those issues of importance to POTUS and the U.S. Hopefully that would help break the logjam."
The secretary replied, "yes."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Sondland also explained that both he and Secretary Pompeo understood the issues of importance to the president were the two sham investigations the president wanted to help his re-election efforts. And that reference to the "logjam" meant both the security assistance and the White House meeting.
At the end of August, National Security Adviser John Bolton arrived in Ukraine for an official visit. David Holmes took notes in Ambassador Bolton's meetings and testified about Ambassador Bolton's message to the Ukrainians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: Shortly thereafter, on August 22nd, Ambassador Bolton visited Ukraine and brought welcome news that President Trump had agreed to meet President Zelensky on September 1st in Warsaw. Ambassador Bolton further indicated that the hold on security assistance would not be lifted prior to the Warsaw meeting, where it would hang on whether President Zelensky was a able to "favorably impress President Trump."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Let's think about that for a minute.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: I took...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Unless you have something further to say.
Let's think about that for a minute. Bolton further indicated that the hold on security assistance would not be lifted prior to the Warsaw meeting where it would hang on whether President Zelensky was able to "favorably impress President Trump." Well, what do you think would favorably impress President Trump? What were the only two things that President Trump asked of President Zelensky? What were the two things that Rudy Giuliani was asking of President Zelensky and his top aides?
What would favorably impress Donald Trump? Would Donald Trump be favorably impressed if President Zelensky were to tell him about this new corruption court or new legislation in the Rada, or how negotiations with the Russians were going, or how they were bringing about the defense reform? Did any of those things ever come up in any of these text messages, any of these emails, any of these phone calls, any of these conversations? Of course not.
Of course not. There was only one thing that was going to favorably impress President Trump in Warsaw, and that is if Zelensky told him to his face, I'm going to do these political investigations, I don't want to do them, you know I don't want to do them, I've resisted doing them, but I am at war with Russia and I can't wait anymore, I can't wait anymore. I am sure that would have impressed Donald Trump.
But the meeting between the two presidents never happened in Warsaw. President Trump canceled the trip at the last moment. Before Bolton left Kyiv, Ambassador Taylor asked for a private meeting. Ambassador Taylor explained that he was extremely concerned about the hold on security assistance. He described the meeting to us during his testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR: Near the end of Ambassador Bolton's visit I asked to meet him privately, during which I expressed to him my serious concern about the withholding of military assistance to Ukraine while the Ukrainians were defending their country from Russian aggression. Ambassador Bolton recommended that I send a first-person cable to Secretary Pompeo directly relaying my concerns.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHIFF: Now in the State Department, sending a first-person cable is an extraordinary step. State Department cables are ordinarily written in the third person, as Ambassador Taylor testified at his deposition, sending a first-person cable gets attention, because there are not very many first-person cables that come in. In fact, in his decades of service in he diplomatic corps, he had never written a single one until now.
Taylor sent that cable on August 29th. Would you like me to it read that to you right now? I would like to read it to you right now, except I don't have it, because the State Department wouldn't provide it. But if you would like me to it read it to you, we can do something about that.
We can insist on getting that from the State Department. If you would like to know what John Bolton had in mind when he thought that Zelensky could favorably impress the president in Warsaw, we could find that out, too. Just for the asking and a document call to subpoena.
So Taylor sends that cable August 29th, the State Department did not provide that cable to us in response to the subpoena, but witnesses who reviewed it described it as a powerful message that described the folly - the folly of withholding military aid from Ukraine at a time when it was facing incursion from Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine.