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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Any Moment: House Managers Resume Making Case Against Trump; Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) Discusses About The Effective Argument That House Managers Made Today. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired January 23, 2020 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALAN FRUMIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: But she recognizes from a political standpoint that Schumer wants what's best for the Democrats, not what's best for ...
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We're waiting for this trial to resume momentarily. Erin Burnett is going to pick up our special coverage right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. Welcome to our special coverage of President Trump's impeachment trial. You've been watching House Democrats making their case that Trump abused the power of his office. That is one of the two articles of impeachment against him.
Before the break, right now senators are having a brief dinner break. We heard the managers focusing on the role of Rudy Giuliani, specifically. Now, as I said they're taking a brief break and the trial is set to resume any minute. And this is the time when we may hear some of the most damning evidence as they try to make their case as Americans come home from their day and turn on the television.
I want to go straight to Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill tonight. Phil, you were inside that chamber today, actually able to see who was doing what and when and what stood out to you.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Two things in particular, Erin. First was how the Democrats from actually making their case today and what they were utilizing. They were using utilizing video clips, once again.
We saw this yesterday and it is very effective. You see every senator pay attention. But it was what they were using. They were using some of the President's closest allies, whether it was Lindsey Graham's comments from 1999 when he was a manager, Rudy Giuliani's own television clips, Tom Bossert, the former Homeland Security Director for the President to make their case and essentially to prebutt what they think the arguments are going to be from the White House team when they take over in a couple of days.
The other is some more color that I picked up. Starting about halfway through yesterday, House Democratic managers staff were handing out packets of the slides that were being shown inside the chamber and that's been a good guide for reporters to see who's really following along. And it's also been a good guide for members.
I had one senator tell me it's been very helpful as they follow along the presentation. It also gives them a sign of how close they are to the end of each presentation. But when it comes to watching the senators themselves, we all key in on those moderate Republicans we're all watching for in terms of how they may vote on witnesses later on in the trial and somebody who always keep an eye on is Senator Susan Collins, Republican from Maine.
She almost to a tee turns the page every time they switch on the presentation itself, taking copious notes. I'm told already more than two dozen pages of notes. And one last quick thing, Erin, you made a key point, key evidence coming next.
Last night the prime time was the key moment for the managers, expect that again tonight. They know what time it is. They know who's watching and they know this is the time to kind of conclude their case for the day.
BURNETT: All right. Phil Mattingly, thank you very much. Phil is going to stay with us as, again, we are in this brief break for the senators.
I want to bring in Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who is on the Judiciary Committee and obviously in the room throughout the day. Senator, what do you think the most effective argument was that the House managers made today as they focus on this article of abuse of power, specifically?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): What was so striking to me is the graphic detail, the wealth of messages and phone calls, the breadth of this conspiracy, how many people it involved, how many messages and how much evidence there still is. The kinds of documents and witnesses that we want to show firsthand involvement of the President.
But I'll tell you what was so striking to me is how Donald Trump wanted a foreign country to investigate a U.S. citizen, a political rival and yet he never went to the Department of Justice of the United States supposedly to go after this criminality. It shows how he understood there was no there there and it was simply for personal venality and benefit that he sought the interference by this foreign leader in our country's election and how he pressured that foreign leader with hundreds of millions of dollars that were necessary to that country's defense against a common enemy, Russia. Our enemy, their enemy.
BURNETT: And you had Congressman Schiff make the argument of how much money Trump had approved before this happened and after to make the point. You had Congressman Garcia make the point you're talking about when Joe Biden got in and how he was doing in the polls and how that coincided with the timing of what the President did this past spring.
You just heard Phil also talking though about Republican senators and how closely they're paying attention in that room, Senator Blumenthal. Susan Collins specifically, he said she had two dozen pages of copious notes and that she literally flips the page of each presentation the second it changes on the screen. She's paying incredibly close attention.
You're in the room. Would you agree with that assessment of her and which other Republican senators do you see listening most closely?
BLUMENTHAL: I'm going to be very blunt, Erin. We've heard some of these Republican senators talk about their misgivings about the need for more evidence. We've heard them wringing their hands when they're home about more documents and witnesses.
The proof will be in their voting. All of the rest of it is going through the motions, seeming to pay attention. The question is whether they're really listening and whether they understand how much is at stake here of an effort by the President to smear and sabotage a political rival. But more than a political rival, our country's basic security policy and the tests will be not what they say but how they vote.
BURNETT: So a letter from a National Security aide to Vice President Mike Pence, Jennifer Williams, was admitted as evidence late last night. Now, some people may not be aware but Jennifer Williams was on that call between Trump and Zelensky. She testified publicly to the House that Trump's behavior troubled her.
But then she then subsequently wrote this letter, an addendum of some sort. You have had a chance to read it. It is classified. What can you tell us about it and does it deserve to be classified?
BLUMENTHAL: The answer is yes or rather it should be declassified. It should be made public.
BURNETT: You've read it but it should be declassified.
BLUMENTHAL: Absolutely. It does not deserve to be classified. It should be made public. The American people deserve to see it. Regardless of which side it may help and I can't go into the details. But there is no question in my mind that it should be declassified because there is no national interest served by keeping it classified.
And I will tell you more broadly, Erin, that when the history of this era, a very dark one in our history is written, it will be the independent judiciary and our free press that are the heroes. Because there needs to be more openness and more declassification and more information and documents made available.
All of these documents coming out most recently are the result of courts ordering that they'd be released. And the Trump administration continues to stonewall, block these document, prevent witnesses from coming forward. That is a disgrace. The American people should be deeply outraged.
BURNETT: Senator Blumenthal, thanks very much for your time. I know you need to go back into the room and I want to get straight to our conversation here. Laura, obviously, you hear Senator Blumenthal responding to what he
saw over the past few hours. Obviously, it's been focused on the abuse of power article today, but Giuliani's role specifically in just the past couple of hours. How did the House managers do, do you think?
LAURA COATES, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it's interesting because Schiff began by talking about how Rudy Giuliani does not lead the President by the nose, that the focus on Giuliani is not to say the President of the United States cannot be held accountable or should not be held accountable. They use that as a strategic reason to say he had to have somebody outside of the White House acting as a minion, who was the actual conduit of being able to carry out the abuse of power.
Certainly, it wasn't the President of the United States making every single decision or every single phone call and literally leading the horses to water and making them drink. Somebody had to go out and do it at the direction of the President of the United States and that person is Rudy Giuliani.
So the fixation on him is not so much about trying to deflect away from the blame of the President, but about by showing how this person under the direction of President Trump acted in the interest of actually abusing that power. That's what they're focusing on.
And so far they've made a very compelling case without, interestingly enough, making me say, oh, I want to hear from Giuliani.
BURNETT: Which obviously ...
COATES: I do not.
BURNETT: ... they don't want to ...
COATES: At all.
BURNETT: ... step into that. So Ryan, the other part of this is they took on and for an extensive period of time, Burisma, and Joe and hunter Biden, because it's one of the big talking points. You hear from the Republicans and they want Hunter Biden to testify and they didn't try to skim over it. It was Sylvia Garcia, the Congresswoman who spent a lot of time, more than 30 minutes, taking down some factually untrue allegations against Joe Biden, including the context around his pushing for the firing of the Ukrainian prosecutor.
Obviously, the allegations we all know. He fired him or he pushed them to fire him to stop an investigation into Burisma, which would help Hunter Biden who was on the Board. That's the allegation. Of course it doesn't add up. Shokin wasn't investigating Burisma. So here's Sylvia Garcia making the points.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SYLVIA GARCIA (R-TX): ... under Shokin, the investigation into the owner of Burisma for earlier conduct had installed and was dormant. That was part of the reason why the United States and other countries wanted to remove Shokin. Calling for Shokin's replacement would actually increase the chances that Burisma would be investigated. In other words, Shokin was corrupt and not investigating allegations against Burisma.
So when Vice President Biden was calling for Shokin's removal and advocating for his replacement, it would actually increase chances of Burisma's investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. So she's laying out what Biden did was actually the opposite of what he would have done if he were trying to corruptly help his son and line his son's pocket.
How effective was she?
RYAN GOODMAN, CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, JUST SECURITY: I think she is effective because of the factor on her side, so everything she says is actually true. It could actually be a heroic story for Biden, because he really is leading the administration with the ambassador, at the same time criticizing the prosecutor's office for not having fully investigated Burisma and covering up Burisma.
GOODMAN: So it's actually a heroic story and so she's right. But at the same time, spending that amount of time on Joe Biden and Hunter Biden ...
BURNETT: So you thought 30 minutes was too long?
GOODMAN: Yes. I thought it actually just set up the President's team. They now do want to go into Joe Biden, they're going to say it's relevant. They brought it up first. They spent 30 minutes on it. If they do want to try to call one of the Bidens or both of the Bidens as witnesses I think it's a strategic error in a certain sense and that's not what the Democrats want, because it sets them up to say, the reason you think we shouldn't call them is because you think it's not relevant. You just spent 30 minutes. It must be relevant.
BURNETT: Oh, that's an interesting take.
I mean, so Scott, when you look at this, Garcia also named many senators in the room, part of her thing was to say, look, it wasn't just Joe Biden and it wasn't just our allies in Europe, but it wasn't just the European Union, it was, and then she listed all of these senators who were sitting there today who were sitting there at the time pushing for the firing of Viktor Shokin, which Joe Biden went ahead and push for. Was that effective to call them out by name?
SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, I mean, I think it's effective for their side of the argument to try to prebutt what they know the President's lawyers are going to do, except - I agree with Ryan, this legitimizes the whole conversation. I've heard for days and days and days now people saying, oh, the Bidens aren't relevant. This isn't a legitimate use of time. We don't need to be talking about this. It's not in any way connected to the President's impeachment.
And yet, here they are getting a ton of floor time today. So for whatever she did, she legitimize this conversation. I'm sure the President's lawyers are going to get into it and I'd be surprised if the President himself doesn't get into it over the weekend.
BURNETT: So it's a rock and a hard place though.
BURNETT: Because if you don't take down the argument they're making, they're going to make it anyway and then you didn't refute it. I mean, in a sense it's a catch-22.
COATES: As a prosecutor, I would have stolen their thunder well ahead before that lightning ever came. I would have made sure to do exactly what she did. Because if I don't address the big elephant in the room, which is the very reason the President has been impeached is because he was fearful of a perceived political rival in Joe Biden.
If I don't address that point and talk about the absurdity that you did not seek to just try to undermine corruption generally, never brought it up in the other meeting, you really had the idea of trying to take down the Bidens. And all of the testimony to date from the Gordon Sondland to the Bill Taylor and alike were all about the notion of what did the letter B stand for? We knew it was Biden, not Burisma, (inaudible).
BURNETT: Right. Right. That was obviously - McConnell is walking back in, obviously, the Majority Leader. So we'll be going back into the moment. I wanted though, Joe, if I can ask you about something that Phil also mentioned, which was the use of video and specifically, all of it very effective, because it got people to perk up, right?
JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
BURNETT: But specifically, Trump allies and defenders saying things that do not fit with their narrative now.
BURNETT: I give you the number one example of that, we could all agree, Lindsey Graham.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): What's the high crime? How about an important person hurt somebody of low means. That's not very scholarly, but I think it's the truth. I think that's what they meant by high crimes. Doesn't even have to be a crime. It's just when you start using your office and you're acting in a way that hurts people, you have committed a crime.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Obviously, he looks different now, so I should tell people that was 1999. It's the same room and it's the same setting. It's a different president of a different party.
Joe, how effective is that? I mean, obviously, it's absurdity, we can all agree, it's a complete exact opposite of what he is saying now. Was that impactful and helpful though?
LOCKHART: I think it was and I would have expected it from the beginning where we're going to see Lindsey Graham. We may end up seeing Mitch McConnell on CNN from 1998-1999 where he was saying I wanted live witnesses. That's a decision for the House managers, obviously.
I think there are a couple things going on here. They are pointing out the hypocrisy which weakens the defense case. They're saying these guys were hypocrites. They were in the exact opposite place. I mean, I lived through it in 1999. Lindsey Graham was effective and you saw that if you put yourself back 20 years.
BURNETT: It was very eloquent.
LOCKHART: It was.
BURNETT: It was genuine (inaudible) ...
LOCKHART: It was. Very sort of homespun and it was effective and it's something that hurt the President's defense. I mean, he ended up coming out OK, but I do think, though, that the most effective use so far has been we see Donald Trump and we see him confessing over and over again. This is not a complicated matter.
BURNETT: All right. And sorry to interrupt you, they are gaveling back in and they will continue the evening's proceedings with the House managers.
[19:15:00] MCCONNELL: I consulted with Congressman Schiff, and it looks like roughly 10:30 tonight, so we may need a short break somewhere between now and 10:30.
(UNKNOWN): Thank you.
JEFFRIES: Mr. Chief Justice, distinguished members of the Senate, council to the president, my colleagues, the American people. The second official act that President Trump used to corruptly abuse his power was the withholding of an Oval Office meeting with the president of Ukraine.
Before we took the break we started walking through the overwhelming evidence about how President Trump withheld this official White House meeting that was vitally important to Ukraine as part of a corrupt scheme to convince President Zelensky to announce two phony political investigations.
These investigations were entirely unrelated to any official U.S. policy, and solely benefited President Trump. We talked about why withholding the meeting was so significant to our ally, Ukraine.
Ukraine is a fragile democracy under relentless attack from Russian- backed separatists in the East. U.S. support is vitally important to Ukraine in that war, they desperately need our support. They desperately need our assistance.
Because of this vast power disparity President Trump had immense power over Ukraine and President Trump knew it. So when President Trump asked for a favor on a July 25 call, he knew that President Zelensky would feel incredible pressure to do exactly what President Trump wanted.
President Trump used his agents -- both his administration appointees and his personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani to make clear to Ukraine even in early July, that much needed White House meeting that they requested would only occur if they announced these phony political investigations.
Now to be clear, as Ambassador Sondland testified every one was in the loop. That includes acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.
Even ahead of the July 25 call, Ambassador Sondland was in close repeated contact with these officials -- his mission? Schedule a telephone conversation during which the new Ukrainian leader would personally commit to do the phony investigations sought by President Trump in order to unlock a meeting in the Oval Office. This for that -- a quid pro quo.
Now this isn't just based on the testimony of witnesses, it is corroborated by texts and e-mails as well. Let's look at some of that evidence now. On July 13 for example, Ambassador Sondland e-mailed National Security Council Official Timothy Morrison, and made the case for President Trump to call the Ukrainian leader prior to the parliamentary elections scheduled for July 21.
In that e-mail as the highlighted text shows, Ambassador Sondland said the sole purpose of the call was to assure President Trump that investigations will be allowed to move forward. In other words, to get the Oval Office meeting, President Zelensky had to move forward on the phony political investigations, part of the scheme to cheat in the 2020 presidential campaign. This for that.
On July 19th, Ambassador Sondland spoke directly with President Zelensky - he spoke directly with President Zelensky to prepare him for a call with President Trump. Ambassador Sondland coached President Zelensky to use key phrases and reassure President Trump of Ukraine's intention to bend to President Trump's will with respect to the phony investigations that President Trump sought.
Ambassador Sondland told Kurt Volker that he gave the Ukrainian leader a "full briefing, he's got it." That's what Sondland told Volker. In response, Volker texted "most important is for Zelensky to say that he will help with the investigations." That same day, Ambassador Sondland e-mailed top administration officials, including Acting Chief of Staff Mulvaney, Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Perry to summarize his conversation with Zelensky. In that e-mail, Ambassador Sondland said Zelensky is quote "prepared to receive POTUS's call. Will assure him" - meaning POTUS - "that he intends to run a fully transparent investigation and will turn over every stone."
Both Acting Chief of Staff Mulvaney and Secretary Perry responded to the e-mail, noting that the head of state call would be scheduled. Secretary Perry wrote "Mick just confirmed the call being set up for tomorrow by NSC" - the National Security Council - and Mulvaney responded "I asked NSC to set it up for tomorrow."
Neither Mulvaney nor Secretary Perry took issue with the fact that Sondland coached Zelensky to yield to President Trump's pressure campaign. But instead, they took steps to connect the two leaders. Everyone was in the loop.
They were aware that during the July 20th call, President Trump intended to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election and pressed the Ukrainian leader to announce investigations into former Vice President Biden and the Crowdstrike conspiracy theory.
There was no focus on advancing America's foreign policy or national security objectives. The only priority was President Trump's corrupt demand for phony investigations in exchange for an Oval Office meeting. This for that.
Here's Ambassador Sondland's testimony confirming this scheme.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONDLAND: Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret. Everyone was informed via e-mail on July 19th, days before the presidential call. As I communicated to the team, I told President Zelensky in advance that assurances to run a fully transparent investigation and turn over every stone were necessary in his call with President Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFRIES: "In his call with President Trump." Now we come to July 25th, the morning of the infamous phone call, the culmination of a months long campaign to engineer a corrupt quid pro quo. That morning, before the call took place, President Trump provided guidance to Sondland.
On the morning of July 25th, he told him that President Zelensky should be prepared to announce the investigations in exchange for the White House meeting. After Sondland's call with President Trump on the morning of July 25th, Sondland urgently tried to reach Kurt Volker.
When he could not reach Ambassador Volker by phone, he sent a text that said "call ASAP" and he left a message. Volker testified that he indeed received that message, which involved the following content.
Quote "President Zelensky should be clear, convincing, forthright with President Trump about his commitment to fighting corruption, investigating what happened in the past" - that refers to the Russian- inspired, fake, phony and false conspiracy theory about Ukraine having been involved in interfering in our 2016 elections - "and if he does that, President Trump was prepared to be reassured that he would say yes. Come on, let's get this date for this visit scheduled."
Ambassador Volker then conveyed that message approximately 30 minutes before the Trump-Zelensky call to Zelensky's top aide, Andriy Yermak. As you can see on the slide, Ambassador Volker texts Yermak, Zelensky's guy, and says "assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate/get to the bottom of what happened in 2016, the White House meeting would get scheduled." This for that.
So President Trump talks to Ambassador Sondland, Sondland talks to Ambassador Volker, Volker talks to President Zelensky's aide Yermak, and then the July 25th call occurs. But Ambassador Sondland testified he agreed with this sequence, indicating it certainly makes sense. Here is what Sondland had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOLDMAN: But the sequence certainly makes sense, right?
SONDLAND: Yeah, it does.
GOLDMAN: You talked to President Trump, you told Kurt Volker to call you, you left a message for Kurt Volker, Kurt Volker sent this text message to Andriy Yermak to prepare President Zelensky, and then you -- President Trump had a phone call where President Zelensky spoke very similar to what was in this text message, right?
GOLDMAN: And you would agree that the message in this -- that is expressed here is that President Zelensky needs to convince Trump that he will do the investigations in order to nail down the date for a visit to Washington, D.C., is that correct?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFRIES: Indeed, on the July 25th call, when President Trump asked for a favor, President Zelensky was ready with the magic words. He said, "I also wanted to thank you for your invitation to visit the United States, specifically, Washington, D.C. On the other hand, I want to ensure you that we will be very serious about the case and will work on the investigation."
This for that. Read the transcript, President Trump says. We have read the transcript, and it is damning evidence of a corrupt quid pro quo. The evidence against Donald Trump is hiding in plain sight. During our presentation, we've walked through the serious issues presented in the plain reading of the July 25th call. But now, you can see the entire context of how this corrupt parade of horribles unfolded.
The quid pro quo was discussed in text messages, e-mails, voicemails, calls and meetings amongst top administration officials and top Ukrainian officials.
Indeed, President Trump's message was delivered to either President Zelensky or his top aides on four different occasions in the month of July, four different occasions: on July 2nd in Toronto, on July 10th at the White House, on July 19th during a call between Zelensky and Ambassador Sondland. And then, on July 25th, before the call with the two leaders.
So before that fateful call on July 25th, President Zelensky understood exactly what needed to be done, a quid pro quo. The evidence of President Trump's grave misconduct does not end with that July 25th call. From that point onward, President Zelensky was on notice that it was President Trump himself who demanded those two phony political investigations.
After the July 25th call, the Ukrainians followed up with President Trump's direction, and began to coordinate with Rudolph Giuliani, the president's political bagman.
Acting on the president's orders, U.S. diplomats including Ambassador Sondland and Ambassador Volker, worked with Mr. Giuliani to continue pressuring Ukraine to announce the phony investigations that President Trump sought in exchange for that Oval Office meeting. This is corruption and abuse of power in its purest form.
Over the next two weeks, Mr. Giuliani directed Ambassador Sondland and Volker to negotiate a public statement from President Zelensky, announcing the investigations that President Trump corruptly demanded. Here is how Ambassador Sondland described this August time frame.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONDLAND: Mr. Giuliani conveyed to Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and others that President Trump wanted a public statement from President Zelensky, committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election. Mr. Giuliani expressed those requests directly to the Ukrainians, and Mr. Giuliani also expressed those requests directly to us.
We all understood that these prerequisites for the White House call and White House meeting reflected President Trump's desires and requirements.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFRIES: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent described the pursuit of President Trump's corrupt demands as, quote, "infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine." Here is his full testimony. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENT: In mid-August, it became clear to me that Giuliani's efforts to gin up politically motivated investigations were not infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine, leveraging President Zelensky's desire for a White House meeting."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFRIES: In short, U.S. diplomats responsible for Ukraine policy understood that Giuliani had de facto control over whether the Oval Office meeting would be scheduled, and under what circumstances. Mr. Giuliani had been given that level of authority by President Trump, and it was infecting official U.S. policy toward Ukraine.
To shake loose the White House meeting, top Ukrainian officials knew that they had to meet with Mr. Giuliani, who John Bolton described as a "human hand grenade" who was going to blow everybody up.
So, on August 2nd, Mr. Giuliani met with Mr. Yermak, President Zelensky's top aide, in Madrid. Giuliani, in Madrid, meeting with Zelensky's top aide on August 2nd. Mr. Giuliani made clear in that meeting, that President Trump needed more private assurances that Ukraine would pursue the investigations. Mr. Giuliani made clear that President Trump needed a public statement.
According to Ambassador Sondland -- and this is very important -- President Trump did not require that Ukraine actually conduct the investigations in order to secure that White House meeting. The Ukrainian government only needed to announce the investigations because they were phony, and they were simply designed to cheat in the 2020 election, solicit foreign interference and corrupt our democracy to the benefit of President Trump.
So the goal was not the investigations themselves, but the corrupt political benefit that President Trump would receive as a result of these announcements. He also wanted to shake this Russia thing, and instead blame Ukraine with the fairy tale that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.
The facts didn't matter to President Trump, he only cared about the personal political benefit of the sought-after investigative announcements. Over the next few weeks, ambassadors Sondland and Volker worked with Mr. Yermak to draft a public statement for President Zelensky to issue.
Ambassador Volker was also in frequent contact with Rudy Giuliani regarding the content of that statement. Now Rudy Giuliani, of course, is not a secretary of state, he's not an ambassador, he's not a member of the diplomatic corps. He was working in a political personal interests of President Trump, interacting with Ukrainian officials.
On August 9th, Ambassador Volker texted Mr. Giuliani and requested a call to update him on the progress of the negotiations for the statement, and discussed the content of what it should include. Volker said that Yermak had "mentioned Z," President Zelensky "making a statement." He suggested that he and Mr. Giuliani get on the phone to make sure "I advise Zelensky correctly as to what he should be saying."
Later that afternoon, Ambassador Sondland suggested to Ambassador Volker that they obtained a draft statement from the Ukrainian government to avoid misunderstandings, or, in other words, make sure that President Trump's political objectives were met.
Ambassador Sondland also reiterated that President Trump would not be satisfied by a vague statement. The Ukrainian leader needed commit to the phony investigations in explicit terms in order to secure the sought-after Oval Office meeting. This for that.
Call records subpoenaed by the House show multiple to communications between Ambassador Sondland and Mr. Giuliani. On the one hand, in numbers associated with the Office of Management and Budget, and the White House on the other. On August 8th, around the time of direct communications between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Yermak, Mr. Giuliani communicated repeatedly with the White House, sending or receiving six text messages and completing several calls.
Most notably late in the evening on August 8th, Mr. Giuliani called the White House and a highly distinctive pattern. At 8:53 p.m., Giuliani texted a White House number. At 10:09, a number identified only as dash-1 in the White House call records called Mr. Giuliani five times in rapid succession.
Two minutes later, Mr. Giuliani attempted to return the call, trying an Office of Management and Budget number, then the White House Situation Room, then the White House switchboard. At 10:28, 16 minutes after Mr. Giuliani tried to call the White House back frantically, Situation Room, Office of Management and Budget, switchboard. Sixteen minutes after Mr. Giuliani tried to call the White House back, Giuliani and the dash-1 number connected for four minutes and six seconds.
We should be clear, we do not know what Giuliani said or even who he talked to. We do not know who was on the other end of that mysterious call with dash-1. President Trump refused to produce documents and ordered key witnesses not to testify, hiding part of the truth from the American people. He obstructed our congressional investigation.
But we do know that Rudolph Giuliani frantically called the White House late into the night. We do know that he talked to someone at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And we know that Mr. Giuliani likely talked about the "drug deal" that John Bolton characterized.
Over the next few days, President Zelensky's aide, Mr. Yermak, exchanged drafts of the public statement with ambassadors Volker and Sondland, who consulted on these drafts with Mr. Giuliani. The Ukrainian officials appeared to finally relent. They agreed to Mr. Giuliani's specific language about the phony political investigations in exchange for the Oval Office meeting.
On August 10th, Yermak texted Volker that the Ukrainians were willing to make the requested statements, but only if they received a date for the White House meeting first. Mr. Yermak texted, quote: "I think it's possible to make this declaration and mention all these things." Yermak again, is Zelensky's top guy.
He later wrote: "The statement would come out after we receive a confirmation of a date for the White House visit." Ambassador Volker counter-proposed. They would iron out the statement in private, use that to get the date for the meeting in the Oval Office, and then President Zelensky would make the public statement. This for that.
Mr. Yermak countered: "Once we have a date, we will call for a a press briefing announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of the U.S.-Ukraine relationship, including, among other things, Burisma and election meddling and investigations." That was a specific reference to President Trump's corrupt demands.
Two days later, Mr. Yermak sent the draft statement. But the statement did not reference Burisma or the 2016 election. As soon as Mr. Yermak sent the statement, what did Ambassador Sondland and Volker do? They sought a call with Rudolph Giuliani to see if the statement would suffice. They needed to check in with Mr. Giuliani, who was leading the charge to lock down the corrupt quid pro quo.
Let's listen to Ambassador Volker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLKER: This is the first draft of that from Mr. Yermak after the conversations that we had.
GOLDMAN: And it does not mention Burisma or the 2016 election interference, correct?
VOLKER: It does not.
GOLDMAN: And you testified in your deposition that you and Ambassador Sondland and Mayor Giuliani had a conversation about this draft after you received it. Is that right?
VOLKER: That is correct.
GOLDMAN: And Mr. Giuliani said that if the statement did not include Burisma and 2016 election, it would not have any credibility. Is that -- is that right?
VOLKER: That's correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFRIES: Mr. Giuliani, acting on behalf of President Trump made clear that the statement from the Ukrainians had to target Vice President Biden for the reasons outlined earlier today. And it had to mention the conspiracy theory about Ukraine interfering in the 2016 election.
After Mr. Giuliani conveyed this on the telephone call, Ambassador's Volker and Sondland texted Mr. Yermak and requested a call to convey that message. Ambassador Volker says hey, Andriy. We spoke with Rudy. When is good to call you.
And Ambassador Sondland makes clear the urgency, texting important, do you have five minutes. Now Ambassador Volker made clear to Mr. Yermak that the statement needed the two key items Mr. Giuliani required for the president. Here's Ambassador Volker's testimony to that effect.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLKER: Hi, Andriy. Good talking. Following his text with insert at the end for the two key items, we will work on official request.
(UNKNOWN): And then you'll see the highlight portion of the next text. The other is identical to your previous one and then it just adds including ...
VOLKER: (Inaudible). Correct.
(UNKNOWN): Including these involving Burisma in the 2016 elections is that right?
VOLKER: That is correct.
(UNKNOWN): And that was what Mr. Giuliani insisted on adding to the statement?
VOLKER: That's what he said would be necessary for that to be credible.
(UNKNOWN): OK. And the Ukrainians ultimately did not issue this statement, is that right?
VOLKER: That is correct.
(UNKNOWN): And President Zelensky ultimately did not get the Oval Office meeting either did he?
VOLKER: Not yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFRIES: President Zelensky is still waiting for that Oval Office meeting. Ronald Reagan, in a speech that he delivered in 1987 at the foot of the Berlin Wall in the midst of the Cold War, said to the world east and west do not mistrust each other because we are armed.
We are armed because we mistrust each other. And our differences are not about weapons but about liberty. The Trump/Ukraine scandal is certainly about weapons. It's about the unlawful withholding of $391 million in security aid.
It's about a withheld sought after Oval Office meeting. It's about trying to cheat in the 2020 election. It's about corrupting our democracy. It's about undermining America's national security. It's about a stunning abuse of power. It's about obstruction of Congress. It's about the need for us, here in this great chamber, to have a fair trial with witnesses and evidence. It's about a corrupt quid pro quo.
But perhaps above all else, it's about liberty. Because in America, for all of us, what keeps us free from tyranny is the sacred principle that in this great country, no one is above the law.
GARCIA: Mr. Chief Justice, Senators, President's Counsel; we've reviewed the mountain of evidence that proves that president officials act in his scheme (ph). The corrupt bargain of a White House meeting in exchange for Ukraine announcing sham political investigations.
You heard from each relevant witnesses with firsthand knowledge of the president's corrupt scheme; Sondland, Taylor, Volker, Hill, and Vindman that there was a corrupt deal. And Oval Office meeting for investigations. Quid pro quo. This for that.
You also saw inescapable documentary proof that clearly proves a corrupt quid pro quo. The evidence is consistent, corroborated, it comes from many -- in many forms from many individuals who are lifelong public servants with no motivation to lie.
In short, the evidence is overwhelming. Given how much we have gone through, let's review some of those career public servants testimony who state clearly that they too believed it was a quid pro quo, a this for that.
Because it is really powerful to hear directly from them. So let's watch Ambassador Taylor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR: By mid July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.
It was also clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GARCIA: It was clear this or (ph) conditions driven by irregular policies. And we know this too because Ambassador Sondland said so at the July 10 meeting. Dr. Fiona Hill described the scene in Ambassador Bolton's office where the quid pro quo was made clear. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: The Ukrainian (inaudible) Mr. Danyliuk starts to ask about a White House meeting and Ambassador Bolton was trying to parry this back. Although he's the National Security Advisor, he's not in charge of scheduling the meeting.
We have input recommending the meetings and this goes through a whole process. So it's not Ambassador Bolton's role to start pulling out the schedule and start saying right, well we're going to look at see if this Tuesday in this month is going to work with us."
And he does not, as a matter, of course, like to discuss the details of these meetings, he likes to leave them to, you know, the appropriate staff for this. So this is already going to be an uncomfortable issue.
And as Ambassador Bolton was trying to move that part of the discussion away -- I think he was going to try to deflect it onto another wrap-up topic -- Ambassador Sondland leaned in basically to say "well we have an agreement that there will be a meeting if specific investigations are -- are -- are put underway," and that's when I saw Ambassador Bolton stiffen.
I was sitting behind him in the chair and I saw him sit back slightly like this -- he'd been more moving forward like I am to the table -- and for me, that was an unmistakable body language and it caught my attention. And then he looked up to the clock and -- you know, at his watch or towards his wrist, in any case -- and again, I was sitting behind him, and basically said "well, you know, it's been really great to see you, I'm afraid I've got another -- another meeting."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GARCIA: "Ambassador Bolton stiffened." Quite a description. Lieutenant Colonel Vindman's testimony is consistent with Dr. Hill's recollection of the July 10 meeting and it was made clear that the deal for the White House meeting was investigations.
Let's watch Lieutenant Colonel Vindman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): I want to move now to that July 10th meeting that you referenced, Colonel Vindman. What exactly did Ambassador Sondland say when the Ukrainian officials raised the idea of a White House meeting?
VINDMAN: As I recall, he referred to specific investigations that Ukrainians would have to deliver in order to get the -- these meetings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GARCIA: Lieutenant Vindman, firsthand knowledge they would have to deliver in order to get these meetings. It was also clear that this wasn't about general investigations about corruption, this was about corruption -- at -- wasn't -- wasn't about corruption at all.
Ambassador Sondland directed everyone, including the Iranian -- Ukrainian officials to reconvene in the War Room, where he discussed the arrangement he had reached with Mr. Mulvaney in more detail and he made clear that it was about specific investigations that would benefit President Trump personally.
Here's Lieutenant Colonel Vindman testifying where he explains that Ambassador Sondland referred to the Bidens, Burisma and the 2016 election, which had nothing to do with national security policy. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): Were the investigations -- the specific investigations that Ambassador Sondland referenced in a larger meeting also discussed in the War Room meeting?
VINDMAN: They were.
(UNKNOWN): And what did Ambassador Sondland say?
VINDMAN: Ambassador Sondland referred to investigations into the -- the Bidens, Burisma and 2016.
(UNKNOWN): How did you respond, if at all?
VINDMAN: I -- I said to that -- these -- these requests to -- to conduct these meetings was inappropriate -- these investigations was inappropriate and had nothing to do with national security policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GARCIA: "Nothing to do with national security policy." That's about -- sums it up, doesn't it? It has nothing to do with national security policy. President Trump's scheme was for his personal interest, not national security. And his testimony once again is corroborated.
Dr. Hill joined the War Room conversation later and also recalled a discussion of investigations and a White House meeting and then Lieutenant Colonel Vindman said quote "this is inappropriate. We're the National Security Council, we cannot be involved in this." Here's her testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: And so when I came in, Gordon Sondland was basically saying "well look, we have a deal here that there will be a meeting, I have a deal here with -- with Chief of Staff Mulvaney, there will be a meeting if the Ukrainians open up or announce these investigations and -- into 2016 and Burisma," and I cut it off immediately there because by this point, having heard Mr. Giuliani over and over again on the television and all of the issues that he was asserting, by this point it was clear that Burisma was code for the Bidens because Giuliani was laying it out there.
I could see why Colonel Vindman was alarmed and he said "this is inappropriate, we're the National Security Council, we can't be involved in this."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GARCIA: And what's more, as Ambassador Sondland told us, everyone was in the loop, meaning it became clear that President Trump was directing this. And Dr. Hill, at one point, confronted Gordon Sondland over this arrangement, further reached the conclusion that he was acting on the President's orders and coordinating with other senior officials.
He had made this clear he was briefing the President on all of this. Here's Dr. Hill's testimony. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: 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. Who else do I have to deal with?"
And the point is we have a robust interagency process that deals with Ukraine. It includes Mr. Holmes, it includes Ambassador Taylor as the Charge in Ukraine, it includes a whole load of other people. But it struck me when -- yesterday, when you put up on the screen Ambassador Sondland's e-mails and who was on these e-mails and he said "these are the people who need to know" that he was absolutely right, because 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GARCIA: So the evidence is very clear. The White House meeting would only be scheduled if Ukraine announced the investigations that everyone, including the Ukrainians, understood to be purely political efforts to benefit the President.
The only way to come to a different conclusion is to ignore the evidence. One additional way you could tell that this conduct is truly corrupt and not U.S. foreign policy, as usual, is that these officials, these lifetime, career public servants didn't just testify about this in impeachment proceedings. They contemporaneously reported this conduct in real time.
Their reactions illustrate that this was not the kind of thing that both parties do when they have the White House. This was something different, something corrupt, something insidious. To use Ambassador Sondland's characterization in later testimony, the officials who instinctively recoiled from the corrupt deal that Sondland blurted out were distinguished, patriotic public servants. Let's go through some specific examples of that evidence.
After the July 10 meeting we just talked about, where Ambassador Sondland made clear the agreement that the White House meetings were conditioned on the investigations, Dr. Hill consulted with Ambassador Bolton and told him what she had heard.
Ambassador Bolton gave her, as she put it, "very specific instruction to report this conduct in real time," and she did. Here is her testimony. Let's watch.