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House Democrats Lay Out Abuse of Power Case Against Donald Trump; The Impeachment Trial of Donald J. Trump. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired January 23, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Let's look at what happened the next day on April 24th. Giuliani was again in repeated contact with the White House.
For example, he had one eight minute and 42 second call with a White House number. An hour and a half later, he had another call, which lasted three minutes and 15 seconds with the White House.
Now when a reporter recently asked who he called at the White House, Mr. Giuliani said this, I talk to the president mostly. Rudy Giuliani remained in close contact with the White House after the disclosure of his planned trip to Ukraine in mid 2019.
Now Rudy is the key to Ukraine. We know from Mr. Giuliani and the president's own statements about his role as President Trump's personal agent, advancing the Ukraine scheme.
We know from their comments and the documentary evidence about the frequency of their contact. But it wasn't just the frequency of Mr. Giuliani's contact that's significant. Here's what matters. President Trump directed U.S. officials to work with this personnel agent who was pursuing investigations not at all related to foreign policy.
U.S. officials, including the president's own national security advisor, knew there was no getting around Rudy Giuliani when it came to Ukraine. Witnesses repeatedly testified to the constant presence of Rudy Giuliani on television and in the newspapers.
A State Department official, Christopher Anderson, said that John Bolton quote, joked about every time Ukraine is mentioned, Giuliani pops up. After Ambassador Yovanovitch's dismissal, Ambassador Bolton told Dr. Hill that Rudy Giuliani was a quote, hand grenade that's going to blow everybody up.
Dr. Hill testified that Ambassador Bolton issued guidance for the National Security Council staff to not engage with Rudy Giuliani. That made sense. Why? Because Mr. Giuliani was not conducting official U.S. foreign policy.
He was doing a domestic political errand for President Trump. Now, these phone records, as I say, lawfully obtained, reveal potential contact between Ambassador Bolton and Rudy Giuliani on May 9th, the day The New York Times reported his trip to Kiev.
Rudy Giuliani's role in Ukraine policy is yet another topic that Ambassador Bolton could speak to. You should call him and here what he has to say about it.
Even without Ambassador Bolton's testimony multiple other administration officials confirmed Mr. Giuliani's central role. Ambassador Sondland said quote, it was apparent to everyone that the key to changing the president's mind on Ukraine was Giuliani.
David Holmes, the U.S. political counselor in Kiev said Giuliani, a private lawyer was taking a direct role in Ukrainian diplomacy. That enough that the president ordered U.S. diplomats to quote, talk to Rudy about Ukraine, the scheme got worse. The evidence shows that Ukrainian officials also came to recognize the important role of Mr. Giuliani.
On July 10, 2019, Andriy Yermak, the top aid to President Zelensky, sent a text to Ambassador Volker about Rudy Giuliani. In that text the Ukranian official said this. Quote, thank you for meeting and your clear and very logical position will be great meet with you before my departure and discuss. I feel that the key for many things is Rudy and I ready to talk with you -- him at any time.
Let me repeat that, quote, the key for many things is Rudy. So the president used his personal agent to conduct his scheme with Ukraine. They were in frequent contact. Everyone, White House officials and Ukrainian officials knew they had no choice but to deal with Giuliani.
What was Mr. Giuliani doing that was so important to Ukraine? Again, the evidence is clear. Mr. Giuliani's focus was to get investigations into President Trump's political rival to help the president's reelection.
Now we've walked through some of the timeline of Mr. Giuliani's actions and statements about Ukraine but let's just line them up briefly because it makes the story so clear.
April 2019, Vice President Biden officially announced his campaign for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. And a reminder, at the time of Biden's announcement and for months after, public polling, including from "Fox News" showed that Biden would beat President Trump. The "Fox News" polling data is up on the chart.
Right after President Biden announced his candidacy and while Biden was beating President Trump in the polls, Mr. Giuliani said in a public interview with the "New York Times" that he was traveling to Ukraine to pursue investigations. He wanted to make sure that quote, Biden will not get to Election Day without being investigated. The scheme was all about President Trump's reelection.
This continued in June. Mr. Giuliani tweeted on June 21st and urged President Zelensky to pursue the investigation. The scheme continues even now. Mr. Giuliani has tweeted about Joe Biden over 65 times since September and President Trump told you himself. He admitted on October 2nd, quote, we've been investigating on a personal basis through Rudy and others, lawyers, corruption in the 2016 election.
Again to review. President Trump used his personal agent for Ukraine. He's made this clear to U.S. officials and to the Ukrainians. The evidence shows President Trump and Rudy Giuliani were in constant contact during this period. President Trump directed him to pursue investigations.
He told U.S. officials to work with Rudy. He told Ukrainians to work with Rudy. Rudy and his associates pressed Ukraine for investigations into the president's political rival. Giuliani said quote, Biden will not get to election day without this being investigated.
Keeping all this in mind, let's turn to the president's first official act, soliciting foreign interference. As we mentioned, in late 2018 and early 2019, Rudy Giuliani and his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were busy soliciting information from corrupt Ukrainians to help President Trump. They pursued a month's long campaign to dig up dirt on Biden.
In late 2018 and early 2019, Parnas, Fruman and Giuliani met extensively with two corrupt Ukrainian prosecutors, Yuriy Lutsenko and Viktor Shokin to gather information they believed would help President Trump.
As you will recall, Shokin was corrupt. George Kent described Shokin as quote, a typical Ukranian prosecutor who lived a lifestyle far in excess of his government salary who never prosecuted anybody known for having committed a crime and who covered up crimes that were known to have been committed. And remember, because Shokin was corrupt, Vice President Biden had urged his removal. This was in accordance with U.S. policy.
Shokin blamed former vice president for his dismissal by the Ukrainian parliament. He wanted to revive his political fortunes in Ukraine by assisting with Giuliani's effort. At the end of January, Giuliani, Parnas and Fruman participated in a conference call with Shokin. He made allegations about Vice President Biden and Burisma. Shokin also falsely claimed that Ambassador Yovanovitch had improperly denied him a U.S. visa and that she was close to Vice President Biden.
Also in January, Giuliani, Parnas, and Fruman met with Lutsenko in New York. They discussed investigations into Burisma and the Bidens and whether Ambassador Yovanovitch was quote, loyal to President Trump.
Lutsenko held a grudge against Ambassador Yovanovitch because she and the broader state department were critical of Lutsenko's failures. They were critical of his failure to prosecute corruption in Ukraine.
This was the motivation for Lutsenko to give Giuliani and his associates false information on Biden and Burisma. And here's the point, Lutsenko and Shokin had grudges against Biden and Ambassador Yovanovitch. Why? Because they were implementing U.S. policy to fight corruption in Ukraine.
Now Giuliani and his associates had motive to harm Biden, to help get President Trump reelected; they had motive to remove Ambassador Yovanovitch or anyone else who got in their way of their efforts to smear Biden. Giuliani admitted this.
He told the "New York Times" that he spoke to President Trump about how Ambassador Yovanovitch frustrated efforts that could be politically helpful to President Trump. Giuliani admitted this was all to benefit President Trump.
Documents give us evidence of this scheme. WhatsApp exchanges that Parnas recently gave to Congress make clear that an exchange for derogatory information about Biden, Lutsenko wanted Yovanovitch removed from her post in Kiev.
Here is that Whatsapp report. For example, on March 22nd, Lutsenko wrote quote "it's just that if you don't make a decision about Madam, you are bringing into question all of my allegations, including about B." Now here "B" could either be Biden or Burisma or both but "M," madam, is Ambassador Yovanovitch.
In the March 22 text, Lutsenko implied that if Parnas wanted dirt on Biden, Burisma, he needed to do something about Ambassador Yovanovitch. Days later, on March 28, Parnas assured Lutsenko that his efforts were being recognized in the United States and that he'd be rewarded.
Parnas wrote quote "I was asked personally to convey to you that America supports you and will not let you be harmed, no matter how things look now. Soon, everything will turn around and we'll be on the right course. Just so you know, here people are talking about you as a true Ukrainian hero."
Lutsenko responded with the dirt that President Trump wanted. He wrote quote "I have copies of payments from Burisma to Seneca." Minutes after being assured -- re-assured that America supports you and will not let you be harmed, Lutsenko claimed he had records of payments from Burisma to Rosemont Seneca partners, a firm founded by Hunter Biden.
This text message, along with others, show that Lutsenko was providing derogatory information on the Bidens in exchange for Parnas pushing for Ambassador Yovanovitch's removal. Now, in late March and throughout April 2019, the smear campaign against the Bidens and against Ambassador Yovanovitch ended -- entered a more public phase through a series of opinion pieces published in The Hill.
The public airing of these allegations was orchestrated -- orchestrated by Giuliani, Parnas and Lutsenko. We know from records produced by Parnas that he played an important role in getting derogatory information from Lutsenko and his deputy to John Solomon, who wrote the opinion pieces in The Hill.
According to The Hill articles, Ukrainian officials falsely claimed to have evidence of wrongdoing about the following. One, that Vice President Biden's efforts in 2015 to remove Shokin. Two, Hunter Biden's role as a Burisma -- Burisma board member. Three, Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election in favor of Hillary Clinton. Four, the misappropriation and transfer of Ukrainian funds abroad.
This was what President Trump wanted from the Ukrainians, the same information Mr. Giuliani and his agents were scheming up with Ukraine to hurt Biden and in exchange to have Ambassador Yovanovitch removed.
Now, Mr. Giuliani was very open about this and here is a clip worth watching.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Let me tell you my interest in that. I got information about three or four months ago that a lot of the explanation for how this whole phony investigation started will be in the Ukraine, that there were a group of people in the Ukraine that were working to help Hillary Clinton and were colluding, really, with the Clinton campaign and it stems around the Ambassador and the embassy being used for political purposes.
So I began getting some people that were coming forward and telling me about that and then all of a sudden they revealed this story about Burisma and Biden's son --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOFGREN: Well Mr. Giuliani got laughed at on Fox News for advancing the Crowdsource conspiracy theory but the clip shows that he had been making an effort to get derogatory information from the Ukrainians on behalf of his client, President Trump.
My colleague, Ms. Demings, will now further detail how the scheme evolved.
ROBERTS: The Majority Leader is recognized.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I may -- let me suggest that -- I understand the presentations will continue for a while and I would suggest a dinner break at 6:30 for 30 minutes.
JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES: Without objection.
REP. VAL DEMINGS, (D-FL): Chief Justice Roberts, to the senators and of course the counsel for the President, at this point, everything was going to plan. Mr. Giuliani was scheming with the corrupt Ukrainian prosecutors who were offering dirt on Biden that would help President Trump get re-elected.
They were pressuring -- they were pressing President Trump to remove Ambassador Yovanovitch, including publicly tarnishing her reputation through false and baseless claims. But then, the President's scheme hit a roadblock.
On -- on April 21st, President Zelensky, then the anti-corruption candidate, won a landslide victory in Ukraine's presidential election. U.S. officials unanimously testified that President Zelensky's mandate to pursue reform would be good for our national security.
However, it was potentially bad news for President Trump's scheme. Mr. Giuliani did not have a relationship with Zelensky. As a reformer, he would be less amenable to announcing the sham investigations. Zelensky would not want to get dragged into U.S. domestic politics.
Additionally, the election of a new Ukrainian President raised concern that Lutsenko, with whom Mr. Giuliani had been plotting, would be replaced by a new Ukrainian Prosecutor General. A new Prosecutor General, especially one appointed by an anti-corruption regime, would likely be less willing to conduct sham investigations to please an American President.
Mr. Giuliani decided to attack the issue from both sides. He pressed President Trump to remove Ambassador Yovanovitch, which would keep Lutsenko happy. He continued to work hard to get dirt on Biden and he tried to get a meeting with Zelensky to secure the new Ukrainian leader's commitment to press the investigations.
This strategy played out on April 23rd and 24th. First, on April 23rd, Parnas and Fruman were in Israel trying to arrange a meeting between Giuliani and the newly minted Ukrainian President Zelensky. On April 23, Giuliani left a voicemail message for Parnas, let's play that voicemail.
Well I was going to say it would be difficult to hear but I'm sure you cannot hear it at all, but let me tell you what it says. He says, "it's Rudy, when you get a chance give me a call and bring up to date, OK? I've got a couple of things to tell you too." Parnas and Giuliani eventually spoke on that same day.
We have the phone records that prove that. According to phone records Parnas and Giuliani had a 1 minute 50 second call. Fifteen minutes after they hung up the records also show that Mr. Giuliani placed three short phone calls to the White House.
Shortly thereafter the White House called Giuliani back. Giuliani spoke with someone at the White House for 8 minutes and 28 seconds. I will just quickly note that at the time the Intelligence Committee issued its report in mid-December we did not know whether that 8 minute 28 second call was from the White House. We have since received information from a telecom company that it was indeed the White House.
Now we don't have a recording of that call, neither the White House nor Giuliani produced any information to Congress about what was discussed, of course. The White House had refused (ph), as you already know, to cooperate in any way.
But even without the evidence that the White House is hiding, with the evidence we do have these phone records prove that Mr. Giuliani was keeping President Trump informed about what was going on when he was trying to meet President Zelensky and get Ukraine to commit to the investigations.
Now let's look at President Trump's decision to remove Ambassador Yovanovitch. Following the call between Mr. Giuliani and the White House on April 23, Parnas asked Giuliani for an update and Parnas texted and I quote, "going to sleep my brother, please text me or call me if you have any news."
Giuliani responded, "he fired her again." That was of course in reference to Ambassador Yovanovitch. Her removal would no doubt please the corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor Leshchenko, who offered derogatory information about Hunter Biden.
It also eliminated a potential obstacle identified by Giuliani. Parnas responded and I quote, "I pray it happens this time, I'll call you tomorrow my brother." And it did, because we know that the very next day on April 24 Ambassador Yovanovitch received two frantic phone calls from Ambassador Carol Perez at the State Department.
The second call came at 1 a.m. According to Ambassador Yovanovitch, as you can see from the slide on the screen, the director general of the foreign service told her and I quote, "there was a lot of concern for me that I needed to be on the next plane to Washington."
Yovanovitch recalled, "and I was like, what? What happened?" And Perez said, "I don't know, but this is about your security. You need to come home immediately. You need to come home on the next plane."
Yovanovitch asked what Perez meant by, "physical security," Perez didn't get that impression but repeated that Yovanovitch needed and I quote, "to come back immediately." This was no coincidence.
Mr. Giuliani and his agents conspired to meet President Zelensky, they conspired for Ambassador Yovanovitch to be removed, and within hours of Mr. Giuliani saying he prayed Ambassador Yovanovitch would get fired.
Ambassador Yovanovitch got a frantic phone call to get on the next plane, and that same day on April 24, Giuliani appeared on "Fox and Friends," and promoted the false conspiracy theories about Ukraine and Vice President Biden that were all part of his agreement. Let's look and listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: I asked you to keep your eye on Ukraine, because in Ukraine a lot of the dirty work was done, and digging up the information. American officials we used, Ukrainian officials we used -- that's like collusion with the Ukrainians.
And -- or actually in this case conspiracy with the Ukrainians. I think you'd get some interesting information about Joe Biden from the Ukraine about his son Hunter Biden, about a company he was on the board of --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some interesting leads (ph) --
GIULIANI: For years (ph), which may be one of the most crooked companies in Ukraine. Ukrainian-Russian company -- not a Ukrainian -- a big difference there. Yanukovych the guy they tossed out and Manafort got in all the trouble with, he -- the guy who owns it worked for Yanukovych, pulled (ph) 10 billion out of the Ukraine.
Has been a fugitive -- was a fugitive when Biden's kid first went to work there. And Biden bragged about the fact that he got the prosecutor general fired -- prosecutor general was investigating his son, and then the investigation went south.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEMINGS: Ambassador Yovanovitch was never provided justification for her removal, she was an anticorruption crusader, a highly respected diplomat and she had been recently asked to extend her stay in Ukraine. While American ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the president, we do understand that. I am sure you would all agree that the manner and circumstances surrounding the ambassador's removal were unusual and raise questions of motive.
Every witness who testified confirmed that there was no factual basis to the accusations Leshchenko lodged against Ambassador Yovanovitch. Under Secretary of State David Hale, the most senior career diplomat at the State Department testified that Marie Yovanovitch was an outstanding ambassador and should have been permitted to remain in Kiev.
Even more significant, several witnesses testified that President Trump's decision to remove Ambassador Yovanovitch, undercut U.S. national security objectives in Ukraine during a critical time.
Dr. Hill, for example, explained that many of the key U.S. policies towards Ukraine were being implemented by the U.S. embassy in Kiev. And then suddenly, quote, we had just then lost the leadership.
This created what Hill labeled, and I quote, a period of uncertainty as to how our government was going to execute U.S. policy. George Kent testified that the ouster of Ambassador Yovanovitch, quote, hampered U.S. efforts to establish rapport with the new Zelensky administration in Ukraine.
So why did President Trump remove a distinguished career public servant and an anti-corruption crusader and a top diplomat in the State Department. Well, we know why. The answer is simple. President Trump removed Ambassador Yovanovitch because she was in the way.
She was in the way of the sham investigations that he so desperately wanted. Investigations that would hurt form Vice President Biden and undermine the Mueller investigation into Russia election interference.
Investigations that would help him cheat in the 2020 elections. Rudy Giuliani admitted that he personally told President Trump about his concern that Ambassador Yovanovitch was an obstacle to securing Ukrainian cooperation on the two bogus investigations they solicited from Ukraine.
And Rudy Giuliani confirmed that President Trump decided to remove Ambassador Yovanovitch based on the bogus claim that she was obstructing his scheme to secure Ukraine's cooperation.
Indeed, Mr. Giuliani was explicit about this when he told The New Yorker last month, he said, and I quote, I believe that I needed Yovanovitch out of the way. She was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody.
So let's recap. Mr. Giuliani and his agents on behalf of President Trump, the United States president worked with corrupt Ukrainians to get dirt on President Trump's political opponent.
Mr. Giuliani said this in press interviews. He texted about it with his agents. And he repeatedly called the White House. Following the election of a new Ukrainian leader committed to fighting -- fighting corruption, President Trump removed Ambassador Yovanovitch, an anti- corruption crusader.
And Mr. Giuliani told us why, to get her out of the way for the investigations to move forward. That's how far President Trump was willing to go to get his investigations. To smear a highly respected, dedicated Foreign Service officer who had served this country unselfishly for his own selfish political interest and I think that's disgraceful.
Even with the removal of Ambassador Yovanovitch, President Zelensky's election victory through a wrench into the president's scheme. That's because Lutsenko was reportedly going to be replaced.
And after Mr. Giuliani told The New York Times on May 9th that he intended to travel to Ukraine on behalf of President Trump in order to, and I quote, meddle in an investigation. Ukrainian officials publicly pushed back.
Now, please hear what I said. Ukrainian officials publicly pushed back on the suggestions of corruptions proposed by Mr. Giuliani who was working on behalf of the U.S. president.
Well, Mr. Giuliani canceled his trip on May 10th and claimed on Fox News that President Zelensky was surrounded by, and I quote, enemies of President Trump. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: So I've decided, Shannon, I'm not going to go to the Ukraine.
SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS: You're not going to go.
GIULIANI: I'm not going to go because I think I'm walking into a group of people that are enemies of the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEMINGS: It appears president -- it appears Giuliani statement influenced President Trump's view of Ukraine as well. In an Oval Office meeting -- at an Oval Office meeting on May 23rd, U.S. officials learned of Giuliani's influence.
Ambassador Volker testified that President Trump, quote, didn't believe the positive assessment government officials gave the new Ukrainian President. Instead, President Trump told them that Giuliani, quote, knows all of these things and said that President Zelensky had some bad people around him.
At this point the scheme had stalled. Mr. Giuliani and the president knew that they were going to have trouble with President Zelensky for feeling his corrupt demand for investigations that would benefit President Trump's re-election campaign.
That brings us to the next phase of this scheme, although his corrupt scheme was in trouble, due to the result -- the unexpected results of the Ukrainian election, the election which yielded an anti-corruption reformer, President Trump doubled down on his scheme to solicit investigations for his personal benefit.
On May 19th -- or in May of 2019, with a gap in American leadership in Ukraine after Ambassador Yovanovitch was removed, President Trump enlisted U.S. officials to help to do his political work.
The steam grew from false allegations by disgruntled corrupt Ukrainian prosecutors to a plot by the President of the United States to restore the new Ukrainian President into announcing his political investigations.
During the May 23rd Oval Office meeting, president Trump directed Ambassador Sondland, Ambassador Volker and Secretary Perry to work with Mr. Giuliani on Ukraine. Giuliani had made clear he was pursuing investigations for President Trump in a personal capacity.
He said that publicly on numerous instances and he was only working for the president in a personal capacity and not on foreign policy yet President Trump still told White House officials that they had to work with Mr. Giuliani to get anywhere on Ukraine.
We heard significant testimony on this point. For example, Ambassador Volker recalled that at the Oval Office meeting on May 23rd, President Trump directed the U.S. officials to talk to Rudy.
Ambassador Sondland testified that President Trump directed them to talk to Rudy. And that -- in that moment, a U.S. diplomat saw the writing on the wall and concluded quote, that if we did not talk to Rudy, nothing would move forward, nothing would move forward on Ukraine.
Pay attention to Ambassador Sondland's testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON SONDLAND, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: In response to our persistent efforts in that meeting to change his views, President Trump directed us to quote, talk with Rudy. We understood that talk with Rudy meant talk with Mr. Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer. Let me say again, we weren't happy with the president's directive to talk with Rudy.
We did not want to involve Mr. Giuliani. I believed then as I do now that the men and women of the state department not the president's personal lawyer should take responsibility for Ukraine matters. Nonetheless, based on the president's direction, we were faced with a choice.
We could abandon the efforts to schedule the White House phone call and a White House visit between Presidents Trump and Zelensky which was unquestionably in our foreign policy interests or we could do as President Trump had directed and talk with Rudy.
We chose the latter course, not because we liked it but because it was the only constructive path open to us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEMINGS: And just like that, U.S. officials charged with advancing U.S. foreign policy, U.S. officials who were supposed to act in our country's interest were directed to instead advance President Trump's personal interest. From that point on they worked with the president's personal agent on political investigations to benefit the president's reelection.
Their work on President Trump's behalf to solicit foreign interference in our elections continued throughout all of June. For instance, on June 21st, Mr. Giuliani treated -- tweeted that President Zelensky had not yet publicly committed on two politically-motivated investigations designed to benefit President Trump.
And when Mr. Giuliani's public efforts and his tweets didn't move President Zelensky to announce the investigations, he used U.S. diplomats as directed by President Trump.
This is important. After Giuliani canceled his trip to Ukraine in May and commented that President-elect Zelensky had enemies of President Trump around him, Giuliani had minimal access to the new Ukrainian leader's inner circle.
His primary Ukraine connection was Prosecutor General Lutsenko and he had already been informed that he would be removed as soon as the new parliament convened. So President Trump gave him U.S. diplomats and directed them to work with Mr. Giuliani on his scheme.
As you heard, President Trump told Ambassador Sondland and Volker to talk with Rudy and work with Rudy on Ukraine and what did that mean? Well Mr. Giuliani tried to use Ambassador Sondland and Volker to gain access to President Zelensky and his inner circle through their official state department channels and made clear to President Zelensky that he had to announce the investigations.
On June 27th, Ambassador Sondland brought Ambassador Taylor up to speed on Ukraine. He said Ambassador Taylor had just arrived in country a few weeks beforehand. Ambassador Sondland explained that President Zelensky needed to make clear that he had not -- that he was not standing in the way of the investigations that President Trump wanted.
President Zelensky needed to make clear that he was not standing in the way of the investigations that President Trump wanted and here is his testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: June 27th Ambassador Sondland told me during a phone conversation that President Zelensky needed to make clear to President Trump that he, President Zelensky, was not standing in the way of investigations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEMINGS: Ambassador Taylor relayed this conversation to one of his deputies, U.S. Diplomat David Holmes who testified that he understood the investigations to mean the Burisma-Biden investigations that Mr. Giuliani and his associates had been speaking about publicly. Let's listen to Mr. Holmes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID HOLMES, COUNSELOR FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE: On June 27th, Ambassador Sondland told Ambassador Taylor in a phone conversation the jest of which Ambassador Taylor shared with me at the time that President Zelensky needed to make clear to President Trump that President Zelensky was not standing in the way of quote, investigations. I understood that this meant the Biden-Burisma investigations that Mr. Giuliani and his associates had been speaking about in the media since March.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEMINGS: Even with the addition of President Trump's political appointees to aid Mr. Giuliani's efforts, President Zelensky did not announce the investigations. As Mr. Giuliani's June 21st tweet shows, the Ukrainian President was resisting President Trump's pressure. So what happened? Well, that brings us to the President's next official act, turning up the pressure by conditioning an official White House meeting on Ukraine announcing his political investigations.
Senators, I -- I know we have covered a lot of ground but as we have shown there is overwhelming and uncontradicted evidence of the President's scheme to solicit foreign interference in this year's presidential election. Now let me say this also. Each time that we remind this body of the President's scheme to cheat to win, some of his defenders say that we are only concerned about winning the next election, that Democrats are only doing this to win the next election, but you know better because this trial is much bigger than any one election and it's much bigger than any one President.
This moment is about the American people. This moment is about ensuring that every voter, whether a maid or a janitor, whether a nurse, a teacher, or a truck driver, whether a doctor or a mechanic, that their vote matters and that American elections are decided by the American people.
President Trump acted corruptly. He abused the power of his office by ordering U.S. diplomats to work with his political agent to solicit two politically motivated investigations by Ukraine. The investigations were designed solely to help his personal interest, not our national interest.
Neither investigation solicited by President Trump had anything to do with promoting U.S. foreign policy or U.S. national security. Indeed, as we will discuss later, both investigations and the President's broader scheme to secure Ukraine's interference was a threat -- it was a threat -- it was a threat to our national security.
The only person who stood to benefit from the abuse of office and solicitation of these investigations was Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States. A violation of public trust, a failure to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.
But it came -- when it came down to choosing between the national interest of the country and his own personal interest, his re- election, President Trump chose himself.
HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Mr. Chief Justice, to the distinguished members of the Senate, counsel to the President, all of those who are assembled here today, earlier this morning I was on my way to the office and I ran into a fellow New Yorker who just happens to work here in Washington DC and he said to me "Congressman, have you heard the latest outrage?"
And I wasn't really sure what he was talking about so to be honest I thought to myself "well, the President is now back in town. What has Donald Trump done now?" And so I said to him "What outrage are you talking about?" And he paused for a moment and then he said to me "Someone voted against Derek Jeter" --
-- "on his Hall of Fame ballot." Life is all about perspective.
And I understand that as House managers, certainly we hope we can subpoena John Bolton, subpoena Mick Mulvaney, but perhaps we can all agree to subpoena the Baseball Hall of Fame.
To try to figure out who out of 397 individuals, one person voted against Derek Jeter. I was thinking about that as I prepared to rise today because what's more American than baseball and apple pie -- what's more American than baseball and apple pie?
Or perhaps the one thing that falls into that category is the sanctity and continuity of the United States Constitution. As House managers, we're here in this august body because we believe it's necessary to defend our democracy.
Some of you may agree with us at the end of the day and others, most likely, will not, but we do want to thank you for your courtesy and for your patience in extending to us the opportunity to present our case with dignity to you and to the American people during this solemn constitutional moment.
I want to speak for just some time on the second official act that President Trump used to corruptly abuse his power, which was the withholding of an Oval Office meeting with the President of Ukraine. As discussed yesterday, "quid pro quo" is a Latin term, "this for that."
President Trump refused to schedule that Oval Office meeting until the Ukrainian leader announced the phony political investigations that he demanded on July 25. He knew President Zelensky needed the meeting to bolster his standing. He knew that Ukraine is a fragile democracy, he knew that Mr. Zelensky needed the meeting to show Vladimir Putin that he had the support of Donald Trump.
But President Trump exploited that desperation for his own political benefit. This for that. Did a quid pro quo exist? The answer is yes. Let's listen to Ambassador Sondland on this point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONDLAND: I know that members of this Committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question, was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFRIES: Did President Trump abuse his power and commit an impeachable offense? The answer is yes. The phony political investigations that President Trump demanded from Ukraine were part of a scheme to sabotage a political rival, Joe Biden, and cheat in the 2020 election.
No national interest was served. The president used his awesome power to help himself and not the American people -- he must be held accountable. The president's defenders may argue as Mick Mulvaney tried to do, that quid pro quo arrangements are a common aspect of U.S. foreign policy, nonsense.
There are situations where official United States acts like head of state meetings, or the provision of foreign assistance are used to advance the national interest of the United States, that is not what happened here. Here President Trump sought to advance his own personal political interests, facilitated by Rudolph Giuliani, "the human hand grenade."
Let's walk through the overwhelming evidence of how President Trump withheld an 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.
First the Oval Office meeting President Trump corruptly withheld constitutes an official act. President Trump chose to withhold this meeting for a reason, it was not some run of the mill meeting, it was one of the most powerful tools he could wield in his role as a leader of the free world.
It would have demonstrated U.S. support for Ukraine's newly elected leader at a critical time. Ukraine is under relentless attack by Russian-backed separatists in Crimea and in the East. Ukraine desperately needed an Oval Office meeting and President Trump knew it.
Second, President Trump withheld that Oval Office meeting to increase pressure on Ukraine, to assist his reelection campaign by announcing two phony investigations. As my colleagues have detailed extensively throughout the day, this is a classic quid pro quo.
Third, multiple administration officials including the president's own handpicked supporters and appointees confirmed that a corrupt exchange was being sought. Finally contemporaneous documentation makes clear that the president corruptly abused his power to advance this scheme, to try and cheat in the 2020 election. This for that.
Let's explore whether the granting or denial (ph) of an official Oval Office meeting constitutes an official act. As we discussed earlier today an abuse of power occurs when the president exercises his official power to obtain a corrupt personal benefit while ignoring or injuring the national interests.
But (inaudible) in to the Constitution are more than 200 years of tradition, as President, Donald Trump is America's Head of State and Chief Diplomat. Article Two grants the president wide latitude to conduct diplomacy and specifically receive ambassadors and other public ministers.
The president decides which head of state meetings best advance the national interests and which foreign leaders are deserving of an official reception in the Oval Office, perhaps one of the most prestigious nonreligious venues in the world.
In diplomacy, perception matters. Meetings between heads of state are make or break moments that can determine the trajectory of global events, and a meeting with the president of the United States in the Oval Office is unquestionably monumental -- particularly for a fragile democracy like Ukraine.
The Oval Office is where foreign leaders facing challenges at home, like a war with Russia, go in pursuit of a strong and public demonstration of American support. That is especially true in this particular case. The decision to grant or withhold an Oval Office meeting of President Zelensky had profound consequences for the national security interests of both Ukraine and the United States.
To understand the full context of President Trump's corrupt demands to the Ukrainian leader, it's important to consider the geopolitical context that all of you are very familiar with confronting the American -- the Ukrainian people.
Ukraine is at war with Russia -- in 2013 Russia annexed Crimea by force. The United States and other European countries rallied to Ukraine's defense, providing economic assistance, diplomatic support and later with strong advocacy from this body, lethal aid. This support meant Russia faced consequences for its aggression. Here is Ambassador Yovanovitch's testimony explaining just how important the United States is to Ukraine.
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MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: The U.S. relationship for Ukraine is the single most important relationship. And so I think that President Zelensky, any president, would do what they could to, you know, lean in on a favor request. I'm not saying that that's a yes, I'm saying they would try to lean in and see what they could do.
GOLDMAN: Fair to say that a president of Ukraine that is so dependent on the United States would do just about anything within his power to please the president of the United States if he could?
YOVANOVITCH: You know if he could.