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Day Two of Senator's Questioning House Managers and Trump Lawyers. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired January 30, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] PHILBIN: -- He still thought that neither of the articles of impeachment here could be justified or were sufficient or could be used to impeach the president, both the abuse of power article and the obstruction article.
So taking snippets out of what he said really does an injustice to the totality of his testimony because the totality of his testimony was entirely against what the House ended up doing here. Thank you.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you, Counsel.
BROWN: (OFF MIKE) (inaudible)
J. ROBERTS: The Senator from Ohio.
BROWN: Mr. Chief Justice, on behalf of Senator Wyden and myself, I send a question to the desk for the House managers.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you. Senator Brown and Wyden ask the following question for the House managers: During yesterday's proceedings, the president's counsel failed to give an adequate response to a question related to whether acceptance of information provided by a foreign country to a political campaign or candidate would constitute a violation of the law, and whether offers of such information should be reported to the FBI. FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was appointed by President Trump, has said, quote, "If any public official or member of any campaign is contacted by any nation-state or anybody acting on behalf of a nation-state about influencing or interfering with our election, then that is something that the FBI would want to know about," end quote, "...and (ph) we'd like to make sure people tell us information promptly so that we can take the appropriate steps to protect the American people," end quote. If President Trump remains in office, what signal does that send to other countries intent on interfering with our elections in the future, and what might we expect from those countries and the president?
JEFFRIES: Mr. Chief Justice, distinguished members of the Senate, thank you for that question. Let's take the last part first. It would send a terrible message to autocrats and dictators and enemies of democracy and the free world for the president and his team to essentially put out there for all to consume that it's acceptable in the United States to solicit foreign interference in our free and fair elections or accept political dirt simply to try to cheat in the next election. I was certainly shocked by the comments from the president's deputy White House counsel yesterday right here on the floor when he said, "I think the idea that any information that happens to come from overseas is necessarily campaign interference is a mistake." No, it's wrong. It's wrong in the United States of America. He also added, information that is credible that potentially shows wrongdoing by someone that happens to be running for office. If it's credible information, it's relevant for the voters to know to be able to decide on who is the best candidate.
This is not a banana republic. It's the democratic republic of the United States of America. It's wrong. Now, the single most important lesson that we learned from 2016 is that nobody should seek or welcome foreign interference in our elections, but now we have this President and his counsel essentially saying it's OK. It is not OK.
It strikes at the very heart of what the framers of the Constitution were concerned about - abuse of power, betrayal by the President of his oath of office, corrupting the integrity of our democracy and our free and fair elections by entangling oneself with foreign powers. That's at the heart of what the framers of the Constitution were concerned about.
Don't just trust me, we have several folks who have made this observation. The FBI Director - the Trump FBI Director said "that the FBI would want to know about any attempt at foreign election interference." And the Chair of the Federal Elections Commission also issued a statement, reiterating the view of U.S. law enforcement.
She said in part, "let me make something 100 percent clear to the American people and anyone running for office. It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election." This is not a novel concept.
Election intervention from foreign governments has been considered unacceptable since the beginning of our nation. It is wrong, it is corrupt, it is lawless, it's an abuse of power, it's impeachable and it should lead to the removal of President Donald John Trump.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Manager.
HAWLEY: Mr. Chief Justice?
J. ROBERTS: Senator from Missouri?
HAWLEY: I send to the desk a question on my own behalf and on behalf of Senator Lee.
ROBERTS: Thank you. The question from senators Hawley and Lee is for counsel for the President - "United States federal courts have held most prominently in the Legolgovich (ph) case that it is not unlawful for a public official to condition his official acts on official acts performed by another public officer. Is there any application to the allegations against President Trump?"
PHILBIN: Mr. Chief Justice, senators, thank you for that question. I think an important threshold point to make here is that we're not even in the realm of exchanging official acts because there's been no proof of a quid pro quo here. We're not in the realm of a situation where there's one official act being traded for another.
I think that we've gone through the evidence that makes it quite clear that both with respect to an - a meeting with the President, a bilateral meeting, and with respect to the temporary pause on security assistance, the evidence just doesn't stack up to show that President Trump linked either of those.
Both took place, the meeting and the release of the aid without Ukrainians doing anything, announcing or beginning any investigations. There's nothing in the transcript linking them as a quid pro quo. The Ukrainians didn't even know that the - there had been a temporary pause on the aid. And I could go on with the list of points on that.
I think if there were any application hypothetically, it would come in the realm of the fact that in foreign policy, there are situations where there can be - I would - situations where one government wants some action from another and wants that action from another in a way that will condition other policies of one country. You can say "we would like you" - and this happens, for example, with the Northern Triangle countries - "we want you to do more to stop the flow of illegal immigration. We're going to be conditioning some of our policies towards you unless and until you start doing a better job stopping the flow of illegal immigration cause it's a real problem on our southern border." That happens all of the time.
And when there's something legitimate to look into - there could be a situation where the United States would say "you've got to do better on corruption, you've got to do better on these specific areas of corruption or we're not going to be able to keep having the same relationship with you."
One example of that - I - I believe we pointed out that aid was held up to Afghanistan - President Trump held up aid to Afghanistan specifically because of concerns about corruption. And in situations like that, there'd be nothing wrong whatsoever with conditioning one policy approach on a foreign country, modifying their policy to be more in line to a tune more directly to U.S. interests. That's part of what foreign policy is all about.
And that could arise in the situation of even investigations and I think it's interesting to point out that in May of 2018, three Democratic senators sent a letter to the then-prosecutor in Ukraine suggesting that we've heard some things that you might not be cooperating with the Mueller investigation and there is sort of an implicit indication behind the letter that there's not going to be as much support for Ukraine - this is something that's important, you've got to be helping with that election, and there's nothing wrong with encouraging the Prosecutor General to assist with something that's important to the United States. That's part of foreign policy, happens all of the time.
So to the extent that that case - the - the Blagojevich case is relevant, I think it is in the general concept that were there some linkage between "we want your country to pursue these policies that's going to affect our policies towards you," that's entirely legitimate. That's not something that is a violation of any law or is improper.
But again, I come back to the point that here, there is no proof of that linkage. There is no proof that there was any sort of - as we come to call it, a quid pro quo in this case. Thank you.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you, counsel. The Senator from Washington?
CANTWELL: Mr. Chief Justice, I send a question to the desk.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you. Senator Cantwell's question is for the House Managers. In his opening remarks, Chairman Schiff said the Ukraine scheme was expansive and involved many people. Is there any evidence that acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Pompeo, Attorney General Barr, or anyone on the outside were involved in this scheme to withhold military aid or obstruction of Congress?
DEMINGS: Mr. Chief Justice and Senator, thank you so much for that question. If we remember Ambassador Sondland's testimony where he said everyone was in the loop, but we don't just have to take his word for it.
During his hearing Mr. Sondland discussed a July 19th email he sent to the president's top aides including Secretary Mike Pompeo, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Mr. Mulvaney's senior advisor Robert Blair, Secretary Rick Perry, and Brian McCormick, Secretary Perry's chief of staff.
And we should at least start with, if we're serious about getting to the truth, issuing a subpoena for State Department emails. If you'll pay attention to the slide, in the email Sondland stated quote, I talked to Zelensky just now. He is prepared to receive POTUS' call.
We'll assure him that he intends to run a fully transparent investigation and will turn over every stone. He would greatly appreciate a call prior to Sunday so that he can put out some media about a friendly and productive call, no details.
Mr. Mulvaney in the email acknowledges received (ph) and responds shortly, I asked the NSC to set up the call for tomorrow. Six days before President Trump now infamous July 25th call in which he told President Zelensky to conduct investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election.
Mr. Sondland sent an email to the president's top aides updating them on the status of the scheme. Again, quote, everyone was in the loop. On August 11th, Ambassador Sondland emailed Mr. Brechbuhl to ask him to brief Secretary Pompeo on the state, but he was negotiating with President Zelensky with the aim of quote, making the boss happy, the boss being the president, enough to authorize the investigation. Ambassador Sondland wrote to Mr. Brechbuhl, and I quote, Kurt and I negotiated a statement from Z, Mr. Zelensky to be delivered for our review in a day or two. The contents will hopefully make the boss happy enough to authorize an invitation.
And he's talking about the invitation for a White House Oval Office meeting, which we know was much more critical important than a sideline meeting at the U.N. Yet, further evidence, and quote, everyone was in the loop.
Attorney General Barr, reportedly responded at some point and there was a New York Times article that was done and Attorney General Barr responded to that article by stating that he was aware of DOJ investigations into some countries and that he was concerned President Trump was giving world leaders the impression he had undue influence over what would ordinarily be independent investigations. He sighted conversations the president had with leaders of Turkey and China, further demonstrating that there was concern about the president abusing the power of his office for personal political reasons.
Again, it proves that everybody was in the loop and we should want to subpoena and review those emails involving the state department and others.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you, Ms. Manager.
THUNE: Mr. Chief Justice.
J. ROBERTS: Senator from South Dakota.
THUNE: I sent a question to the desk on behalf of myself and Senator's Moran, Daines, Ernst, Scott of Florida, and Crapo.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you. Thank you. Senator Thune and the other senators ask the counsel for the president, on March 6, 2019 Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, quote, impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there's something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don't think we should go down that path because it divides the country, end quote.
Alexander Hamilton also warned in Federalist 65, against the quote persecution of an intemperate or designing majority in the House of Representatives, with respect to impeachment. In evaluating the case against the president, should the Senate take into account the partisan nature of the impeachment proceedings in the House?
[14:15:00] CIPOLLONE: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Senate. Absolutely you should take that into account. That's dispositive that should end it. Based on the statements that we heard the last time from our friends on the democratic side, that's a reason why you shouldn't have an impeachment.
Speaker Pelosi was right when she said that. Unfortunately she didn't follow her own advice. We've never been in a situation where we have the impeachment of a president in an election year with the goal of removing the president from the ballot.
As I've said before, that is the most massive election interference we've ever witnessed. It's domestic election interference. It's political election interference and it's wrong. They don't talk about the horrible consequences to our country of doing that.
But they would be terrible. They would tear us apart for generations and the American people wouldn't accept it. Let me address in that context the importance of the vote for their inquiry, which also had bipartisan opposition.
Now they said, well we were fine when -- when Speaker Pelosi announced it. We didn't need a vote. The subpoenas were authorized. Then why did they have a vote. They had a vote because they understood they had a big problem that they needed to fix.
But what's more important about the vote than the procedural issue. The important thing about the vote is that if you're going to start an impeachment investigation, particularly in an election year, there needs to be political accountability to the American people.
You can't just go have a press conference. If you're going to say that the votes of the American people need to be disallowed that all of the ballots need to be torn up, then at the very least you need to be accountable to your home district for that decision.
And now they are -- and now they are. And if the American people decide, if they're allowed to vote, if the American people decide that they don't like what's happened here -- that they don't like the constitutional violations that have happened, that they don't like the attack on a successful president for purely partisan, political purposes. Then they can do something about it, and they can throw them out.
That's why a vote's important -- but we should never even consider removing the name of a president from the ballot on a purely partisan basis in election year. Important -- I'll say it's important (ph), for that reason alone and for the interest of uniting our country. It must be rejected. Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you counsel.
REED: Mr. Chief Justice.
J. ROBERTS: Senator from Rhode Island.
REED: Mr. Chief Justice, I send a question to the desk on behalf of Senator Duckworth, Senator Harris and myself for the House managers and for the president's counsel.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you. The question from Senator Reed and the other Senators is for both parties beginning with the House managers. It has been reported that President Trump does not pay Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney, for his services. Can you explain who has paid for Rudy Giuliani's legal fees, international travel and other expenses in his capacity as President Trump's attorney and representative?
SCHIFF: The short answer to the question is, I don't know who is paying Rudy Giuliani's fees. And if he is not being paid by the president to conduct this domestic political errand, for which he has devoted so much time -- if other clients are paying and subsidizing his work in that respect, it raises profound questions -- questions that we can't answer at this point.
But there are some answers that we do know, as he has acknowledged he's not there doing foreign policy. So when counsel to the president says this is a policy dispute, you can't impeach a president over policy -- what Rudy Giuliani was engaged in by his own admission has nothing to do with policy. It has nothing to do with policy.
And let me mention one other thing about this scheme that Giuliani was orchestrating and the consequence of the argument that they would make, that it's -- quid pro quos are just fine. Let's say Rudy Giuliani does another errand for the president, this time an errand in China.
And he says to the Chinese, we will give you a favorable deal with respect to Chinese farmers as opposed to American farmers -- we will betray the American farmer in the trade deal, but here's what we want. The quid pro quo is we want you to do an investigation of the Bidens -- you know the one. The one the president's been calling for.
They would say that's OK. They would say that's a quid pro quo to help his reelection, they can betray the American farmer, that's OK -- that's their argument. Where does that argument lead us? That's exactly the kind of domestic, corrupt political errand that Rudy Giuliani was doing gratis -- without payment, at least not payment apparently from the president.
So who is paying the freight (ph) for it? Well, I don't know whose directly paying their freight (ph) for it -- but I can tell you the whole country is paying the freight (ph) for it, because there are leaders around the world who are watching this and they're saying the American presidency is open for business.
This president wants our help, and if we help him he will be grateful. He will be grateful. Is that the kind of message we want to send to the rest of the world?
That's the result of normalizing lawlessness of the kind that Rudy Giuliani was engaged in.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you -- I'm sorry, your time has expired.
SEKULOW: Came out of the Manager's mouth. Open for business. I'll tell you who is open for business. Do you know who was open for business, when the Vice President of the United States was charged by the then President of the United States, with developing policies to avoid and assist in removing corruption from Ukraine, and his son was on the board of a company that was under investigation for Ukraine, and you're concerned about what Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer was doing when he was over trying to determine what was going on in Ukraine?
And by the way, it's a little bit interesting to me and my colleague, the Deputy White House Counsel referred to this, it's a little bit ironic to me that you're going to be questioning conversations with foreign governments about investigations with -- when three of you, three members of the Senate, Senator Menendez, Senator Leahy and Senator Durbin sent a letter that read something quickly like this.
These were -- they wrote the letter to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. They said they're advocates, talking about the Congressmen, they're strong advocates for robust and close relationship with Ukraine and we believe that our cooperation should extend to such legal matters regardless of politics and their concern was ongoing investigations and whether the Mueller team was getting appropriate -- appropriate responses from Ukraine regarding the investigations of what? The President of the United States. And you're asking about whether foreign investigations are appropriate. I think it answers itself. Thank you --
J. ROBERTS: Thank you Counsel.
LANKFORD: Mr. Chief Justice?
J. ROBERTS: The Senator from Oklahoma?
LANKFORD: Mr. Chief Justice, I send a question to the desk on behalf of myself, Senator Ernst and Senator Crapo.
J. ROBERTS: Thank you. The question from Senator Lankford and the other senators is for the Counsel for the President. House Managers have described any delay in military aid and State Department funds to Ukraine in 2019 as a cause to believe there was a secret scheme or quid pro quo by the president.
In 2019, 86 percent of the DOD funds were obligated to Ukraine in September, but in 2018, 67 percent of the funds were obligated in September, and in 2017, 73 percent of the funds were obligated in September.
In the State Department, the funds were obligated September 30 in 2019, but they were obligated September 28, in 2018. Each year the vast majority of the funds were obligated in the final month or days of the fiscal year.
Was there -- excuse me -- was there a national security risk to Ukraine or the United States from the funds going out at the end of September in the two previous years? Did it weaken our relationship with Ukraine, because the vast majority of our aid was released in September each of the last three years?
PHILBIN: Mr. Chief Justice, Senators, thank you for that question. And the short, straightforward answer is, there was no jeopardy to the national security interest of the United States from the timing of the release of this money.
As the question indicated, the vast bulk of funds in each of the prior two fiscal years were also obligated in September. So, the fact that the funds were released here on September 11, and obligated by the end of the fiscal year was consistent with the timing in past years.
There was, and is also the case, that at the end of every fiscal year there is some funding of, in this Ukrainian military assistance, that doesn't actually make it out the door, that isn't obligated by the end of the fiscal year. We've heard the House Managers point to the fact that Congress had to put something in the continuing resolution, a special provision, to get $35 million of the aid extended so it could be used in the fiscal year.
My understanding is that every fiscal year there's some amount of money, it's not always that same amount, but there' some amount of money that that has to be done for every year, because it doesn't get out the door by the end of the year.
Now, it's not just from the raw data that we can see that the funds went out roughly the same timing, towards the end of the year, that therefore it doesn't suggest any great risk to Ukraine or risk to the national security of the United States. We know that from testimony as well.
Ambassador Volker testified that the brief pause on the aid was not significant and under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, David Hale, explained that this is future assistance. And I mentioned this the other day. It's not like this money is being spent month by month to supply current needs in the Ukraine. It's five-year money. Once -- once it is obligated, it can go to U.S. firms who are providing material to the Ukrainians and it doesn't get spent down finally and material shipped to Ukraine for a long time.
So, a delay of 48 or 55 days, depending on how you count it and the money being released before the end of the fiscal year ends up having no real affect.