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Ukraine Probe Money Trail Could Lead Back to Russia; National Security Risk Amid New Report on Ukraine; Former Ambassador to Ukraine Warns of Crisis in the State Department; Crucial Week for Impeachment Inquiry. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired November 17, 2019 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: We're just getting started tonight. One hour is not enough to deal with what we've seen already and what we're going to see this week.
So, you're watching WHITE HOUSE IN CRISIS: IN IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY, taking a look at the big picture. We're going to step back and put the pieces of this giant jigsaw together.
Now let's step back a little bit further. While this inquiry is about what the president did and why he did it, how he used tools at his disposal to benefit himself, that's the whole mix. That may not even be the root of the problem. There's evidence that the Ukraine plot may have been driven by even larger forces. Like what? Money, Russian interests, potentially involving Rudy Giuliani's indicted associates.
For a look, here's Drew Griffin tonight with a new CNN investigation.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: You probably don't know Dale Perry, but history may record this energy executive as one of the first who sounded the alarm about what would become President Trump's impeachment inquiry.
In April, Perry's former business partner, Andrew Favorov, now a director at Ukraine's state-owned gas company, Naftogaz, says two shady characters had approached him with a secret plan to take over the management inside Naftogaz. Those two shady characters, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are two low-level, Soviet-born businessmen from South Florida. And they were trying to clear the way for their own gas business.
DALE PERRY, ENERGY RESOURCES OF UKRAINE, MANAGING DIRECTOR: They basically just flat out said to him, hey, to do the deals we want to do, we're not able to get through to your CEO and we think that the business needs a new CEO. The current one is in our way and the current one has the support of the U.S. ambassador. And so this is where the meeting then became very strange and disturbing.
GRIFFIN: Naftogaz was finally making a profit. Its new CEO had spent five years cleaning up the corruption plagued giant. The efforts had support of anti-corruption leaders across Ukraine and the world including U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. But Parnas and Fruman said they were working on getting rid of the ambassador.
PERRY: What they said was not that we can but they are removing her and that it's already been agreed at the highest level of the U.S. government. In other words, they were suggesting that President Trump had already agreed that yes, they would remove her.
GRIFFIN (on camera): You said he took it as sort of a threat.
PERRY: Well, because the way he looked at it --
GRIFFIN: A shakedown.
PERRY: A shakedown because he said look, either I join them and become the CEO or they're going to find someone else to be the CEO and remove all of us. All of us meaning the top management of Naftogaz.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): Andrew Favorov isn't talking but two sources familiar with the matter tells CNN Perry's description of the events is correct. Perry was so alarmed he wrote a letter that eventually reached the State Department but it may have been too late. A short time later, what Parnas and Fruman predicted happened. The U.S. ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, was removed, stunning anticorruption officials in Ukraine. Now we know from American diplomats Parnas and Fruman had powerful help.
GEORGE KENT, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: I became increasingly aware of an effort by Rudy Giuliani and others including his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman to run a campaign to smear Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
GRIFFIN: While Rudy Giuliani was using Parnas and Fruman to help him push his conspiracy theories about the Bidens and that Ukraine was behind the election meddling in 2016, Parnas and Fruman were using Giuliani for their own scheme, to oust a U.S. ambassador getting in the way of their plans for a gas business.
Sound farfetched? Former federal prosecutor Ken McCallion has seen it before and says the House impeachment inquiry is exposing the real issue. Money.
KENNETH MCCALLION, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It's really not just about the Bidens. It's not about a DNC server being hidden in Ukraine.
It's really about the money. It's a fight for control of Naftogaz and natural gas resources.
GRIFFIN: Parnas and Fruman may have begun their plan in 2018. Parnas hired Giuliani for half a million dollars. A federal indictment alleges they also began donating hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign funds to Republican causes, giving them incredible access to political fundraising events including at least 10 with President Trump. Both have pleaded not guilty.
"The Washington Post" even reports Lev Parnas told the president he needed to replace his U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and Trump reportedly agreed. This would all make perfect sense except for one thing. Parnas and Fruman had zero experience in the gas business and could not have acted alone.
MCCALLION: Parnas and Fruman, with no background in the oil, gas, natural resources area all of a sudden decided to form a company which you can only do in Ukraine or in Russia really with the blessing of the powers that be. And in this case this would be Firtash.
GRIFFIN: Firtash is Dmytro Firtash, a Kremlin-connected oligarch who made a fortune selling Russian gas to Ukraine. He's been fighting extradition to the United States since 2013 when he was charged in a bribery scheme. He's declared his innocence and has hired prominent Washington lawyers to lobby the Trump administration to drop his case.
Attorneys for Parnas and Fruman refused to answer questions about Dmytro Firtash, but in an odd arrangement Firtash's attorneys hired Lev Parnas as a translator. Sources tell CNN Parnas has bragged Dmytro Firtash was bankrolling his lavish lifestyle of private planes and bodyguards telling them, I'm the best-paid interpreter in the world.
What is now at stake in the U.S. is the potential impeachment of a president. But in Ukraine, the stakes are much higher. Russian oligarchs have made a fortune in corrupt deals in Ukraine. Dale Perry fears the oligarchs, backed by Russia, are gaining new ground.
PERRY: We're fighting an economic war actually in Ukraine. The rule of law and the free market versus the old way, and the old way is Putin's way.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): So help you God.
GRIFFIN: In her testimony, the now removed U.S. ambassador has the same fear.
MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: How could our system fail like this? How is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government? Which country's interests are served when the very corrupt behavior we have been criticizing is allowed to prevail? Such conduct undermines the U.S., exposes our friends, and widens the playing field for autocrats like President Putin.
GRIFFIN: And Chris, I think that's what's getting some at lost here. While the president was pushing his personal political agenda in Ukraine, and Rudy Giuliani and his two associates may have been cooking up this plot to cash in on their own ties to Trump, the big winner here once again, Vladimir Putin and Russia -- Chris.
CUOMO: Yes. That seems to be coming back as a theme.
Drew Griffin, thank you for helping us understand just how many questions there are here and how deep they go. Appreciate it.
All right. Let's get some big picture reaction to that from Andrew McCabe and Jim Baker.
Jim, I start with you. In terms of what that could mean, intrigue aside, the idea, well, that's just Parnas and Fruman, I mean, we don't know where it goes other than that.
JIM BAKER, FORMER FBI GENERAL COUNSEL: Well, we don't know where it goes other than that. We -- it's very confusing. There's obviously allegations that the two of them and others committed federal crimes and so they're being investigated by the Southern District of New York. The Southern District of New York I hope is investigating -- U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York I hope is investigating all of this stuff because it's just very confusing to try to figure out -- you know, this is typical with international corruption cases, international fraud cases.
I used to work on those a long time ago when I was in the criminal division of DOJ and it's just hard. The evidence is overseas. The witnesses are overseas. It's confusing and it's intentionally confusing. These folks try to do this to make it hard to track back exactly what's going on. So it's alarming. It's confusing. And also obviously the level of access that they had to the president of the United States is just confounding really. It's really difficult to understand what in the world was going on here.
CUOMO: Andrew, key questions?
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: You know, I think one of the key questions all along has been what's the real motivation behind Parnas and Fruman? And I think with stories like the one that you are getting into now with the piece we just saw, we may be getting a glimpse at exactly why these two American citizens of Russian and Ukrainian descent were so enthralled with and so attached to Rudy Giuliani and President Trump.
You know, I spent half of my career in the FBI investigating Russian organized crime, a lot of which involved deals much like the one that we just heard about. Nobody enters into that web without getting something for it. So, the idea that Parnas and Fruman were just so motivated to help President Trump because they're big fans of his never really made a lot of sense to me. The idea that they may have had a financial motivation because of the side deal they were pursuing with Naftogaz really fills in a lot of those gaps.
CUOMO: All right. So let's do this. Let's take a break, guys. Stay with me and when we come back let's talk about what's coming this week and what needs to come out for this case to be advanced at all and the move to this point of we know what's wrong. What is the right consequence?
So we'll have more with McCabe and Baker, taking a look at what the risks are, national security risks as raised by Drew Griffin, and how it's all playing into the week upcoming. Next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YOVANOVITCH: How could our system fail like this? How is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government? Which country's interests are served when the very corrupt behavior that we have been criticizing is allowed to prevail?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: All right. So, here's the question, what does it mean? We keep hearing things, there are admissions, eyebrows go up, eyebrows go down, the president, Giuliani, Ukraine, maybe Russia, all this swirling. How do you zero in on what's moving the needle and what isn't?
Let's bring in the big brains, Andrew McCabe and Jim Baker.
Let's do it like this for the sake of argument, literally. I will offer what we heard this week and what we hear or I hear as a journalist from those who are trying to take the air out of these suggestions, and I'll start with you, Andrew McCabe.
The big push back is, look, this is about you not liking how the president made his decisions. You want to say the CrowdStrike notion that Ukraine was a much bigger player in 2016 interference than previously thought, OK, you can think it's a conspiracy theory. He doesn't. He's the president. He gets to engage.
Same thing with the Bidens. You may not care that Hunter Biden was there and all the conspiracy theories about where money moved and didn't, but he does. So, you just don't like his motivations. And that is not a basis for impeachment.
MCCABE: Well, it's not just about not liking his motivations. I mean, those two theories, conspiracy theories, that you just launched, there's not a single shred of evidence to support either one of them. So there's the underlying issue that the president should start at some point to figure these things out, to listen to his advisers, to listen to the intelligence community. But let's put that aside just for a minute.
This isn't just like people disagree with the way he decides to go about conducting his foreign policy authority. This is a big step beyond that. This is an allegation that he's using that foreign policy authority, one, to benefit himself politically, not to seek the country's interest. And that is certainly impeachable. And two, he's doing it in a way to invite foreign influence into our elections. And that is absolutely should be considered impeachable by anybody who understands it.
CUOMO: So, the follow up on that, Jim, is look, I hear what Andrew's saying. But no, it just matters. He believes in this. And that is fundamental because that means he does not have corrupt intent. The president did not have intent to abuse his power. He sees Ukraine as bad because Rudy told him that they're bad, but they were out to get him. They're corrupt. They're dirty. And now he's supposed to give them all this money and be friends with them when they tried to hurt him? No way. They're going to prove they weren't out to get me by getting the guys who supposedly they were helping. Where does that become impeachable?
BAKER: So, the president's conduct based on the information we have so far was abusive, oppressive, and corrupt. Why? Because just look at the transcript. Read the transcript as we've been encouraged to do. The transcript clearly indicates that the president of the United States was trying to get a foreign leader to use his power, the foreign government's power, to investigate American citizens.
That's not the way we do it in the United States and that is oppressive as to those individual American citizens because when a foreign government starts to investigate them at the behest of the president, they have no redress. They can't go to U.S. courts and have no other mechanism in the United States to try to stop an unlawful investigation. So, the president trying to get them to do that is oppressive and abusive, and I think it's corrupt in part because, as Andy was saying, it's the president trying to stay in power. That's what this is all about.
CUOMO: Right. I mean, the weakness of the argument. The strength of their argument is they're willing to accept, yes, he conducts foreign policy on the basis of conspiracy theories and wild notions that were given to him by people who are not in a period of -- position to be experts. Yes. That's right. I will take that. But at least he's not going to be impeached.
Their problem is, as, Jim, you've argued before, is how. So, that takes us to the other big question that I think will be answered this week for anybody who's not strictly left or right, but reasonable. And that is, Andrew, why were so many people who weren't looking to get attention so worried about how this was being done and what the motivation was which came down to Biden, access to the American presidency, and the aid they should have gotten already?
MCCABE: That's exactly right. So, you have a number of administration officials who have -- you know, who were in positions of trust, who are reasonable, thoughtful, well-educated, experienced people, all of whom reacted the same way hearing that call, who independently went and brought it to the attention of the White House Counsel's Office because they were so concerned about it. Vindman did that. Fiona Hill did that. So none of those folks had a reason -- had a political reason to do that.
And I think another thing that you've got to highlight here, Chris, is that even the president's lawyer -- so the White House counsel, John Eisenberg, the White House counsel for the National Security Council, they responded to those concerns about the call by moving it to a place where it couldn't be so easily seen, taking it out of the normal system and putting it in the highly classified system. That alone is an acknowledgment of the fact that they, too, saw some serious problems with what happened on that call.
CUOMO: One thing I think people have to be more fair about is the idea that look, the Democrats are just using the power they have to go after this president. We may never have been here if when the whistleblower came forward and the inspector general found them credible and went to the DNI, the acting director of National Intelligence, if they had made a referral to the DOJ that was accepted by the DOJ, instead of turned down, and they did this investigation, we may be in a very different place. And there's a political cost to that.
Let's leave it there, though, guys, because we'll get more facts this week to fill in the analyses.
Andrew McCabe, Jim Baker on a Sunday night, bless you both and your families.
All right. The GOP. Will they remain a united front on impeachment? They did beautifully this week. You've got to give them that. They are in lockstep. But we saw something just today that might put that notion in question. And is this president hurting his party with new attacks on some of his own?
Let's talk to somebody who knows the process and the politics of Trump very well. Sean Duffy next.
CUOMO: So, here is the trick which I hope you've figured out by now. You can make a very compelling case about what this president did and why and who helped and how. But that doesn't mean you're going to get anybody who doesn't want to believe you to agree with it. And we saw that this week as well playing out. Very severe questioning from a very, really solid block of support for the president.
Now, set aside the fact that the White House is keeping the key players as far as it can from Congress. So, all these calls for the whistleblower to me ring a little hollow because if you really want to hear from the people who know the most, stop having the White House block them.
All right. So, where does this leave us? Let's bring in Sean Duffey. OK, you remember him. Congressman from Wisconsin, now he's working with us here at CNN.
Appreciate you as always, especially on a Sunday night with a newborn baby.
SEAN DUFFY (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Good to see you, Chris.
CUOMO: Although maybe that's a good reason to get out of the house now that I think about it. So, you owe me.
CUOMO: So, after seeing how this was conducted, do you feel comfortable acknowledging that what happened here was what the Democrats say it was, not that it's impeachable, not that -- not about -- forget consequence. Do you agree with any of what they think happened?
DUFFY: No, I don't, Chris. But I don't think we have all the information yet. So, what I think is there's been an allegation of a quid pro quo. I don't think they've proved that yet. We've had second and third-hand knowledge. But I think it really comes down to, as you said, you know, maybe you don't have Mulvaney, maybe you don't have Pompeo. But I really think it comes down to the Bidens. And I want to go back to the last segment you just aired with McCabe and Baker. And they said in regard to Parnas and Furman.
CUOMO: Fruman, yes.
DUFFY: In the analysis on corruption -- yes, they said, you don't enter the web of Ukrainian gas unless you get something for it.
DUFFY: And so, if you look at Hunter Biden, entering the web of natural gas in Ukraine with Burisma making $1 million a year, doesn't have anything to do with Ukraine itself. And so what's the tie in there? What does Burisma, who we know is corrupt, we saw that evidence last week. We saw the oligarch of Burisma is corrupt. What are they getting with Hunter Biden? Well, lo and behold, Joe Biden is the lead for Obama in the Obama White House in Ukraine.
So, I think to unpeel this and unpack it, you actually have to bring the Bidens in and say, was there corruption or do we believe there was corruption on behalf of President Trump --
CUOMO: All right.
DUFFY: -- to actually see whether this was legitimate or not?
CUOMO: Now, I will concede for the sake of argument you can easily raise the question and even make a cogent argument that Hunter Biden should have stayed a thousand miles away from Burisma. And I'll take it a step further for the sake of argument, it was wrong what he did. He shouldn't have done it. And that's why the former VP wants to change rules for families and stuff if he becomes president.
However, the problem for you, Sean, is how this was done. The easy answer of President Duffy if he had these concerns would have been to pick up the phone, call the DOJ, and say, I'm the president, I think this was shady, I believe Rudy, take a look.
This is an American citizen. No president has ever done anything like this the way this president did it. That's a fact. How do you deal with that?
DUFFY: So, I agree with you. President Duffy would have called the DOJ but I'm not President Trump.
CUOMO: No, but --
DUFFY: And so --
CUOMO: How is it not wrong?
DUFFY: So, to actually investigate corruption or what you perceive to be corruption isn't wrong and I don't think it is impeachable. And that's -- you know, my concern, Chris, is, why don't we fully investigate it? If Donald Trump had said, listen, Ukrainians, find dirt on Joe Biden, make something up, put it out in the press, and help me with the election, that's one thing. But when you have some smelly material going on with Hunter Biden and Joe Biden in the Ukraine, it's something completely different.
I agree with you, Chris. He shouldn't have, you know, brought it up in the phone call with Zelensky. He should have gone to the DOJ. You're right. But that doesn't undermine the point that it doesn't smell right with what Hunter and Joe were doing in the Ukraine and the natural gas --
CUOMO: But how does this smell right?
DUFFY: All the money that was being made.
CUOMO: How does the same nose not get equally offended by not just not going to the DOJ, because I know a lot of people want to write that off as political acumen.
CUOMO: I don't buy that. The idea that this president isn't savvy or intelligent, to me is absurd. He knows what he's doing. He inserted Rudy.
DUFFY: I agree. He's a smart guy.
CUOMO: He had all these people around him including Sondland, and that man is in a box, this week. I can't wait to hear his testimony. They were all --
DUFFY: Yes, I -- me too. I don't know what he's going to say.
CUOMO: Well, he's got -- he's going to make a decision. Does he want to protect himself or this president? However, we'll see what he says. You insert Rudy. He's with these shady guys, OK? They are asking these questions. They are inserted into policy. They are manipulating the ordinary process. They are scaring everybody in the process that we've heard from. And it was exactly what you said you'd be concerned about. It was always and only I want an announcement about the Bidens that you're going to look at them, and that's when you get the aid and the meeting with me. Forget about Latin. It's an attempted bribe.
DUFFY: But, Chris, let me ask you this, too. When you say attempted bribe, you and I have gone back and forth on quid pro quo. We know that Democrats have done focus groups in challenging districts for their members to actually see what polls better and quid pro quo doesn't poll well so now they've switched to bribery.
CUOMO: Who even knows what it means? Everything is a quid pro quo. I like talking to you. You respect that, so you come on, on a Sunday night. That's a quid pro quo. But it's not a crime.
DUFFY: It's a quid pro quo.
CUOMO: Because we're doing it for the right reasons.
DUFFY: But is it a -- is there a corrupt intent which is what you've always brought up, right? Is there corrupt attempt behind the quid pro quo? And you've done a good job of trying to educate your viewers on what is it? It's a this for that. And so the only way you can know if there was corrupt intent is to say what was going on with the Bidens?
CUOMO: He won't put --
DUFFY: You and I agree it smells really bad.
CUOMO: No, no, no. It's not the Bidens. It's what was going on with the president.
DUFFY: And let's figure this out.
CUOMO: You put on Pompeo, put on Mulvaney.
DUFFY: But Chris --
CUOMO: Put on Bolton and then we'll know.
DUFFY: No, no, no. So here's -- and I hate to go to process. You're talking about process. Donald Trump used --
CUOMO: Yes, you hate it. Here you love it. So make the argument.
DUFFY: He should have -- but you said the process. He should have gone to the DOJ. He shouldn't have talked to Zelensky first hand. I mean, that's a process --
CUOMO: I see it's proof of corrupt intent. How he did it is proof of corrupt intent.
DUFFY: I see in the defense of Donald Trump when you look at Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and what they were doing, he has every right to say hey, look into this. This doesn't smell right.
CUOMO: But he didn't.
DUFFY: And by the way, I've talked to the president a number of times. I've talked to the president a number of times. He doesn't think that Joe Biden was his biggest rival in the 2020 election. He knows he's going to have a progressive socialist, whether it's --
CUOMO: So he just had a legitimate interest in corruption?
DUFFY: He did, yes. Absolutely.
CUOMO: Sean, look at the guys he has around him. Look what they've done. Look what happened to his cabinet officials?
DUFFY: Like who? Pompeo? Pompeo --
CUOMO: No, no, no. Not Pompeo.
DUFFY: Pompeo? Mulvaney? They're great.
CUOMO: No, I'm not saying that. The guys who go to jail, Sean, I'm talking about. The half dozen guys in jail. The cabinet members who've had to flee in disgrace. He's not interested in corruption. He's OK with his own daughter cutting deals with China while she works for the government. He won't even show his taxes.
DUFFY: So --
CUOMO: He's no play it straight transparency guy.
DUFFY: So two points. So, I mean, when Donald Trump was running, he had a pretty slim group of pickings of people that would actually help him out. They didn't think he was going to win. And you and I both know that. And so he didn't have every Republican and operative that was -- the A team to come in and help him out. So --
CUOMO: There are plenty of people in that game, Sean. He made the choices that worked for him.
DUFFY: He was scraping a little deeper in the barrel. You and I will both agree that if your kids are making money off their dad in office, that's wrong.
DUFFY: The difference, though, with President Trump's kids was Donald Trump didn't withhold a billion of dollars of aid but Joe Biden did withhold a billion of dollars of aid in the Ukraine.
What tie in does that have to his son? And I think that's legitimate question. And I think if we're going to unpack it and get to the truth and get Americans to coalesce around was this impeachable, wasn't it impeachable, the key to that is not Pompeo or Mulvaney. It's actually Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, and I do think that Donald Trump should have a right to bring his lawyers in and -- because justice demands this. Ask questions, call witnesses --
CUOMO: Not in this process. DUFFY: Justice doesn't just apply in a courtroom.
CUOMO: Not in this process.
DUFFY: Justice doesn't just apply in a courtroom, Chris.
CUOMO: Because, look, here's where we disagree. And --
DUFFY: Justice -- go ahead.
CUOMO: Justice demands fairness under law in all cases. I'm with you. If you want to investigate it, go ahead. Just do it the right way because I'll tell you what. Logically, forget about being a lawyer, you could be right about Hunter Biden. It could be a criminal situation and yet how you did this could still be --
DUFFY: It may not be.
CUOMO: -- an abuse of power because you went about it to get maximal political advantage out of it and minimal light. But let's see what the facts bring out this week. I'll have you back for sure.
Sean Duffy, always a pleasure. Best home.
DUFFY: Hey, thanks, Chris, have a good one.
CUOMO: All right.
DUFFY: Good night.
CUOMO: So, former Ambassador Yovanovitch warned you that America's foreign service pros are facing real harm. Why? How does that sit with a friend of hers, a former ambassador herself? How do we make sense of that type of admonition? Next.
CUOMO: So, Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, had a stellar reputation for fighting corruption in that country. Kind of makes it hard to understand the president's purported anti-corruption efforts somehow leading to her ouster and let alone a month's long smear campaign.
In her testimony Friday, Yovanovitch delivered you a warning. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YOVANOVITCH: Attacks are leading to a crisis in the State Department as the policy process is visibly unraveling. Leadership vacancies go unfilled and senior and mid-level officers ponder an uncertain future. The crisis has moved from the impact on individuals to impact on the institution itself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Now, we need to take an opportunity to suss out some different questions here. Why didn't the president go after Biden in these all- wheel concerns until now when the guy is running against him if it's just about corruption? It's a question of fact that leads you to motivations. But what Yovanovitch just said, this is dangerous, what he does and how he treated this and how he undermined the process, it hurts us. Why?
A former U.S. ambassador to Panama, Barbara Stephenson, joins us now.
Thank you so much for your service to the country. Thank you for joining us tonight.
BARBARA STEPHENSON, FORMER PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FOREIGN SERVICE ASSOCIATION: Thank you, Chris. And thank you for covering the story.
CUOMO: It matters. That's the job. Now, when you were understanding what was happening, seeing what was being done, it wasn't just about policy and politics for you. Emotionally, this was difficult for you to process and observe with Yovanovitch. Why?
STEPHENSON: Well, Chris, as you have mentioned, I am honored to call Masha Yovanovitch a friend and so, seeing this happen to her personally, it added to the deep distress that I felt watching what was going on. Like Masha, when I got the news, I didn't believe it. I was incredulous. And I thought a lot about Masha. I thought about my friend, and I -- it is very painful to see what she has been put through.
But just as Masha took this to the impact on the institution, I want to go there as well, Chris. When a sitting ambassador is yanked from her post and then publicly smeared like this, the impact on all of our ambassadors at our embassy, our network of embassies all around the world, it is a huge impact, Chris. When I had to deliver hard messages in Panama -- and I did -- I needed to make sure that it was understood I spoke with the full weight of my government behind me.
Chris, I don't know how after what we've been through since April or May that our ambassadors around the world are able to in any way credibly pull off the idea that they're speaking with the full weight of the U.S. government behind them. The impact of all of this has been to dramatically undermine the effectiveness of what was the world's most powerful diplomatic service and the most extensive network of embassies. America's global leadership has been seriously harmed by what we've been through.
CUOMO: Part of the attack on Yovanovitch -- I actually had somebody say it wasn't an attack but it sounded like one to me -- on the show on Friday night, said, you know, she was born in Canada and, you know, she's got that Ukraine parent thing going on so, and, you know, Poroshenko thought that she was great so really, you know, you have to factor that in also.
What do you want people to know about the former ambassador? STEPHENSON: I want people to know that the foreign service is now
made up of all kinds of people. Some like George Kent and Bill Taylor whose families have been in this country for many years and have long and distinguished records of service.
And some like Ambassador Yovanovitch who are newer Americans and whose commitment to this country and to the ideals that we're founded on is so palpable. Masha Yovanovitch was not just a great diplomat. She's close to a hero for us. And she's someone who is understated and reserved, and is never one to grab the spotlight, that don't ever for a minute believe that she was anything less than one of the most effective ambassadors that we've had.
CUOMO: I appreciate very much your perspective on who she is, what she represents, and what this process represents in terms of the all- important function of diplomacy for the United States government. Thank you very much.
I'll take silence as acceptance.
All right. This is the most important week yet in the impeachment inquiry. Why? Look at the roster. We've been putting it up for you, but not only is it all of the people who were sharing these texts about what the hell is going on here in really explicit terms, but you've got Ambassador Sondland.
I don't know about a quid pro quo. Oh, let me revise that. I delivered what really could be argued as an attempted bribe. And now he was heard on a telephone call talking to the president about that and why they were doing it. So, he's big. But he's not the only crucial witness.
We're going to give you a preview next.
CUOMO: In less than a month, the full House could vote on whether to impeach the 45th president of the United States. And the impeachment hearings could be over by the end of this week. But not before eight more witnesses appear for the first time publicly. And as Erica Hill shows us, they're worth watching because they include the ambassador who's already changed his story once.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three days, eight witnesses.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This has been an intense period for the House Intelligence Committee. And this coming week could be its final act.
HILL: On an increasing focus on one man, Gordon Sondland.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He's the one who seemed to have an awful lot of access to the president.
HILL: Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and a million-dollar Trump donor, is scheduled to testify on Wednesday amid new questions about his role.
BILL TAYLOR, TOP U.S. DIPLOMAT IN UKRAINE: In the presence of my staff at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kiev.
HILL: On that call, just one day after the now infamous July 25th exchange that led to the whistleblower's complaint.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I made a perfect call. Not a good call, a perfect call.
HILL: Ambassador Sondland told President Trump Ukrainian President Zelensky would do anything Trump asked including launch an investigation into the Bidens.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Manu, I understand you have new information.
HILL: A bombshell confirmed late Friday in closed-door testimony by a staffer who overheard it.
RAJU: The Gordon Sondland testimony is going to be highly significant because he has already amended his testimony to now say that he told a top Ukrainian official that security assistance from the United States, roughly $400 million, was likely tied to the ask for investigations. According to multiple witnesses, the reason why he knows that is because of a conversation he had with President Trump.
HILL: Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council official, set to testify on Tuesday, told lawmakers last month Sondland was acting at Trump's direction when he encouraged Ukraine to announce the investigations and described the E.U. ambassador as a problem, according to newly released transcripts.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: New details are piling up quickly in the impeachment inquiry.
HILL: Morrison listened in on the July 25th call, as did Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Vice President Pence who will also appear Tuesday, and said the call struck her as unusual. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman immediately raised concerns after listening to the July 25th call. He, too, is slated to appear on Tuesday.
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There is no one star witness that this whole case will rise or fall on, not that we know of right now. But I think Vindman is sort of another brick in the wall that House Democrats are trying to build.
HILL: Former special representative to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, defended the president's actions in closed-door testimony telling lawmakers there was, quote, "no leverage implied."
REP. MARK MEADOWS (R-NC): There was no linkage. And I think further testimony and depositions will confirm that multiple times.
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): We've got text messages from Volker and Sondland.
HILL: Volker's private text message the morning of the July 25th call revealed Ukrainian officials pushing for a White House meeting. Volker, writing to an aide for Zelensky, "Assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate, get to the bottom of what happened in 2016, we will nail down a date for the visit to Washington. Good luck."
On August 9th, Sondland messages Volker. "I think POTUS really wants the deliverable." Going on to suggest Volker should ask for the Ukrainian president's aid in crafting a, quote, "draft a statement so that we can see exactly what they propose to cover." Volker will also appear on Tuesday.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Kurt Volker, let's remember, is a former career foreign service officer.
Kurt Volker knew what normal foreign policy looks like.
HILL: The week's final witness, Fiona Hill, is expected to describe what she saw as a nightmare scenario. Private interests driving U.S. policy.
(On camera): Where do you think everybody needs to be at the end of next week?
HONIG: I think Democrats need to be in a position where they can say, we are confident in this case. And I think the Republicans just need to be at a place of either there's doubt about this case, there's doubt about whether it's true, or maybe it happened, but it's not serious enough to merit impeachment.
HILL (voice-over): High stakes heading into a potentially explosive week of testimony.
SCHIFF: We're adjourned.
CUOMO: All right. Our thanks to Erica Hill and thanks to you for watching. "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING" is next.