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CNN Special Reports
Impeachment Inquiry: In the Words of the Witnesses. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired November 24, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Do you swear or affirm that the testimony you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?
DAVID HOLMES, STATE DEPARTMENT AIDE TO BILL TAYLOR: The order, it comes from the president. He was looking to dig up political dirt against a potential rival.
GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sondland implicates Vice President Mike Pence.
BILL TAYLOR, TOP U.S. DIPLOMAT IN UKRAINE: I and others sat in astonishment.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: President Trump asked for a favor.
LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN, DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: I knew that I had to report this to the White House counsel.
MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I was shocked. Absolutely shocked and devastated.
HOLMES: Damn it, Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and F's everything up.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine was held up.
TAYLOR: And Bolton referred to this deal as this is a drug deal.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's the president's call on July 25th with the Ukrainian leader set off so many alarms.
DR. FIONA HILL, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE AND RUSSIA: And I did say to him, Ambassador Sondland, Gordon, I think this is all going to blow up. And here we are. (END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: For much of this year often blind closed doors on private calls or through text messages, the president of the United States, his personal attorney and a group of cabinet officials and diplomats were involved in a series of discussions that have now burst into public at the impeachment hearings.
It's not the easiest story to follow but two weeks of public hearings have left us with a much clearer picture of the Trump administration's apparent plan to get the Ukrainian government to help the president smear former vice president Joe Biden and to also raise doubt about the Russian attack on America's elections in 2016.
As Congress argues over what to do next, we want to boil down the dozens of hours of testimony into a summary of what's been revealed about this one secret alleged scheme.
Here is the impeachment inquiry in the words of the witnesses.
VINDMAN: On April 21st, 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky was elected president of Ukraine in a landslide victory on a unity, reform and anticorruption platform. President Trump called President Zelensky on April 21st, 2019. I was the staff officer who listened to the call. The call was positive and President Trump expressed his desire to work with President Zelensky and extended an invitation to visit the White House.
In the spring of 2019 I became aware of two disruptive actors primarily Ukrainian's then prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, promoting false narrative that undermined the United States' Ukraine policy.
RAJU: So Rudy Giuliani was pushing two conspiracy theories. One, into Joe Biden and whether or not he acted as vice president corruptly in any way to help his son Hunter Biden who served on the board of Burisma, the energy company in Ukraine. And two, whether or not Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election to help Hillary Clinton. Even though both investigations have not been borne out by evidence or facts but something that he had been pushing.
HILL: This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian Security Services themselves. The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systemically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016. This is the public conclusion of our intelligence agencies, confirmed in bipartisan congressional reports. It is beyond dispute. Even if some of the underlying details must remain classified. The impacts of the successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today. Our nation is being torn apart. Truth is questioned.
GEORGE KENT, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Over the course of 2018 and 2019, 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 Yovanovitch and other officials at the U.S. embassy in Kiev.
YOVANOVITCH: I have had only minimal contact with him. A total of three. None related to the events at issue. I do not understand Mr. Giuliani's motives for attacking me nor can I offer an opinion on whether he believed the allegations he spread about me. Clearly no one at the State Department did.
SCHIFF: And were these smears also amplified by the president's son Donald Trump, Jr. as well as certain hosts on FOX?
YOVANOVITCH: Yes. Yes. That is the case.
HOLMES: Beginning in March 2019 the situation at the embassy and in Ukraine changed dramatically. Specifically the three priorities of security, economy and justice. And our support for Ukrainian democratic resistance to Russian aggression became overshadowed by a political agenda promoted by former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with the direct channel to the White House.
DANIEL GOLDMAN, SENIOR ADVISER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE DEMOCRATS: Ambassador Yovanovitch, on April 24th of this year, at approximately 10:00 p.m., you received a telephone call while you were at the embassy in Kiev from the director general of the State Department.
YOVANOVITCH: Around 1:00 in the morning. She called me again and she said that there were great concerns. There were concerns up the street. And she said I needed to get come home immediately, get on the next plane, to the U.S.
GOLDMAN: You said there were concerns up the street. What did you understand that to mean?
YOVANOVITCH: The White House. When I returned to the United States, Deputy Secretary of State Sullivan told me there had been a concerted campaign against me. That the president no longer wished me to serve as ambassador to Ukraine and that the president had been pushing for my removal since the prior summer.
JENNIFER WILLIAMS, AIDE TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: On April 21st, Volodymyr Zelensky won the election. On April 23rd, the vice president called to congratulate President-elect Zelensky. During the call, which I participated in, the vice president accepted an invitation to attend President-elect Zelensky's upcoming inauguration providing that the scheduling worked out. On May 13th, an assistant to the vice president's chief of staff called and informed me that President Trump had decided that the vice president would not attend the inauguration in Ukraine.
STEVE CASTOR, GENERAL COUNSEL, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE REPUBLICANS: Do you know the president decided?
WILLIAMS: No. She did not have that information. HOLMES: In fact, at one point during a preliminary meeting of the
inaugural delegation someone wondered aloud why Mr. Giuliani was so active in the media with respect to Ukraine. My recollection is that Ambassador Sondland stated, quote, "Damn it, Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and F's everything up."
The inauguration took place on May 20th and I took notes in the delegations meeting with President Zelensky.
SONDLAND: I Attended President Zelensky's inauguration on May 20th as part of the U.S. delegation which was led by Energy Secretary Rick Perry. The U.S. delegation also included Senator Johnson, Ukraine Special Envoy Volker, and Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman of the National Security Council.
We were impressed by President Zelensky's desire to promote a stronger relationship with the United States. We admired his commitment to reform and we were excited that Ukraine might, after years and years of lip service, finally get serious about addressing its own well- known corruption problems. With that enthusiasm we returned to the White House on May 23rd to brief President Trump.
COLLINS: Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, and the former special enjoy to Ukraine, which was Kurt Volker. They returned and they go meet with the president and they're excited. They're telling him that they think this new Ukrainian president is really committed to reform.
SONDLAND: To support this reformer we asked the White House for two things. First, a working phone call between President Trump and Zelensky. And second a working Oval Office visit. In our view, both were vital to cementing the U.S.-Ukraine relationship.
KURT VOLKER, FORMER SPECIAL ENVOY TO UKRAINE: The president was very skeptical. Given Ukraine's history of corruption, that's understandable. He said that Ukraine was a corrupt country. Full of terrible people. He said they tried to take me down.
SONDLAND: 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.
VOLKER: I didn't take it as an instruction. I took it as that just part of the dialogue. That I hear other things, I hear them from Rudy Giuliani or other people, that's not what's going on. He is surrounded by terrible people. Talk to Rudy.
SONDLAND: Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the expressed direction of the president of the United States. We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we were playing the hand we were dealt.
COLLINS: So Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, had just been ordered home. But there was no one to replace her at the time that all of this was going on. So there was essentially this void of leadership of someone as this essential emissary between the U.S. and Ukraine at that moment. And that's where everyone else stepped in.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): During that gap in time, Ambassador Sondland visited the White House along with others and got directions from President Trump to talk to Rudy.
Those were his words. Talk to Rudy about what to do in Ukraine. Right?
YOVANOVITCH: That's my understanding.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: In other words, isn't it the case that your departure and the one month gap between the time you left and when Ambassador Taylor arrived provided the perfect opportunity for another group of people to basically take over Ukraine policy? Is that right?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Ambassador, you're going to have to speak a little louder into the mic.
YOVANOVITCH: Yes. Yes.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you.
SONDLAND: Mr. Giuliani's request were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election, DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States and we knew these investigations were important to the president.
RAJU: So on July 10th at the White House, Gordon Sondland, John Bolton, Fiona Hill are meeting with top Ukrainian officials.
COLLINS: This meeting is at the center of everything essentially. These Ukrainian officials came to the White House thinking they were going to cement this relationship that had been a little confusing with the United States. But during that meeting Gordon Sondland, this ambassador to the E.U., starts to turn the conversation to these investigations that President Trump and Rudy Giuliani wanted.
VINDMAN: To the best of my recollection, Ambassador Sondland said that in order to get a White House meeting the Ukrainians would have to provide a deliverable, which is investigations. Specific investigations.
SCHIFF: And what was Ambassador Bolton's response or reaction to that comment? VINDMAN: We had not completed all of the agenda items and we still
had time for the meeting and Ambassador Bolton abruptly ended the meeting.
HILL: It was definitely in the wrap-up phase of the meeting. Ambassador Sondland leaned in basically to say well, we have an agreement that there will be a meeting, specific investigations are put under way. And that's when I saw Ambassador Bolton stiffen. And basically said well, you know, it's been really great to see you. I'm afraid I've got another meeting.
GOLDMAN: And did Ambassador Sondland say who his agreement on this White House meeting was with?
HILL: In that particular juncture I don't believe so. It was later -- later he said that he had an agreement with Chief of Staff Mulvaney in return for investigations this meeting would get scheduled.
GOLDMAN: And was he specific at the point later about the investigations that he was referring to?
HILL: He said the investigations in Burisma.
VINDMAN: Ambassador Sondland referred to investigations into the Bidens and Burisma in 2016.
SONDLAND: While I am now aware of accounts of the meeting from Dr. Hill and Lt. Col. Vindman, their recollections of those events simply don't square with my own or with those of Ambassador Volker or Secretary Perry. I recall mentioning the prerequisite of investigations before any White House call or meeting. But I do not recall any yelling or screaming or abrupt terminations others have said.
VOLKER: The meeting was essentially over when Ambassador Sondland made a general comment about investigations. I think all of us thought it was inappropriate. The conversation did not continue and the meeting concluded. Later on in the ward room, I may have been engaged in a side conversation or had already left the complex because I do not recall further discussion regarding investigations of Burisma.
GOLDMAN: You also reported this incident to the NSC lawyers. Is that right?
GOLDMAN: Why did you report this meeting and this conversation to the NSC lawyers?
VINDMAN: Because it was inappropriate.
COLLINS: Within hours of that meeting Lieutenant Colonel Vindman went to the NSC lawyer to talk about his complaint and his concerns with what had just gone down. But he wasn't the only person. Fiona Hill was in there as well and her boss, John Bolton, the National Security adviser, told her to go straight to the attorneys as well.
HILL: Specific instruction was that I had to go to the lawyers. To John Eisenberg, our senior counsel for the National Security Council, to basically say you tell Eisenberg Ambassador Bolton told me that I am not part of the -- this whatever drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland are cooking up.
GOLDMAN: What did you understand him to mean by the drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland were cooking up?
HILL: I took it to mean investigations for a meeting.
GOLDMAN: Did you go speak to the lawyers?
HILL: I certainly did.
COLLINS: So July 18th that's the really the first day that senior administration officials learned that through President Trump the Office of Management and Budget had frozen this congressionally mandated military aid package to Ukraine.
TAYLOR: For the end of an otherwise normal meeting a voice on the call, the person was off screen, said that she was from OMB and her boss instructed her not to approve any additional spending on security assistance for Ukraine until further notice. I and others sat in astonishment. Ukrainians were fighting Russians and counted on not only the training and weapons but also the assurance of U.S. support.
All that the OMB staff person said was that the directive had come from the president, to the chief of staff, to OMB.
HOLMES: The official said that the order had come from the president. They have been conveyed to OMB by Mr. Mulvaney with no further explanation.
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): So by the time President Trump froze the aid the Department of Defense had spent weeks if not months determining that the Ukraine government meant every requirement in the law and made significant strides in combatting corruption. Is that correct?
LAURA COOPER, DEPUTY ASSISTANT OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIA, UKRAINE, AND EURASIA: That's correct. We made that determination in May.
GOLDMAN: You understood the Ukrainians received no credible explanation. Is that right?
SONDLAND: I certainly didn't -- couldn't give them one.
GOLDMAN: So this kind of a two plus two equals four conclusion that you reached?
SONDLAND: Pretty much.
GOLDMAN: It's the only logical conclusion to you that given all of these factors that the aide was also a part of this quid pro quo? SONDLAND: Yes. President Trump never told me directly that the aide
was conditioned on the meetings. The only thing we got directly from Giuliani was that the Burisma in 2016 elections were conditioned on the White House meeting. The aide was my own personal, you know, guess based again on your analogy, two plus two equals four.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): You believe you have some evidence that the Ukrainians first inquired about security assistance to someone in your office on July 25 of this year. Is that right?
L. COOPER: That's correct.
SWALWELL: July 25 is also the day that President Trump officially talked to President Zelensky where investigations of the Bidens were brought up. Is that right?
L. COOPER: Sir, I only know what has been reported publicly on this.
SWALWELL: And that was reported. Is that right?
L. COOPER: That's correct.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The July 25th call between Zelensky and Trump is the most important fact in this entire inquiry. Why? Because there actually the president's own words. It's his rough summation but it's the real first official White House statement we have that says what was the nature of the conversation.
WILLIAMS: I found the July 25th phone call unusual because in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.
COLLINS: So the transcript of Trump's call with the Ukrainian president set off alarm bells because as you're reading it, you see that when the Ukrainian leader brings up that needed military aid, the president's next line is, "I would like you to do us a favor, though." Then he brings up that theory that is debunked by some of his own former officials that Ukraine interfered in the election, not Russia, and then he brings up the allegation that's unproven that Joe Biden used his position as vice president to help his son who was on the board of that Ukrainian company.
WILLIAMS: I thought that the references to specific individuals and investigations such as former vice president Biden and his son struck me as political in nature given that the former vice president is a political opponent of the president.
VINDMAN: Without hesitation I knew that I had to report this to the White House counsel. I had concerns and it was my duty to report my concerns to the proper people in the chain of command.
SCHIFF: And what was your concern?
VINDMAN: It was inappropriate, it was improper for the president to request, to demand an investigation into a political opponent.
GOLDMAN: Now, Mr. Morrison, were these references to CrowdStrike, the server in 2016 election, and to Vice President Biden and his son -- were they included in the president's talking points?
TIM MORRISON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL RUSSIA EXPERT: They were not.
COLLINS: Tim Morrison was an interesting figure who testified, and you've got to keep in mind he was a political appointee, not this career official in this position. So he also went to the NSC lawyer to talk about the president's call with the Ukrainian leader. He said his concerns were not about the president's conduct and whether or not it was appropriate. But he feared that the transcript of that call would leak and would become a political disaster.
GOLDMAN: Now in a second meeting with Mr. Eisenberg, what did you recommend that he do to prevent the call record from leaking?
MORRISON: I recommended we restrict access to the package.
GOLDMAN: Had you ever asked the NSC legal adviser to restrict access before?
GOLDMAN: Did you subsequently learn that the call record had been put in a highly classified system?
MORRISON: I did.
GOLDMAN: And what reason did Mr. Eisenberg give you for why the call record was put in the highly classified system?
MORRISON: It was a mistake.
GOLDMAN: He said it was just a mistake?
MORRISON: It was an administrative error.
COLLINS: July 25th is going to be one of the most memorable days of Donald Trump's presidency. But the day after might come as a close second.
COLLINS: July 25th might be one of the most memorable days of Donald Trump's presidency. But July 26th is going to be a close second.
SONDLAND: On July 26th, Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Volker and I were all in Kiev to meet with President Zelensky. The timing of the trip immediately after the call between President Trump and Zelensky was entirely, entirely coincidental. On July 26th shortly after our Kiev meetings, I spoke by phone with President Trump. The call lasted five minutes. I remember I was at a restaurant in Kiev. Other witnesses have recently shared their recollection of overhearing this call. For the most part, I have no reason to doubt their accounts.
COLLINS: While he's there, he's dining with David Holmes, who's a top official at the U.S. embassy in Ukraine.
HOLMES: The restaurant has sort of glass doors that open onto a terrace. And we were at the first tables on the terrace. I was directly across from Ambassador Sondland. We were close enough that we could, you know, share an appetizer between us.
TAYLOR: In the presence of my staff at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kiev. The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone asking Ambassador Sondland about the investigations.
HOLMES: I heard him announce himself several times along the lines of, Gordon Sondland holding for the president. It appeared that he was being transferred through several layers of switchboards and assistance and I then noticed Ambassador Sondland's misdemeanor changed and understood that he had been connected to President Trump.
While Ambassador Sondland's phone was not on speaker, I could hear the president's voice through the ear piece of the phone. I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the president and explained he was calling from Kiev. I heard President Trump then clarified that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine.
Ambassador Sondland replied yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state that President Zelensky, quote, "loves your ass." I then heard President Trump asks, so he's going to do the investigation? Ambassador Sondland replied that he's going to do it, adding that President Zelensky will do anything you ask him to do.
COLLINS: Now essentially what was at stake were two things here. Not only the military aide that Ukraine so desperately wanted but also a White House meeting which the wanted so they could show Russia they had the support of the United States behind them.
GOLDMAN: You have no reason to question his recollection of that, do you?
SONDLAND: I'm not going to dispute what he did or didn't hear.
HOLMES: After the call ended Ambassador Sondland remarked that the president was in a bad mood. As Ambassador Sondland stated it was often the case early in the morning. I then took the opportunity to ask Ambassador Sondland for his candid impression of the president's views on Ukraine.
In particular I asked Ambassador Sondland if it was true that the president did not give a expletive about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland agreed that the president did not give an expletive about Ukraine. I asked why not?
[20:30:10] Ambassador Sondland stated that the President only cares about big
stuff. I noted there was big stuff going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia. And Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant big stuff, that benefits the President. Like the Biden investigation, that Mr. Giuliani was pushing.
COATES: Rudy Giuliani is the President's personal attorney. He also seems to be the middleman between U.S. and Ukrainian foreign diplomacy.
STEVE CASTOR, GENERAL COUNSEL, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE REPUBLICANS: You testified Mr. Giuliani's requests for a quid pro quo for the White House meeting. And you indicated that you believe that was -- he was evincing President Trump's interest, correct?
GORDON SONDLAND, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: My contact with Mr. Giuliani began, as I said, very late in the process, after August 1st, when I was first introduced to him, by a text, from Ambassador Volker.
CASTOR: You testified that Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President, correct?
SONDLAND: That's our understanding, yes.
CASTOR: But how did you know that? Who told you?
SONDLAND: Well, when the President says, talk to my personal attorney and then Mr. Giuliani as his personal attorney, makes certain requests or demands, we assume it's coming from the President.
KURT VOLKER, FORMER SPECIAL ENVOY TO UKRAINE: President Zelensky's senior aide, Andriy Yermak, approached me to ask to be connected to Mayor Giuliani.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Andriy Yermak is a name that a lot of people wouldn't recognize. But he's a key figure in all of this. Because he was someone who was on the receiving end of a lot of this pressure from Rudy Giuliani and top officials, to get what President Trump wanted.
VOLKER: I connected Mayor Giuliani and Mr. Yermak by text, and later by phone. They met in person, on August 2nd, 2019. In conversations with me, following that meeting, which I did not attend, Mr. Giuliani said that he had stressed the importance of Ukraine conducting investigations into what happened in the past.
CASTOR: There's a 215 or something text messages between you, Volker and Ambassador Taylor.
COATES: So, in early August, a lot of texts ramp up from Sondland and other aides. It's important because when you're trying to establish a record, you want to see if there's any memorialization of everyone's understanding of what's happening.
DANIEL GOLDMAN, SENIOR ADVISOR AND DIRECTOR OF INVESTIGATIONS, HPSCI: Let's start on August 9th. This is a text exchange between you and Ambassador Sondland, where Ambassador Sondland writes at the top, Morrison ready to get dates as soon as Yermak confirms. And what did you respond?
VOLKER: I said, excellent, with two exclamation points. How did you sway him? With a smile afterwards.
GOLDMAN: Ambassador Sondland responded, not sure I did. I think POTUS really wants the deliverable. And what did you say to that?
VOLKER: But how does he know that?
GOLDMAN: Have you discussed confirming a date for a White House visit for President Zelensky with Ambassador Sondland, around this time?
TIM MORRISON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL RUSSIA EXPERT: I likely would have.
GOLDMAN: And now, to the next day on August 10th, there's another text exchange between you and Mr. Yermak. If you could read what you wrote.
VOLKER: I wrote, I agree with your approach. Let's iron out statement and use that to get date and then President Zelensky can go forward with it.
GOLDMAN: And Mr. Yermak responds, once we have a date, we will call for a press briefing, announcing upcoming visit and out lining vision for the reboot of U.S.-Ukraine relationship, including among other things, Burisma and election meddling in investigations. And what did you respond?
VOLKER: Sounds great.
GOLDMAN: Now, the date that he's referring to, that is the date for the White House visit?
VOLKER: That's correct.
SONDLAND: The following day, August 11th, and this is critical, I sent an e-mail to Counselor Brechbuhl and Lisa Kenna. Lisa Kenna was frequently used as the pathway to Secretary Pompeo, sometimes he preferred to receive his e-mails through her, with the subject, Ukraine.
I wrote, Mike, referring to Mike Pompeo, Kurt and I negotiated a statement from Zelensky, to be delivered for our review in a day or two. The contents will hopefully make the boss happy enough, the boss being the President, to authorize an invitation.
Zelensky plans to have a big presser, press conference, on the openness subject, including specifics next week. Ms. Kenna replied, Gordon, I'll pass to the secretary. Thank you. Again, everyone was in the loop.
COLLINS: Gordon Sondland's quote that everybody was in the loop, might have been one of the most devastating ones to come out of his testimony, bringing everyone in the President's inner circle, into the middle of this.
RAJU: August 12th is a crucial date, that is the day that the whistleblower filed his or her complaint, detailing what he or she witnessed as abuse of power by the President.
COLLINS: You could read the concerns of a government official who not only was worried that the President was trying to solicit foreign interference in an American election, but also that the White House was trying to cover it up.
GEORGE KENT, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: In mid-August, it became clear to me that Giuliani's efforts to gin up politically- motivated investigations, were now infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine. Leveraging President Zelensky's desire for a White House meeting.
WILLIAM TAYLOR, ACTING UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: By mid- August, because the security systems had been held for over a month, for no reason that I could discern. I was beginning to fear that the long-standing U.S. policy of support for Ukraine was shifting.
On August 22nd, during a phone conversation with Mr. Morrison, I asked him if there had been a change in policy, a strong support for Ukraine, to which he responded, it remains to be seen. He also told me that during this call, that the President doesn't want to provide any assistance at all.
HOLMES: Shortly thereafter on August 27th, Ambassador Bolton visited Ukraine. And brought welcome news that President Trump had agreed to meet President Zelensky on September 1st, in Warsaw.
[20:40:07] Ambassador Bolton further indicated that the hold on security assistance would not be lifted prior to the Warsaw meeting, where it would hang on whether President Zelensky was able to favorably impress President Trump.
I heard Bolton expressed to Ambassador Taylor and National Security Council Senior Director, Tim Morrison, his frustration about Mr. Giuliani's influence with the President, making clear there was nothing he could do about it.
RAJU: August 28th is when the Politico story comes out, detailing that this money had been held up.
COLLINS: It changed a lot of things, because it not only made the public aware of this, and essentially put the White House in the spotlight here, to answer questions about what was going on.
VOLKER: I believe the Ukrainians became aware of the hold on August 29th, and not before.
TAYLOR: Near the end of Ambassador Bolton's visit, I asked to meet him privately, during which I expressed to him my serious concern about the withholding of military assistance to Ukraine, while the Ukrainians were defending their country from Russian aggression. Ambassador Bolton recommended that I send a first-person cable to Secretary Pompeo, directly, relaying my concerns.
I wrote and transmitted such a cable on August 29th, describing the folly I saw in withholding military aid to Ukraine at a time when hostilities were still active in the east and when Russia was watching closely to gauge the level of American support for the Ukrainian government.
I told the Secretary that I could not and would not defend such a policy. It had still not occurred to me that the hold on security assistance could be related to the investigations.
SONDLAND: I tried diligently to ask why the aid was suspended. But I never received a clear answer. Still haven't to this day. In the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine, committing to the investigations of the 2016 elections and Burisma, as Mr. Giuliani had demanded.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Zelensky, it is a great honor to meet you.
RAJU: September 1st, Vice President Mike Pence goes to Warsaw to meet with President Zelensky of Ukraine. President Trump stays back in the U.S. to deal with Hurricane Dorian, which was baring down in the U.S.
GOLDMAN: What was the first thing that President Zelensky asked Vice President Pence about it, that meeting?
JENNIFER WILLIAMS, AIDE TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: President Zelensky asked the Vice President about the status of security assistance for Ukraine. Because he had seen the Politico article and other news reporting that the security assistance was being held.
SONDLAND: I mentioned Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians, that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations. I recall mentioning that before the Zelensky meeting. And the Vice President nodded, like, you know, he heard what I said and that was pretty much it, as I recall.
COLLINS: Now, the Vice President's office has denied this, saying that that conversation didn't happen. The two of them never met in that capacity and he didn't bring up his concern.
RAJU: So, after Pence and Zelensky meet, Gordon Sondland also goes and talks to a top Ukrainian official and makes clear that aid is likely held up until Ukraine announces his investigations.
SONDLAND: I told Mr. Yermak that I believe that the resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine took some kind of action on the public statement that we had been discussing for many weeks. As my other State Department colleagues have testified, this security aid was critical to Ukraine's defense and should not have been delayed.
TAYLOR: Very concerned on that same day, September 1st, I sent Ambassador Sondland a text message, asking if we are now saying that the security assistance and a White House meeting are conditioned on investigations. Ambassador Sondland responded, asking me to call him, which I did.
During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelensky to state, publicly, that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. It's one thing to try to leverage a meeting in the White House.
It's another thing, I thought, to leverage security assistance -- security assistance to a country, at war, dependent on both the security assistance and the demonstration of support. It was -- it was much more alarming. The White House meeting was one thing, security assistance was much more alarming.
COLLINS: The September 1st meeting and what was communicated to the Ukrainians about what they needed to do to get this military aid, potentially a White House meeting, which still hasn't happened, really is just what Democrats say another pillar in making their case, that the President was abusing his power to get what he wanted, an investigation into his domestic political rival.
TAYLOR: I express my strong reservations in a text message to Ambassador Sondland, stating that my nightmare is that they, the Ukrainians, give the interview and don't get the security assistance. The Russians love it. And I quit. And I was serious.
The next day, September 9th, I said to Ambassador Sondland and Volker that the message to the Ukrainians and the Russians we send, with the decision on security assistance is key. With the hold, we have already shaken their faith in us.
COLLINS: So, the picture that you get from the testimony of these officials of what it was like in those final few days before the aide was released, is pretty bleak. And for some officials like Ambassador Bill Taylor, they were potentially on the verge of quitting their jobs.
RAJU: Bill Taylor is extremely concerned. And he wants his aid released because it is vital to the life and death of Ukrainians. Gordon Sondland is having -- had a conversation with the President during this time in which the President tries to make clear to him that there's no quid pro quo.
SONDLAND: I finally called the President. I believe it was on the 9th of September. I can't find the records, and they won't provide them to me. But I believe I just asked him an open-ended question. Mr. Chairman, what do you want from Ukraine? I keep hearing all these different ideas and theories and this and that, what do you want?
And it was a very short, abrupt conservation. He was not in a very good mood. And he just said, I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing, something to that effect.
So, I typed out a text to Ambassador Taylor, and my reason for telling him this was, simply to relay -- I've gone as far as I can go. This is the final word that I heard from the President of the United States.
TAYLOR: I also said I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign. Ambassador Sondland responded about five hours later that I was incorrect about President Trump's intentions. Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman.
When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, the businessman asks that person to pay up, before signing the check. Ambassador Volker used the same language several hours later, while we were together at the Yalta European Strategy Conference. I argued to both, that the explanation made no sense. Ukrainians did not owe President Trump anything.
RAJU: So, on September 11th, the aid is finally released. And this is a message that Pence makes himself to President Zelensky in a phone call, and saying the aid is on the way.
COLLINS: If you talked to the administration or their Republican allies, they say it was because those concerns they had about corruption in Ukraine had finally been tamped down. They had finally been assured by these Ukrainian officials that they were going to change and they were committed to reform.
If you talk to Democrats or critics of the administration, they say it's much more nefarious than that, and that it had to do with an announcement from House Democrats. They were going to investigate what Rudy Giuliani was doing and, of course, the whistleblower complaint at the center of it all.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): I'm just going to pick up on that September 9th conversation which the President allegedly said, I want nothing, I don't want a quid pro quo. I presume that on this September 9th conversation, the President did not mention that that was the same day that we launched a congressional investigation into whether there was a quid pro quo. Did he say that?
SONDLAND: Again, I know all of that today, but he did not -- we didn't have a time to talk about things like that.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And I presume he also didn't mention the whistleblower complaint that also alleged that there was a quid pro quo that day.
SONDLAND: He did not.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: OK. So, you can't rule out the possibility that the reason why he started talking that way, on that day, is because of the congressional investigation?
SONDLAND: I can't rule that out.
TAYLOR: Finally, on September 11th, I learned that the hold had been lifted and security assistance would be provided. I was not told the reason why the hold had been lifted.
DR. FIONA HILL, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR EUROPE AND RUSSIA: This is exactly what the Russian government was hoping for. They have everyone questioning the legitimacy of a presidential candidate, be it President Trump or potentially President Clinton. That they would pit one side of our electorate against the other, that they would pit one party against the other.
RAJU: The Democrats believe the evidence is crystal clear. The President dangled $400 million in military aid that a vulnerable ally needed to fight back Russian aggression and dangled a White House meeting that could help the President, politically.
Republicans say there is no link between what the President wanted, the investigations, and those official actions. But there is witness after witness describe what they said was a highly unusual process, a political process, and something that they believe undercut national security.
LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAN, DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: I privately reported my concerns in official channels to the proper authority in the chain of command. My intent was to raise these concerns because they had significant national security implications for our country.
MARIE YOVANOVITCH, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: I still find it difficult to comprehend that foreign and private interests were able to undermine U.S. interests in this way. Individuals who apparently felt stymied by our efforts to promote stated U.S. policy against corruption, that is to do our mission, were able to successfully conduct a campaign of disinformation against a sitting ambassador using unofficial back channels.
HOLMES: And although the hold on the security assistance may have been lifted, there are still things they wanted that they weren't getting, including meeting with the President in the Oval Office.
[20:55:11] Whether the hold continued or not, Ukrainians understood that that's something the President wanted and they still wanted important things from the President. COLLINS: Republicans have argued that the President should not be impeached over this because there's no evidence he explicitly asked anyone to hold up the aid to get the investigations.
But the picture painted by these officials who testified, some of them Trump appointees, some of them career officials, shows that there was one reason that these officials were pursuing this, and that's because they thought it's what Trump wanted.
RAJU: It seems almost certain that President Trump will be just a third president in American history who will be impeached. This is going to happen quickly, likely over the next few weeks in the House, and in the Senate, will have a trial, and he's almost certainly going to be acquitted by Republicans in the Senate who are just not convinced yet that the President should be removed from office.
And ultimately, it'll be up to the voters to decide whether the President deserves four more years in office.
ANNOUNCER: The following is a CNN Special Report.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a scam. It's a whole hoax. They've defeated ISIS.
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JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We all know he does it.
TRUMP: The whistleblower's been very inaccurate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's the Babe Ruth of lies.