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CNN Live Event/Special
The Impeachment Trial of Donald J. Trump Continues. Aired 4:30- 5p ET
Aired January 27, 2020 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:30:00] PHILBIN: -- Professor Gerhardt explained that Tyler's attempts to protect and assert what he regarded as the prerogatives of his office were a function of his constitutional and policy judgments, and they could not be used -- the Congress determined -- to impeach him.
President Trump's resistance to congressional subpoenas was no less a function of his constitutional and policy judgments, and it provides no basis to impeach him.
I'd like to close with a final thought. One of the greatest issues and perhaps the greatest issue for your consideration in this case, is how the precedent set in this case will affect the future.
The framers recognized that there would be partisan and illegitimate impeachments. Hamilton expressly warned, in Federalist No. 65, about impeachments that reflected what he called, quote, "the persecution of an intemperate or designing majority in the House of Representatives," end quote.
That is exactly what this case presents. And Justice Story recognized that the Senate provided the proper tribunal for trying impeachments because it was believed by the framers to have a greater sense of obligations to the future -- to future generations. Not to be swayed by the passions of the moment.
And one of the essential questions here is will this chamber adopt a standard for impeachment, a diluted standard that fundamentally disrupts, damages, alters the separation of powers in our constitutional structure of government.
Because that is what both the first article for reasons that Judge Starr and Professor Dershowitz have covered. And the second article, the obstruction charge would do. And so I'll -- I'll close just with a quotation from one of the Republican senators who crossed the aisle and voted against convicting President Andrew Johnson during his impeachment trial.
It was Lyman Trumbull who explained, I think, the great principle that applies here. He said quote, once we set the example of impeaching a president for what when the excitement of the hour shall have subsided will be regarded as insufficient causes.
No future president will be safe and what then becomes of the checks and balances of the Constitution so carefully devised and so vital to its perpetuity. They are all gone. Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice. I'll yield to Mr. Sekulow.
SEKULOW: Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Senate, House managers; Mr. Philbin talked about the importance -- just concluded on the importance of executive privilege. Professor Turley who testified before the House said we have three branches of government, not two.
If you impeach a president, if you make a high crime and misdemeanor out of going to court, it is an abuse of power. It's your abuse of power. With regard to executive privilege it was Mr. Nadler who said -- called it executive privilege and other nonsense.
When Attorney General Holder refused to comply with the subpoena's President Obama invoked executive privilege arguing, and I quote, compelled disclosure would be in consistent with the separation of powers established in the Constitution.
Executive power and other nonsense. Manager Schiff wrote that the White House assertion of executive privilege was backed by decades of precedent that has been recognized and has recognized the need for the president and his senior advisors to receive candid advice and information from their top aides.
Executive privilege and other nonsense. The nonsense -- and we talked about this the other night. Is to treat the separation of powers and constitutional privileges as if their asbestos in the ceiling tiles. You can't touch them.
That's not the way the Constitution is designed. We're going to now turn our attention to a separate topic. It's one that was -- been discussed a lot on the floor here and will be discussed now.
Presenting for the president is the former attorney general for the state of Florida, Pam Bondi. She is also a prosecutor -- a career prosecutor. She's handled countless cases. She's going to discuss an issue that the House managers have put pretty much at the center of their case.
And that's the issue of corruption in Ukraine particular with regard to a company known as Burisma. I yield my time, Mr. Chief Justice to former Attorney General Pam Bondi.
BONDI: Chief Justice, Senators -- members of the Senate, when the House managers gave you their presentation, when they submitted their brief, they repeatedly referenced Hunter Biden and Burisma.
They spoke to you for over 21 hours and they referenced Biden or Burisma over 400 times. And when they gave these presentations, they said there was nothing -- nothing to see. It was a sham. This is fiction. In their trial memorandum the House managers described this as baseless.
Now, why did they say that. Why did they invoke Biden or Burisma over 400 times. The reason they needed to do that is because they're hear saying that the president must be impeached and removed from office for raising a concern.
And that's why we have to talk about this today. They say sham, they say baseless, because -- they say this because if it's OK for someone to say hey, you know what, maybe there's something here worth raising, then their case crumbles.
Because they have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there is no basis to raise this concern. But that's not what public records show. Here are just a few of the public sources that flagged questions surrounding this very same issue.
The United Kingdom serious fraud office; deputy assistant secretary of state, George Kent; Hunter Biden's former business associate, an ABC White House reporter, Good Morning America, ABC; the Washington Post; the New York Times; Ukrainian law enforcement; and the Obama state department itself.
They all raised this issue. We would prefer not to be talking about this. We would prefer not to be discussing this but the House managers have placed this squarely at issue so we must address it.
Let's look at the facts. In early 2014, Joe Biden, our Vice President of the United States, led the United States foreign policy in Ukraine with the goal of rooting out corruption. According to an annual study published by transparency international, during this time Ukraine was one of the most corrupt countries in the entire world.
In Ukraine there's a natural gas company called Burisma. Burisma has been owned by an oligarch named Mykola Zlochevsky. Here's what happened very shortly after Vice President Biden was made U.S. point man for Ukraine.
His son Hunter Biden ends up on the board of Burisma working for and paid by the oligarch, Zlochevsky. In February 2014, in the wake of anti-corruption uprising by the people of Ukraine, Zlochevsky flees the country.
Flees Ukraine. Zlochevsky, the oligarch, is well known. George Kent, the very first witness that the Democrats called during their public hearings, testified Zlochevsky stood out for his self-dealings even among other oligarchs.
House managers didn't tell you that. Ambassador Kurt Volker explained that Burisma had a quote, very bad reputation as a company for corruption and money laundering. End quote. House managers didn't tell you that.
Burisma was so corrupt that George Kent said he intervened to prevent U.S. aid from cosponsoring an event with Burisma. Do you know what this event was. It was a child's contest and the prize was a camera.
They were so bad, Burisma that our country wouldn't even co-sponsor a children's event with Burisma. In March 2014, the United Kingdom Serious Fraud Office opens a money laundering investigation into the oligarch, Zlochevsky, and his company, Burisma.
The very next month, April 2014, according to a public report, Hunter Biden quietly joins the board of Burisma. Remember early 2014 was when Vice President Biden began leading Ukraine policy.
Here's how Hunter Biden came to join Burisma's board in April 2014. He was brought on the board by Devon Archer, his business partner. Devon Archer was college roommates with Chris Heinz, step-son of Secretary of State, John Kerry.
All three men; Hunter Biden, Devon Archer, and Chris Heinz had all started an investment firm together. Public records show that April 16, 2014; Devon Archer meets with Vice President Biden at the White House.
Just two days later, on April 18, 2014 is when Hunter Biden quietly joins Burisma, according to public reporting. Remember, this is just one month after the United Kingdom's Serious Fraud Office opened a money laundering case into Burisma Hunter Biden joins the board.
And not only 10 days after Hunter Biden joins the board, British authorities seize $23 million in British bank accounts connected to the oligarch, Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma.
Did Hunter Biden leave the board then? No. The British authorities also announced that it had started a criminal investigation into potential money laundering. Did Hunter Biden leave the board, no.
What happened was then -- only then did the company choose to announce that Hunter Biden had joined the board after the assets of Burisma and its oligarch owner, Zlochevsky were frozen and a criminal investigation had begun.
Hunter Biden's decision to join Burisma raised flags almost immediately. One article from May 2014 stated the appointment of Joe Biden's son to the board of Ukrainian gas firm Burisma has raised eyebrows the world over."
Even an outlet with bias for Democrats pointed out Hunter Biden's activities created a conflict of interest for Joe Biden. The article stated, "The move raises question about a potential conflict of interest for Joe Biden."
And even Chris Heinz, Hunter Biden's own business partner, had grave concerns. He thought that working with Burisma was unacceptable -- this is Chris Heinz. He was worried about the corruption, the geopolitical risk and how bad it would look. So he wisely distances himself from Hunter Biden and Devon Archer's appointments to Burisma.
He didn't simply call his stepfather, the secretary of state, and say, I have a problem with this. He didn't tell his friends, hey guys, I'm not getting on the board, I want nothing to do with this. He went so far as to send an e-mail to senior State Department officials about this issue.
This is Chris Heinz. He wrote, "Apparently, Devon and Hunter have joined the board of Burisma, and a press release went out today. I can't speak to why they decided to, but there is no investment by our firm in their company."
What did Hunter Biden do? He stayed on the board. What did Chris Heinz do? He subsequently stopped doing business with his college roommate Devon Archer and his friend, Hunter Biden.
Chris Heinz' spokesperson said, "The lack of judgment in this matter was a major catalyst for Mr. Heinz ending his business relationship with Mr. Archer and Mr. Biden."
Now, the media also noticed. The same day, an ABC News reporter asked Obama White House Press Secretary Jay Carney about it. Here's what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): Hunter Biden has now taken a position with the largest oil and gas company -- holding company in Ukraine. Is there any concern about at least the appearance of a -- of a conflict there, the vice president's son...
CARNEY: I would refer you to the vice president's office. I saw those reports. You know, Hunter Biden and other members of the Biden family are obviously private citizens, and where they work is not -- does not reflect an endorsement by the administration or by the president or president, but I would refer you to the vice president's office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BONDI: The next day, the Washington Post ran a story about it. It said, "The appointment of the vice president's son to a Ukrainian oil board looks nepotistic at best, nefarious at worst." Again, "The appointment of the vice president's son to a Ukrainian oil board looks nepotistic at best, nefarious at worst."
And the media didn't stop questioning -- asking questions here, it kept going. Here's ABC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: You have to fight the cancer of corruption.
(UNKNOWN): But then, something strange happened. Just three weeks later, a Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma, accused of corruption, appoints Hunter Biden, seen here in their promotional videos, to their board of directors, paying his firm more than a million dollars a year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BONDI: Here's more from ABC, continued on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) (UNKNOWN): And Ukraine wasn't the only country where Hunter Biden's business and his father's diplomacy as vice president intersected. It also happened in China.
This video shows Chinese diplomats greeting Vice President Biden as he arrived in Beijing in December of 2013. Right by his side? His son, Hunter. Less than two weeks later, Hunter's firm had new business, creating an investment fund in China involving the government- controlled Bank of China, with reports they hoped to raise $1.5 billion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BONDI: In fact, every witness who was asked about Hunter Biden's involvement with Burisma agreed there was a potential appearance of a conflict of interest. Multiple House Democrat witnesses, including those from the Department of State, the National Security Council and others, unanimously testified there was a potential appearance of a conflict of interest. These were their witnesses.
How much money did Hunter Biden get for being on the board? Well, if you start looking at these bank records, according to reports, between April 2014 and October 2015, Burisma paid more than $3.1 million to Devon Archer and Hunter Biden. That's over the course of a year and a half.
How do we know this? Some of Devon Archer's bank records were disclosed during an unrelated federal criminal case having nothing to do with Hunter Biden.
These bank records show 17 months that Burisma wired two payments of $83,333 not just for one month, for two months, for three months, but for 17 months. According to Reuters, sources report that of the two payments of $83,333 each, one was for Hunter Biden and one, Devon Archer.
Now, Hunter Biden was paid significantly more than board members from major U.S. Fortune 100 companies such as Goldman Sachs, Comcast, Citigroup. A typical board member of these Fortune 100 companies -- we know they're titans of their industry, they're highly qualified and as such, they're well compensated -- even so, Hunter Biden was paid significantly more.
This is how well he was compensated. So Hunter Biden is paid over $83,000 a month, while the average American family of four, during that time, each year, made less than $54,000. And that's according to the U.S. Census Bureau during that time.
And this is what's been reported about his work on the board. The Washington Post said, quote, "What specific duties Hunter Biden carried out for Burisma are not fully known," end quote.
The New Yorker reported, quote, "Once or twice a year, he attended Burisma board meetings and energy forums that took place in Europe," end quote.
When speaking with ABC News about his qualifications to be on Burisma's board, Hunter Biden didn't point to any of the usual qualifications of a board member. Hunter Biden had no experience in natural gas, no experience in the energy sector, no experience with Ukrainian regulatory affairs. As far as we know, he doesn't speak Ukrainian. So naturally, the media has asked questions about his board membership. Why was Hunter Biden on this board?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(UNKNOWN): If your last name wasn't "Biden," do you think you would have been asked to be on the board of Burisma?
H. BIDEN: I don't know, I don't know. Probably not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BONDI: So let's go back and talk about his time on the board. Remember, he joined Burisma's board, April 2014, while the United Kingdom had an open money laundering case against Burisma and its owner, the oligarch Zlochevsky.
On August 20th, 2014, four months later, the Ukrainian prosecutor general's office initiates a money-laundering investigation into the same oligarch, Zlochevsky. This is one of 15 investigations into Burisma and Zlochevsky, according to a recent public statement made by the current prosecutor general.
On January 16, 2015, prosecutors put Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma, on whose -- Hunter Biden sat on his board, on the country's wanted list for fraud, while Hunter Biden's on the board.
Then a British court orders Zlochevsky's $23 million in assets be unfrozen. Why was the money unfrozen. Deputy Assistant Secretary Kent testified to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENT: Somebody in the general prosecutor's office of Ukraine shut the case, issued a letter to his lawyer and that money went poof.
CASTOR: So essentially paid a bribe to make the case go away?
KENT: That is our strong assumption, yes, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BONDI: He also testified that the Ukrainian prosecutor general's office's actions led to the unfreezing of the assets. After George Kent's confirmation, that prosecutor was out.
Viktor Shokin becomes the prosecutor general. This is the prosecutor that you'll hear about later, the one that Vice President Biden has publicly said he wanted out of office. In addition to flagging questions about previous prosecutors' actions, George Kent also specifically voiced other concerns. This time, to the vice president's office about Hunter Biden. In February 2015, he raised concerns about Hunter Biden to Vice President Biden's office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENT: In a briefing call with the national security staff of the Office of the Vice President in February of 2015, I raised my concern that Hunter Biden's status as a board member could create the perception of a conflict of interest.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BONDI: But House managers didn't tell you that.
This is all while Hunter Biden sat on Burisma's board. Did Hunter Biden stop working for Burisma? No. Did Vice President Biden stop leading the Obama administration's foreign policy efforts in Ukraine? No.
In the meantime, Vice President Biden is still at the forefront of the U.S. Ukraine policy. He pledges a billion dollars' loan guarantee to Ukraine, contingent on its progress in rooting out corruption. Around the same time of the $1 billion announcement, other people raised the issue of a conflict.
As special -- Obama administration's special envoy for energy policy told The New Yorker, it raised Hunter Biden's participation on the board of Burisma, he raised it directly with the vice president himself. This is the special envoy to President Obama.
And the media had questions, too. December 8th, 2015, The New York Times publishes an article that Prosecutor General Shokin was investigating Burisma and its owner, Zlochevsky. The Times report, here's their quote. "The credibility of the vice president's anti- corruption message may have been undermined by the association of his son, Hunter Biden," end quote, with Burisma and its owner Zlochevsky.
And it wasn't just one reporter who asked questions about the line between Burisma and the Obama administration. As we learned recently through reporting on Fox News, on January 19th, 2016, there was a meeting between Obama administration officials and Ukrainian prosecutors.
Ken Vogel, journalist for The New York Times, asked the State Department about this meeting. He wanted more information about the meeting, quote, "where U.S. support for prosecutions of Burisma holdings in the United Kingdom and Ukraine were discussed," end quote. But the story never ran.
Around the time of the reported story, January 2016, meeting between the Obama administration and Ukrainian officials took place according to a Ukrainian press report, as translated, says, quote, "The U.S. Department of State made it clear to the Ukrainian authorities that it was linking the $1 billion in loan guarantees to the dismissal of prosecutor general Viktor Shokin," end quote.
Now, we all know, from the Obama administration and from the words of Vice President Biden himself, he advocated for the prosecutor general's dismissal. There was ongoing investigation into the oligarch Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma, at the time.
We know this because on February 2nd, 2016, the Ukrainian prosecutor general obtained a renewal of a court order to seize the Ukrainian oligarch's assets. A Kyiv Post article, published on February 4th, 2016, says the oligarch Zlochevsky is, quote, "suspected of committing a criminal offense of illicit enrichment," end quote.
Over the next few weeks, the vice president had multiple calls with Ukraine's President Poroshenko. Days after the last call, on February 24th, 2016, a D.C. consultant reached out to the State Department to request a meeting to discuss Burisma. We know what she said because the e-mail was released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The consultant explicitly invoked Hunter Biden's name as a board member. In an e-mail summarizing the call, the State Department official says that the consultant, quote, "noted that two high-profile citizens are affiliated with the company including Hunter Biden as a board member," end quote.
She added that the consultant would, quote, "like to talk with Under Secretary of State Novelli about getting a better understanding of how the U.S. came to the determination that the country is corrupt," end quote. To be clear, this e-mail documents that the U.S. government had determined Burisma to be corrupt.
And the consultant was seeking a meeting with an extremely senior State Department official to discuss the U.S. government's position. Her pitch for the meeting specifically used Hunter Biden's name. And according to the e-mail, the meeting was set for a few days later.
And later that month, on March 29th, 2016, the Ukrainian parliament finally votes to fire the prosecutor general. This is the prosecutor general investigating the oligarch owner of Burisma, on whose board Hunter Biden sat.
Two days after the prosecutor general was voted out, Vice President Biden announces that the U.S. will provide $335 million in security assistance to Ukraine. He soon announces that the U.S. will provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine.
Now, let's talk about one of the Democrats' central witnesses, Ambassador Yovanovitch. In May 2016 --