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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Gordon Sondland Next To Testify; Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) Is Interviewed About How He Views Today's Hearing On Capitol Hill; Public Impeachment Hearing; Key Question And Answer During Today's Testimony. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired November 19, 2019 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Thanks for joining us. Welcome to a late, live two-hour edition of 360.
We're now just hours away from what could be one of the most dramatic days yet of the impeachment hearings. A witness whose already changed his closed-door testimony once and made it more damaging to the president will be questioned tomorrow in public.
Gordon Sondland who changed his testimony to say that yes, he did deliver the ultimatum to Ukraine. No investigation of the Bidens, no military aid.
The question tonight what will he say this time under oath? We have reporting tonight the Republicans are concerned. We'll talk about that.
We begin however with testimony today from four other key witnesses and there was a lot it. Started at roughly 9 a.m. It didn't finish until about 8.25 p.m. Eastern Time.
There were a lot of highlights including one that came in the afternoon session from Kurt Volker, the former special enjoy to Ukraine who, like Gordon Sondland, also changed his prior testimony.
CNN's Jessica Schneider has all the key moments.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Four current and former Trump administration officials testifying during day three of the public impeachment hearings. All expressing differing degrees of disappointment and disapproval of the president's July 25th phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky where Trump pushed for investigations into the 2016 election and Bidens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM MORRISON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL TOP RUSSIAN EXPERT: I was hoping for a more full-throated statement of support from the president concerning President Zelensky's reform agenda.
JENNIFER WILLIAMS, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: 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.
KURT VOLKER, FORMER UNITED STATES SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR UKRAINE NEGOTIATIONS: In hindsight, I now understand that others saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involving the Ukrainian company Burisma as equivalent to investigating former President -- Vice President Biden.
I saw them as very different, the former being appropriate and unremarkable, the latter being unacceptable. In retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections.
ALEXANDER VINDMAN, DIRECTOR, EUROPEAN AFFAIRS FOR THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: It was inappropriate, it was improper for the president to request to demand an investigation into a political opponent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman still serving as the top Ukrainian expert on the National Security Council. The most outspoken. He is the one who twice reported his concerns about the call and recounted a July 10th White House meeting with Ukrainian officials where the expectation of investigations was made clear by E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VINDMAN: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Republicans didn't dispute the facts but instead, questioned Colonel Vindman's abilities.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): So, your boss had concerns about your judgment. Your former boss, Dr. Hill had concerns about your judgment. Your colleagues had concerns about your judgment. And your colleagues felt that there were times when you leaked information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Congressman Jordan potentially taking his queues from this tweet. From the official White House account sent out just before 10 a.m. "Tim Morrison, Alex Vindman's former boss testified in his deposition that he had concerns about Vindman's judgment." Vindman quickly countered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VINDMAN: I guess I'll start by reading Dr. Hill's own words. As she attested to in my last evaluation that was dated middle of July right before she left.
Alex is a top 1 percent military officer and the best army officer I've worked with in 15 years of government service. He's brilliant. Unflappable and exercises excellent judgment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Tim Morrison pushed back in the second part of the day. Saying he didn't want his words from his closed- door testimony weaponized.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MORRISON: I have great respect for the former colleagues from the NSC and the rest of the interagency. I'm not here today to question their character or integrity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: CNN has learned Colonel Vindman has asked the U.S. Army about the safety of his family since he's come under attack by President Trump and his allies. The army does not believe there's an imminent security threat according to an official. He paid tribute to his late father at the end of the opening statement. Assuring his family, they'll all be OK amidst the backlash on him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VINDMAN: Dad, I'm sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol talking to our elected professionals, talking to our elected professionals is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry. I will be fine for telling the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and former NSC official Tim Morrison were called as Republican witnesses. But they did little to bolster Republican talking points.
Volker amending earlier testimony now recalling Sondland talking about investigations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLKER: At the end of the meeting, I do recall having seen some of the other testimony I believe Ambassador Sondland did raise the point of investigations in a generic way.
This was after the meeting was already wrapping up. And I think all of us thought it was inappropriate. And the conversation did not pick up from there. The meeting was over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Top Republican Devin Nunes used his time to bat back Democrats new focus on bribery by the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): Did anyone ever ask you to bribe or extort anyone at any time during the time in the White House?
MORRISON: No, sir.
NUNES: Did anyone at the White House ask you to bribe or extort anything out of anyone at any time?
VOLKER: No, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: There was a lot of testimony. A lot to talk about tonight. Joining us our legal and political team, Michael Gerhardt, Nina -- Nia-Malika Henderson, David Axelrod, Elliot Williams, Jen Psaki, and Scott Jennings.
David, let's start with you. Ambassador Volker, I mean, he changed his story from what his original testimony was. Was it did it make sense his new story?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. A lot of what he said didn't make sense today except in the context of a guy who is trying to clean up his record to stay out of trouble and maybe to try and salvage his reputation.
But it really doesn't pass the smell test that you don't remember, you know, this key moment that everybody else seem to remember in a meeting where someone says something inappropriate and your boss says OK, this meeting is over. That's, you know, and now he said, yes, now that I've heard -- you know, I do remember something.
COOPER: He was also saying that he did not initially understand --
COOPER: -- the Burisma/Biden connection.
COOPER: That Burisma really about Biden.
AXELROD: You're talking about a guy who has been around diplomacy and public life for decades.
COOPER: At a very high level.
AXELROD: At a very high level. So, the notion that he didn't understand that, you know, stretches credulity. I really think he was just trying to salvage something here and protect himself from potential exposure legally.
But I don't think he did the Republicans that much good. And, you know, for -- I mean, Joe Biden maybe struggling to put away the Democratic nomination but he got a heck of an endorsement today from Kurt Volker who basically gave full support to his integrity, dismissed the notion that he should have been a target of an investigation, you know.
COOPER: He also basically dismissed the 2016 election story.
AXELROD: Yes. So, you know, I don't think that they were much help. And I don't know how much he helped himself honestly.
COOPER: Nia, what stood out to you?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, this again was the Republicans, you know, star witness in some ways. Volker was. They wanted to call him. They also wanted to call Morrison. Didn't do them much good.
At one point, Nunes, you know, there was sort of a second bite of the apple that the Republican lawyer could have taken and that Nunes could have taken. And Nunes essentially said, you know, why are you giving me this extra 15 minutes to question this witness that I wanted to have before this committee.
So, in that way, you know, I think the Republicans I think did get a little mileage out of trying to attack Vindman. Right? You know, they essentially said, listen, you have all of these issues, people question whether or not you have the right judgment. Question whether or not you're the leaker.
And that's something I think they were able to do because of Donald Trump remained relatively silent this go around. I think the White House did tweet something out about him. But they were able I think to try to undermine his credibility.
But listen, I think a largely this testimony today set up for what we'll see tomorrow from Sondland. Sondland's fingerprints all over everything. Seeming to be a real important point guy to the president into this what the Democrats call a bribery scheme. So, I think that is going to be a big day.
COOPER: Yes. Michael Gerhardt, what stood out to you?
MICHAEL GERHARDT, LAW PROFESSOR, UNC: Well, what I'm thinking about is the law of impeachment. So, when we think about impeachment, we're looking for two different things. One is bad faith, the possibility of bad faith on the part of the president, the other is a bad act.
And it seems like both the two witnesses even Ambassador Volker essentially have corroborated yet again. That deviations from the normal procedure suggest that President Trump was not acting in good faith. And also, the bad act seems to be verified yet again. This clearly
repeated emphasis on the necessity for a public declaration of an investigation into Biden. That had to be done. Even Lieutenant Colonel Vindman said there's a demand for it. He's present on the call.
This is the first time we've heard from people on the call and they're verifying everything we've heard so far that's bad for the president.
COOPER: Scott Jennings, I'm wondering the notion that, you know, that Volker and Morrison were the witnesses that the Republicans wanted. Do you think they served the purpose that the Republicans wanted them to?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well they certainly extracted some moments from them today where, you know, they asked him did you see any evidence of quid pro quo or a bribe. No. Did anyone ask you to do that? No. You know, Morrison said that he didn't have the same reaction when he heard the call on the 25th that say Vindman did.
JENNINGS: So, to the extent that they were used to rebut some of those notions, yes, I think they did. Now they also had some other moments that probably, you know, weren't what the Republicans were expecting, particularly Volker.
But I was watching this and I'm looking at the reaction today and it strikes me that everybody thinks they won. You know, the Democrats think they had this -- like go to the basketball game and look at the score board, watch the same game and everybody leaves the arena happy.
The Democrats think they won. The Republicans think they extracted enough moments out of Morrison and Volker this afternoon to rebut the quid pro quo stuff. And I'm not sure how much of that is going to matter by tomorrow this tie after we hear from really the only person that I think may matter this week, and that's. Sondland.
COOPER: Yes. Jen, I mean, there was also Morrison's argument that he was on the call listening in. Didn't like what he heard because it's not what the NDC had briefed the president on. He didn't like them bringing up the Bidens. Though he doesn't think it was illegal. Though he's not actually an attorney, though he did go to law school.
And yet, his immediate reaction was to go to attorneys at the White House on the NSC and inform them about the details of the call and suggest that they lock it down.
JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
COOPER: And if I don't understand, and he was asked directly later on, late in the day, sort of trying to be pinned down on why did you want them to lock it down? He says it was because he was afraid it would leak out. But why would he be afraid -- you know, what's wrong with it that you're afraid it's going to leak? He wouldn't really answer that.
PSAKI: Right, Anderson, I mean, I watched that and had a similar view. And having worked in the White House on and off for eight years you don't go to the lawyer unless something is terribly wrong. You in fact avoid the counsel's office, no offense to the lawyers on that panel, at all costs.
There was another moment that also struck me as sort of contradictory of what he was saying to what his actions were, which is, when it was raised that Trump had directed him to go to the Ukrainians and kind of work out this deal. And he didn't do it.
So, even though that was the administration policy directed by the president. So, he clearly was trying to be a good soldier. He was a Republican working on the Hill for 20 years. Trying to be a good soldier on some of the talking points. But his actions in the White House weren't aligned with that.
So, I would agree -- I mean, I think the afternoon probably was a draw, in the sense that the Republicans got some things, the Democrats had some things like Biden cleared and a couple of the points that they like.
The part I think we'll remember, if we remember one is the morning and Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and not because of all the details though there were some important ones, but because he spoke from his heart and he was so authentic and nervous at times. So, I think that's compelling to people watching at home.
COOPER: Elliot, as an attorney.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, so, you know, attorneys often say don't ask a question you don't know the answer to. And I think the Republicans I don't think they got played. But this was the best they could really do.
And you know, it's always the case where the minority gets some witnesses. But ideally, the witnesses would have disputed facts. Would have attacked the credibility of another witness sort of establishing an alternative narrative for the facts. And that didn't really happen today.
And in fact, sort of Jen was saying, yes, they played it to a a draw. But on this national scale where you're having four or five days of hearings. One afternoon where the best they can say is that Joe Biden's campaign got bolstered is kind of a loss for the Republicans. It's just not a win for --
AXELROD: So, the question is how you're grading all of this. Like I barely got through college so I have to defer to the lawyers on the law. But I'm not sure how people are scoring all of this. The reason that both sides say they got something is because they're playing two different games. It seems to me the Democrats are trying to prove a case. And the
Republicans are trying to turn this into a big partisan scrum so that people in their world will dismiss it as such. And all those members who have to vote will stay in play.
WILLIAMS: But it's a legal case with elected officials voting on it. So, both things are true. They have to meet their minimum legal threshold. But members of Congress still have to get elected and so to win political points.
COOPER: But also, if the ultimate goal is win over some Republicans in the Senate to vote for impeachment. That doesn't seem like much progress --
HENDERSON: Yes, that doesn't seem to be happening. I mean, you see the -- yes, the House Republicans sticking together in likely the same for Senate republicans.
COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. Coming up next, you're going to hear from one of the lawmakers doing the questioning today.
And later, the attacks including from the White House on Lieutenant Colonel Vindman. The price he's paying for testimony. He fought back in the hearing room today. We'll play of that ahead.
COOPER: Well, there was a refugee of the old Soviet Union who is now a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, the former NSC Russia expert who happens to be more than seven feet tall where John Dean noted earlier tonight was the growing sense of partisanship in the room.
Today's proceedings neither lack for color nor at times drama. Kurt Volker as you saw at the top now says he understands that others equated investigating the Ukrainian company Burisma meant having Ukraine investigate the Bidens.
In retrospect, he testified, quote, "I should have seen the connection differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections." Which didn't stop renowned Democrat Peter Welch from attempting to make that point even more explicit with him and Tim Morrison later on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT): Now could have a mayor of a city withhold funding for the police department budget unless the police chief agreed to open up an information investigation on a political rival? Mr. Morrison?
MORRISON: In that hypothetical no, I don't think he should do that.
WELCH: Yes. Mr. Volker, Ambassador Volker, should you agree?
WELCH: The same would be true if it were a governor withholding the budget request of the state police unless the state police agree to conduct an investigation on a political rival. You would agree?
VOLKER: Yes, sir.
WELCH: In your view is it any different for a member of Congress? Of course not, right? Would you agree that the president has the same obligation as the mayor, as the governor and the member of Congress to not withhold aid unless he gets an investigation into a political rival? Mr. Morrison?
MORRISON: Yes, sir, I would agree with that hypothetical.
VOLKER: I would agree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I spoke with Congressman Welch just before air time.
COOPER: I think the analogy you made is a really apt and interesting one. And the fact that they both agreed with the analogy I find sort of fascinating, and yet, Morrison continues to claim that when he heard the call, he went directly to the national -- the NSC attorneys, and yet, he claims that was just because he was afraid it might leak out, which and wanted to lock it down which doesn't really make much sense.
WELCH: It makes sense if what leaked out is what we now know. And that is that the president in fact was asking a foreign leader to do an investigation on a political opponent.
COOPER: But he continues to claim that he -- I mean, he said on one hand he didn't like what he heard but that he wasn't going to the attorneys because there was something inherently wrong about it.
WELCH: Right. So, I mean, Morrison is being very hesitant. And it's not his call to make. It's the kind of position he's taking. Vindman was really in a way much more courageous because he had this sense of duty. An incredible story about his father, dad, I'm not afraid of telling the truth.
And he felt it was a duty and obligation to go forward because what he heard was an allegiance (Ph) to what I was asking in that question. If the mayor told the police commissioner yes, I'll support you but you got to do an investigation on my political opponent.
Vindman was quite able and insisting on saying that's wrong. Morrison was much more hesitant but in fact, his actions demonstrated he's alarmed. He knew it was bad, he went to the lawyer and he was part of putting it in that ultra-secure system.
So, the bottom line here is that what did the president do? And what I was trying to do when I was analogizing to a mayor is to demystify it. When we're down here in Washington and it's the president and his national security. it's so beyond the everyday experience of most of us. That it's like we don't, we suspend judgment.
But if our mayor made that deal with the police commissioner --
COOPER: Right. I mean --
WELCH: -- we'd rail him out. He's gone.
COOPER: It's not even a question when you carried in that --
WELCH: Exactly. Because you feel authorized to come to the conclusion that's obvious. When it's the president and you have a lot of deference to the authority of that office, and then also you inject into it the partisan battles that we're having in this country over everything.
Then you suspend judgment. So, my effort there was to say to the American people, hey, common sense. Your judgment, it's valuable. Use it.
COOPER: Do you think that Volker and Morrison ended up being the witnesses that the Republicans wanted them to be?
WELCH: I don't think they were, but they were a mix. I mean, I thought pretty weird about Ambassador Volker is that he's a smart guy, very experienced. And --
COOPER: And he's been around for a long time.
WELCH: He's been around. So, he's very hesitant to connect the dots.
WELCH: He was part of the official Ukraine policy which is very honorable. And by the way, had total bipartisan support.
WELCH: It's supported by Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy. Stop corruption in the Ukraine. Resist aggression from Russia.
COOPER: Right. Which by the way, was the policy that Ambassador Yovanovitch was trying to execute.
WELCH: That's exactly right. And Yovanovitch was seeing how there was this outside force and was starting to deal with it as a result of which she got fired. Or recalled.
Volker was seeing it but acting as though well that's just the way Rudy talks or that's him blustering. Or he had a kind of excuse that allowed him to not come to the obvious conclusion that was before him. Namely, that there was an alternative Ukraine policy that was the one that was being pushed by the president.
COOPER: Also, his, essentially, his argument is, well, I didn't know Burisma equaled Bidens.
WELCH: Right. And that's like --
COOPER: Which for a player like him is hard to imagine.
WELCH: I mean, you can't -- you know, you can't be a diplomat who is nuance and not get -- be in on the joke.
WELCH: So to speak.
COOPER: Sondland's testimony tomorrow, I mean, I'm so curious just to see how he is going to try to play this.
I mean, does he had, does he just come clean? Does he say he doesn't remember? Does he, you know, say he was bragging to, you know, the David Holmes's of the world.
WELCH: Well, we're all waiting. Because, you know, the thing about Sondland of course he was a political appointee.
WELCH: And he got that appointment because he made a huge donation.
COOPER: Right. He gave a million dollars to the inaugural.
WELCH: Right. So that gets him an ambassadorship. But the aspect of it that was, I think of interest of the president who was more cunning about it, is that Sondland really wanted to quote, "help" but he had no experience in what foreign policy was and how politics works or a foreign policy works.
So, if the president is telling him Gordon, this is what I want you to do. Get that investigation. He was helping.
COOPER: Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. I appreciate it. WELCH: Thank you.
COOPER: Congressman Peter Welch.
COOPER: That's Congressman Peter Welch.
Still to come, another exchange from today's hearings. Colonel Vindman sharply correcting Congressman Devin Nunes while withstanding repeated Republican attacks. That a new word from how the White House is reacting to today's hearing.
COOPER: Republicans spent a great deal of time during today's early session of the hearing, insinuating that Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman may have dual loyalty due to his Ukrainian background. Vindman, who is a Purple Heart recipient was in uniform today and didn't respond in anger. He did insist that the ranking Republican, Devin Nunes, address him as lieutenant colonel. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R-CA): Mr. Vindman, you testified in your deposition that you did not know the whistleblower.
ALEXANDER VINDMAN, UNITED STATES ARMY LIEUTENANT COLONEL WHO SERVES AS THE DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS FOR THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Ranking member, it's Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, please.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: CNN white house correspondent Jeremy Diamond joins us now with more. Jeremy, if the White House didn't take Colonel Vindman seriously today, they did use the official White House Twitter account to criticize him.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's exactly what happened today, Anderson. We saw the White House use its official Twitter account to go after a current White House official, in this case, Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman, quoting Tim Morrison, who testified today, of course, about his concerns about Alex Vindman's judgment.
And so the White House quoted one of those lines from Morrison's testimony in an official White House tweet just again to kind of underline this. This is someone who currently works at the White House, who the White House is saying has bad judgment. So just let that sink in for a second there.
As for the president, we also saw him sound off on Vindman earlier today. He essentially mocked Vindman for that moment where he corrected Devin Nunes on how to properly refer to him by his rank. But it was relative restraint, frankly, from the president. I do underline the word "relative" there, Anderson, because we have seen the president in the past criticized witnesses including Marie Yovanovitch, who he criticized during her testimony.
Today, the president ultimately said he would let people make their own determination about Vindman. So again a moment of relative restraint, it seems, from the president on that front.
COOPER: Jeremy Diamond. I appreciate it. Thanks very much. We are back now with our political and legal analysts. David, I mean, there was criticism of Republicans for some of the questions that they asked Vindman. You can make the counterargument though which is, you know, he is saying things which are damaging to the president and they have a right to, you know, question him and see, you know, what sort of a witness he actually is.
AXELROD: Yeah, sure. They did. And he was a little -- in his presentation, he was less polished than the others. In some ways, I thought that actually worked for him because it looked as if he was -- he was speaking from the heart.
But, you know, look, I think they made a terrible mistake last week with the ambassador going after her as they did. They were a little more muted today. I suspect there must be some group of people assigned to stand between the president and his cell phone during these hearings now because that turned into such a disaster last Friday.
But still, I think just generally going after a guy whose story is the great American story, who served in uniform, who has been wounded in combat is not a good strategy. I don't think it looked very good today.
COOPER: It was interesting that there's sort of the criticism such as it was from the White House, came on the White House Twitter account as opposed to from Donald Trump's personal Twitter.
HENDERSON: Yeah. They obviously remember what happened last week when the president went after Marie Yovanovitch in a really nasty way, smeared her over Twitter. That became part of the testimony. Adam Schiff raised it (ph) to her. She said she felt threatened. That was not a good look for Donald Trump.
And you had Republicans come out after that and say, yeah, this is something that the president shouldn't have done. And you did -- I think here, you did have them going after Vindman, essentially kind of suggesting that he, you know, was somebody with dual loyalty because he got this job offer, sort of not a real job offer, probably from the Ukrainian officials.
And also this idea that he was just wearing his uniform for performance sake and he didn't really need to wear it because he would normally wears a suit. I think that was what Chris Stewart (ph) was trying to get at. So, I mean, they were trying to poke holes at him. They were also trying to out (ph) the whistleblower through him, right, or suggest that he talked to the whistleblower because some of the language that he used about the call was a similar language to the whistleblower.
So, yeah, I mean, I think they certainly tried to undermine his credibility. And we'll see how effective that is.
AXELROD: You know, one thing that is going to be interesting is part of it is about the evaluation. He read the evaluation from Fiona Hill. She's going to be testifying this week. And she's going to be asked I'm sure about her evaluation of him.
AXELROD: She's in a position to clear this up. But Scott, I got to ask you as a Republican. It used to be that a guy like Vindman would be the guy who Republicans want to lift up. He would be up there at the state of the union, the great American story. You can see Ronald Reagan telling the Vindman story. Wasn't it a little uncomfortable when the dual loyalty questions and --
JENNINGS: I don't agree with this. Look, I think there are ways to go at these witnesses, not just him, but all of them. That actually would bolster what you're trying to do without looking so terrible as to question someone's patriotism, their loyalty, you know, essentially insinuating the uniform is a costume, you know, which is this is an American military uniform with all sorts of earned decorations on it. So I don't --
AXELROD: It's a costume. If it's a costume, it's one that most of the members there who are raising the questions have never worn.
JENNINGS: I don't agree with that. I was glad the president personally go after him on Twitter. I mean, there's no education in the second kick of a mule, so clearly they --
JENNINGS: -- you know, learned the lesson from Friday.
AXELROD: Kentucky stuff.
JENNINGS: But what they did -- what did they do that was effective on Vindman? You know, he never advised the president, never met the president. You know, they did get to some issues that indicated to the president's, you know, republican base on that committee, that he was giving his opinion about what he thought the president was doing, but didn't really know the president's mind.
And so that -- that to me was the key issue they needed to get through. The other stuff is ancillary and probably unhelpful.
COOPER: We are going to take a quick break. Everyone else is going to stick around. Republicans are nervous about what one of tomorrow's witnesses may say. We'll preview the testimony of Ambassador Gordon Sondland, coming up, who has already, as you know, changed part of his testimony, said "refreshed my recollection."
COOPER: In his original closed-door testimony, E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland was asked multiple times if he knew about any preconditions on aid to Ukraine. He said no. Since that time, Sondland has changed his story because of the testimony of two witnesses. One of those witnesses is Bill Taylor. He testified last week. The other is Tim Morrison. He testified in public today. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN GOLDMAN, DEMOCRATIC COUNSEL: What did Ambassador Sondland say to tell you that he told Mr. Yermak?
TIM MORRISON, FORMER U.S. ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP ON RUSSIA AND EUROPE ON THE WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: That the Ukrainians would have to have the prosecutor general make a statement with respect to the investigations as a condition of having the aid lifted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Let's bring back our panel. Jen, what's interesting about that is it's not as invoke (ph) a text that was also shown from Volker, made very clear investigations means Burisma and 2016 elections. Burisma means Biden.
PSAKI: Right. I mean, I think it strains all credibility that they didn't know exactly what it was and that will be the case for Sondland as well, even though he hasn't been around this world as long.
COOPER: So just for viewers who aren't following us closely, the significance of what Morrison is relating is that Sondland is saying the aid is being held up until you make an announcement about Biden and the 2016 election investigations, which is the argument all along that the Republicans are saying, you know, that is --
PSAKI: Didn't happen.
COOPER: -- quid pro quo.
PSAKI: I mean he's a key connecter. I think we can all agree on. That's why his testimony is so anticipated with David Holmes's closed- door testimony on Friday, and the connection he has not just for talking with Trump, he's admitted to one or two phone calls. My bet is that it's many more.
But he also worked with Giuliani. He also worked for the State Department. He is the connection between what Donald Trump directed here. It's who he -- what he's going to do tomorrow? We don't know the answer to that.
COOPER: Right. And also, I mean, so, I guess one tack that Republicans can make or could claim is that Sondland was just kind of freelancing, that he was in over his head. He's a, you know, rich guy who gave a million dollars to the inauguration. For some reason has been tasked to get involved in Ukraine even though he is the E.U. ambassador which doesn't have anything to do with Ukraine, and that he sort of just made this connection without the president actually directing him. That would seem to be a hard pill to swallow.
WILLIAMS: Yes, it would. Here's how he gets out of it. He says, you know, I remember facts differently than other people do. I don't disavow what they said. They're not -- you know, perhaps they're not wrong. It's just I remember things a little bit differently.
What I believe I was doing was carrying out what I thought were the president's wishes because it is the president's -- the president can't control foreign policy (INAUDIBLE) carrying it out. But I don't recall a specific directive from the president of the United States. That gets him out of, number one, lying. It locks in -- you know, it doesn't distance himself from his past testimony.
It's just he's in a really tough spot because pleading the fifth would be very bad for him, very bad for the president. It's the concession that he thinks he might have committed a crime. That just can't happen. So I think he needs to give the wiggle room answer and the wiggle room answer is, other people testified. You know, they are credible people, I just -- I remember things a little bit differently. Move on.
COOPER: Michael Gerhardt, would that be --
GERHARDT: One thing that is striking to me is that with -- in talking about Volker and Sondland, is as their memories seem to come back --
GERHARDT: -- it becomes more damaging for the president.
GERHARDT: And so their silence, their reticence, really may not be credible.
GERHARDT: But when they start remembering things, it becomes much more credible. Maybe just a couple other points that to me seem relevant, one is that you have to remember all the people that are not testifying. So we're hearing from just a small group of people. But there are so many people that know things the president has ordered not to testify.
COOPER: And there are so many documents, too, which is -- I hadn't really thought about that until today when it was really discussed during the testimony.
GERHARDT: So in the course of trying to defend the president, Republicans, of course, are not mentioning all those other people that could testify and have relevant knowledge. The other thing is just to remember what the bad act maybe is at issue here. The president was really trying to solicit assistance to undermine the integrity of our electoral system. That's a really bad thing. That's not being --
COOPER: Which, by the way -- it should also be pointed out, he said to a George Stephanopoulos in an interview a couple months ago in the Oval Office -- George Stephanopoulos asked, well, look, if you, you know, if foreign government came to you and said they had dirt, you wouldn't ask for it. He said yeah, I would.
HENDERSON: Yeah. I think that's right. It seems like Democrats are trying to make this argument around national security, right, that it's in the America's best interest to aid Ukraine. That's a little bit harder, I think, for average Americans to understand.
This argument about this is an American president who is calling on a foreign power to undermine American democracy by getting a foreign power to interfere. That's a much powerful argument that I think Democrats miss.
COOPER: One we have heard before.
COOPER: Standby. We'll take a quick break. Coming up next, a key question answered during today's testimony.
COOPER: It was near the end of today's very long impeachment hearing that a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee asked a central question of those two now former Trump administration officials, Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison. This is Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to ask you in the short time that I have both you gentlemen, who served the United States government, whether putting President Trump aside, whether you believe that it's proper for any president, now or later, to ask a foreign government to investigate a U.S. citizen and specifically a U.S. citizen that could be a political rival. Ambassador?
KURT VOLKER, FORMER UNITED STATES SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR UKRAINE NEGOTIATIONS: No, I don't believe it is appropriate for the president to do that. If we have law enforcement concerns with a U.S. citizen generally, there are appropriate channels for that.
CASTRO: Mr. Morrison?
MORRISON: I agree with Ambassador Volker, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We are back now with our legal and political team. Michael, I mean, that is what ultimately this is all about.
GERHARDT: That's correct. And it turns out that the framers were extremely concerned about the corruption that a foreign interest or foreign government could have on our system of government, particularly through the president or on the president.
And so it turns out that a classic impeachable offense is exactly what they just acknowledged there, which is, it is not proper to solicit foreign intervention in an election for any reason. And that's -- and the framers talked about all sorts of analogous situations in the constitutional convention, and so it's not hard ultimately to figure out whether this is an impeachable offense. It's a classic one.
WILLIAMS: I think the tricky thing though is that when we start asking witnesses for their assessments of the law, you start getting into the problem that the Republicans ran into today, which is asking witnesses to comment on was this bribery, was this extortion, what is your legal assessment.
That's really not a witness's job. That's for the Michael Gerhardts of the world, if you were called as a witness to testify in your capacity as a professor or ultimately it's for Congress to decide essentially as the jury here as to whether a law has been broken.
But we're just going -- I don't think either side should do it, and they've done it a lot, asking these witnesses to make these assessments on precise questions of law that are far outside their --
PSAKI: I think in this case, they were asking them in terms of their roles and experience as officials on the national security team. I mean, if that was something that should be -- something a president can do. And ultimately, I think he was asking that question to bring it back to the main point, which sometimes the questioning gets a little all over the place by the end.
But if Democrats can bring it back to this point as to should this be the precedent for Democratic presidents, for Republican presidents, that they should be able to as president go, you know, seek out dirt on their political opponent, the answer should always be no. If they keep saying that, they'll keep bringing that back up.
AXELROD: Apparently, I mean, if polling is correct, 70 percent of Americans believe it's wrong. You know, a lesser number, half, believe it's impeachable. Can I bring, up, though --
COOPER: There's the poll. We put it up by the way.
AXELROD: Oh, yeah. Can I just mention one of these witnesses who we haven't heard from?
COOPER: We only have an hour and five minutes left.
AXELROD: Let me mention two, then.
AXELROD: But, you know, Morrison repeated again today that John Bolton went in and talked to the president about why this aid was being frozen to make the case that it should be unfrozen, and all he said was that he came back and said, we still haven't persuaded him. But there's no doubt that Bolton pressed him as to what the reason was for this aid being held up.
AXELROD: He's currently in court --
AXELROD: -- waiting for a ruling from the court as to whether he has to answer this subpoena. If he ever does have to testify, that could be a tough one.
AXELROD: That could be a tough one for Trump.
COOPER: We got to take another quick break. Still ahead, more on today's testimony. In the next hour, we're going to dig into what could be the most critical impeachment witness yet, European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland. All this as our special edition of "360" continues.