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Interview With Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL); Public Impeachment Testimony Continues. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired November 19, 2019 - 15:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Just moments ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican from Kentucky, spoke about the impeachment inquiry hearing, saying he hopes the Senate can work through a -- quote -- "not too lengthy of a process" when it comes to the impeachment trial, should the House vote to convict.


Let's discuss.

Is it, you think, anything other than a fait accompli that the House will vote to convict?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think there certainly is enough information and enough evidence at this point in time that really remains unchanged from the private hearings until now.

This essentially was a way for them to have another bite of the apple. Remember, if there are articles impeachment drafted, the second bite of the Apple is the actual Senate trial, at which time the public has to really galvanize behind certain senators or Republican ones to change it from an impeachment inquiry to, of course, a conviction and maybe a removal.

I think it is a foregone conclusion at this point, but not because there wasn't evidence to support it. It wasn't as if it was a self- fulfilling prophecy. In many respects, you have seen over a dozen people behind the scenes who provided testimony.

Now we're seeing in the open now people to corroborate and confirm and are being more and more additive. It'll be interesting to see whether or not the witnesses afternoon are able to undermine what we have already learned.

I suspect they're not going to be able to derail it in that way, and there will be articles of impeachment drafted against, what, a now fourth president of the United States?

TAPPER: Mm-hmm.

John Dean, who worked for the second president of the United States to be impeached?

COATES: Third. Second. (CROSSTALK)


TAPPER: To almost be impeached. There were impeachment proceedings, right. He was not actually -- but there were no votes because he resigned before he could be impeached.

Let me ask you a question about Watergate, because historians have said that this is actually worse than Watergate because it involves a foreign country.

Be that as it may, one thing that seems very different is that the Republicans are holding. They're banding together. They unanimously voted against proceeding just to the impeachment inquiry, not a vote on actual impeachment.

I heard Geraldo say the other day to Sean Hannity on FOX that, if Richard Nixon had had FOX, that he never would have been impeached, or at least what happened to him wouldn't have happened.

Is that what's different about this time

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't generally cite Geraldo, but...


DEAN: But that is a good statement.

TAPPER: He meant it as a compliment, though I don't think you do.


DEAN: Right. Right.

There's no question that, with combination of social media and FOX News, the dynamics of impeachment have changed. I'm one of those who do think it's worse today, because there's a foreign country involved, national security is involved, than what occurred during Watergate.

I think we are also at a point where there's far more proof right at this point than there was against Nixon when he resigned. But they're hanging on. They're hanging on, one of the reasons, because they have something like FOX News to go out and keep that base, that 30 to 40 percent, content that everything isn't all wrong, when it might be all wrong.

TOOBIN: But you also have a very different Republican Party today than you did in the 1970s.

You had a very significant moderate Republican element in the 1970s in the United States Senate.


DEAN: Yes. We have a Democratic Party too. TOOBIN: But we're talking about a Republican president under fire.

You had your Lowell Weickers, your Robert Staffords, your Robert Packwoods, your Mark Hatfields, all of whom are gone. And the group in the House on the House Judiciary Committee, the Republicans who ultimately voted in favor of impeachment, that moderate group, Railsback, those people are now gone from the House.

There is really no more moderate Republican Party at all anymore. And I think that a big difference from today.


TAPPER: Let me ask you a question, Scott Jennings, because -- because this is going to go to the Senate, ultimately, we think, because it's -- in all likelihood, the House will vote to impeach, I think.

Assuming that happens, there are some -- to take issue slightly with Jeffrey, there are some Republicans who at least portray themselves as moderates, I think empirically are moderates, Susan Collins in Maine up for reelection.

Cory Gardner might not be a moderate. He's a conservative, but he certainly temperamentally is a moderate in Colorado. He's up for reelection. Martha McSally in Arizona.

What would you, as somebody who wants Republicans to keep control of the Senate, what would you tell them to do?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, number one, I think that you shouldn't vote on things like this based solely on whether you want to keep your seat in the Senate or whether you want to keep your seat in the House. I think these things are in the Constitution. And you have to set in some regard your political interests aside.

I do think the senators have to represent their states. And I think you have to look inside of your state and figure out, is this what my people want me to do? Is this what they expect me to do?

And I'm not sure in some of these states that it's going to be the case. Now, in other states, in the bluer states, absolutely. Maybe impeachment is preferred.

So I think, though, take in Arizona, take in North Carolina, maybe in Colorado -- I'm not sure this is going to be the position that most people would want their senator to take.


I think do think, by the way, that it is fait accompli they're going to impeach the president. And I think one of the reasons you mentioned, Jake, that Republicans are holding is because the Democrats have -- a large cohort of them have wanted to do it from the beginning.

And one of the things that's hurting the Democrats from convincing Republicans, like the ones you mentioned, is that they have been crying impeachment over and over and over since he got elected, whether it was over emoluments or Jared and Ivanka or whatever, Russia, Mueller.

All the things that they're mad about, it's always been a cohort that went right to impeachment. So now they get to this issue and they're still crying the same thing.

For Republicans, you can always look back on them and say, you might have credibility with me if you had just raised this now, but you had been pounding this day after day after day, and it seems more political than necessary.

TOOBIN: But Nancy Pelosi was opposed to impeachment throughout this process, until the Ukraine story happened.

JENNINGS: Until her base got to her?

TOOBIN: Well, but until -- no, until the facts got to her, until they saw a president extorting, bribing a foreign leader in return for campaign dirt on his opponent.

I don't think Nancy Pelosi -- you think Nancy Pelosi wanted to do impeachment?

JENNINGS: I think whatever she wants is irrelevant, because she's clearly not in full control of her conference. They overwhelmed her.

This is the last offering for them before we get into an election.

TAPPER: But let's turn it to the Senate again, John, which is -- we heard Mitch McConnell just said that he doesn't want this to be too lengthy a process in the Senate. He wants it to be fairly quick.

Doesn't it help Republicans to a degree to drag this out, for many reasons, but one of them is that there are so many Democratic senators running for president? And, for another one, the longer this goes on, there's a weariness that can take hold in the public.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a great conversation among Senate Republicans privately on this very question.

But just stop for one second. The fact that the Senate majority leader already assumes he's going to have a trial, that's a big deal, I mean, the fait accompli part of this, that the House is going to impeach.

The question is, how many articles of impeachment? How fast does it take? When does it happen? But Mitch McConnell is assuming sometime early in the new year, as Iowa gets to kick off the presidential campaign, with New Hampshire just behind it, he's going to be running a Senate trial.

The chief justice will be brought in actually to run the trial, but Majority Leader McConnell will be in charge of it. So, some Republicans do think, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, string it out, string it out, let this play out in the Democratic presidential campaign. Let's let the tensions get out there as the campaign moves from the early liberal states to the -- you go South and you go through some of the swing states in the Midwest.

Let's see what that looks like. There are other Republicans, though, who say, because of Susan Collins, because of Martha McSally, because of Cory Gardner, no, no, no, no, no, as quickly as possible. We don't want to have these fact discussions linger out there, because maybe their people say, do something.

TAPPER: I think you forgot Senator Amy Klobuchar. So I'm just going to say that, before you get an angry phone call.

Everyone, stick around. There are two more witnesses set to testify in the impeachment inquiry in just moments.

But, first, the White House is responding to this morning's hearing.

Stay with us.




DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I just got to watch. And the Republicans are absolutely killing it. They are doing so well, because it's a scam.

And they're using this impeachment hoax for their own political gain, to try and damage the Republican Party and damage the president.

But it's had the opposite effect, because you have seen the polls. And we're now the highest -- I'm the highest I have ever been in the polls.


TAPPER: Not even remotely true.

That was President Trump reacting to the first half of today's public hearings in the impeachment inquiry.

In just moments, the second half of those hearings will start on Capitol Hill with two more witnesses. We're going to bring those to you live.

But, first, let's bring back CNN's Kaitlan Collins live at the White House.

Kaitlan, the president making a false claim there about his polls being higher than they have ever been. What else is the president saying? What else is the White House saying about today's testimony? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we just got a

statement not long ago from the press secretary, saying that, essentially -- quote -- "Buried among the witnesses' personal opinions and conjecture about a call that the White House long ago released to the public," Stephanie Grisham says, "both witnesses testified that the July 25 transcript was accurate and nothing President Trump has done or said amounts to bribery or any other crime."

Now, that is part and true, where Vindman, the National Security Council expert who handled Ukraine, testified that while the name of the company that Hunter Biden sat on the board of was left out of the final transcript, he said he did not believe it was with nefarious intent.

But this White House statement, Jake, leaves out that the Pence aide called the president's call for those investigations during that July call unusual, while Vindman said it was inappropriate. And both of those officials testified that they did not know of a single national security official who agreed with the hold on that military aid.

Now, Jake, you saw the president there somewhat restrained in his criticism of these two officials, as he said, essentially, that he doesn't know them and hasn't had direct contact with them, even though, just days ago, he's referred to both of them as never- Trumpers, something they both denied during these hearings, with Vindman saying that he is not a never-Trumper, that he is -- quote -- "never partisan."

TAPPER: And, Kaitlan, the bottom half of that quote from the -- from the White House press secretary, they said -- she said that Vindman and Williams had testified that president didn't commit any crime?


What was that? I missed what you said.

COLLINS: Yes, yes. Let me read it to you again.

She said that, both witnesses testified the transcript that they released at that July call was accurate.

TAPPER: Right.

COLLINS: And -- quote -- "Nothing President Trump has done or said amounts to bribery or any other crime."

TAPPER: She's saying that they said that?

COLLINS: Yes, that is not what they testified to, Jake.

TAPPER: They didn't say that.

COLLINS: They talked about how they found it incredibly unusual and inappropriate, especially Vindman, who was saying, essentially, the president calling for a foreign government to investigate his domestic political rivals was wrong and something he had not seen before. TAPPER: Yes, they didn't -- they didn't say that at all.

Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi. He's on the House Intelligence Committee, which is holding today's public hearings.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.


TAPPER: Let's look ahead to the witnesses you're going to have in just a few minutes.


TAPPER: What do you want to find out from Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think Mr. Volker was one of the three amigos.

Volker, Sondland, Perry were basically commandeering Ukraine policy, under the direction of Giuliani and the president. And they were at the heart of this pressure scheme to get the Ukrainians to investigate the president's political rivals here in the United States.

That being said, Volker does, in his deposition, say things like, you know, Joe Biden's a man of integrity, he's not someone who should be investigated for anything, and same with his son.

He also disparages the former prosecutor general who came up with all these conspiracy theories about Americans and so forth.

With regard to Morrison, he was on the call, the July 25 call. And so, what's very interesting is that he ran straight to the lawyers as soon as he heard the call. And he also vouches for pretty much everything that Bill Taylor said last week.

So, it's going to be interesting to see what they say today, but I think those points will probably come out, among others.

TAPPER: And what are you going to ask Morrison about specifically?

Morrison obviously talked about how Gordon Sondland told him that he had, Sondland, told a Zelensky aide, if they want the aid released, they need to publicly announce the investigations.


TAPPER: That Sondland had asked -- Sondland had told him, Morrison...


TAPPER: ... that he was coordinating strategies and taking direction from President Trump. KRISHNAMOORTHI: That's right.

And so you have three people, by the way, who back up that very scenario that you talked about. You have Ambassador Taylor, you have Sondland and, of course, Morrison.

And I think that probably honing in on that conversation and -- among others, because it's so important. That is a clear linkage between aid and basically investigations, as someone said the other day, missiles for misinformation.

TAPPER: What did you make of the Republican attorney on the committee, Steve Castor, bringing up something that I don't think we knew about before, which is that apparently the Ukrainians were so taken with Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, who, we should remind people, has been described, even by his critics, as a patriot who bled for this country, the United States that he was offered a job, I don't know how seriously, as defense minister?

What did you think of Castor asking that, because I have heard Democrats criticize it as a question meant to impugn the loyalty of Lieutenant Colonel Vindman?


He may have intended that, but I think the net effect of it was, it just, to me, bolstered Mr. -- Lieutenant Colonel Vindman's skills as a career military man, and somebody that a lot of people looked up to.

Lieutenant Colonel Vindman took it as almost a comical offer. He didn't take it seriously, but, out of an abundance of caution, he reported it up the chain, made sure that he documented it. And he -- of course, he declined a -- what he thought to be an unserious offer in an unserious way, I think.

TAPPER: And what did you make of the White House issuing a tweet attacking Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, pointing out that one of the other witnesses you're going to hear from, Tim Morrison, said that he had lost faith in his judgment?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: No, that's completely reprehensible and unfounded.

I think that Morrison was with him for like all of two months. I don't know the exact time period, but it was a very short time period. His previous supervisor was Fiona Hill.

And the interesting thing is that Lieutenant Colonel Vindman actually brought his last performance evaluation to the hearing, just because he knew that the Republicans were going to attack him. And he read the very sterling review that Fiona Hill gave for him.

So I think that his character, his performance were excellent and unblemished, and I thought he -- they didn't lay a glove on him.

TAPPER: All right, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.



TAPPER: I'm told that you have to go back in, because they're about to gavel the second part of the hearing open.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

TAPPER: Thank you so much.


TAPPER: Any moment, the two witnesses called by Republicans, Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison, are going to start their public testimony in the impeachment inquiry.

When we come back, the hearings will be under way.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's special coverage of today's public impeachment hearings. I'm Jake Tapper.

You're watching live on Capitol Hill. That is Tim Morrison, former National Security Council adviser. That is Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine.

We're going to hear from them. These are two witnesses that Republicans wanted to call, although they have also said things that Democrats might want to take advantage of as well.

We're waiting for Chairman Adam Schiff, the Democratic congressman, to gavel the second session in.

And let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The committee will come to order.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Good afternoon.

This is the fourth in a series of public hearings the committee will be holding as part of the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry.

Without objection, the chair is authorized to declare a recess of the committee at any time.

There is a quorum present.

We will proceed today in the same fashion as our other hearings, I'll make an opening statement and then the Ranking Member will have an opportunity to make his opening statement and we will turn to our witnesses for opening statements and then to questions.

With that, I now recognize myself to give an opening statement in the impeachment inquiry into Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States. This afternoon, we will hear from two witnesses requested by the minority, Ambassador Kurt Volker, the State Department Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, and Tim Morrison, the Senior -- former Senior Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council. I appreciate the minority's request for these two important witnesses as well as Undersecretary of State David Hale, from whom we will hear tomorrow.

As we have heard from other witnesses, when Joe Biden was considering whether to enter the race for the presidency in 2020, the President's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani began a campaign to weaken vie (sic) President Biden's -- Vice President Biden's candidacy by pushing Ukraine to investigate him and his son.

To clear away any obstacle to the scheme, days after the new Ukrainian President was elected, Trump ordered the recall of Marie Yovanovitch, the American Ambassador in Kiev, who was known for pushing anti- corruption efforts.

Trump also canceled Vice President Mike Pence's participation in the inauguration of President Zelensky on May 20th and instead sent a delegation headed by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland and Ambassador Kurt Volker.

These three returned from Kiev and briefed President Trump on their encouraging first interactions with the new Ukrainian administration. Hopes that Trump would agree to an early meeting with the Ukrainian President were soon diminished, however, when Trump pushed back.

According to Volker, he just didn't believe it, he was skeptical and he also said that's not what I hear, I hear, you know, he's got some terrible people around him. President Trump also told them he believed that Ukraine tried to take him down. He told the three amigos talk to Rudy and they did.

One of those interactions took place a week before the July 25th phone call between Trump and Zelensky, and Ambassador Volker had breakfast with Rudy Giuliani at the Trump Hotel. Volker testified that he pushed back on Giuliani's accusation against Joe Biden.

On July 22nd, just days before Trump would talk to Zelensky, Ambassador Volker had a telephone conference with Giuliani and Andriy Yermak, a top advisor to the Ukrainian President so that Giuliani could be introduced to Yermak.

On July 25th, the same day as the call between President Trump and Zelensky, but before it took place, Ambassador Volker sent a text message to Yermak, quote "heard from the White House, assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate/get to the bottom of what happened in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington. Good luck!"

Later that day, Donald Trump would have the now infamous phone call with Zelensky, in which he responded to Ukraine's appreciation for U.S. defense support and a request by President Zelensky to buy more Javelin anti-tank missiles by saying I would like you to do us a favor, though, and the favor involved the two investigations that Giuliani had been pushing for into the Bidens in 2016.

Ambassador Volker was not on the call but when asked about what it reflected, he testified no President of the United States should ask a foreign leader to help interfere in a U.S. election. Among those listening in on the July 25th call was Tim Morrison, who had taken over as the NSC Senior Director for European Affairs at the NSC only days before but had been briefed by his predecessor Fiona Hill about the irregular second channel that was operating in parallel to the official one.


Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and Ms. Williams, from whom we heard this morning, like them, Morrison emerged from the call troubled. He was concerned enough about what he heard on the July 25th call that he went to see the NSC legal advisor soon after it had ended.

Colonel Vindman's fear was that the President had broken the law potentially but Morrison said of his concern that -- his concern was that the call could be damaging if it were leaked. Soon after this discussion with lawyers at the NSC, the call record was hidden away on a secure server used to store highly classified intelligence, where it remained until late September when the call record was publicly released.

Following the July 25th call, Ambassador Volker worked with Sondland and the Ukrainian President's close advisor Yermak on a statement that would satisfy Giuliani. When Yermak sent over a draft that still failed to include the specific words Burisma and 2016, Giuliani said the statement would lack credibility. Ambassador Volker then added both Burisma and 2016 to the draft statement.

Both Volker and Morrison were, by late July, aware that the security assistance had been cut off at the direction of the President and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. As the Ukrainians became aware of the suspension of security assistance and that negotiations over the scheduling of a White House meeting between Trump and Zelensky dragged on, the pressure increased and any pretense that there was no linkage soon dropped away.

Morrison accompanied Vice President Pence to Warsaw on September 1st, where Pence and Zelensky met, and Zelensky raised the suspended security assistance. Following that meeting, Sondland approached Yermak to tell him that he believed that what could help move the aid was if the Ukrainian Prosecutor General would go to the mic and announce that he was opening the Burisma investigation.

On September 7th, Ambassador Sondland had a telephone call with Trump and asked him what he wanted from Ukraine. Quoting to Morrison, who spoke with Sondland after the call, Trump insisted that there was no quid pro quo, but President Zelensky must personally announce the opening of the investigations and he should want to do it. Solomon also said that if President Zelensky didn't agree to make a public statement about the investigations, U.S. and Ukraine would be at a stalemate meaning it would not receive the much-need security assistance.

Morrison had a sinking feeling after the call as he realized that the ask was now being directed at Zelensky himself and not the prosecutor general as Sondland had relayed to a senior Ukrainian aid in Warsaw on September 1st.

While President Trump claimed there was no quid pro quo, his instance that Zelensky himself must publicly announce the investigations or they'd be at a stalemate made sure that at least two official acts, a White House meeting and $400 million in military aid were conditioned on receipt of what Trump wanted -- investigations to help his campaign.

The efforts to secure the investigations would continue for several more days but appear to have abruptly ended soon after the three committees of Congress announced an investigation into the Trump- Giuliani Ukraine scheme. Only then would the aid be released. And I now recognize Ranking Member Nunes for any remarks he would like to make.

NUNES: Welcome back to Act 2 of today's circus ladies and gentlemen. We are here to continue what the democrats tell us is a serious, somber, and even prayful process of attempting to overthrow a duly- elected president. If they're successful the end result would be to disenfranchise tens of millions of Americans who thought the president is chosen by the American people not by 13 democrat partisans on a committee that's supposed to be overseeing the government's intelligence agencies.

And isn't it strange how we have morphed into the impeachment committee, presiding over a matter that has no intelligence component whatsoever. Impeachment, of course, is the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee, not the Intelligence Committee. But putting this farce in our court provides two main advantages for the Democrats. It made it easier for them to shroud their depositions in secrecy and it allowed them to avoid giving too big of a role in this spectacle to another Democrat Committee Chairman in whom the Democrat leaders obviously have no confidence.

Who can possibly view these proceedings as fair and impartial? They are being conducted by Democrats who spent three years saturating the airwaves with dire warnings that President Trump is a Russian agent and these outlandish attacks continue to this very day.


Just this weekend in front of a crowd of Democratic Party activists, the chairman of this committee denounced President Trump as a profound threat to our democracy and vowed that we will send that charlatan in the White House back to the golden throne he came from. How can anyone believe the people who utter such dramatic absurdities are conducting a fair impeachment process and are only trying to discover the truth? It is obvious the Democrats are trying to topple the president solely because they despise him, because they promised since selection day to impeach him and because they are afraid he will win reelection next year.

No witnesses have identified any crime or impeachable offense committed by the president but that doesn't matter. Last week the Democrats told us his infraction was asking for quid pro quo; this week it's bribery. Who knows what ridiculous crime they'll be accusing him of next week. As witnesses, the democrats have called a parade of government officials who don't like President Trumps Ukraine policy even though they acknowledge he provided Ukraine with lethal military aid after the Obama Administration refused to do so.

They also resent his conduct of policy through channels outside their own authority and control. These actions, they argue, contradict the so-called inter-agency consensus. They don't seem to understand that the president alone is Constitutionally vested with the authority to set the policy. The American people elect a president, not an inter- agency consensus. And of course our previous witnesses had very new -- very little new information to share in these hearings. That is because these hearings are not designed to uncover new information; they're meant to showcase a hand-picked group of witnesses who the Democrats determined through their secret audition process will provide testimony most conductive and conducive to their accusations.

In fact, by the time any witness says anything here people are actually hearing it for the third time. They heard it first through the Democrat's cherry-picked leaks to their media sympathizers during the secret depositions and second when the Democrats published those deposition transcripts in a highly staged manner.

Of course there are no transcripts from crucial witnesses like Hunter Biden who could testify about his well-paying job on the board of a corrupt Ukrainian company or Alexandra Chalupa who worked on an election meddling scheme with Ukrainian officials on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. That's because the Democrats refused to let us hear from them.

As for evidence, we're left with -- what we're left with is the transcript of the Trump-Zelensky phone call which the president made public. That means Americans can read for themselves an unremarkable conversation with President Zelensky who repeatedly expressed satisfaction with the call afterward. The Democrats however claim President Zelensky was being bribed and therefore he must be lying when he says the call was friendly and posed no problems. There's some irony here. For weeks we've heard the Democrats bemoan the damage President Trump supposedly caused to the U.S.-Ukrainian relations.

But when the Ukrainian president contradicts their accusations, they publicly dismiss him as a liar. I may be wrong, but I am fairly sure calling a friendly foreign president, newly elected, a liar violates their so-called inter-agency consensus.

So overall, the Democrats would have you believe President Zelensky was being blackmailed with a pause on lethal military aid that he did not even know about that President Trump did not mention to him and that diplomats have testified they always assumed would be lifted which it was. Without the Ukrainians undertaking any of the actions they were supposedly being coerced into doing. This process is not serious, it's not sober and it is certainly not prayerful. It is an ambitious attack to deprive the American people of the right to elect a president the Democrats don't like. As I mentioned, the Chairman of this committee claims that democracy is under threat. If that is true, it is not the president who poses a danger. I yield back.


SCHIFF: I thank the gentleman. We are joined this afternoon by Ambassador Kurt Volker and Mr. Timothy Morrison. Ambassador Kurt Volker served in the U.S. foreign service for nearly 30 years working on European and Eurasian political and security issues under five different presidential administrations.

During the George W. Bush administration he served as the Acting Director for European and Eurasian Affairs in the National Security Council, and later as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Eurasian Affairs.

In 2008 President Bush appointed Ambassador Volker to the United States permanent representative to NATO where he served until May 2009. In July 2017 Ambassador Volker was appointed to be the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine negotiations, serving in that position until he resigned in September.

It is a pleasure to welcome Mr. Morrison back to the legislative branch where he served for almost two decades as a Republican staffer. He was a professional staff member for Representative Mark Kennedy of Minnesota, and Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona.

Later Mr. Morrison served as the long time policy director for the Republican staff of the House Armed Services Committee. July 2018 Mr. Morrison joined the National Security Council as Senior Director for countering weapons of mass destruction. Following the departure of Dr. Fiona Hill in July 2019 Mr. Morrison assumed the position of Senior Director for Russia and Europe.

Two final points before the witnesses are sworn. First witnesses -- witness depositions as part of this inquiry were unclassified in nature, and all open hearings will also be held at the unclassified level. Any information that may touch unclassified information will be addressed separately.

Second, Congress will not tolerate any reprisal, threat of reprisal or attempt to retaliate against any U.S. government official testifying before Congress including you, or of any of your colleagues.

If you would both please rise, and raise your right hand, I will begin by swearing you in.

Do you swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?

Let the record show that the witnesses answered in the affirmative. Thank you, and please be seated.

The microphones are sensitive, so please speak directly in to them. Without objection your written statements will also be made part of the record. With that, Mr. Morrison you are recognized for your opening statement, and immediately thereafter Ambassador Volker you're recognized for your opening statement.

MORRISON: Chairman Schiff, Ranking Member Nunes and members of the Committee. I appear before you today under subpoena to answer your questions about my time as Senior Director for European Affairs at the White House, and the National Security Council as related to Ukraine and U.S. security sector assistance to that country.

I will provide you the most complete, and accurate information I can consistent with my obligations to protect classified and privileged information. Whether the conduct that is the subject of this inquiry merits impeachment is a question for the U.S. House of Representatives.

I appear here today only to provide factual information based upon my knowledge and recollection of events. I will not waste time restating the details of my opening statement from my deposition on October 31, 2019 which has recently been made public.

However, I will highlight the following key points -- first as I previously stated, I do not know who the whistleblower is, nor do I intend to speculate as to who the individual may be.

Second, I have great respect for my former colleagues from the NSE and the rest of the interagency. I am not here today to question their character or integrity. My recollections and judgments are my own.

Some of my colleague's recollections of conversations and interactions may differ from mine, but I do not view those differences as the result of an (inaudible) purpose. Third, I continue to believe Ukraine is on the frontlines of a strategic competition between the west and Vladimir Putin's (inaudible) Russia.

Russia is a failing power, but it is still a dangerous one. The United States aids Ukraine and her people, so they can fight Russia over there and we don't have to fight Russia here. Support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty has been a bipartisan objective since Russia's military invasion in 2014. It must continue to be.

As I stated during my deposition, I feared at the time of the call on July 25, how its disclosure would play in Washington's political climate. My fears have been realized. I understand the gravity of these proceedings, but I beg you not to lose sight of the military conflict underway in eastern Ukraine today.

The ongoing illegal occupation of Crimea, and the importance of reform of Ukraine's politics and economy. Every day that the focus of discussion involving Ukraine is centered on these proceedings, instead of those matters -- is a day when we are not focused on the interest of Ukraine, the United States, and western style liberalism share. Finally, I concluded by act of service at the National Security Council the day after I last appeared before you. I left the NSC completely of my own volition. I felt no pressure to resign, nor have I feared any retaliation for my testimony. I made this career choice some time before I decided to testify on October 31.


I am prepared to answer your questions to the best of my ability and recollection.

SCHIFF: Thank you. Ambassador Volker.

VOLKER: Thank you very much Mr. Chairman -- Ranking Member. Thank you very much for the opportunity to provide this testimony today. As you know, I was the first person to come forward to testify as part of this inquiry. I did so voluntarily, and likewise voluntarily provided relevant documentation in my possession, in order to be as cooperative, clear, and complete as possible.

I am here today voluntarily, and I remain committed to cooperating fully and truthfully with this committee. All I can do is provide the facts as I understood them at the time. I did this on October 3, in private and I will do so again today.

Like many others who have testified in this inquiry, I'm a career foreign policy professional. I began my career as an intelligence analyst for North Europe, for the Central Intelligence Agency in 1986 before joining the State Department in 1988.

I served in diplomatic postings, primarily focused on European, political and security issues for over 20 years under presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

My last three positions before leaving the senior foreign service in 2009 where I was director for NATO and West European Affairs at the National Security Council. Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs at the State Department -- and finally, as U.S. Ambassador to NATO.

In the spring of 2017, then Secretary of State Tillerson asked if I would come back to government service as U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine negotiations. I did this on a part-time, voluntary basis with no salary paid by the U.S. taxpayer, simply because I believed it was important to serve our country in this way.

I believed I could steer U.S. policy in the right direction. For over two years as U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine negotiations, my singular focus was advancing the foreign policy, and national security interests of the United States.

In particular, that meant pushing back on Russian aggression and supporting the development of a strong, resilient, Democratic and prosperous Ukraine. One that overcomes a legacy of corruption and becomes integrated in to a wider Trans-Atlantic community.

This is critically important for U.S. national security, if we can stop and reverse Russian aggression in Ukraine, we can prevent it elsewhere. If Ukraine, the cradle of Slavic civilization predating Moscow succeeds as a freedom loving, prosperous and secure democracy, it gives us enormous hope that Russia may one day change, providing a better life for Russian people and overcoming its current plague of authoritarianism, corruption, aggression toward neighbors, and threats to NATO and the United States. The stakes for the United States and a successful Ukraine could not be higher.

At no time was I aware of or knowingly took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden. As you know from the extensive real-time documentation I have provided, Vice President Biden was not a topic of our discussions. I was not on the July 25th phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky. I was not made aware of any reference to Vice President Biden or his son by President Trump until the transcript of that call was released on September 25th, 2019.

From July 7, 2017 until September 27th, 2019, I was the lead U.S. diplomat dealing with Russia's war on Ukraine. My role was not some irregular channel but the official channel.

I reported directly to Secretaries of State Tillerson and Pompeo, kept the national security advisor and secretary of Defense well informed of my efforts, and worked closely with Ambassador Masha Yovanovitch, NSC Senior Director Hill and her successor Tim Morrison, then- Assistant Secretary Wess Mitchell and his successor Acting Assistant Secretary Phil Reeker, Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper, NSC Director Alex Vindman and many, many others. I have known many of them for several years, it was a team effort.


When Ambassador Yovanovitch left Kyiv, I identified and recommended Bill Taylor to Secretary Pompeo so we would still have a strong, seasoned professional on the ground.

For two years before the events at the heart of this investigation took place, I was the most senior U.S. diplomat visiting the conflict zone, meeting with victims of Russia's aggression; urging increased U.S. security assistance including lethal defensive weapons; working with Ukrainian President Poroshenko, and then his successor President Zelensky and their team; working with France and Germany in the so- called Normandy process; pressing for support from NATO, the E.U. and OSCE; supporting the OSCE's Special Monitoring Mission; and engaging in negotiations and other contacts with Russian officials.

At this time I took the position in the summer of 2017, there were major complicated questions swirling in public debate about the direction of U.S. policy toward Ukraine. Would the administration lift sanctions against Russia? Would it make some kind of grand bargain with Russia in which it would trade recognition of Russia's seizure of Ukrainian territory for some other deal in Syria or elsewhere? Would the administration recognize Russia's claimed annexation of Crimea? Will this just become another frozen conflict?

There were also a vast number of vacancies in key diplomatic positions, so no one was really representing the United States in the negotiating process about ending the war in Eastern Ukraine.

During over two years of my tenure as U.S. special representative, we fundamentally turned U.S. policy around. U.S. policy toward Ukraine was strong, consistent and enjoyed support across the administration, bipartisan support in Congress, and support among our allies and Ukraine.

We changed the language commonly used to describe Russia's aggression. I was the administration's most outspoken public figure highlighting Russia's invasion and occupation of parts of Ukraine, calling out Russia's responsibility to end the war.

I visited the war zone three times, meeting with soldiers and civilians alike, always bringing media with me to try to raise the public visibility of Russia's aggression and the humanitarian impact on the lives of the citizens of the Donbas. We coordinated closely with our European allies and Canada to maintain a united front against Russian aggression and for Ukraine's democracy, reform, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Ukraine policy is perhaps the one area where the U.S. and its European allies had to be (ph) in lockstep. This coordin (ph) helped -- this coordination helped to strengthen U.S. sanctions against Russia and to maintain E.U. sanctions as well.

Along with others in the administration, I strongly advocated for lifting the ban on the sale of lethal defensive weapons or at least the defensive arms to Ukraine, advocated for increasing U.S. security assistance to Ukraine and urged other countries to follow suit.

My team and I drafted the Pompeo declaration of July 25th, 2018, in which the secretary clearly and definitively laid out the U.S. policy of non-recognition of Russia's claimed annexation of Crimea. I engaged with our allies, with Ukraine, and with Russia in negotiations to implement the Minsk agreements, holding a firm line on insisting on the withdrawal of Russian forces, dismantling of the so-called people's republics and restoring Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Together with others in the administration, we kept U.S. policy steady through presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine and worked hard to strengthen the U.S.-Ukraine bilateral relationship under the new president and government, helping shepherd in a peaceful transition of power in Ukraine.

So in short, whereas two years ago most observers would have said that time is on Russia's side, by 2019 when I departed we had turned the tables and time was now on Ukraine's side. It's a tragedy for the United States and for Ukraine that our efforts in this area which were bearing fruit have now been thrown into disarray.

One of the critical aspects of my role as U.S. special representative was that as the most senior U.S. official appointed to work solely on the Ukraine portfolio, I needed to step forward to provide leadership. If we needed to adopt a policy position, I made the case for it. If any -- if we need to -- if anyone needed to speak out publicly, I would do it. When we failed to get a timely statement about Russia's illegal attack on Ukraine's navy and seizure of Ukraine's sailors, I tweeted about it in order to condemn the act. If a problem arose, I knew it was my job to try to fix it.

That was my perspective when I learned in May 2019 that we had a significant problem that was impeding our ability to strengthen our support for Ukraine's new president in his effort to ramp-up Ukraine's fight against corruption and implementation of needed reforms. I found myself faced with a choice, to be aware of a problem and to ignore it, or to accept that it was my responsibility to try to fix it. I tried to fix it.


The problem was that, despite the unanimous positive assessment and recommendations of those of us who were part of the U.S. presidential delegation that attended the inauguration of President Zelensky, President Trump was receiving a different negative narrative about Ukraine and President Zelensky. That narrative was fueled by accusations from Ukraine's then-prosecutor general and conveyed to the president by former mayor, Rudy Giuliani.

As I previously told this committee, I became aware of the negative impact this was having on our policy efforts when four of us who were part of the presidential delegation to the inauguration met as a group with President Trump on May 23rd. We stressed our finding that President Zelensky represented the best chance for getting Ukraine out of the mire of corruption it had been in for over 20 years. We urged him to invite President Zelensky to the White House.

The president was very skeptical. Given Ukraine's history of corruption, that's understandable. He said the Ukraine was a corrupt country full of terrible people. He said they tried to take me down. In the course of that conversation, he referenced conversations with Mayor Giuliani. It was clear to me that despite the positive news and recommendations being conveyed by this official delegation about the new president, President Trump had a deeply rooted negative view on Ukraine rooted in the past. He was receiving other information from other sources, including Mayor Giuliani that was more negative, causing him to retain this negative view.

Within a few days on May 29, President Trump indeed signed the congratulatory letter to President Zelensky, which included an invitation to the president to visit him at the White House. However, more than four weeks past and we could not nail down a date for the meeting. I came to believe that the president's long-held negative view toward Ukraine was causing hesitation in actually scheduling the meeting, much as we had seen in our Oval Office discussion. After weeks of reassuring Ukrainians that it was just a scheduling issue, I decided to tell President Zelensky that we had a problem with the information reaching President Trump from Mayor Giuliani. I did so in a bilateral meeting at a conference on Ukrainian economic reform in Toronto on July 2, 2019 where I lead the U.S. delegation.

I suggested that he call President Trump directly in order to renew their personal relationship and to assure President Trump that he was committed to investigating and fighting corruption, things on which President Zelensky had based his presidential campaign. I was convinced that getting the two presidents to talk with each other would overcome the negative perception Ukraine, the present Trump still harbored. President Zelensky's senior aide Andriy Yermak, approached me several days later and asked to be connected to Mayor Giuliani, I agreed to make that connection. I did so because I understood that the new Ukrainian leadership wanted to convince those like Mayor Giuliani who believe such a negative narrative about Ukraine, that times have changed and that is under President Zelensky, Ukrainians were -- Ukraine is worthy of U.S. support.

Ukrainians believed that if they could get their own narrative in across in a way that convinced Mayor Giuliani that they were serious about fighting corruption and advancing reform, Mayor Giuliani would convey that assessment President Trump, thus correcting the previous negative narrative. It made sense to me and I tried to be helpful. I made clear the Ukrainians that Mayor Giuliani was a private citizen, the president's personal lawyer and not representing the U.S. government. Likewise in my conversations with Mayor Giuliani, I never considered him to be speaking on the president's behalf or getting instructions. Rather, the information flow was the other way, from Ukraine to Mayor Giuliani in the hopes this will clear up the information reaching President Trump.

On July 10 after hearing from Mr. Yermak, I wrote to Mayor Giuliani to seek to get together, and finally on July 19 we met for breakfast for a longer discussion. At that meeting, I told Mr. Giuliani that in my view, the prosecutor general, with whom he had been speaking, Mr. Lutsenko, was not credible and was acting in a self-serving capacity. To my surprise Mayor -- Mayor Giuliani said that he already come to that same conclusion. Mr. Giuliani also mentioned both the accusations about Vice President Biden and about interference in the 2016 election and stressed that all he wanted to see was for Ukraine to investigate what happened in the past and apply its own laws.

Concerning the allegations, I stressed that no one in the new team governing Ukraine had anything to do with anything that may have happened in 2016.