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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Sondland: "Everyone Was In The Loop" On Ukraine Response; Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) Is Interviewed About The Impeachment Probe Hearing; Sondland Ties President Trump, V.P. Pence, Secretary Of State Pompeo, And W.H. Chief Of Staff Mulvaney To Pressure Campaign; Sondland: "We Followed The President's Orders" To Work With Giuliani On Ukraine; Sources: Trump Campaign, GOP "Blindsided" By Sondland Testimony; Sondland: "Yes" There Was Quid Pro Quo In Ukraine Scandal; President Trump: Sondland's Testimony Was "Fantastic". Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired November 20, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And then this evening, you know, we have this Pentagon official saying that the timeline now of when the Ukrainians knew about the holdup of aid has suddenly moved forward.
And that's important because, you know, the Republicans have been saying that there couldn't be any wrongdoing if the Ukrainians weren't aware that the aid was held up. Well, suddenly, this evening, we discover that the timeline has shifted.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Right. I mean, first of all, the argument that you can't have a quid pro quo if the Ukrainians didn't know, that is not really true, but also, the timeline, as you say, has shifted.
COOPER: In fact, we have that testimony. Let's listen in on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): So you really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations?
GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE E.U.: Other than my own presumption.
TURNER: Which is nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was some of Ambassador Sondland testifying.
David Axelrod -- I mean, nobody really knew what Gordon Sondland was going to say last night this time. Both Republicans and Democrats are kind of trying to paint -- the president is trying to paint Gordon Sondland as basically absolving him. Did he?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, he has been a key character since this story has evolved. Everyone has pointed to him as someone deeply involved in this -- in this caper. And he acknowledged that.
But what he added was what Gloria said which is, he did it at the direction of the president, he was instructed to take direction from Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyers, and it raises the question, was the president using Giuliani as a kind of cutout in this thing so that he could have some plausible deniability?
And, you know, one of the things -- I have to get this off my chest. One of the things that stuck with me was he said it wasn't -- they didn't actually have to do the investigation. They had to publicly announce the investigation. And it just underscored what the motivation was, which was the president wanted to dirty up a potential opponent who he thought was a particular challenge to him in the upcoming election.
COOPER: I mean, the idea that if you're interested in fighting corruption that, well --
AXELROD: You go after, yes --
COOPER: -- you don't actually have to do it, you just say you're going to do it.
BORGER: You don't usually announce it. I'm not the lawyer.
AXELROD: And there is no evidence -- you know, the fact pattern just very bad for the president here, including the fact that he had these calls as Adam Schiff mentioned at the end. He had several calls with the president of Ukraine. He never raised the issue of corruption as a problem for the country. The only reference to corruption was his interest in these two cases that affected him -- himself -- he himself politically.
So, look, I think there is a reason why you hear at the end, Devin Nunes said, you know, you pound the table when you don't have the facts. He has been doing a lot of table-pounding because the facts are pretty stubborn.
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, I think today's testimony did a lot of damage to some of the stock Republican defenses. And really I think we see the Republicans left clinging to two types of defenses.
One, they're trying to disaggregate everything. They're trying to take every little piece of evidence, every brick in holding up and go, well, this is not the whole case. This is not a wall. OK, right, but you build the case brick by brick.
And the other is that is that, there are sort of magic words test that the Republicans had adopted that unless the president himself is saying, I'm committing bribery here, I go, bribery time, it's not bribery. Of course, that's not the way the real world works. We as the American public, Congress, juries in trials are entitled to use common sense, reason and logic, and to consider all the evidence together.
Maybe it's not as easy to do as having one smoking gun. But that I think is the way that we ought to approach this whole entirety of the facts.
COOPER: It does seem that's some of the argument that some of the witnesses made, which is like I didn't understand that Burisma -- Burisma is the Bidens. And it wasn't until later I came to that realization. Which, you know, for some -- Ambassador Sondland, granted, is not a career public official. But he is a capable person who has a computer, you know, terminal (ph).
ANNE MILGRAM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, I think it strains credibility to believe that he didn't ask questions, he didn't look it up, that there's no reason -- there is no reason why if it really was about corruption, you would be talking about corruption in general. Once you're naming a specific company, the idea that he wouldn't have investigated that and wanted to understand -- he testified today he spent hours, countless calls, meetings conversations with the president working on this in an effort to get this money to Ukraine and to get the meeting.
And so, he is deeply invested in it. In my view, Sondland has given what he has to give us because there are other witnesses who would contradict him otherwise. You know, he sort of -- I always like to say he admits what he can't deny and deny what he can't admit.
And so, he gives us everything but that last piece on the Bidens, because I think if he doesn't -- what he testified to today is essentially conspiracy, with all the senior members of the Trump administration.
And he is trying to say, but I didn't know exactly what I was doing. I didn't know that there was a political motive with the Bidens.
COOPER: Also, Kirsten, he casting himself -- I mean, he seemed almost pleased to be there. I mean, probably definitely pleased to be there. I mean, this was sort of -- you know, and he wanted to give his biography to start out and he is -- you know, the importance, you know, state boards that he has been assigned to by various governors in Oregon where he owns hotels, I guess, and has donated a lot of money.
But when he actually got to what he did, he cast himself as trying to break log jams. He was the one who he -- you know, he was against the policy and he was just doing his best to serve the president, but also, you know, do what he felt was right. And yet, his testimony left a lot of dots. He seemed unable or unwilling to connect them.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, but, I mean, if he -- if he was actually trying to stop it -- I mean, he is the one who now has explicitly said this was a quid pro quo. So, he did understand what was going on.
And I don't know -- you know, I don't know what a person like that does that in situation. I mean, there is the question how he got involved in it in the first place. This isn't even his area of expertise. So, that should be a red flag right away when you get pulled into something like that.
So, you know, I think that --
COOPER: It's unclear to me exactly what his area of expertise is the diplomatic world.
POWERS: Yes, exactly. Well, right. And so -- but I think that's the point. I think that's why he was chosen is because he was somebody that could be sort of pushed around and didn't really understand the lay of the land.
And I just think it's interesting that of all the people that have testified who actually have a lot of knowledge, none of them have said anything about the fact that the president is concerned about corruption. They haven't provided any evidence what so far to back up the central claim that the Republicans are making. You know, it's been undermined, you know, by, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman who said he wrote anti-corruption talking points to use on the call and weren't used.
So there is the very core arguments are being undermined and yet the Republicans are focusing on things like, well, we revoked aid to another country. It's like, look, nobody is saying you can't revoke aid to countries. People are saying you can't revoke aid to basically get another country to do your dirty work.
COOPER: I want to play the sound where Ambassador Sondland talked about the quid pro quo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONDLAND: I know that members of in committee frequently framed these complicated issues in the former of a simple question. Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Scott, what did you make of Sondland?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I had a number of observations.
Number one, I actually thought -- this morning, we had a lawyer on one of the panels, Ross Garber, who made the point that it was a subtle move, but they were separating -- Sondland was separating the meeting from the aid. And he told me the reason that that is is because I guess in the bribery laws, to be an official act, a meeting doesn't qualify -- I guess it has to be something else.
And so, he thought that was notable thing that maybe Sondland's lawyers had told him to do. Like separate the meeting from the foreign aid. So, that's number one.
Number two, you know, I think Sondland gave with his use of the word and reliance on the word presumption. He gave the Republicans enough to muddy the waters today, and they obviously leaned on that all day long. All the talking points today have relied on that.
He confirmed to me something we talked about on your show for a month and a half now, Giuliani being in the middle of this is the single worst thing Donald Trump has going. It was bad judgment to put him in the middle of it. And obviously, Sondland wanted everyone to know this was Rudy's show, not mine.
A couple of things came out today. You heard the legal arguments, I'll give you some political facts that came out. Two surveys came out while this is all going on. There was a Marquette poll from Wisconsin showing support for impeachment had dropped since October, showing Donald Trump leading all the Democrats in Wisconsin.
And the Gallup poll came out today, 90 percent of Republicans approve of the president, 57 percent of Americans approve of him on the economy. If you are a Republican congressman or senator, and you're trying to figure out, did this move me today and then you see this here, you see where your people are, where the American people are, where your party is, you're having a hard time doing anything other than what you've been doing, which is basically the political equivalent of two mules fighting over a turnip. Nobody's -- nobody's --
AXELROD: Yes, I agree with that. I saw -- when I watched Will Hurd testified, an independent-minded Republican who's been willing to take the president on. He is retiring.
He's a former intel person. And he -- it's clear from his questions, he is looking for a way to exculpate the president or at least find ground to stand on because he's going to vote no on impeachment.
I think, you know, this has been -- the goal of the Republicans is different than the goal of Democrats. Said it last night. Democrats are trying to prove a case here. And Republicans are trying to make this as partisan a fight as possible because they don't want people straying.
And I think to that degree, that Sondland was a mixed bag today. I think that they were able to do it. And, you know, he isn't going to be the witness of the year. I mean, he is not a very credible guy in many ways.
So, you know, I think some strides were made in terms of putting those bricks down today. And you're right that, you know, you don't -- these witnesses don't come from, you know, the seminary. But --
COOPER: There was an interesting exchange between Congressman Maloney and Sondland later on --
COOPER: -- in the testimony, very tough, where Sondland essentially at that point, again who seemed pleased with himself and happy to be there, the role that he has portrayed himself to be in of the truth teller. He was there. Maloney really pushed back on him on that and we're going to get that byte in just a moment.
Maloney pushed back on him, essentially saying, look, it took you three tries to get this -- to the degree that you have it. Let's play -- let's play that exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): Hold on, sir.
SONDLAND: Excuse me, I've been very forthright and I really resent what you're trying to do.
MALONEY: Fair enough you've been forthright. This is your third try to do so, sir. Didn't work so well the first time, did it? We had a little declaration come in after, you remember that? And now we're here a third time and we got a doozy of a statement from you this morning. There's a whole bunch of stuff you don't recall.
So, with all due respect, sir, we appreciate your candor. But let's be clear on what it took to get it out of you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I believe in Sondland's mind, it was hamana-hamana-hamana.
HONIG: That was a real sort of welcome to the real world moment for those of us who've tried cases, especially as prosecutors. Up to this point, we have seen literally a parade of military heroes, diplomatic professionals, non-partisan people with almost unchallengeable credibility.
Today, this is what real trials look like. Your witnesses often -- cooperating witnesses in particular -- are compromised, have said things that aren't quite consistent, have changed their story overtime process. You see it evolved. It's complicated situation for a trial lawyer.
It's complicated for Democrats because the Democrats argument has to be believe him but not everything he says.
BORGER: I think what Sondland was toing today was saving himself. I think he was effectively saying, I'm not gong to be the fall guy for Donald Trump here. I'm just telling you how this kind of unfolded. He is not a political guy. He is not worried about how anybody is voting on X or Y.
He is just saying, I'm not going to take the fall for Donald Trump and all these other people who knew everything I was doing. I'm defending my reputation. And he's got a problem with his reputation, as you all -- as you all point out.
And I think he walked away thinking, OK, I did that. Now, Republicans -- I mean, Democrats have a prob -- I mean, sorry. Republicans have an issue here because when they vote, do they come out and say, well, it was inappropriate but not impeachable? That will drive Donald Trump crazy.
JENNINGS: That's the clear -- that's the clear path.
BORGER: But will he -- David just said, will he allow him to do it?
COOPER: You think that's what they have to do?
JENNINGS: Look, there is a simple way out of this. Blame Rudy. Express whatever level of disgust you have to with process this. Conclude that bad judgment does mean not mean you have to throw a president out, and say, we're going to have the election and let the voters consider it. It's very simple.
POWERS: Isn't the Republican position be that Donald Trump had nothing to do with this that this was completely Giuliani on his own? Because the phone call at a minimum would undermine that.
JENNINGS: I think -- good question -- I think different Republicans will come to different conclusions. Some will say Trump had bad judgment. Some will say Rudy led him into a bad place here. Some will blame various actors. I think it depends on the person.
But they're all going to, I think, wind up in the same spot which is, you know, if bad judgment were impeachable, every administration would die a thousand deaths. So, I'm letting American people decide and I think that's where they're going to land.
COOPER: I'm going to playing some sound from Ambassador Sondland in which he essentially was naming names of all the people who are aware of what was going on. And he said this as Gloria said earlier multiple times. Let's play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONDLAND: Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Perry. I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations.
Yes, a lot of people were aware of it. And -- REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Including -- including Mr. Mulvaney?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MILGRAM: So one of the things that I thought it was really extraordinary was not just that but also that he said that there are records of these emails. There are text messages.
And you know, I think --
COOPER: And that he doesn't even have access to them.
MILGRAM: And was denied access to some of them. So, I think it's true the best defense is yes, we did it, but, you know, it's not such a big deal. But I think it gets harder and harder if the Democrats are able to get access to the documents.
JENNINGS: One thing on the naming names, by the way, and to your point, Gloria, about dropping all these people in, I believe since this happened today both Pompeo and Pence have issued some kind of a denial --
BORGER: Pence with some kind of a denial.
JENNINGS: -- of the claims that Sondland made in his testimony.
And so, you know, to the extent he was trying to make it seem like, you know, the gang was all in on it, at least a couple of folks are saying, whoa, whoa, we don't agree with that. Which I think is noteworthy, you have members of the administration saying another member of the administration is not saying something accurate testimony.
COOPER: I loved it when twice he sort of proudly said that, you know not a note taker never have been, never will be. By the end of it I was like, you know, he is a good advertisement for actually taking notes. Like maybe -- maybe when you run your own company, it's fine not to take notes. But maybe in a government job, you might want to take some notes.
AXELROD: But to Kirsten's point, he is also maybe a good guy to put in the middle of this thing if only because he is not really sophisticated and he's going to go and act on -- by the way, about Rudy. You -- I mean, I think danger for Trump in making him the fall guy because he obviously knows a lot about the president and the president's operations. But when you say he shouldn't have been in this middle -- been in this from the first, who else are you recruiting for an assignment like this?
COOPER: Well, Gordon Sondland.
AXELROD: I mean, you're in the going -- there is a reason he wasn't using career really the regular order career diplomats to do this, because the president knew that wasn't going to fly.
COOPER: We've got to take a quick break. But we're going to have more to talk about, including reaction from Congressman Joaquin Castro on what he saw in the testimony he heard. He'll join us.
Also, what the president saying about the testimony that he says exonerates him entirely.
COOPER: (INAUDIBLE) stretch the imagination, this was a consequential day in the impeachment inquiry. One of the central figures implicated the president and members of his cabinet in what he explicitly said was a quid pro quo which oddly enough exactly what Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney openly admitted to several weeks ago, before trying to toss it down the memory hole. Get over it, he said then.
Gordon Sondland was asked about it today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Knowing what you know now about was intended with Ukraine, do you agree with Mr. Mulvaney that there's just going to be political influence in foreign policy? Or that we should all get over it and allow a president now or later to investigate a political rival and ask a foreign government to do that?
Do you agree with Mr. Mulvaney?
SONDLAND: I think there's a big difference between political influence and investigating the rival because politics enters into everything relating to foreign policy.
CASTRO: So, but you disagree that the president -- you agree that the president should not be allowed to ask for the investigation of a political rival?
SONDLAND: In the context of what was going on in Ukraine, I believe that the president should not investigate a political rival in return for a quid pro quo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining us now, the man who asked that question, Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro.
Thanks for being with us.
Congressman, what was the biggest takeaway for you from Sondland's testimony today?
CASTRO: Ambassador Sondland basically said that he was taking direction from the president through Rudy Giuliani and that there was a quid pro quo. He also expanded the scope of people that have firsthand knowledge about this corruption. He talked about Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Perry and others who are part of the administration, but so far have refused to come forward and testify the way that Ambassador Sondland did today.
COOPER: A lot of people thought Ambassador Sondland was going to clear up the issue of hearsay since he talked directly to the president. The fact of the matter is he says he never heard the president say that aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into the Bidens, Burisma or the 2016 election. He just said go talk to Rudy who then delivered that message to him.
Does that Democrats case because that's where Republicans have been focusing on?
CASTRO: Yes, I know that they've been saying that during the day. But remember, the most damning words come from the president himself, when he directly asked the Ukrainian president for a favor, that included investigating the Bidens, and Burisma. So, regardless of what he told Ambassador Sondland or really anybody else, the president's own words are damning to him.
COOPER: Earlier today, you said that while testimony from Secretary Pompeo, Mick Mulvaney, other administration officials would certainly be helpful, it's not necessary before drafting articles of impeachment. Aren't they exact the people who you need to hear from an all of this? I mean, when they have the most firsthand knowledge, most direct knowledge?
CASTRO: I think that it would certainly be help for. It would certainly add a context of our understanding, but I believe that we have significance already. As I mentioned, that call transcript alone, those are the president's own words asking and basically trying to trade a political favor for U.S. government resources, holding up U.S. government resources.
And as we talked about in both in this hearings, that was inappropriate when President Trump tried it, but also, it's important because we cannot in the United States set a precedent where it's OK for a president, Republican or Democrat, to say to a country, to a foreign leader -- look, I'm not going to give you that money that Congress appropriated, unless you help me take out a political rival. That would have extremely dangerous consequences for our country going forward.
COOPER: Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, who testified just -- testimony just ended, she testified tonight that Ukrainians know there was an issue as early as July 25th, which is the same day as President Trump's call with Zelensky.
The Republicans have been arguing -- well, which doesn't actually make sense -- that there can't be a quid pro quo. Ukrainians didn't know about it. If that timeline that Ms. Cooper is talking about, that would seem to undercut that argument. CASTRO: Yes, that's right. She basically indicated that in July, the Ukrainians likely unjust spoke with going on. And remember, these are sophisticated diplomats. They understand that there must be some reason why they're not getting that aid.
And then all the other testimony, including Ambassador Sondland's today, has suggested that there were conversations going on about investigations with both American diplomats and the Ukrainians. So, it's very likely that they knew. But even if you put all that aside and assume for a second arguendo that they didn't know, the president by himself making that offer which amounts to either a bribe or extortion, that act itself, whatever the Ukrainians knew, should be a crime.
COOPER: Democrats have abandoned trying to get testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton, Fiona Hill reported to him directly at the White House. She's going to be testifying tomorrow. How much do you expect her to be able to give you everybody a sense of how much Bolton knew in her testimony?
CASTRO: I hope that she can speak to that, and in fact, she was one of the folks that actually had concerns when she heard what was going on. She had concerns about this pay-for-play, basically a shakedown. So, we're looking forward to her testimony.
COOPER: Congressman Castro, appreciate your time. Thank you.
CASTRO: Back now with our political and legal team.
Fiona Hill's testimony, I mean, it is -- again, it's one step removed. It's not John Bolton himself, but she can give some context to what Bolton's reactions were I assume.
BORGER: She was number two, loyal to Bolton, she's his proxy tomorrow. I think that's what we'll hear her talk about, and she is the one who expressed concern, and who quoted John Bolton directly as referring to what Mulvaney and Sondland were cooking up as a drug deal, saying he didn't have any part of it, and I think she can talk a little bit more about why Bolton was so upset with Ambassador Sondland, and maybe even with the president himself.
I mean, this also underscores why we need to hear from John Bolton and all of this because he is so central to all of this, but he clearly wanted the aid to go to Ukraine immediately, and he was upset, and he called what Mulvaney and Sondland were doing a drug deal. He -- and I think she heard it, and she understood what Bolton's concerns were all along, and she can talk about that tomorrow.
COOPER: Elie, the White House put out a statement saying that Sondland's testimony today, quote, completely exonerates President Trump of wrongdoing.
HONIG: Boy, I don't know where they got that from. That is a real stretch. I mean, they're relying back on this line of questioning of, did Donald Trump ever tell you this is a bribe, this is a quid pro quo? That said, there are plenty of things in direct conversations that Sondland had with Trump, limited as he admitted, that are important. First of all, when he called him on July 26, when they had that call from the restaurant. He, Sondland, said Donald Trump talked about the investigations. That's significant. That shows you what was on Donald Trump's mind, what his priorities were.
And then when they had a later call in September, in between the texts, when they had the break there, and Sondland called Trump and sort of said, what do we do, right? I mean, Trump at that point said, no quid pro quo, I just wanted him to do what he was elected. That's a weird response.
HONIG: There's a dispute about what he said, but yes, no quid pro quo is weird.
COOPER: Let me just play some sound of Sondland saying that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE CASTOR, GOP COUNSEL: Did the president ever tell you personally about any preconditions for anything?
CASTOR: OK. So the president never told you about any preconditions for the aid to be released?
CASTOR: The president never told you about any preconditions for a White House meeting?
SONDLAND: Personally, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AXELROD: Yes -- well, the president himself made a big deal about this call in September when Sondland called him to see, you know, about the aid and the president said, no quid pro quos, no -- you know, I don't want -- I want nothing. I want nothing.
COOPER: Jim Jordan, all the Republicans are saying that.
AXELROD: But it happened just as the whistle-blower complaint landed on Capitol Hill. His cover was blown.
COOPER: The president's cover.
AXELROD: The president's cover was blown and it was very clear that he was speaking for the record more than anything else at that moment just so that he could come back and say, I told him, no quid pro quo.
You know, first of all, who talks like that?
AXELROD: But, you know, so I mean, I think there's a real artifice about all of this. And it reflects someone who I understood that he was in deep water.
COOPER: Scott, I mean, can the Republicans argue with a straight face, while the President said no quid pro quo to Sondland?
JENNINGS: Well, I think the better argument for them is that Sondland kept using the word presumption. I mean, what do you -- you know, I think you make some persuasive arguments on that end of the table.
But because Sondland kept saying I made these presumptions about what I was supposed to be doing to me is where the Republicans are more likely to hang their hat. Is that you have in guy not terribly experienced, not all that close to the President, you know, came in late, as the President said today, and then he shows up and starts presuming what he's supposed to do, maybe got out over his skis. I would think that would be a more likely place that they will go than what you have.
MILGRAM: How about the transcript?
POWERS: Well, that's interesting to say. If the transcript didn't exist and if the phone call didn't happen, then that might work. But the problem is there is a phone call where it's more than a presumption. I mean, he understands what he's saying. And then there's a transcript where he's actually saying it.
So, that's why I feel like the throwing Giuliani, you know, under the bus thing doesn't really work. Because usually -- when that happens, it's usually -- it's the President saying I didn't even know. Like this was going on. People under me were doing things. I had no idea. But Trump has got his fingers all over this.
AXELROD: (INAUDIBLE) and defense.
COOPER: And Trump has repeatedly said to people, he said it to Volker, he said it to Sondland, you know, talk to Rudy. And Rudy knows --
POWERS: Yes. And he made -- and he said it to Zelensky. So if he hadn't done that, then maybe he could say Rudy was freelancing. But how does he now say Rudy was freelancing?
MILGRAM: Remember also today that Sondland -- it was a fascinating part of the testimony where he argues with what Bill Taylor had said that there was an irregular channel of diplomacy happening. So what Sondland is basically saying is, if I'm doing it and Pompeo is doing it, and Bolton is doing it, and Perry is doing it, how is that not U.S. policy?
So, the fact that all these people are doing it, it can only -- and Sondland says at the direction of the President. Whether it came directly from the President or through Giuliani does not matter.
BORGER: And I think Sondland's explanation is very believable. He said, based on the President's direction we were faced with a choice. We could abandon our efforts in Ukraine to arrange this phone call or, you know, we could do what Rudy Giuliani was telling us to do at the direction of the President. And he was saying, that was -- we were all agreed, we wanted to get this aid to Ukraine. We wanted to set up this meeting.
COOPER: I kept going back to why is this guy in the midst of in scrum. Like, why is he one of the we? I mean, why is he --
JENNINGS: Why didn't a Democrat -- I was waiting all day for a Democrat questioner to say, why you?
JENNINGS: Why are you here and why were you picked? I can't believe they didn't ask him that directly.
COOPER: Yes. Well, just ahead, we're going to go live to the White House for a report on the reaction there after what would seem to be a rough day of testimony for President Trump. So we just mentioned, he begs to differ. The question is, what does he see to make him say that, if anything, stay tuned.
COOPER: As we said at the top of the broadcast tonight, President Trump reacted to Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony. And as you'll see, he cited a passage of it that he seems to believe lays the entire affair to rest. CNN's Jim Acosta joins us now with that. So the President, Jim, weighed -- very directly weight it about Sondland.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. I think the White House is trying to surgically extract the one piece of testimony from Gordon Sonland that they see as the most beneficial to the President.
That's why you saw the President on the south lawn of the White House and down in Austin, Texas earlier today talking about this one piece of testimony where the E.U. ambassador talks about this phone call that he had with the President in September when the President said to him he doesn't want a quid pro quo, he doesn't want anything and the President repeated that on the south lawn earlier today. Here's what he had to say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I say to the ambassador in response, I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky, President Zelensky, to do the right thing. So here's my answer, I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing. Then he says, this is the final word from the President of the United States. I want nothing. Thank you, folks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now, one thing we should point out, Anderson, getting to what the President was just saying there that that September conversation that he had with Gordon Sondland, that obviously happened after the July 25th phone call, but it also happened after the whistleblower filed his complaint and also after concerns were being raised in the administration.
As for Gordon Sondland's future, I had a chance to ask the White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway, about this earlier this evening. She was talking to reporters. And I asked, does the President still have confidence in Gordon Sondland? And she said very cryptically, he's still on the job and I have no indication that he won't be. Maybe he'll choose not to be and maybe he won't have that post much longer. That's not exactly a vote of confidence.
COOPER: Wow. So, I mean, it is fascinating, Jim, when you think about it. You know, Volker is gone. Morrison is gone. You know, Yovanovitch, a career foreign service officer who knew Ukraine and actually was fighting corruption, she is forced out. But, you know, rest safe America, Gordon Sondland is on a plane back to Brussels to be the ambassador to the European Union tonight. I mean, it's kind of amazing.
ACOSTA: It is kind of amazing. And amazing also, Anderson, because we talked to sources close to the White House, the Trump campaign up on Capitol Hill and they are all telling us that inside the White House, inside the campaign, even among some of these GOP lawmakers involved in today's hearing that they were blindsided by what Gordon Sondland had to say, and that some were freaking out according to one of the sources that we spoke with.
Anderson, I think this goes to a very large point, and that is Gordon Sondland was essentially playing battleship with GOP talking points today. You know, he was hitting B4, A6 and so on and just blowing up these things on-site. And the question moving forward is what Fiona Hill has to say about all of this tomorrow.
They are prepared for her testimony to be difficult for the President and perhaps damaging to the President, but they're seeing this one coming in terms of Fiona Hill. They didn't see this one coming today, Anderson. COOPER: Yes. Jim Acosta, thanks very much. Now, back with everyone. It was fascinating the way Gordon Sondland, you know, sort of gleefully was relating to both sides. He seemed to sort of -- his testimony, I mean, the words he chose to use as Scott has pointed out, it allowed Republicans to have a little, you know, a little good news and allowed Democrats to have a little good news for them.
AXELROD: Well, he's a pleaser. I mean, that's pretty clear. Jim's point was reflected in Nunes' opening statement because it was a warm statement, you know, welcoming him, congratulating him for, you know, coming forward and so on. And then suddenly the temperature changed. You know, he obviously -- someone hadn't given him the opening statement, which was available.
AXELROD: And his whole -- everybody's tenor and tone changed. One thing that was striking to me about Sondland's testimony, and it gives you a sense of his questions about him, was that he has selective memory loss and generally they revolve around conversations with the President.
You know, I really can't remember exactly what -- but he had good recall for other meetings and discussions that were useful to him. And I think he was trying to sort of shift this over to Giuliani so he could go back to Brussels and say, I didn't throw the President over.
HONIG: Also notable, every one of his memory losses, every one of his inconsistencies and contradictions went one direction, went in Trump's favor, softening the blow for Trump. I think that's -- that can't be a coincidence.
BORGER: Well, it was as if this written testimony was so tough and lawyered.
BORGER: Written testimony --
COOPER: But you've had -- you've gotten a copy of an events, which --
BORGER: I did.
COOPER: -- put it on CNN. Yes, that was great.
BORGER: Thank you. But, I don't know why Devin Nunes couldn't get.
COOPER: I know that's -- when David was talking about, it was interesting.
COOPER: Nunes, you know --
BORGER: Right. So the written testimony is tough. And then today during the hearing it was softer. It was as if he was still trying to please the President in some way shape or form. And keep all those roads open into the White House, because he has to go back to his job. I don't know how long he'll lasts there, but --
MILGRAM: I think it's true, but I think -- and look, he's not a perfect witness at all, but he pointed directly at the President. He pointed at all these other members of the senior administration. He gave the entire narrative from the beginning to the end. So it's not just about a call, it's about all these other meetings and texts. So to me, he might have said it softly, but his testimony --
AXELROD: But wasn't it because of what you said which is that other people are going to testify --
MILGRAM: I think yes. I think --
AXELROD: -- to it and he had to admit what he had to admit?
MILGRAM: Yes. I think, you know, the circle was closing on him. And so, he had -- I believe not been honest in his deposition. We just saw Roger Stone convicted for lying to Congress. It's a very serious thing.
And so, you know, I think he came forward not necessarily because he wanted to but because, you know, once he sort of stepped into the arena, and then he was being put in this position by other witnesses.
COOPER: And tomorrow, David Holmes in addition to Fiona Hill, David Holmes who is the Foreign Service who heard -- was at the table of Gordon Sondland, heard the phone call. Gordon Sondland talked about that, didn't claim not to have much recollection about it, but wouldn't contradict what David Holmes had testified to, except saying Gordon Holmes -- Gordon Sondland didn't really remember any details, but he did remember that he didn't say the word Biden in the call -- in the conversation.
POWERS: Yes. I mean, I don't think that David Holmes is probably trying to perjure himself. And so, you know, this is -- when you say you don't recall something, you're not really putting yourself in much danger of perjury. But when you do go on the record and say there's something happened and it didn't happen, then you are putting yourself in danger of perjury.
COOPER: Actually, let's put some of that sound from that moment where he's talking about the call.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL GOLDMAN, MAJORITY COUNSEL: You confirmed to President Trump -- Ukraine at the time and that President Zelensky "loves your ass." Do you recall saying that?
GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: That sounds like something I would say. That's how President Trump and I communicate, a lot of four-letter words. In this case three-letter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Classic Gordon. It's so Gordon.
MILGRAM: It sort of (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: It's so raven.
JENNINGS: It's funny. At times I thought Sondland was trying to portray a familiarity with the President like in this case. And in other times he was trying to portray himself as not being -- you know, at one point he said I didn't support the campaign. You know, I came in and all I was doing was buying inaugural tickets and all of a sudden I wound up in this job.
AXELORD: Yes, a million dollars.
COOPER: A million dollars of inaugural tickets.
JENNINGS: And so -- moments that was I want familiar, moments it was -- I just showed up here in the last 10 minutes, my first day basically. But one thing on Hill tomorrow that I'm watching for, our own Phil Mattingly pointed this out today, Sondland today said he only met with Mulvaney one time that he could recall.
Now, Phil was recalling today that in Hill's previous testimony she said she saw Sondland in the west-wing a number of times. He would bragged that he had been in to see the President and then she would look into it and subsequently realized he had just been up to see Mulvaney. And that happened, according to Phil, a few or a number of times.
And so, I'm sort of curious if the Democrats drill down on that tomorrow or the Republicans to try to make it seem like maybe Sondland, you know, was sort of still maybe don't have full control of the facts here.
COOPER: Don't go anywhere. Up next, a preview of tomorrow's testimony and the problems that Fiona Hill and David Holmes may hold for the White House, Republican talking points. We'll be right back.
COOPER: I want to play another moment from today's testimony when Ambassador Sondland talks about Rudy Giuliani. Listen
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONDLAND: Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States. We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we were playing the hand we were dealt.
We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose a very important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine, so we followed the President's orders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We follow the President's order. Jim Acosta has just reported that kind of language startled some Republicans today. There are two final witnesses this week scheduled to appear in public tomorrow, Fiona Hill, David Holmes, offer perspectives from two very different advantage points.
Hill is a former national security, top expert on Europe and Russia, can offer insight from the White House into the "drug deal" she says her then-boss John Bolton said he didn't want to be part of. She and Holmes can both discuss their experiences with Ambassador Gordon Sondland.
Holmes, a diplomat in Ukraine, said he heard the President discussed the status of "investigations" when he witnessed that restaurant call between the President and Sondland.
Political and legal team are back. It's -- I just found it so fascinating to watch Sondland testifying. I'm not sure exactly why other than he just seemed so pleased to be there.
AXELROD: Yes. This Rudy Giuliani piece is really interesting. To Scott point, in Chicago we call that fitting someone for concrete overshoes. It really was clear from the start he was saying he's the bad guy. And let's be clear, when he said we followed the President's orders, what he was saying is we followed the President's orders to take direction from Rudy.
HONIG: First of all, it's going to be so hard. I agree with Scott, they are going to blame Rudy. He is going to become the scapegoat, concrete shoes. But here's why it's so hard. We have it in black and white. Donald Trump on the July 25th call to Zelensky said, "Rudy very much knows what's happening."
And Rudy, on the other hand, has tweeted multiple times now, everything I did, I did in my personal, private capacity, representing the personal interests of Donald Trump. They're interlocked.
COOPER: What's we heard about -- I guess what struck me weird about Sondland saying, you know, we knew we had to deal with Rudy so for the best -- you know, for policy of Ukraine, we -- the we implies that Gordon Sondland had to be there. He had to be in the midst of it.
He had to be -- you know, he was -- he's a career -- he's a Foreign Service officer. He's the ambassador. So, that's what he had to do. He was brought in by the President. I mean, he is on the same team as Giuliani really in terms of loyalty to the President. BORGER: And the career foreign service people clearly regarded him as the problem child. They were all on the same team in the sense that they wanted to get this aid to Ukraine and they wanted to set up the meeting with the President. But Fiona Hill talks about Sondland like she's rolling her eyes.
AXELROD: The Gordon problem.
BORGER: Right, the Gordon problem. And so they had to deal with him because he spoke to the President more than they did. They didn't talk to the President.
COOPER: Right. Volker says that Sondland had the direct channel to the President, which Volker certainly didn't have.
POWERS: Yes, yes. I just -- I don't -- like I said before, I don't think the blaming the Rudy thing works. Because I think that he -- yes, he was a problem, but the President clearly was in agreement with him on what he was saying.
So Rudy may have been the one feeding him the ideas, but ultimately the President accepted the ideas, and he acted on them, and he made a phone call, you know, with the President of Ukraine and tried to accomplish, I guess, things that he got from Rudy and we don't really even know that for a fact that he got it from Rudy.
So I think that -- you know, I don't know how you get the President's fingerprints off of this when you have that transcript or feed out of the call.
COOPER: Yes. I want to thank everybody on the team tonight. Just ahead, we're going to put this remarkable day into perspective. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Well, it's tempting these days to call every moment in the impeachment story historic and then days like today come along that meet that standard. Today, we saw a testimony from Gordon Sondland who was at the very center of it all and there was drama befitting a Hollywood thriller.
Going in, really no one had any idea what he would say. At this point last night, nobody knew. Some were convinced he might take the fifth. He didn't, instead, more drama. We heard him directly implicate that President along with some varying degrees, key members of his Cabinet, his Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, his Energy Secretary Rick Perry, his former National Security Adviser John Bolton, and his Vice President Mike Pence.
Sondland said he would come to realize the President was willing to hold back the aid and a vital show of support unless he got help from Ukraine in announcing investigations into his political rival, Joe Biden, and into a conspiracy theory that Ukraine tried to undermine him in the 2016 election.
He implicated Rudy Giuliani used to be known as America's mayor, that was a long time ago. He laid out a scheme that if it's all true, makes Watergate looks small. And it's all part and parcel of proceedings that have only happened three other times since the country was founded.
It's a long way of saying today was historic and tomorrow the testimony continues. So those are the coverage of all of it right now with Chris Cuomo. I'll see you again live at 11:00 p.m. Chris?
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, Anderson, thank you. I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME live from Washington, D.C.