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Sondland Ties Trump, Pence, Pompeo to Ukraine Pressure Campaign; Republicans Speak after Sondland Testimony. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired November 20, 2019 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:00]

HECK: -- by obligation you mean simply your legal obligation or did you mean something bigger?

SONDLAND: Well both my legal obligation and my moral obligation.

HECK: Your moral obligation. I actually want to present an alternative theory. Your family came here escaping the Holocaust via Uruguay and your parents moved - Lucy (ph) and later you here where frankly, you've been an American success story. Through dent(ph) of hard work and innovation, good idea, a knack to hire the right people and some luck, you've built a considerable successful business; one that I know for a fact that would make your parents proud.

They came here because they knew that it was here that they could have freedom that they had not enjoyed, security that they had not enjoyed and opportunity that they had not enjoyed. And no doubt on some level you're grateful and it's created a sense of patriotism in you. Is that fair to say?

SONDLAND: Very fair.

HECK: Why then, sir, with your courage to come before us, does that same standard not apply to Mr. Mulvaney, Mr. Duffy, Mr. Pompeo, Mr. Bolton, Mr. Vogue(ph), Mr. Giuliani. Why shouldn't those same sentiments beat within their hearts to do their patriotic duty and do what you have done, sir. Indeed, why doesn't that same standard apply to the President of the United States?

SONDLAND: I wish I could answer.

HECK: I suspect you can't because there is no good answer but I do appreciate your willingness to come here today. With that, I yield back Mr. Chairman.

SONDLAND: Thank you Congressman.

SCHIFF: Mr. Jordan.

JORDAN: Thank you Mr. Chairman. I ask unanimous consent to enter into the record a statement from Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

SCHIFF: Without objection. We haven't seen all these statements but I presume they are accurate and no objection.

JORDAN: Thank you. Ambassador, President Trump is not a big fan of foreign aid. Is that right?

SONDLAND: I don't if that's a fair characterization. I think he's careful.

JORDAN: He's expressed concerns about foreign aid ...

SONDLAND: Right. Yes.

JORDAN: ... going to certain countries.

SONDLAND: Yes.

JORDAN: OK. Fair enough. And he knew Ukraine was corrupt. Is that right?

SONDLAND: He believed Ukraine was corrupt.

JORDAN: Yes and he wanted Europe to do more?

SONDLAND: Definitely.

JORDAN: Definitely wanted Europe to do more and the president had a belief that Ukrainian government officials, some senior Ukrainian government officials support his opponent in 2016. I won't go into all the details but I think of the one member of parliament who said the majority of Ukrainian politicians want Hillary Clinton to win. So he had that belief as well and obviously he understood what was happening. We've got a brand new guy in Ukraine, this Zelensky guy wins, right?

SONDLAND: Right.

JORDAN: And his party takes over and President Trump wants to see with all these other things that are a concern to him, he wants to see if this new guy is actually as I like to say, the real deal, a real reformer and actually going to deal with the corruption problem. So aid gets held up for 55 days, gets held up on June 18th - excuse me July 18th and then is released on September 11th. But it seems to me more important than the 55 day pause, is the 14 days when Ukraine realized aid was held up on the 29th.

We've now had you testify to that. The two witnesses yesterday testified that, the Politico article. So aid gets held up on August - excuse me - Ukraine learns aid is held on August 29th and then of course released on - released on September 11th. In those 14 days there are 3 important meetings with senior government officials and President Zelensky. There's the August 29th meeting between Ambassador Bolton and President Zelensky. There's the meeting September 1st that you're a part of, Vice President Pence meets with President Zelensky and then there's the meeting on September 5th where U.S. Senators Murphy and Johnson meet with President Zelensky. None of those meetings - none of those meetings did any linkage to security assistance dollars and an announcement or a start of any investigation ever came up. None of them.

But it seems to me the one that's the most important is probably the one we've talked least about and that's the September 5th meeting because that's actually a meeting where there is no one - well it's much more Congressional focused than White House focused. This is the meeting where Senators Murphy - Senators Murphy and Johnson, bipartisan meet with President Zelensky. And what's interesting is what both Senators in the last two days have given us letters recounting what happened in that meeting.

[15:05:00]

Senator Murphy said I broached the topic of pressure on Zelensky from Rudy Giuliani and the president's other embassaries to launch investigation into Trump's political rival. Murphy brought it up. He brought - you got two senators who both strong supporters of money going to Ukraine, these guys are all for it and Senator Murphy, the Democrat, even brings up the issue everyone has been talking about.

It seems to me if ever there was going to be a time where the President of Ukraine says, guys, you don't know what I'm dealing with. I'm getting pressure from the President of the United States. He wants me to do this. I got to make - it seems if ever there was a time that the President of Ukraine, the new guy who now knows the aid has been on hold, if ever there was a time to bring it up, that would have been the time. But guess what, at no time Senator Johnson tells us, at no time during this meeting or on any other meeting on this trip was there any mention by Zelensky or any other Ukrainian that they were feeling pressure to do anything in return for military aid, not even Senator Johnson says, not even after Murphy warned them about getting involved in the election.

So Murphy gave this big deal on Giuliani and nothing. Nothing. And guess what Murphy also said? I do not dispute any of Senator Johnson's factual - factual representations regarding the meeting. If ever it was going to happen, September 5th was the day. That was - no one from the White House there - not Ambassador Bolton, not vice president - no one there. But even then it didn't happen and we got all kinds of other meetings when it didn't happen and of course as you testified earlier, there was never an announcement. You said there were three quid pro quos but there weren't because there was never an announcement.

I mean this is as clear as it gets that these guys want to keep stirring it up based on no direct evidence once or ever and the best direct evidence we have is actually what the president told you, I want nothing. There is no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do exactly what he campaigned on and when that became clear to us, guess what? They got the money. They got the money. God Bless America, it all worked out, right? This is crazy what we're going through because the facts are so darn clear. I yield back.

SCHIFF: Mr. Welch.

WELCH: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Ambassador, I'm impressed with your career; you've been very successful in business. I'm impressed with your commitment to public service and I was very impressed with your forthright statements so thank you for that.

You said it was the highest honor for you to have this opportunity to have this appointment to serve as Ambassador to the E.U. Correct?

SONDLAND: Correct.

WELCH: And you quickly became very involved in the Ukraine policy and that policy has been described by you and others was really very clear. Help Ukraine fight internal corruption and resist external aggression, correct?

SONDLAND: Correct.

WELCH: And this Congress, I think, with the support of everybody up here, Republicans and Democrats, and in fact, with a significant amount of Republican leadership, authorized the release of military aide, right?

SONDLAND: Right.

WELCH: And you and others, who were working with you, believed it was very important to the new government, President Zelensky, to have that White House meeting to show our support and send a signal to Russia, correct?

SONDLAND: That's correct.

WELCH: And from hearing you and from hearing our other witnesses, Ambassador Yovanovitch, Ambassador Volker, Ambassador Taylor, there was a concerted team effort on your part to get that meeting and release that aide, correct?

SONDLAND: Well, there was always a concerted effort on my part to get the meeting. That was my -- that was my singular narrow focus was to get the meeting.

WELCH: Right. And that was shared by all of the colleagues I just mentioned, correct?

SONDLAND: Yes.

WELCH: All right. And incredibly urgent, Ambassador Taylor described going to the front, where Ukrainians were dying at the Donbass, 14,000 had died and it was an existential issue for them that they get the aide. And you were well aware of that, and shared, I'm sure, Ambassador Taylor's concern. Is that correct?

SONDLAND: I did.

WELCH: And in your forthright testimony, you had a -- you've -- you've testified, and it's really with the benefit of hindsight, because you couldn't piece it all together, Giuliani knew in real time what you were trying to figure out as you went along, is that a fair statement?

SONDLAND: I think so.

WELCH: One, you testified that you acted on the orders of the president. That was you acting out his orders, correct?

SONDLAND: Correct.

WELCH: And you said, quite explicitly, there was a quid pro quo?

SONDLAND: Relating to the meeting and the Burisma DNC.

WELCH: That's exactly right. No meeting -- no meeting unless there's an investigation, right?

[15:10:00]

SONDLAND: That's what we were told by Mr. Giuliani.

WELCH: And Mr. Giuliani, you absolutely --

SONDLAND: Wait, no meeting unless there was announcement of investigation.

WELCH: OK. Thank you. And I asked -- by the way, did the efforts of Mr. Giuliani authorized by the president impede the efforts that you and others were making to try to advance what you thought was the Ukraine policy?

SONDLAND: Not initially. We were just working for --

WELCH: Ultimately?

SONDLAND: Well, ultimately nothing happened.

WELCH: Right. And Giuliani was the one who was absolutely insistent on the meeting, correct?

SONDLAND: Giuliani was insistent on the --

WELCH: On the investigation.

SONDLAND: -- the investigation.

WELCH: Right. Now, I asked this of Ambassador Taylor -- or Ambassador Volker. If the Mayor of Portland said to the police chief, I'm not going to authorize your budget unless you agree to do an investigation into my political opponent, would that be wrong?

SONDLAND: Of course.

WELCH: And likewise if were the Governor of the state of Oregon doing the same thing, correct?

SONDLAND: Correct.

WELCH: And would that same rule apply to the President of the United States?

SONDLAND: To investigate a political opponent?

WELCH: That's correct.

SONDLAND: Yes.

WELCH: All right, so that's the question here. The president, in his phone call, he asked President Zelensky, who desperately needed the release of that aide, who desperately needed the White House meeting, to do an investigation, and it was focused on the Bidens, and Hunter Biden, and Burisma and crowd strike. I mean, you don't have to answer that. The president's words speak for themselves.

Do you feel, as a person who went into public service to serve, who had a team of people that shared your desire to help Ukraine, do you feel in any way betrayed by the double dealing of the president? This is a real question.

SONDLAND: I don't want to characterize --

WELCH: Don't -- you don't have to characterize him, I'm just -- you know, we all -- if we get a chance to do something useful, we like to do it. And there's no better joy than when you're doing it with other people.

SONDLAND: Mr. Welch, let me answer you question this way. I would have preferred that, and I'm sure everyone would have preferred that that president simply met with Mr. Zelensky right away. Our assessment of Mr. Zelensky was that he and the president would get on famously.

He was smart, he as funny, he was charming, he was the kind of person the president would like, and once the two of them would got together, we thought the chemistry would take over and good things would happen between the U.S. and Ukraine relationship. That's why we were pushing for a quick, unconditional meeting.

WELCH: So, it's unfortunate that he was unwilling --

SONDLAND: And it didn't happen.

WELCH: -- to meet without the commitment on the investigation. Thank you Ambassador.

SONDLAND: Thank you.

SCHIFF: Mr. Maloney.

MALONEY: Mr. Ambassador, let's pick up right there. You would have preferred if they just had the meeting with the President of Ukraine without these conditions. Is that what you're saying?

SONDLAND: Yes.

MALONEY: But, there were these conditions and it involved an investigation, right? And you've --

SONDLAND: Well, remember, the first -- the initial invitation that the president sent to President Zelensky --

MALONEY: I understand.

SONDLAND: -- had no conditions.

MALONEY: But that -- that didn't last very long, did it? And then there were conditions. We -- this is not controversial at this point, I don't believe, sir. There were conditions that the president wanted investigations, right?

SONDLAND: Yes. Right.

MALONEY: And you thought they were of Burisma and the 2016 election.

SONDLAND: Correct.

MALONEY: We now know, of course, that Burisma means Bidens, right?

SONDLAND: Today we do.

MALONEY: And we can probably, from today until the end of time, set aside any confusion that when somebody's asking for an investigation of Burisma over the summer, what they really meant was Bidens, right?

SONDLAND: With 2020 hindsight, yes.

MALONEY: Right, with hindsight. And of course, on the day after the president's famous call, you're having lunch with David Holmes, we've covered this, and he overhears your conversation, and I said -- I know you have no reason to dispute what Mr. Holmes said. And I think you said, you wouldn't have any reason to believe -- to think he didn't speak about investigations with the president. The president raised investigations with you, right?

SONDLAND: Correct.

MALONEY: On the 26th?

SONDLAND: Correct.

MALONEY: And we now know, of course, that was about the Bidens, and Burisma and 2016, right? I mean, I know you didn't know that at the time, that's your testimony, but we now know that, right?

SONDLAND: I understood it meant to mean Burisma.

MALONEY: Mr. Holmes says you said Bidens right after that, but I know you don't recall that, right?

SONDLAND: That's correct.

MALONEY: Do you dispute it?

SONDLAND: I do.

MALONEY: OK. But you don't recall it. But we know that that's what the president meant, right? And you do -- you do confirm that he wanted to talk about investigations with you? SONDLAND: Well, now with the complete picture --

MALONEY: I understand.

SONDLAND: -- what he said 24 hours before, yes, it makes sense.

MALONEY: And you said it's wrong to investigate political opponents. We've agreed on that today, haven't we, sir?

SONDLAND: Yes.

[15:15:00]

MALONEY: And yet, of course, that's what we know the president was asking for. Let me ask you something, who would have benefited from an investigation of the president's political opponents?

SONDLAND: I don't want to characterize who would've and who would not have.

MALONEY: I know you don't want to, sir. That's my question. Would you -- would you answer it for me?

SONDLAND: Restate your question.

MALONEY: Who would benefit from an investigation of the president's political opponent?

SONDLAND: Well, presumably that -- the person who asked for the investigation.

MALONEY: Who's that?

SONDLAND: If the president asked for the investigation, it would be he.

MALONEY: Well, it's not a hypothetical, is it, sir? We just went around this track, didn't we? The president asked you about investigations, he was talking about the Bidens. When he -- when he asked you about the Biden investigation, who was he seeking to benefit?

SONDLAND: He did not ask me about the Biden investigation.

MALONEY: When he asked you about investigations.

SONDLAND: I said that about 19 times Mr. Maloney.

MALONEY: Sir, sir, we just went through this. When he asked you about investigations, which we all agree, now, means the Bidens, we did this about 30 seconds ago, it's a pretty simple question isn't it? I guess - I guess I'm having trouble why you can't just say...

SONDLAND: When he asked about investigations, I assumed he meant the company.

MALONEY: I know what you assume.

SONDLAND: Burisma.

MALONEY: But who would benefit from an investigation of the Bidens?

SONDLAND: They're two different questions.

MALONEY: I'm just asking you one. Who would benefit from an investigation of the Bidens?

SONDLAND: I assume President Trump would benefit.

MALONEY: There we have it. See?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

Didn't hurt a bit, did it? Didn't hurt a bit. Let me ask you something.

SONDLAND: Mr. Maloney?

MALONEY: 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 very 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've got a doozy (ph) of statement from you this morning. There's a whole bunch of stuff you don't recall, so all due respect, sir, we appreciate your candor, but let's be really clear on what it took to get it out of you.

So my question is when the president's putting pressure on the Ukrainians, withholding a meeting to get this investigation that you and I agree would benefit him politically, what kind of - what kind of position does that put the Ukrainians in, sir?

SONDLAND: A terrible position.

MALONEY: A terrible position. Why?

SONDLAND: Why does it put them in a terrible position?

MALONEY: Why?

SONDLAND: Well, obviously they're not receiving ultimately what they thought was coming to them, and they're put in a position that jeopardizes their security.

MALONEY: A position that jeopardizes their security, and they're being asked to do and investigation to help their security essentially that would benefit the president politically. In other words, you might say they're being asked to give him a personal benefit in exchange for an official act. Is that a fair summary?

SONDLAND: In your hypothetical, that's correct.

MALONEY: It's not a hypothetical, sir. This is real life. Were they asked to give him a personal benefit in exchange for an official act?

SONDLAND: Sir, I am not going to go around in circles with you. Please be clear about what you're asking me.

MALONEY: My time's expired, sir. Thank you for your appearance.

SCHIFF: Ms. Demings.

DEMINGS: Good afternoon, Ambassador. It's good to see you again.

SONDLAND: Thank you.

DEMINGS: Do you have knowledge of a possible meeting on or around May 7 involving then President Elect Zelensky and several of his aides to discuss how to handle pressure fro President Trump and Mr. Giuliani about investigating the Bidens?

SONDLAND: I don't recall such a meeting.

DEMINGS: You don't recall such a meeting? You don't recall hearing anything about such a meeting?

SONDLAND: Again...

DEMINGS: If you don't have firsthand knowledge...

SONDLAND: Well if I don't have - if I don't have records, schedules, I don't - right now, I don't recall anything about such a meeting.

DEMINGS: Ambassador, in the May...

SONDLAND: Is this a meeting among the Ukrainians?

DEMINGS: It's a meeting among the Ukrainians involving then President Elect Zelensky, so this would have been early on in his presidency with several aides to discuss how to handle pressure from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani about investigating the Bidens.

SONDLAND: Yes, I don't recall such a meeting.

DEMINGS: You don't remember that. Ambassador, in the May - I believe it was the May 23 meeting, you talked about how the president categorized Ukraine, what he thought about Ukraine. I believe that meeting was on May 23. Did you ever hear President Zelensky relay any concerns about you, about how he felt, about how the United States viewed him, whether he was being taken seriously or any concerns about being used as a tool for political reasons?

[15:20:00]

SONDLAND: Well, I saw that in an email from Ambassador Taylor, we obviously tried to relay to President Zelensky the glass half full version of how the United States felt about Ukraine, not the glass half empty version which is we're here for you, we support you, and we're trying very hard to get you the meeting with President Trump.

DEMINGS: So after hearing that from Ambassador Taylor, you relayed - you tired to reassure President Zelensky that America was truly on their side. Is that what you said?

SONDLAND: I think we've been trying to assure President Zelensky throughout his entire - his entire term as a president.

DEMINGS: Ambassador, I know you said you don't quite remember exactly when you came to the realization that Burisma actually meant Bidens, but back on May 6 when asked about a news report about the role of former vice president's son on Burisma, President Trump told Fox News that it was, and I quote, "a major scandal, major problem."

On May 9, The New York Times reported that Rudy Giuliani planned to travel to Ukraine and, quote, "shortly to meet with President Zelensky to urge him to pursue the 2016 election and the involvement of Hunter Biden in Burisma," unquote. Are you saying that you did not realize at that time - we're talking about on May 9 of this year - that Mr. Giuliani wanted to urge President Zelensky to pursue the 2016 election and the involvement of Hunter Biden of Burisma?

SONDLAND: I do now, but I did not then.

DEMINGS: You did not know that, and I believe you said earlier that you did not pay any attention or much attention at all to any of the numerous news reports of the person you were directed by the president to work with when he was on television over and over and over again talking about Hunter Biden and Burisma?

SONDLAND: No, I did not.

DEMINGS: On September 9, in a text from Ambassador Taylor, he said something to the effect or are we now saying that aid is tied to investigations, and I believe you texted back, "Call me." Then you had a conversation with President Trump, and President Trump said something to the effect that there is no quid pro quo. Do you know what prompted him to say that? You asked him what do you want, and he goes directly to there is no quid pro quo as opposed to going directly to the list of things that he wanted. What prompted him to use that term?

SONDLAND: I have no clue.

DEMINGS: Did you discuss your - or your texts from Ambassador Taylor with President Trump before he made that statement?

SONDLAND: I did not. I asked a very open ended question. What do you what from Ukraine?

DEMINGS: And you remember that directly although there are several other conversations that you cannot recall because you don't have your notes or your documents or your emails or other information, but you remember that call specifically, exactly what the president said to you in response to your question about what do you want. Why is that?

SONDLAND: I remember the first girl I kissed. I mean, I remember...

DEMINGS: You kissed the - well, I won't say that, but anyway.

(LAUGHTER)

SONDLAND: I remembered that conversation because, as I said, it was a pretty intense, short conversation.

DEMINGS: And tell me again about the conversation you had at the restaurant that was overheard by Mr. Holmes, because that was a conversation with the president. Tell me about that conversation with the president. What was said on the phone?

SONDLAND: Again, I don't remember the specifics. I'm being guided by what Mr. Holmes testified to. I said I didn't dispute the basic, you know, subject of the conversation. As I said, we were talking primarily about A$AP Rocky. That was a completely unrelated matter. And I think the president may have brought up, you know, how'd it go with Zelensky or is he going to do the investigations, which we'd been talking about for weeks. And then as I said I dispute the, Mr. is it Mr. Holmes, characterization of what I said afterwards.

DEMINGS: Thank you, Ambassador. Mr. Chair, I yield back,

SCHIFF: Mr. Krishnamoorthi.

RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: Good afternoon, Ambassador. I'm just going to pick up on that September 9th conversation which the President allegedly said I want nothing, I don't want a quid pro quo. I presume that on this September 9th conversation the President did not mention that that was the same day that we launched a Congressional Investigation into whether there was a quid pro quo. Did he say that to you?

SONDLAND: Again, I know all of that today but he did not, we didn't have a time to talk about things like that.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: And I presume he also didn't mention the whistleblower complaint that also alleged there's a quid pro quo that day?

SONDLAND: He did not.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Okay. So you can't rule out the possibility that the reason why he started talking that way on that day is because the Congressional Investigation?

[15:25:00]

SONDLAND: I can't rule that out.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: You know the inauguration of President Zelensky was on May 20th, correct?

SONDLAND: Correct: KRISHNAMOORTHI: As you stated you attended this inauguration with Senator Johnson, Secretary Perry, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and others, right?

SONDLAND: Correct.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: But Vice President Pence was suppose to originally attend that, correct?

SONDLAND: I believe so.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: W learned from Jennifer Williams, a witness who testified that it was at the President's reaction on May 13th that the Vice President not attend. She said "that according to the Vice President's Chief of Staff the President determined that the Vice President would not go" Do you know why the Vice President did not attend the inauguration?

SONDLAND: No clue.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I want to point to a New York Time article from last week that says that Lev Parnas' attorney. You've heard of this gentleman Lev Parnas and associate of Rudy Giuliani.

SONDLAND: Only what I've read very recently.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: He's recently indicted.

SONDLAND: Yes.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Mr. Parnas told a representative of the incoming government, the Zelensky government, that it had to announce an investigation into Trump's political rival Joseph R. Biden and his son or else Vice President Mike Pence would not attend the swearing in of the new President and The United States would freeze aid. Did the Vice President not attend possibly because this investigation had not yet been initiated by the Zelensky Government?

SONDLAND: I have no idea.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: You cant's rule it out, right?

SONDLAND: Again, I have no idea.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: You have no basis for ruling it out however, correct?

SONDLAND: All I know is that the leader of the delegation was Secretary Perry who invited me along.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Interestingly Ambassador Sondland since you came forward in these proceedings other in the administration have tried to distance themselves from you. You know on October 14th Rudy Giuliani told "The Washington Post" that Sondland "seemed to be in charge" of the effort to get the Ukrainian officials to publish or to publicly announce investigations. Of course that's false, correct? SONDLAND: If I had been in charge I would have asked President Trump to have the meeting without preconditions and the meeting would have occurred a long time ago.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: That's exactly right. The President is the one that wanted these investigations as we learn later on in reading the July 25th call transcript, isn't that right?

SONDLAND: The President through Mr. Giuliani, as conveyed through Mr. Giuliani wanted the investigations.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Mr. Tim Morrison came in yesterday and in his deposition testimony as well as yesterday disparaged you too. He called you "The Gordon Problem".

SONDLAND: That's what my wife calls me. Maybe they're talking.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: He -

SONDLAND: Should I be worried?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Maybe. You know on October 8th of this year The President Tweeted that you were a really good man and a great American. And of course on November 8th one month later he said let me just tell you I hardly know the gentleman.

SONDLAND: Easy come, easy go.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: You know what I'm concerned about, you were part of the three amigos, but what I'm really concerned about, Ambassador Sondland, is that The President and good folks over here, my Republican colleagues, are now casting you as the one amigo. The one lonely amigo they're going to throw under the bus. But the truth is that as you said in your opening statement the suggestion that you were engaged in some rogue diplomacy or irregular channel of diplomacy is "absolutely false", isn't that right

SONDLAND: That's correct.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: The presumption that military aid was conditioned on investigations was based on Mulvaney's statement that we saw on the view, isn't that right?

SONDLAND: Well I didn't have the benefit at that time of Mulvaney's statement.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: But you would stand by the presumption that you had based on what you know now, correct?

SONDLAND: Correct.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: And on September 1 when you told Andriy Yermak your presumption, which you've told us about military aid being conditioned on the investigations. You done (ph) told Mr. Morrison what you told Yermak and Morrison did not try dispute your presumption, correct:

SONDLAND: I don't recall him disputing it. I think I went right over to him and just repeated the conversation.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: And when you told Vice President Pence your concerns he did not dispute that as well?

SONDLAND: He didn't respond, he just listened.

SCHIFF: Time gentleman.

(CROSSTALK)

KRISHNAMOORTHI: And when you told Secretary Pompeo that wasn't disputed as well?

SONDLAND: I don't recall.

[15:30:00]

SCHIFF: That concludes the member questioning. Mr. Nunes, do you have any closing remarks?

NUNES: Just briefly, Ambassador, I know you want to get on a plane. I want to thank you for your indulgence today. Once again the American people have seen another failure of their preposterous conspiracy theory which that's if their conspiracy theory doesn't change between now and our next hearing, which is in a few hours from now or another hour or so. And it keeps changing everyday. They claim Ambassador that you had an irregular, you were accused of having an irregular channel, drug deals now supposedly you're one amigo nobody on this side of the aisle claimed that you were one amigo.

SONDLAND: I lost my amigos?

NUNES: Yes, not from us. Not from us. No bribes given to, that you made any bribes to the Ukrainian people or to the Ukrainian President. Your co-conspirator, Kurt Volker, I find it remarkable and troubling how the Democrats and their collaborators and the press have been able to vilify Ambassador Volker. Who was supposed to work on these matters in Ukraine like you. Ambassador it was a very regular channel and no amount of story telling by the left and the Democrats on this dias (ph) will change that.

It was the regular channel. Testimony received today was far from compelling, conclusive and provides zero evidence of any of the crimes that have been alleged. In fact, Ambassador Sondland, testified that he presumed the temporary pause in military aid was conditioned on Ukraine carrying out the investigations that Democrats are desperate to portray as nefarious. The Democrats have, as their custom, seized on this presumption as proof they can use it against the president.

However, Ambassador Sondland testified in his deposition that when he asked President Trump what do you want from Ukraine, President Trump replied I want nothing. There is no quid pro quo. Let me repeat, President Trump said I want nothing, there is no quid pro quo.

This comes (ph) on the heels (ph) of the testimony by Ambassador Volker that he saw no evidence of bribery, extortion, quid pro quo, or treasonous actions. We didn't get to ask him about obstruction of justice because we didn't know that was on the table until today.

Like the president's call with President Zelensky, Democrats want the American people to believe, as one Democrat on this committee put it, that hearsay is much better than direct evidence. And I think Mr. Ratcliffe from Texas laid out the direct evidence that we have from your testimony today.

Nothing we have heard establishes a claim that the president acted improperly in his dealings with Ukraine and certainly nothing has been presented to support anything near impeachment.

In the meantime, Mr. Chair, we continue to have no answers to the questions that only you know. Starting with who is the whistleblower who gave birth to this hoax and what was the nature of his coordination with the Democrats on this committee.

Second, what is the full extent of Ukraine's election meddling against the Trump campaign in 2016. And finally, why did Burisma hire Hunter Biden. What did he do for them and did his position impact any U.S. government actions under the Obama administration.

Another hearing in the books and no answers to basic three material actual questions that we need answers to. I yield back and thank you, Ambassador, for being here.

SONDLAND: Thank you.

SCHIFF: I thank the Ranking Member for his remarks. Mr. Sondland, thank you for your testimony today. This is a sentimental (ph) moment in our investigation and the evidence you have brought forward is deeply significant and troubling.

It's been a long hearing and I know Americans watching throughout the country may not have had the opportunity to watch all of it. So I'm going to go through a few of the highlights and I'm not going to try to paraphrase what you said. I'm going to refer to your opening statement.

We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani we would lose an important opportunity to summand (ph) relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the president's orders.

Mr. Giuliani's request were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election, DNC server and Burisma.

[15:35:00]

Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States. And we knew that these investigations were important to the president. Later you testified, I tried diligently to ask why the aid was suspended but I never received a clear answer.

In the absents of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 election and Burisma as Mr. Giuliani had demanded.

I shared concerns of the potential quid pro quo regarding the security aid with Senator Ron Johnson and I also shared my concern with the Ukrainians. So much for the Ukrainians didn't know.

You can't have a quid pro quo unless the Ukrainians know and you have testified today, Ambassador, the Ukrainians knew. You further testified Mr. Giuliani emphasized that the president wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing Ukraine to look into corruption issues.

Mr. Giuliani specifically mentioned the 2016 election, including the DNC server and Burisma as two topics of importance to the president. In reference to the July 10th meeting at the White House, which you attended with Ambassador Bolton and others and Ukrainian delegation; you said I recall mentioning the prerequisite of investigations before any White House call or meeting.

You further testified, again, Mr. Giuliani's demand that President Zelensky make a public statement about investigations. I knew that the topic of investigations was important to President Trump.

You testified later, I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question. Was there a quid pro quo. As I testified previously with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.

We all understood these prerequisites for the White House call and White House meeting reflected President Trump's desires and requirements. Later on the subject of security aid, you testified in the absents of any credible explanation for the hold, I came to the conclusion that the aid like the White House visit was jeopardized in preparation phrase (ph) the September 1 meeting in Warsaw, I asked Secretary Pompeo whether a face to face conversation between Trump with Zelensky could help break the log jam.

And this is from an email that the State Department refuses to provide to us but you have provided to us, Ambassador. It reads should we block time in Warsaw for a short pull aside for (inaudible) to meet Zelensky.

I would ask Zelensky to look him in the eye, that is the president, and tell him that once Ukraine's new justice folks are in place in mid-September that Z should be able to forward publicly with confidence on those issues of importance to polis (ph) and to the United States, hopefully that will break the log jam.

And Secretary Pompeo's reply, yes. Not what issues importance to the polis (ph), not what are you talking about Ambassador Sondland because Secretary Pompeo was on the July 25th phone call. He knew what issues were important to polis (ph) and there were two of them. The investigation into 2016 and the DNC server and the investigation into the Bidens. By the end of August you testified my belief was that if Ukraine did something to demonstrate a serious intention to fight corruption, specifically addressing Burisma and the 2016 server, then the hold on military aid would be lifted. I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations. And as you testified he gave you no response -- no, what are you talking about Ambassador, how could that be Ambassador? How do we clear this up Ambassador? He merely nodded his head, or took it in.

[15:40:00]

And of course the record of that twenty-fifth call between President Trump and Zelensky was in the Vice President's reading book earlier. Then you testified, "my goal, at the time, was to do what was necessary to get the aid released, to break the law, Jim (ph)."

I believe that the public statement we have been discussing for weeks was essential to advancing that goal. Now, my colleagues seem to believe it, and let me add too about this call you had with the president, you have confirmed today in addition to claiming there was no quid pro quo, the president was adamant that President Zelensky had to "clear things up and do it in public."

That's what you have confirmed, that is what you also told Ambassador Taylor. So he would deny there was a quid pro quo, but he was adamant that Zelensky had to "clear things up and do it in public."

Now, I've said a lot of things about President Trump over the years, I have very strong feelings about President Trump which are neither here nor there. But I will say this on the president's behalf, I do not believe that the president would allow himself to be led by the nose by Rudy Giuliani, or Ambassador Sondland, or anybody else.

I think the president was the one who decided whether a meeting would happen, whether aid would be lifted -- not anyone who worked for him. And so, the answer to the question who was refusing the meeting with Zelensky that you believed should take place, that Ambassador Volker believed should take place -- and every body believed should take place, the only question was when. Who was the one standing in the way of that meeting? Who was the one refusing to take that meeting?

There's only one answer to that question, and it's Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States. So who was holding up the military assistance, was it you, Ambassador Sondland? No, it wasn't. Was it Ambassador Volker? No. Was it Ambassador Taylor? No. Was it Deputy Secretary Kent? No. Was it Secretary of State Pompeo? No.

Who had the decision to release the aid, it was one person -- Donald J. Trump, President of the United States. Now my colleagues seem to think unless the president says the magic words that I hereby bribed the Ukrainians, that there's no evidence of bribery -- of other high crimes and misdemeanors.

But let's look to the best evidence of what's in the president's head. What's his intent? What's the reason behind the hold on the meeting, and on the aid? Let's look at what the president has to say, let's look at what's undisputed about what the president has to say.

And you know how we know what the president has to say? Not because what you have represented, or others have represented -- but because we have a record of his conversation and with who? The one who really matters, with the other President, Zelensky, and this is what he says.

He says, "Rudy very much knows what's happening, and he is a very capable guy." This is after he says he wants a favor. And he goes in to CrowdStrike in 2016, he says, "Rudy very much knows what's happening and is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him, that would be great."

The former Ambassador from the United States, the woman was bad news -- and the people she was dealing with in Ukraine were bad news, so I just want to let you know that the other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son.

That Biden stopped the prosecution, and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the attorney general that would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you could look in to it, it sounds horrible to me.

So what's on the president's mind when he has placed this otherwise inexplicable hold on the aid when he refuses to take the meeting -- what's on his mind? Biden. He makes that abundantly clear.

I understand Ambassador, you have said you didn't make the connection between Burisma and Biden -- I will let the American people judge the credibility of that answer. But there's no mistaking what Donald Trump's interest was.

There's no mistaking about what Donald Trump meant when he had that call with you on an unsecure phone as you're sitting there in an outdoor terrace in Ukraine when the president said investigation, he meant Biden. He made that abundantly clear to the president of Ukraine the day before.

The question is not what the president meant, the question is not whether he was responsible for holding up the aid -- he was. The question is not whether everybody knew it -- apparently they did.

[15:45:00]

The question is what are we prepared to do about it? Is there any accountability, or are we forced to conclude that this is just now the world that we live in? When a president of the United States can withhold vital military aid from an ally at war with the Russians -- an ally fighting our fight too, to defend our country against Russian aggression.

Are we prepared to say, in the words of Mick Mulvaney, "get over it," or get used to it? We are not prepared to say that. We are not prepared to say that, and I appreciate Ambassador Volker -- Ambassador Sondland, I appreciate the fact that you have not opined on whether the president should be impeached or not be impeached, or whether the crime of bribery or the impeachable offense of bribery, or other high- end crimes and misdemeanors has been committed, that is for us to decide in consultation with our constituents and our conscience, that is for us to decide.

And much as my colleagues have said otherwise, this is not an easy decision for any of us. And much as my colleagues may say otherwise, this is not something we relish. For over a year I resisted this whole idea of going down the road to impeachment, but it was made necessary -- and not by the whistleblower, but by the actions of the president.

I'm continually struck how my colleagues would suggest that because the president got caught, we should ignore the fact that he was conditioning official acts in order to get political favors in order to get an investigation against his rival.

Getting caught is no defense, not to a violation of the Constitution or to a violation of his oath of office, and it certainly doesn't give us reason to ignore our own oath of office. We are adjourned.

[15:48:04]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our special coverage on CNN. It's a blockbuster day in the impeachment inquiry. United States Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, who you see there rushing off to catch his flight back to Brussels. He said in front of cameras that there was indeed a quid pro quo with Ukraine. He testified that he pushed for Ukraine to announce investigations into Burisma and the Bidens after demands from President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, and that Giuliani, quote, was expressing the desires of the President of the United States.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee laid into Sondland repeatedly highlighting President Trump never expressly telling him that the aid to Ukraine, $400 million worth, was dependent on investigations into the President's political rivals. Let's discuss this with our experts. Jeffrey Toobin, I'll start with you. Sondland said there was a quid pro quo.

Wait. Hold up. We're going to listen in to Jim Jordan I'm told he has just started talking. He is Republican on the committee.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): -- Sondland when asked -- when Ambassador Sondland asked him what's he want from Ukraine? The President was as clear as could be. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo, I want Zelensky to do what he campaigned on. I want him to do what he ran on. As clear as could be, direct evidence from the central figure of this whole inquiry, the President of the United States, stating it as plainly and clearly as he possibly could.

Second, I do think it's important to understand there were only 14 days that the Ukrainians knew the aid was held up. They learned on an August 29th in a political article and in that 14-day time frame, from the 29th of August to 11th of September there are three key interactions with senior government officials and the President of the Ukraine, President Zelensky.

The most important in my judgment was the last one because that's a bipartisan meeting from people from the legislative branch. From U.S. Senators Murphy and Johnson. If ever there was a time where Zelensky would have brought up the idea that aid was somehow linked to him announcing an investigation, that would have be the time because Senator Murphy brought it up himself and still President Zelensky never said in any way that there was aid that an investigation were linked together.

Those in my mind are the key takeaways. Everything else is Ambassador Sondland surmising what someone's thinking, what someone's up to, all the other things that the Democrats tried to stir up.

[15:50:00]

But the facts as we've said several times have always been on the President's side. They have not changed. We've got the transcript where there is no linkage whatsoever. We've got the two guys on the call, President Trump and President Zelensky, who said there was no pressure, no pushing, no linkage. We got the fact that the Ukrainians didn't know the aid was frozen at the time of the call, and most importantly as it was pointed out today by so many people including Representative Stefanik that the Ukrainians took no action, no announcement to get the call, no announcement to get the meeting in New York, no announcement to get the aid released. Those are the facts. Representative Stefanik.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): As every day goes by Adam Schiff and the Democrat's wishful thinking for impeachment crumbles. They have yet to point to a single shred of evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors of bribery. Today taking the witnesses' own testimony Ambassador Sondland testified that the President said directly to him there is no quid pro quo. I want nothing. I want nothing. I want President Zelensky to do what he ran on which is very clearly anti-corruption but the facts remain the same. Ukraine received the aid.

There was no investigation before the meeting. There was no investigation before the aid was released, there was no investigation before -- before the call or after the call. So the facts remain the same throughout this process despite Adam Schiff continuing his political wishful thinking.

JORDAN: We'll takes some questions.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Jordan, do you think it is just a coincidence the aid was released after Congress began an investigation, after the White House learned about the whistle-blower complaint, is it just a coincidence that that happened just days before the White House actually released-

JORDAN: No, it got released because so many senior government officials met with President Zelensky and determined, hey, this new guy, this new kid in town, he's actually legit. He's a real reformer. That's why it got released. Oh, remember what also happened on September 5th, the same day the Senators are meeting with President Zelensky, you know what happens in their parliament? They start the anti-corruption court. They had already passed getting rid of sovereign immunity for members of congress, members of their and parliament.

So all those things are happening and they say -- plus, remember, Senator Johnson came back, Senator Murphy came back, Senator Portman they all talked to the President and they said we really want this aid released before September 30th and the President does it. They want to say it's because they started some investigation, they've been out to get the President forever. It happened because we all believed that President Zelensky was legitimate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

JORDAN: No. No, I'm more concerned that I think 359 times in the Ambassador's deposition where he said I can't recall. I don't remember, I'm not going to answer it. I do think I'm more concerned about the fact that the most exculpatory piece of evidence was what Representative Stefanik just talked about, the statement from the President that he gave directly to Ambassador Sondland and of course he left that out of his 23-page opening statement. More concerned about those things.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have no concerns about the Vice President and these other officials, why not let them come and push the White House to let me speak to them, some of these other --

JORDAN: It's the White House's call. That's the White House's call.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

JORDAN: Look, this process has been so unfair. What Adam Schiff has done -- just the fact that he told us last night at 10:00, if wanted to look at Mr. Sandy's deposition and bring some of that material forward for today's hearing, we found about that I believe last night at 10:00, our lawyer got notified. We would have liked to have -- Mr. Sandy's deposition available to be able to use in this proceeding. We couldn't do that. That is one of the many unfair things and you all know it is unfair throughout this entire process. Y'all know that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Sondland, wasn't in an effort to try to discredit --

JORDAN: He wasn't our witness. No, our witnesses were Hale, Morrison and Volker and you saw yesterday with Mr. Morrison and Mr. Volker, the facts there and that was a good day. Mr. Volker is the Special Envoy and he has the definitive narrative on this entire thing and you saw how good he did yesterday in that hearing. Remember, they are all Adam Schiff's witnesses, he called them all. We just said we'd like three of all the witnesses you call to come in on our list. We put Morrison, Hale, and Volker on our list. Mr. Hale you'll hear from here in about an hour.

STEFANIK: And you know what? And you know what witness they will not call? It's Hunter Biden. Every single witness that has been asked the question, do you think there is a potential appearance of a conflict of interest with Hunter Biden sitting on the board of Burisma. Every single witness who has been asked that question had said yes including Ambassador Sondland. Hunter Biden is on our list. As well as the whistleblower for closed door depositions and Adam Schiff continues to run this partisan process in not calling the witnesses we requested.

RAJU: Congresswoman, also, every witness has raised concerns about Rudy Giuliani's role in this. Don't you have any concerns with Rudy Giuliani was pushing as some said ran counter to the national interest.

STEFANIK: You know, as we heard from our witnesses, this was an official channel and the President can choose who he wants when it comes to conducting his foreign policy.

[15:55:02]

But from the witnesses who are here today when it comes to impeachable offenses they have yet to point to a shred of evidence when it comes to impeachable offenses.

RAJU: You're pushing investigations to help the President politically. That's OK?

JORDAN: Manu.

STEFANIK: That's not accurate.

JORDAN: The Democrats are going to impeach him --

RAJU: Rudy Giuliani wasn't pushing (INAUDIBLE).

STEFANIK: As Ambassador Sondland testified today his understanding of the investigations were into Burisma and into the 2016 elections, and Ambassador Sondland specifically said that he did not understand that as meeting into Biden. And let's be clear, Manu, the one investigation that has been done into Burisma was under the Obama administration. The Obama administration had concerns with Hunter Biden sitting on the board of Burisma as we know from Ambassador Yovanovitch when she testified and said that she was prepared with information before her Senate confirmation hearing. So when we talk about investigations, the fact of the matter is, the one investigation into Burisma was done during the Obama administration.

RAJU: Trump himself called for a Biden investigation.

JORDAN: We'll take one more.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the strongest piece of exculpatory evidence that you've heard that exonerates the President? Strongest piece --

JORDAN: The President's own words.

STEFANIK: The President's own words.

JORDAN: What the President just said to Mr. Sondland. We've said it I think three times here in the last ten minutes. That is the strongest piece. And the fact that President Zelensky never announced any investigation. Remember what Mr. Sondland said, he said to get a meeting, to get a call, to get the security assistance there would have to be an announcement. They got the meeting, they got the call. They got the security assistance without an announcement. That's it, right there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've heard strong rebuttals from the White House today. Do you think it would help to hear them testify? So the public can hear their defense that the White House--

JORDAN: That's their call. Thank you, guys, thank you so much.

TAPPER: House Republicans putting their best face on what was by any measure a difficult day for the President's case. Seizing on a piece of evidence in a phone call on September 9th, Gordon Sondland who testified today said that President Trump told him no quid pro quo. He doesn't want anything from Ukraine. It is important for people to know that September 9th is after the whistleblower filed his complaint on August 12th, after the whistle-blower's complaint was made known to the House of Representatives, and the same day that the House of Representatives, the Democrats, announced they are beginning an investigation into President Trump and Rudy Giuliani and the Ukraine dealings.

In other words it was already out there that this story was going to break and that's when President Trump said no quid pro quo. Jeffrey Toobin, let me start with you, and I feel like I kind of like re-set the table from what we just heard. Let us remind people of what Gordon Sondland also said. Let's go with the first sound bite if we can. This was an important part of the hearing, perhaps the most important part talking about the quid pro quo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORDON SONDLAND, AMBASSADOR TO THE EU: Mr. Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: A quid pro quo as said by a member of the Trump administration, somebody with a central role in this whole scandal. If Ukraine wanted a White House meeting which they desperately wanted to show Ukraine how serious President Zelensky was, the new President, they needed to announce investigations into Burisma and the Bidens.

JEFFERY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: The central allegation of this entire investigation has been did the President abuse his office? Did he use the enormous power of the presidency to gain political advantage? Not to advance American interest, but to help himself get re-elected by using foreign policy. And today we had the -- a political appointee, a friend of the President.

TAPPER: I thought you said that they weren't necessarily friends.

TOOBIN: Well, friendly.

TAPPER: Friendly enough to give him a million dollars. TOOBIN: And they use swearwords with each other a lot, apparently.

TAPPER: OK.

TOOBIN: And he said. yes. He said, yes, this quid pro quo existed and why you know this matters is, this is the power of an Oval Office meeting, it is also $400 million almost in taxpayer money which he was a little more vague about the degree of quid pro quo involved there.

TAPPER: He said he was presuming it.

TOOBIN: He presumed there was a quid pro quo and certainly the evidence is overwhelming that it was, but think about that, $400 million in taxpayer money. And the only reason -- the only reason that that money was released is that Ukraine agreed to help Donald Trump get re-elected by announcing an investigation of Hunter Biden and the Biden family. Not by investigating them, but by announcing an investigation that the President could use to say the Bidens were corrupt.

That's why today is important, that the central allegation against Donald Trump has been proved by one of Donald --

[16:00:00]