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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
House Managers, Trump Legal Team Clash Over Trial Rules. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired January 21, 2020 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. What a day it has been.
The big question right now is, what are the senators talking about as we wait for them to come back from their dinner break?
It began on a cliffhanger, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer offering the first of what are expected to be several amendments to the rules of the trial on witnesses. This one calling for the testimony of acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Three other amendments on bringing in documents have all gone down on strict party line votes.
However, there could be signs of some weakness on the Republican side, or at least willingness to compromise, it appears, of party moderates.
The day began with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell backing down from language in the rules that would have pushed opening arguments late into the night when few people are watching. Leader McConnell also relented on allowing evidence from the House proceedings automatically into the record, and now, this upcoming amendment apparently designed to get those potentially vulnerable moderate Republicans on the record early on in the proceedings about having witnesses.
So, with a lot potentially in motion right now, I want to get a quick read on things from CNN's Manu Raju, who's been covering it all for a long time.
Manu, as we mentioned, senators on dinner break. Do we know if they are speaking to each other? Are there any type of negotiations taking place? What's going on?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Republicans are lounging in their side of the Senate -- right off the Senate floor, and the Democrats on their side. So, there is not much interaction between the two sides at the moment.
What we do expect after this dinner break, which is breaking up, each side is eating pizza right now, the members are going to come back in, they're going to vote, they're going to debate this amendment to subpoena Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.
Now, I'm told from two Democratic senators that have conversations with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that there are probably going to be three more amendments at least on each of the three other witnesses who the Democrats have called for, including John Bolton, the former national security adviser, Robert Blair, who's the top aide in the White House, and Michael Duffey, who is a top White House budget official. Expect amendments on each of those individuals to subpoena them. And then there possibly could be even more amendments if the House impeachment managers want them -- want to issue more subpoenas or offer any amendments whatsoever.
But expect all those amendments to go down along party lines like we have seen so far, on a 53-47 vote as Republicans hold firm.
Now, Chuck Schumer's office has not said exactly how many more amendments could be left, but we are anticipating, you know, a late night, or if there's any deal, it would be to punt the rest of the amendment votes until tomorrow and push off the opening arguments in this case.
But as you can see, Anderson, very partisan, very contentious, and no signs of the two sides coming together at this point, Anderson.
COOPER: Their votes, though, just to be clear, on witnesses, it's essentially whether or not to do it now or table it until after -- until later on in this process, correct?
RAJU: Yes, and essentially, under -- in the McConnell resolution, it sets a process that after the arguments take place on each side's opening arguments, and then senators have 16 hours to ask questions to the managers and also to the White House -- the president's defense team. And then there will be a vote about whether the Senate should subpoena any witnesses or should subpoena any documents. It doesn't specify who or which documents, but asked the Senate if they want to move forward in that direction.
And that will be a key vote, because that's voted down. It's a sign that there will almost certainly not be any agreement moving forward. At the moment, that is the key vote that we're all going to be looking to. And it's uncertain there's a majority move forward -- unlikely at this point, but we'll see if things change in the days ahead, Anderson.
COOPER: So, we just saw Senator Chris Coons walking by. Some of the senators are finished their pizza or not interested in the pizza and are maybe heading back.
Just briefly, do you know how late you are expecting it to go tonight?
RAJU: The senators are buckling in for a late night. That's why they brought in pizza, because they thought they would be down and they all go home. We expect this to be a late night.
But there could be a deal ultimately to push off the proceedings until tomorrow. But that would require a bipartisan agreement and what I am hearing is that McConnell wants to finish things up, finish up the whole trial potentially in a week and a half. So, if you're to delay further votes until tomorrow, that only delay proceedings another day potentially.
Uncertain if they will get to that point, but senators can get worn out, maybe they'll speed up the votes tonight. It's also possible, or maybe they will push off the rest to tomorrow. So, we'll have to see as the floor proceedings play out in the matter of hours here, Anderson.
COOPER: All right, Manu Raju. Manu, thanks very much.
We'll be back 11:00 to midnight, no matter what happens.
Again, we're expecting the senators back any moment now.
Joining us right now, in the meantime: CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein. Had there been a Nixon impeachment trial, his reporting would have paved to it. CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, CNN senior political analyst and "USA Today" columnist, Kirsten Powers, and former Republican National Committee chief of staff, Mike Shields, who's also a CNN political commentator.
Jeffrey, the rules of the trial are more or less set now. What do -- what do you take away from the first day?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I thought it was really interesting and I think for people who are just tuning in, they probably didn't even know what went on. And what went on as the Chuck Schumer put forth three proposals that -- and it was all about documents. It was not about witnesses.
We want the documents related to the Ukraine matter, first from the National Security Council, second from the State Department, and third from the Office of Management and Budget. And one House manager sort of made the case. It was Zoe Lofgren for National Security Council, it was Val Demings for the State Department, and Jason Crow for OMB.
And what was so interesting about these presentations with they were very detailed and rich in the facts of the case. But they kept pointing out was, there were these meetings. And there have to be emails about. There have to be texts about it. And in order to do a real investigation, we need these documents.
And, you know, in the real world, if you were doing an investigation of this matter, you would start with these documents. I mean, it was a very straightforward presentation, and I think very persuasive, if you want to do a real investigation, you have to get these documents produced.
Obviously, the Democrats lost all three of these votes and presumably they will lose the ones about -- for witnesses. But, you know, the Democrats are making the case that we want facts, and facts are what are needed to make a fair judgment.
COOPER: Dana, they were very specific about particular documents, particular instances, sort of actually not just blanketing, or, you know, thousands of pages of documents. They pinpointed some specific things.
What do you make of overall today?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they pinpointed specific things in order to tell the story.
COOPER: The story.
BASH: And to allow the narrative to play out to back up their overall argument, which is that the president abused his power and that they need information from people inside the White House who either witnessed it or have documents about it and so forth.
And so, what was fascinating to me -- I just came from the Hill, I was inside up on the third floor in the gallery, looking down on the trial for a bit, is we were hearing about what it would be like with all these senators, 100 senators as jurors or maybe individual judges, as you call them. They are taking it very seriously.
So, you know, it's day one. You see them, again, without their electronics. Many of them with their pads of paper, taking copious notes, watching the managers, watching the president's counsel, watching the videos that they are bringing to go along with the presentation.
And it's -- I am not saying that people's minds are going to be changed, but they are consuming this in a way that with everybody's lives --
COOPER: They don't have an option.
BASH: They don't have an option.
COOPER: They suck up (ph).
BASH: No, they don't, but they could daydream. I've been known to do that in a classroom or two.
COOPER: I think I saw "Washington Post" said at least one person has fallen asleep, at some point.
BASH: I mean, that might have happened to more than one person.
COOPER: Carl Bernstein, what do you make of today?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought this was devastating for the president of the United States both short and long term. Short term, there was a narrative told today, uninterrupted by leader Jim Jordan or anybody else, of a grievous abuse of power, soliciting a foreign power to interfere in the election in the United States, and then a massive cover-up, all of which was demonstrated, fact after fact, and these senators had to listen to it. They could not go do their homework on other things. They had to sit there and hear it. And there is not -- I am interested in what Mike has to say about
this. These are senators who, many if not a majority, of the Republicans up there, think that Donald Trump is unfit to hold office. What they are hearing today confirms that. They're not going to vote to convict. He's going to be acquitted.
But meanwhile, you also have the chief justice of the United States, he was going to hear many cases and assertions by Donald Trump and some of these same lawyers who lied today. I think in the long run, the Supreme Court of the United States led by this chief justice might be really offended by the conduct that they are hearing and witnessing today.
COOPER: Well, Mike, you are saying the majority of Republican senators don't believe the president is --
BERNSTEIN: Well, you know, the question of fitness, they --
COOPER: Do you believe that?
BERNSTEIN: -- like a lot of what he's done, but they don't think he's fit.
COOPER: Do you believe that?
MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't believe that. And, look, I think this is -- everyone puts their partisan shirts on, as Dana said earlier.
This is, Republicans thought the Democrat process was biased. Democrats now think the Republican process is completely biased. There isn't a lot of new things that are coming out.
I thought the Trump lawyers at the opening made a very strong case that there is a complete paradox and the idea that we have a very strong case, but, by the way, we need more witnesses and we need more information to bolster the case. It's a very strong case, as it is. I think that's persuasive to a lot of those senators. They're looking for a way to kind of get this over with, and get on with this nation's business, and that's probably enough for them and he's going to be acquitted, just like you said.
BERNSTEIN: I agree with you. It's enough for them.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think today, the lawyers were all playing different games. I think that from the president side, you heard very Trumpian arguments.
This is, and I'm quoting Pat Cipollone, a partisan impeachment is like stealing an election. Have we heard that anywhere before? If they can do this to a president, said Cipollone, they could do it to any American citizen. I'm not sure what he meant by that. Impeach an American citizen or whatever?
But this is about you, Americans. This is about fairness, this is about a process.
And on the other side, the Democrats were saying, here's our case. Here's our case against the presidents of the United States. Here is what he did. Not only in one call, which Cipollone said was perfectly appropriate, the Democrats are saying this isn't just one phone call. This is a months-long endeavor to cut off aid to a country that is fighting our enemy, Russia, and an existential fight for its own survival.
So, take a look at all the evidence we have presented to you. And, by the way, the evidence that we were not allowed to present to you because of the stonewalling of the White House.
So, there are two different arguments. I
COOPER: I just want to remind viewers, we are waiting for the Senate to reconvene. They took a dinner break. They were supposed to be back about ten minutes ago. We expect it to actually just to go longer. So, we don't have a sense of how long that's going to be.
As soon as that reconvenes, obviously, we're bringing it to you.
Kirsten, one of the things Gloria was talking about, what the attorneys for the president were saying, one of the things that Jay Sekulow was also sort of saying is, well, plenty of presidents have cut off or withheld aid to people for a variety of reasons, the Obama administration did it to Egypt during the revolution against Mubarak, obviously, very different set of circumstances. But there have been other examples.
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I thought that's a good example of how much of the talking points the lawyers use. They were pretty much -- almost everything they were saying I've probably heard on this set at some point.
So, it was -- I mean, truly, it was a lot of the arguments that the Trump surrogates make, and then Adam Schiff would have to say, actually, here is why that happened with Egypt. And so, nobody has really said that the president can't withhold aid. That is not the argument. And they've withheld aid in different circumstances.
They are saying you can't withhold aid to get another country to do your dirty work and look up -- try to find information on your political opponent, right? These arguments that they kept making are just the talking points that have been debunked over and over again. The House manager will have to come back and say why it was not accurate.
TOOBIN: And the argument that you heard most, I think, from the Republicans was, why, if you want all these documents, if you want all these witnesses, why didn't you get them during the impeachment process in the House? Why are you expecting to do it now?
O'DONNELL: I think it was McConnell who said, you know, the Democrats didn't want to get these witnesses, or didn't want to do something --
TOOBIN: Or they didn't try. That was the thing. And that came up over and over again from the Republicans.
The response to that, and people can decide if it's persuasive or not, was that the president made clear he was not going to provide any of this documentary evidence. He -- the infamous eight-page letter from Pat Cipollone in October said, you're getting nothing. And they felt that to go to court on all of this would have rewarded the president and taking the months to allow him to cheat in this election, which they were not going to tolerate.
COOPER: They felt they couldn't wait because of the upcoming election.
TOOBIN: Correct. That to go to court would be to allow the president to continue to cheat, which is the fundamental offense he is being impeached over. Now, we can, you know, we can argue about that, but those are the two arguments.
BORGER: Schiff also further made the point. He said, look, you can't get out of impeachment by delaying it indefinitely in the courts. At some point, the Congress has to exercise its constitutional duty and say, OK, we have enough evidence. We are going to impeach you.
COOPER: Let's listen to Hakeem Jeffries speaking.
JEFFRIES: -- and I have the honor or representing the 8th Congressional District of New York in Brooklyn and Queens. It is one of the most diverse districts in the nation.
In fact, I've been told that I have the ninth most African-American district in the country and the 16th most Jewish. And here on the Hill, some folks have said, "Hakeem, is that complicated?"
But as my friend, Leon Goldenberg, says back at home, "Hakeem, you've got the best of both worlds. You see in America, our diversity is a strength. It is not a weakness. And one of the things that binds us together, all of us, as Americans, regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of region, regardless of sexual orientation, regardless of gender, is that we believe in the rule of law and the importance of a fair trial."
The House managers strongly support this amendment to subpoena witness testimony including, with respect to Mick Mulvaney. Who has ever heard of a trial with no witnesses? But that is exactly what's someone contemplating here today.
This amendment would address that fundamental flaw, it would ensure that the trial includes testimony from a key witness, the president's acting Chief of Staff and Head of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney.
And it wasn't sure that the senate can consider his testimony immediately. Let's discuss why the need to hear from Mick Mulvaney is so critical. Firstly, the McConnell's resolution undercuts more than 200 years of senate impeachment trial practice.
It departs from every impeachment trial conducted to date. And goes against the senate's own longstanding impeachment rules which contemplates the possibility of new witness testimony.
In fact, it departs from any criminal or civil trial procedure in America. Why should this president be held to a different standard?
Second, the proposed amendment for witness testimony is necessary in light of the president's determined effort to bury the evidence and cover up his corrupt, abusive power. The House tried to get Mr. Mulvaney's testimony.
We subpoenaed him. Mr. Mulvaney, together with other key witnesses, National Security Advisor John Bolton, Senior White House aide Robert Blair, Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey, and National Security Council lawyer John Eisenberg, recalled to testify before the House as part of this impeachment inquiry.
But President Trump was determined to hide from the American people what they had to say. The president directed the entire executive branch and all of his top aides and advisers to defy all requests for their testimony. That cannot be allowed to stand.
Third, Mr. Mulvaney is a highly relevant witness to the event at issue in this trial. Mr. Mulvaney was at the center of ever stage of the president's substantial pressure campaign against Ukraine. Based on the extensive evidence the House did obtain, it is clear that Mulvaney was crucial in planning the scheme, executing its implementation and carrying out the coverup.
E-mails and witness testimony show that Mr. Mulvaney was in the loop on the president's decision to explicitly condition a White House meeting on Ukraine's announcement of investigations beneficial to the president's reelection prospects.
He was closely involved in implementing the president's hold on the security assistance and subsequently admitted that the funds were being withheld to put pressure on Ukraine to conduct one of the phony political investigations that the president wanted. Phony political investigations.
A trial would not be complete without the testimony of Mick Mulvaney. Make no mistake,
the evidentiary record that we have built is powerful and can clearly establish the president's guilt on both of the articles of impeachment. But it is hardly complete. The record comes to you without the testimony of Mr. Mulvaney and other important witnesses. And that brings me to one final preliminary observation. The American people agree that there cannot be a fair trial without hearing from witnesses who have relevant information to provide the Constitution or democracy, the senate, the president, and most importantly, the American people deserve a fair trial.
A fair trial requires witness in order to provide the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That is why this amendment should be adopted.
Before we discuss Mr. Mulvaney's knowledge of the president's geopolitical shakedown, it is important to note that an impeachment trial without witnesses would be a stunning departure from this institution's past practice. This distinguished body has conducted 15 impeachment trials, all have included witnesses.
Sometimes, those trials included just a handful of witnesses as indicated on the screen. At other times, they included dozens. In one case, there were over 100 different witnesses.
As the slide shows, the average number of witnesses to appear at a senate impeachment trial is 33. And in at least three of those instances, including the impeachment of Bill Clinton, witnesses appeared before the senate who had not previously appeared before the House. That's because the Senate, this great institution, has always taken this responsibility to administer a fair trial seriously.
The Senate has always taken its duty to obtain evidence including witness testimony seriously. The Senate has always taken its obligation to evaluate the president's conduct based on a full body of available information seriously. This is the only way to ensure fundamental fairness for everyone involved.
Respectfully, it is important to honor that unbroken precedent today. So that Mr. Mulvaney's testimony, without fear or favor, as to what he might say can inform this distinguished body of Americans.
This amendment is also important to counter the president's determination to bury the evidence of his high crimes and misdemeanors. As we've explained in detail today, despite considerable efforts by the House to obtain relevant documents and testimony, President Trump has directed the entire executive branch to execute a coverup.
He has ordered the entire administration to ignore the powers of congress, a separate and co-equal branch of government to investigate his offenses in a manner that is unprecedented in American history.
There were 71 requests by the House for relevant evidence. In response, the White House produced zero documents in this impeachment inquiry. Seventy-one requests, zero documents.
President Trump is personally responsibility for depriving the senate of information important to consider in this trial. This point cannot be overstated. When faced with a congressional impeachment inquiry, a process expressly set forth by the framers of the Constitution in Article One, the president refused to comply in any respect. And he ordered his senior aides to fall in line. As shown on the slide, as a result of President Trump's obstruction, 12 key witnesses, including Mr. Mulvaney refused to appear for testimony in the House's impeachment inquiry.
No one has heard what they have to say. These witnesses include central figures in the abuse of power charged in Article One. what is the president hiding? Equally troublesome.
President Trump and his administration did not make any legitimate attempts to reach a reasonable accommodation with the House or compromise regarding any document request or witness subpoenas. Why? Because President Donald John Trump wasn't interested in cooperating, he was plotting a coverup.
It is important to take a step back and think about what President Trump is doing. Complete and total presidential obstruction is unprecedented in American history.
Even President Nixon whose articles of impeachment included obstruction of Congress did not block key White House aides from testifying in front of Congress during the Senate Watergate hearings. In fact, he publicly urged White House aides to testify.
Remember all of those witnesses who came in front of this body? Take a look at the screen. John Dean, the former White House Counsel testified for multiple days pursuant to a subpoena. H.R. Haldeman, President Nixon's former Chief of Staff was subpoenaed and testified.
Alexander Butterfield, the White House official who revealed the existence of the tapes testified publicly before the Senate. And so, did several others. President Trump's complete and total obstruction makes Richard Nixon look like a choir boy.
Two other presidents have been tried before the Senate. How did they conduct themselves? William Jefferson Clinton and Andrew Johnson did not block any witnesses from participating in the senate trial.
President Trump, by contrast, refuses to permit relevant witnesses from testifying to this very day. Many of president Clinton's White House aides testified in front of Congress. Even before the commencement of formal impeachment proceedings, during various investigations in the mid-1990s, the House and Senate heard from more than two dozen White House aides includes the White House counsel, the former chief of staff, and multiple senior advisers to President Clinton.
President Clinton himself gave testimony on camera and under oath. He also allowed his most senior advisers including multiple chiefs of staff and White House counsels to testify in the investigation that led to his impeachment.
And as you can see in the chart, the testimony was packaged and delivered to the senate. There were no missing witnesses who have defied subpoenas. No aides who had personal knowledge of his misconduct were directed to stay silent by President Clinton.
We have an entirely different situation in this case. Here we are seeking witnesses, the president has blocked from testifying before the House. Apparently, President Trump thinks that he can do what no other president before him has attempted to do in such a brazen fashion. Float above the law and hide the truth from the American people. That cannot be allowed to stand.
Let me now address some bedrock principals about Congress' authority to conduct investigations. Our broad powers of inquiry are at their strongest during an impeachment proceeding. When the House and Senate exercise responsibilities expressly set forth in Article One of the Constitution.
Nearly 100 and 40 years ago, the Supreme Court recognized that when the House or Senate is determining a question of impeachment, there was no reason to dealt the right to compel the attendance of witnesses
And the answer to proper questions, in the same manner and by the use of the same means that courts of justice can in like cases.
Our nation's founders and greatest legal minds recognize these principles early on. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story explained that the president should not have the power of preventing a thorough investigation of his conduct or of securing himself against the disgrace of a public conviction by impeachment if he should deserve it. President Trump cannot function as judge, jury and executioner of our democracy.
And it wasn't just the courts who confirmed this for us. Some of our nation's leading public servants, Representative John Quincy Adams, speaking on the floor of the House after he had served as president once exclaimed, "What mockery would it be for the constitution of the United States to say that the House should have the power of impeachment, extending even to the president of the United States himself, and yet to say that the House had not the power to obtain the evidence and proofs on which their impeachment was based.
As Hamilton, Story, Adams and others have recognized, the president cannot insulate himself from Congress' investigations of his wrongdoing. The president could decide what evidence gets to be presented in his own trial that would fundamentally nullify the constitutional power of impeachment. This amendment is important because President Trump simply cannot be allowed to hide the truth. No other president has done it, the Supreme Court does not allow it and the president is not above the law.
Witnesses matter. Documents matter. Evidence matters. The truth matters.
Let me now turn to a third justification for this amendment. Mr. Mulvaney's testimony is critical to considering the case for removal. It is imperative that we hear from the President's closest aide, a man intimately involved at key stages of this extraordinary abuse of power. President Trump knows this. Why else would he be trying so hard to prevent Mick Mulvaney from testifying before you?
There are at least four reasons why Mr. Mulvaney's testimony is critical. To begin with, as acting White House Chief of Staff and head of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney has firsthand knowledge about President Trump's efforts to shakedown Ukraine and pressure its new president into announcing phony investigations.
Mr. Mulvaney was in the loop at each critical stage of President Trump's scheme. He was in the loop in the planning of the scheme. He was in the loop in its implementation, and he was in the loop when the scheme fell apart. He even admitted publicly that the aid was withheld in order to pressure Ukraine into announcing an investigation designed to elevate the President's political standing.
Mr. Mulvaney, perhaps more than any other administration witness, excepting the President, has firsthand insight into the decision to withhold $391 in military and security aid to a vulnerable Ukraine without justification. Indeed, our investigation revealed that President Trump personally ordered Mr. Mulvaney to execute the freeze in July of 2019. Mr. Mulvaney holds the senior most staff position at the White House. He is a member of President Trump's cabinet, and he is responsible for President Trump's team at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
He remains the director of the Office of Management and Budget, which implemented the hold on the security assistance in violation of the law, as the government accountability office recently concluded. In short, respectfully the Senate's responsibility to conduct a complete and fair trial, demands that Mr. Mulvaney testified.
Second, Mr. Mulvaney's testimony is critical because of the knowledge of the manning of President Trump's abuse of power. Ambassador Gordon Sondland. The US ambassador to the European Union testified that there was a quid pro quo. Ambassador Sondland is not a so-called Never Trumper.
Mr. Sondland gave $1 million to President Trump's inauguration. He testified that everybody was in the loop. And that it was no secret what was going on. In fact, as early as May of 2019, Ambassador Sondland made clear that he was coordinating on Ukraine matters with Mr. Mulvaney.
Here is what David Holmes, an official at the US Embassy in Ukraine, had to say about that matter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID HOLMES, DIPLOMAT: Well, Ambassador Sondland's mandate -- as the accredited ambassador to the European Union, did not cover individual member states, let alone nonmember countries like Ukraine. He made clear he had direct infrequent access to President Trump and Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and portrayed himself as the conduit to the President and Mr. Mulvaney for this group.
(END VIDEO CLIP) JEFFRIES: After the US delegation return from the inauguration of the new Ukrainian president in April, they were able to secure an Oval Office meeting with President Trump, to brief him on their trip, in part because of Ambassador Sondland' connections to Mick Mulvaney. Then during a June 18, 2019 meeting, Ambassador Sondland informed National Security Council Senior Director Dr. Fiona Hill did that he was in charge of Ukraine. And that he had been briefing senior White House officials including Mr. Mulvaney about his efforts to undertake, as Dr. Hill put it, a domestic political errand in Ukraine. Here is Dr. Hill explaining this herself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FIONA HILL, FORMER SENIOR DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: So I was upset with him that he wasn't fully telling us about all of the meetings that he was having. And he said to me, but I'm briefing the President, I'm briefing Chief of Staff Mulvaney, I'm briefing Secretary Pompeo and I talked to Ambassador Bolton, who else do I have to do with?
And the point is, we have a robust interagency process that deals with Ukraine that includes Mr. Holmes, that includes Ambassador Taylor, the charge in Ukraine, it includes a whole load of other people. But it struck me when yesterday, when you put up on the screen Ambassador Sondland's emails and who was on these emails. And he said, these are the people you need to know that he was absolutely right. Because he was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involve in national security foreign policy, and those two things had just diverged.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFRIES: And there's more, much more. A month later, President Trump's national security adviser at the time, John Bolton, told Dr. Fiona Hill to tell the National Security Council's lawyers that he was not part of whatever drug deal, Sondland and Mulvaney, were cooking up.
He made that statement after Ambassador Sondland specifically said that he had a deal with Mr. Mulvaney to schedule a White House visit for President Zelensky if Ukraine announced two phony investigations involving the Bidens and 2016 election interference, investigations that were sought the by President Donald John Trump.
Here is Dr. Hill's testimony about Sondland describing here is drug deal he had with Mulvaney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: And so when I came in, Gordon Sondland was basically saying, well, look, we have a deal here that there will be a meeting. I have a deal here with Chief of Staff Mulvaney, there will be a meeting if the Ukrainians open up or announced these investigations into 2016 in Burisma. And I cut it off immediately there.
Because by this time point having herd Mr. Giuliani over and over again on the television and all of the issues that he was asserting, by this point it was clear that Burisma was code for the Bidens, because Giuliani was laying it out there. I could see why Colonel Vindman was alarmed. And he said, this is inappropriate with the National Security Council. We can't be involved in this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFRIES: The reference agreement between Ambassador Sondland and Mick Mulvaney was so upsetting the Dr. Hill reported it to National Security Council legal advisors. Here is the testimony that Dr. Hill explaining these particular concerns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what did he say?
HILL: Yes. But he was making a very strong point that he wanted to know exactly what was being said. And when I came back and relayed it to him, he had some very specific instruction for me. And I'm presuming that that's --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was that specific instruction?
HILL: Specific instruction was that I have to go to the lawyers to John Eisenberg, our senior counsel for the National Security Council, to basically say you tell Eisenberg, Ambassador Bolton told me, that I am part of this, whatever drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland are cooking up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what did you understand him to mean by the drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland were cooking up?
HILL: I took it to mean investigations or a meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you go speak to the lawyers?
HILL: I certainly did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFRIES: Sondland's testimony not only corroborates Dr. Hill's account, he actually says that Mick Mulvaney, the subject of this amendment, who should appear before the Senate, if we're going to have a free and fair trial. Sondland says Mick Mulvaney knew all about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: What I want to ask you about is, he makes reference in that drug deal to a drug deal cooked up by you and Mulvaney. It's the reference to Mulvaney that I want to ask you about.
You've testified that Mulvaney was aware of this quid pro quo of this condition that they Ukrainians had to meet that is announcing these public investigations to get the White House meetings, is that right?
GORDON SONDLAND, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Yes, a lot of people were aware of it. And --
SCHIFF: Including Mr. Mulvaney?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFRIES: The documents also highlight the extensive involvement of Mick Mulvaney in this geopolitical shakedown scheme. E-mail messages summarized by Ambassador Sondland during his sworn testimony show that he informed Mulvaney as well as Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Perry, on his efforts to persuade President Zelensky to announce the investigations desired by President Trump.
For example, as shown on the screen on July 19th, Ambassador Sondland e-mailed several top administration officials, including Mr. Mulvaney, stating that he had talked to President Zelensky to help prepare him for a phone call with President Trump, and he reported that President Zelensky plan to assure President Trump that he intents to run a fully transparent investigation and will turn over every ten.
Ambassador Sondland made clear in his testimony that he was referring to the Burisma-Biden in 2016, election interference investigations that were explicitly mentioned by President Trump on the July 25th phone call.
Mr. Mulvaney wrote in response, I asked NSC to set it up. What exactly did Mr. Mulvaney know about the Ukrainian commitment to turn over every stone? And when did he know it?
These and many other questions require answers under oath from Mr. Mulvaney.
Mr. Mulvaney is also a central figure with respect to how President Trump implemented this pressure campaign. According to public reports and witness testimony, Mr. Mulvaney was deeply involved with implementing the scheme, including the unlawful White House freeze on $391 million in aid to Ukraine.
But this isn't just other people fingering Mr. Mulvaney. Mr. Mulvaney has himself admitted that he was involved.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Again, I was involved with the process by which the money was held up temporarily.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFRIES: The public reports confirm Mr. Mulvaney's own account that he has information that goes to the heart of this inquiry, specifically related to why the president ordered the hold on aid to Ukraine and kept it in place, despite deep-seeded concerns among Trump administration officials.
This New York Times article on the screen summarizes an e-mail conversation between Mr. Mulvaney and Robert Blair, a senior administration adviser on June 27. When Mr. Mulvaney asked, did we ever find out about the money for Ukraine and whether we can hold it back? What prompted that e-mail?
According to public reports, Mr. Mulvaney was on Air Force I, Air Force I, with President Trump when he sent it. What other conversations did Mr. Mulvaney have with the President and White House officials about this unlawful freeze? The American people deserve to know.
There is other significant evidence concerning Mr. Mulvaney's role in implementing the scheme. According to multiple witnesses, the direction to freeze the security assistance to Ukraine was delivered by Mick Mulvaney himself. Office Management and Budget official Mark Sandy testified about a July 12th e-mail from Mr. Blair stating that President Trump is directing a hold on military support funding for Ukraine. Was Mr. Blair acting at Mr. Mulvaney' express direction? The members of this distinguished body deserve to know.
On July 18th, the hold was announced to the agencies in the administration overseeing Ukraine policy matters. Those present were blindsided by the announcement that the security aid appropriated by this Congress on a bipartisan basis to Ukraine, which is still at war with Russian-backed separatists in the east, they were alarmed that that aid had inexplicably been put on hold.
Meanwhile, officials at the Defense Department and within the Office of Management and Budget became increasingly concerned that the hold also violated the law. Their concerns turned out to be accurate.
Public reports have indicated that the White House is in possession of early August e-mails, exchanges between acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and White House Budget officials seeking to provide an explanation for the funds. An explanation, I should note, that they were trying to provide after the President had already ordered the hold.
Mr. Mulvaney presumably has answers to these questions. We don't know what those answers are, but he should provide them to this Senate and to the American people.
Finally, on October 17th, 2019, at a press briefing at the White House, Mr. Mulvaney left no doubt that President Trump withheld the essential military aid as leverage to try to extract phony, political investigations as part of his effort to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election.
This was an extraordinary press conference. Mr. Mulvaney made clear that the President was in fact pressuring Ukraine to investigate the conspiracy theory that Ukraine, rather than Russia, had interfered in the 2016 election. A conspiracy theory promoted by none other than the great purveyor of democracy, Vladimir Putin himself.
When White House reporters attempted to clarify this acknowledgment of a quid pro quo related to security assistance, Mr. Mulvaney replied we do that all the time with foreign policy. I have news for you. Get over it. Let's listen to a portion of that stunning exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MULVANEY: That he also mentioned to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely, no question about that. But that's it, that's why we held up the money. Now, there was a report --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he -- he wanted to withhold funding to Ukraine?
MULVANEY: They look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation, and that is absolutely appropriate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's be clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happened as well.
MULVANEY: We do that all the time with foreign policy. We were holding up money at the same time for, what was it, the Northern Triangle countries. We're holding up aid at the Northern Triangle countries so that they-- so that they would change their policies on immigration.
By the way, and this speaks to an important -- I'm sorry? This speaks to an important point because I heard this yesterday, and I can never remember the gentleman who has asked, was it McKinney? The guy, is that his name -- I don't know and he testified yesterday.
And if you go -- and if you believe the news reports, OK, because we've not seen any transcripts of this. The only transcript I've seen was Sondland's testimony this morning. If you read the news reports and you believe them, what did McKinney say yesterday?
Well, McKinney said yesterday that he was really upset with the political influence in foreign policy. That was one of the reasons he was so upset about this. And I have news for everybody. Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFRIES: In this extraordinary press conference, Mr. Mulvaney spoke with authority and conviction about why President Trump withheld the aid. He did not mince his words. But then following the press conference, he tried to walk back his statements as if he had not said them or had not meant them. We need to hear from Mick Mulvaney directly so he can clarify his true intentions.
Now, having gone through the need for the evidence, let's briefly address the President's arguments that he can block this testimony. That argument is not only wrong, it fundamentally undermines our system of checks and balances. Step back for a moment and consider the extraordinary position that President Trump is trying to manufacture for himself. The Department of Justice has already said that the President cannot be indicted or prosecuted in office.
As we sit here today, the President has actually filed a brief in the Supreme Court saying he cannot be criminally investigated as well while in the White House. So the Senate and the House are the only check that are left when the President abuses his power, tries to cheat in the next election, undermines our national security, breaks the law in doing so, and then tries to cover it up.
This is America, no one is above the law. But if the President is allowed to determine whether he is even investigated by Congress, if he is allowed to decide whether he should comply with lawful subpoenas in connection with an impeachment inquiry or trial, then he is the ultimate arbiter of whether he did anything wrong. That cannot stand.
If he can't be indicted and he can't be impeached, and he can't be removed, then he can't be held accountable.
That is inconsistent with the United States constitution. Now, you will no doubt hear that the reason that the president blocked all of these witnesses including Mr. Mulvaney from testifying is because of some lofty concern for the Office of the Presidency and the preservation of executive privilege.
Let's get real, how can blocking witnesses from telling the truth about the President's misconduct help preserve the Office of the Presidency? This type of blanket obstruction undermines the credibility of the Office of the Presidency and deals the constitution a potentially mortal death blow.
To be clear, executive privilege does not provide a legally justifiable basis for his complete and total blockage of evidence. In fact, as you heard earlier today, President Trump never even invoked executive privilege not once. And without ever asserting this privilege, how can you consider his argument in a serious fashion?
Instead speaking through Mr. Cipollone, the distinguished White House counsel, in a letter dated October 8, 2019, President Trump simply decided that he did not want to participate in the investigation into his own wrongdoing. It was a categorical decision not to cooperate without consideration of specific facts or legal arguments.
In fact, even the words that President Trump used through his White House counsel were made up. In the letter, Mr. Cipollone referred to so-called executive branch confidentiality interest. But that is not a recognized jurisprudential shield, not a proper assertion of executive privilege to the extent that there are privilege issues to consider. Those can be resolved during the testimony as they have been for decades. And, finally, the President claimed that Mr. Mulvaney could not be compelled to testify because of so-called absolute immunity. But every court to address this legal fiction has rejected it. As the Supreme Court emphatically stated in unanimous fashion in its decision on the Nixon tapes, confidentiality interests of the president must yield to an impeachment inquiry when there is a legitimate need for the information, as there is here today.
There can be no doubt that Mr. Mulvaney as the President's Chief of Staff and head of the Office of Management and Budget, is uniquely situated to provide this distinguished body with relevant and important information about the charges in the articles of impeachment.
The President's obstruction has no basis in law and should yield to this body's co-equal authority to investigate impeachable and corrupt conduct.
One final point, here as mentioned. If the president wanted to make witnesses available even while preserving the limited protections of executive privilege, he can do so. In fact, President Trump expressed his desire for witnesses to testify in the Senate just last month. Let's go to the videotape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: So, when it's fair, and it will be fair in the Senate, I would like to have Mike Pompeo. I'd love to have Mitch. I'd love to have Rick Perry and many other people testify.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFRIES: If President Trump has nothing to hide and his advisers repeatedly claim, they should all simply testify in the Senate trial, what is President Donald John Trump hiding from the American people?
The constitution requires a fair trial, our democracy needs a fair trial, the American people deserve a fair trial. A fair trial means witnesses. A fair trial means documents. A fair trial means a consideration of all of the available evidence. A fair trial means testimony from Mick Mulvaney. Mr. Chief Justice, the house managers reserve the balance of our time.