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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
The Impeachment Trial Of Donald J. Trump; House Managers Make Their Case Against Trump. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired January 22, 2020 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SCHIFF: That cable also sought to explain that U.S. assistance to Ukraine was in - was vital to U.S. national security, as well. Now, why don't they want us to see that cable - why don't they want us to see that cable? Maybe they don't want you to see that cable because that cable from a Vietnam veteran describes just how essential that military assistance was, not to just - to Ukraine, maybe they don't want you to see that cable because it describes just how important that military assistance is to us - to us.
President's counsel would love you to believe this is just about Ukraine, you don't need to care about Ukraine. Who cares about Ukraine? How many people can find Ukraine on a map, why should we care about Ukraine? Well we should care about Ukraine. They're an ally of ours.
If it matters to us, we should care about the fact that in 1994, when we asked them to give up their nuclear weapons that they had inherited from the Soviet Union and they didn't want to give them up and we were worried about proliferation, we said "hey, if you give them up, which you don't want to do cause you're worried the Russians might invade, if you give them up, we will help assure your territorial integrity."
We made that commitment. I hope we care about that - I hope we care about that because they did give them up, and you know what? Just what they feared took place, the Russians moved across their border and they remain occupying part of Ukraine.
That's the word of America we gave and we're breaking that word. Why? For help with a political campaign? Ambassador Taylor was exactly right, that's crazy. It's worse than crazy, it's repulsive, it's repugnant, it breaks our word, and to do it in the name of - of these corrupt investigations is also contrary to - to everything we espouse around the world.
I used to be part of a commission in the House on democracy assistance, where we would meet with parliamentarians and I know my Senate colleagues do much of the same thing. And we would - we would urge our colleagues to observe the rule of law, not to engage in political investigations and prosecutions.
I don't know how we make that argument now, I don't know how we look our allies or these burgeoning democracies in the face, our fellow parliamentarians and make that argument now. How do we make that argument now?
Now, testimony indicated that Secretary Pompeo eventually carried that cable into the White House but there's no evidence that those national security concerns that they don't want you to see were able to outweigh the President's personal interest in his getting foreign help in his re-election campaign. There's no evidence at all.
Now we get to August 28th. Politico was the first to publicly report - publicly report that President Trump had implemented a hold on nearly $400 million of U.S. military assistance to Ukraine that had been appropriated by Congress.
Now that the worst kept secret was public, Ukrainian officials immediately expressed their alarm and concern to their American counterparts.
As witnesses explained, the Ukrainians had two serious concerns. One, of course, was the aid itself, which was vital to their ability to fight off Russia. But in addition, they were worried about the symbolism of the hold, that it signaled to Russia and Vladimir Putin that the United States was wavering in support for Ukraine. Witnesses testified that this was a division that Russia could and would exploit to drive further a wedge between the United States and Ukraine to its advantage.
The second concern was why - likely why Ukrainian officials had wanted the hold to remain a secret in the first place, because it would add to the negative impact to Ukraine if the hold itself became public. It's bad enough that the President of the United States put a hold on their aid, it was going to be far worse if it became public, as indeed it did.
Andriy Yermak, the same Zelensky aide, sent Ambassador Volker a link to the political story - Politico story and then texted "need to talk with you." Other Ukrainian officials also expressed concerns to Ambassador Volker that the Ukrainian government was being singled out and penalized for some reason.
Well, what do we think that reason was?
Why were they being singled out? Why was that country - be singled out? That was the one country that this President could lever for help against an opponent he feared. That's why Ukraine was being singled out.
On August 29th, Yermak also contacted Ambassador Taylor. Yermak said "the Ukrainians were very concerned about the hold on military assistance." He said that he and "other Ukrainian officials would be willing to travel to Washington to explain to U.S. officials the importance of this assistance."
Ambassador Taylor, who was on the ground in Ukraine, explained the Ukrainian viewpoint and frankly their desperation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR: In September, the Minister of Defense, for example, came to me - I would use the word "desperate" - to figure out why the assistance was being held. He thought that perhaps if he went to Washington to talk to you, to talk to - to the Secretary of Defense, to talk to the President, he would be able to find out and - and reassure, provide whatever answer was necessary to have that assistance released.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Without any official explanation for the hold, American officials could provide little reassurance to their Ukrainian counterparts. It has been publicly reported that President Trump, Secretary Esper and Secretary Pompeo met in late August and that they all implored the President to release the aid but President Trump continued to refuse to release the aid.
As of August 30th, the President was clearly directing OMB to continue the hold on security assistance. In documents reviewed by Just Security but withheld from the Congress by OMB on the President's instructions, OMB official Michael Duffey e-mailed DOD Controller Elaine McCusker that there is quote "clear direction from POTUS to continue the hold."
So here we are, August 30th, a month after that July 25th call, aid's still being withheld, Ukrainians still holding on, still not willing to capitulate, not willing to violate Zelensky's whole campaign pledge about not engaging in corrupt investigations. That same day, August 30th, the Republican Senator Ron Johnson spoke with Ambassador Sondland to express his concern about President Trump's decision to withhold military assistance for Ukraine.
Senator Johnson described that call in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. According to Senator Johnson, Ambassador Sondland told him that if Ukraine would commit to quote, get to the bottom of what happened in 2016, if President Trump has that confidence, then he'll release the military spending.
Senator Johnson added at that suggestion I winced. My reaction was oh god, I don't want to see those two things combined. The next day, August 31st, Senator Johnson spoke by phone with President Trump regarding the decision to withhold aid to Ukraine.
According to the Wall Street Journal denied the quid pro quo and Senator Johnson had learned of from Ambassador Sondland. At the same time, however, President Trump refused to authorize Senator Johnson to tell Ukrainian officials on his upcoming trip to Kiev that the aid would be forth coming.
The message that Ambassador Sondland communicated to Senator Johnson mirrored that used by President Trump during the July 25th call with President Zelensky in which President Trump twice asked the Ukrainian leader to get to the bottom of it, including in connection to an investigation into the debunked conspiracy theory of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. It also mirrored the language of the text message that Ambassador Volker sent to President Zelensky's aid just before the July 25th call. Indeed despite the president's self serving denials, the message was clear.
President Trump wanted the investigations and he would withhold not one but two acts vested in him by the power of his office in order to get them.
Now begins September. September 1st. The president was supposed to go to Warsaw as we know, but he doesn't go to Warsaw. Mike Pence goes to Warsaw. Jennifer Williams, special advisor to the vice president for Europe and Russia, learned of the change in the president's travel plans on August 29th.
The vice president's national security advisor asked at the request of Vice President Pence for an update on the status of the security assistance that had just been publicly revealed in Politico and would be a critical issue during the bilateral meeting between the vice president and President Zelensky in Warsaw.
The delegation arrives in Warsaw and gathers in a hotel room to brief Vice President Pence before he met with Ukrainian president, National Security Advisor Bolton led the meeting.
As Williams described it, advisors in the room quote, agreed on the need to get a final decision on security assistance as soon as possible so that it could be implemented before the end of the year.
But Vice President Pence did not have authority from the president to release the aid. Ambassador Sondland also attended that briefing. At the end of it he expressed concern directly to Vice President Pence about the security assistance being held until the Ukrainians announced the very same political motivated investigations at the heart of this scheme.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
You mentioned that you also had a conversation with Vice President Pence before his meeting with President Zelensky in Warsaw and that you raised the concern you had as well that the security assistance was being withheld because of the president's desire to get a commitment from Zelensky to pursue these political investigations. What did you to the vice president.
SONDLAND: I was in a briefing with several people and I just spoke up and I said it appears that everything is stalled until this statement gets made, something to -- words to that effect.
And that's what I believed to be the case based on, you know, the work that the three of us had been doing; Volker, Perry, and myself. And the vice president nodded like, you know, he -- he heard what I said and that was pretty much it as I recall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Everyone was in the loop. Ambassador Sondland testified that Vice President Pence was neither surprised nor dismayed by the description of this quid pro quo. At the beginning of the bilateral meeting between President Zelensky and Vice President Pence, as expected, the first question from President Zelensky related to the status of the security assistance.
As Vice President Pence's aid, Jennifer Williams testified, President Zelensky explained that just equally with the financially and physical value of the assistance that it was the symbolic nature of that assistance that really was the show of U.S. support for Ukraine and for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Later that day Vice President Pence spoke to the president about his meeting with President Zelensky. But the hold on security assistance remained in place well after President Pence -- Vice President Pence returned from Warsaw.
And after the meeting -- the Warsaw meeting with Vice President Pence, Ambassador Sondland quickly pulled aside Andriy Yermak, Zelensky's top aid, and informed him that the aid would not be forth coming until Ukraine publicly announced the two investigations that President Trump wanted.
So here we are after the meeting -- right after the meeting -- they're still in Warsaw, and Zelensky pulls aside his Ukrainian counterpart, Yermak, and explains the aid is not coming until the investigations are announced.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONDLAND: Based on my previous communication with Secretary Pompeo, I felt comfortable sharing my concerns with Mr. Yermak. It was a very, very brief pull-aside conversation that happened within a few seconds.
I told Mr. Yermak that I believed that the resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine took some kind of action on the public statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Now let's let that sink in for a minute or two. You've heard my colleagues at the other table say Ukrainians felt no pressure. There's no evidence they felt any pressure. Of course we've already had testimony about how they did feel pressure and they didn't want to be drawn into this political campaign and you saw over and over in these text messages and emails, no you go first.
You announce. No, you go first. And we're supposed to believe they felt no pressure. And there it is, it breaks out into the open, the military is being -- aid is being withheld and there's a connection between the holding of the military aid and these investigations.
And the first thing they're asking about -- they send the copy of the article, what's happening with this aid. They're ready to come to D.C. to plead for the aid. They go to Warsaw, they meet with the vice president.
It's the first question is the aid. And what happens after that meeting.
Now that's a big meeting, by the way, with the vice president, the Ukrainian delegation. It's not in front of all those people the vice president is just going to bring it up.
And so Sondland goes up to his counterpart right after that, on the sidelines of that meeting, and he says basically, "You ain't getting the money until you do the investigations." And we're to believe they felt no pressure. Folks, they're at war. They're at war and they're being told, "You're not getting $400 million in aid you need unless you do what the president wants and what the president wants are these two investigations."
If you don't believe that's pressure, that's $400 million worth of pressure. I got a bridge I want to sell you. It's hard for us to put ourselves in the Ukrainians' position. I mean, imagine the eastern third of our country were occupied by an enemy force and we're beholding to another country for military aid and they're saying, you're not going to get it until you do what we want. Do you think we'd feel pressured? I think we'd feel pressured and that's exactly the situation Ukrainians were in now.
You've heard my counsels -- the other counsels say before, well, but they say they don't feel pressure. Like they're going to admit they were being shaken down by the president of the United States. You think they feel pressure now, you should see what kind of pressure they feel if they admitted that.
Tim Morrison, the NSC official, witnessed the conversation between Sondland and Yermak from across the room and immediately thereafter received the summary from Ambassador Sondland. He reported the substance of that conversation to his boss, Ambassador Bolton, who told Morrison to consult with the lawyers. Go talk to the lawyers.
If you keep getting told, you got to go talk to the lawyers, there's a problem. If things are perfect, you don't get told, go talk to the lawyers, time and time again.
Morrison confirmed that he did talk to the lawyers in part to ensure there was a record of what Ambassador Sondland was doing. That record exists within the White House. Would you like me to read you that record? I'd be happy to read you that record. It's there for asking.
Of course, the president has refused to provide that record. Precisely, why did Ambassador Bolton direct Morrison to tell the lawyers, to talk to the lawyers? Would you like Ambassador Bolton to tell you why he said that? He'd be happy to tell you why he said that. He's there for your asking.
What did Bolton know about the freeze in aid prior to this meeting in Warsaw? What did he mean that if he can press Zelensky, he's going to depend on whether he can press Zelensky, would you like to know what that meant? I'd like to know what he meant by that. I think we know what he meant by that.
Tim Morrison also convey the substance of the Sondland-Yermak pull aside to his colleague Ambassador Taylor. So, this is now Tim Morrison told by Bolton, go talk to the lawyers, and he talks to also Ambassador Taylor, our ambassador in Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR: On the evening of September 1st, I received a readout of the Pence-Zelensky meeting over the phone for Mr. Morrison during which he told me that President Zelensky had opened the meeting by immediately asking the vice president about the security cooperation.
The vice president did not respond substantively but said that he would talk to President Trump that night. The vice president did say that President Trump wanted the Europeans to do more to support Ukraine and that he wanted the Ukrainians to do more to fight corruption.
During the same phone call with Mr. Morrison, he described the conversation Ambassador Sondland had with Mr. Yermak in Warsaw. Ambassador Sondland told Mr. Yermak that the security assistance money would not come until President Zelensky committed to pursue the Burisma investigation.
I was alarmed by what Mr. Morrison told me about the Sondland-Yermak conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Ambassador Taylor then explained why he was so alarmed by this turn. Let's hear that as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOLDMAN: You said previously that you are alarmed to learn this. Why were you alarmed?
TAYLOR: It's one thing to try to leverage a meeting in the White House. It's another thing,
I thought, to leverage security assistance, security assistance to a country at war, dependent on both the security assistance and the demonstration of support. It was -- it was much more alarming. The White House meeting was one thing, security assistance was much more alarming.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Upon learning from Mr. Morrison that the military aid may be conditioned on Ukraine publicly announcing these two investigations, Ambassador Taylor sends an urgent text message to Ambassador Sondland asking, are we now saying that security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on investigations? And the response by Ambassador Sondland, call me.
Well, you know what that means, right? You got a text message that's putting it in black and white, are we saying security assistance and the White House meeting are conditioned on investigations? Call me. In other words, don't put this on writing. Call me.
Ambassador Taylor did in fact call Sondland. Informed by notes he took at the time of the call, he summarized that conversation as follows.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR: During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelensky to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.
Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling Ukrainian officials that only a White House meeting with President Zelensky was dependent on a public announcement of the investigations. In fact, Ambassador Sondland said, everything was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance.
He said that President Trump wanted President Zelensky in a public box by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Ambassador Taylor testified that his contemporaneous notes of the call reflected Sondland uses the phrase public box to describe President Trump's desire to ensure that the initiation of his desired investigations was announced publicly. A private commitment was not good enough.
The State Department has Ambassador Taylor's extensive notes and, of course, we would like to show them to you to corroborate his testimony. But pursuant to the president's instructions, the State Department will not turn them over.
You might recall from the tape yesterday, Ambassador Taylor said, they'll be shortly coming, I'm told. Well, somebody countermanded that instruction. Who do we think that was?
But you should see them. If you have any question about what Sondland told Ambassador Taylor if the president's counsel tries to create any confusion about what Sondland told Taylor about his conversation with the president and, look, Sondland had one recollection in his deposition and another recollection in the first hearing and another recollection in the declaration, you want to know exactly what happened to that conversation when it was fresh in Sondland's mind and he told Taylor about it and Taylor wrote it in its notes, you're going to want Taylor's notes.
In any courtroom in America holding a fair trial, you would want to see contemporaneous notes. This Senate should be no different. Demand those notes. Demand to see the truth.
We're not afraid of those notes. We haven't seen them. We haven't seen them. Maybe those notes say something completely different. Maybe those notes say no quid pro quo. Maybe those notes say it's a perfect call.
I'd like to see them. I'm willing to trust Ambassador Taylor's testimony and his recollection. I'd like to see them. I'd like to show them to you. They're yours for the asking.
On September 25th, The Washington Post editorial board reported concerns that President Trump was holding military assistance for Ukraine and the White House meeting in order to force President Zelensky to announce investigations of Vice President Biden and purported Ukrainian interference in the U.S. election.
The Post editorial board wrote, we're reliably told that the president has a second and more venal agenda. He is attempting to force Mr. Zelensky to intervene in the 2020 presidential election by launching an investigation of the leading Democratic candidate, Joe Biden. Mr. Trump is not just soliciting Ukraine's help with this -- with his presidential campaign. He is using U.S. military aid the country desperately needs in an attempt to extort it.
So, that's September 25th. President, on notice, scheme discovered, September 5th. September 7th, the evidence shows President Trump has a call with Ambassador Sondland where the president made the corrupt bargain for military aid in the White House meeting even more explicit.
On September 7th, Ambassador Sondland spoke to President Trump on the telephone. After that conversation, Ambassador Sondland called Tim Morrison to update him on that conversation.
Unlike Sondland who testified that he never took notes, Morrison took notes of the conversation and recalled that during his public testimony. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOLDMAN: Now, a few days later, on September 7th, you spoke again to Ambassador Sondland who told you that he had just gotten off the phone with President Trump, isn't that right?
MORRISON: That sounds correct. Yes.
GOLDMAN: What did Ambassador Sondland tell you that President Trump said to him?
MORRISON: If I recall this conversation correctly, this was where Ambassador Sondland related that there was no quid pro quo but President Zelensky had to make the statement and that he had to want to do it.
GOLDMAN: And by that point, did you understand that the statement related to the Biden in 2016 investigations?
MORRISON: I think I did. Yes.
GOLDMAN: And that that was essentially a condition for the security assistance to be released?
MORRISON: I understood that that's what Ambassador Sondland waived.
GOLDMAN: After speaking with President Trump?
MORRISON: That's what he represented.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: And you should bear in mind when Mr. Morrison says, that's what he represented that we asked Mr. Morrison about the president's calls with Ambassador Sondland and he testified that every time he check to see, did Ambassador Sondland in fact talk with the president when he said that he did, that, yes, in fact, he talked with the president. Every time he check, he was able to confirm it.
Now, let's let this sink in for a minute. According to Mr. Morrison's testimony, former Republican staffer on the Armed Services Committee, he speaks with Sondland on September 7th and Sondland says he's just gotten off the phone with Trump.
OK. So, this is contemporaneous. Just got off the phone. Call is fresh in everybody's mind. And what was said, Morrison says, Ambassador Sondland related there was no quid pro quo but President Zelensky had to make the statement and he had to want to do it. No quid pro quo but there's a quid pro quo.
Now, there are notes that show this. There's a written record of this. There's a written record of what President Trump told Ambassador Sondland right after that call. Would you like to see that written record? It's called Mr. Morrison's notes. It's right there for the asking.
These fine lawyers over here want to persuade you that call didn't happen or wasn't sad or all he said was no quid pro quo, he never said, but you have to go to the mike and you have to want to do it. Well, there's a good way to find out what happened on that caucus. It's in writing.
Is there any question why they're withholding this from Congress? Is there any question about that? They didn't claim -- well, Mr. Morrison didn't claim absolute immunity and Mr. Sondland didn't claim absolute immunity.
There's no absolute immunity over these notes. No executive privilege over these notes. The notes have already been described. The conversation has already been released. There's no even plausible arguable invented even excuse for withholding these notes.
Would like to see them? I tell you, any courtroom in American can get to see. It should be no different. It wouldn't be anything different in a fair trial anywhere in America.
Morrison, again, informed Ambassador Bolton of this September 7th conversation and guess what Ambassador Bolton said, I think you can probably figure this out by now, go talk to the lawyers, go talk to the lawyers. And yet, again, for the third time, Morrison went to talk to lawyers about this conversation with Ambassador Sondland.
SCHIFF: Morrison also called Ambassador Taylor to inform him about the conversation, and we have the testimony from Ambassador Taylor about their conversation, which is also based on his contemporaneous notes.
Let's look at the conversation now between Mr. Morrison and Ambassador Taylor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM TAYLOR, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: According to Mr. Morrison, President Trump told Ambassador Sondland he was not asking for a quid pro quo. If President Trump did insist that President Zelensky go to a microphone and say he is opening investigations of Biden in 2016 election interference. And that President Zelensky should want to do this, himself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: OK. So here we have two witnesses taking contemporaneous notes, both reflecting the same conversation, a conversation between Sondland and the President in which the President says no quid pro quo but quid pro quo. There are documents that prove this. Documents that prove this that are yours for the asking.
The following day, September 8th, Sondland texted Taylor and Volker to bring them up to speed on the conversations with President Trump and subsequently President Zelensky, whom he spoke to after President Trump.
Guys, multiple conversations with Z, meaning Zelensky, POTUS, let's talk. Sondland spoke to Taylor, but not Volker shortly after this text. According to ambassador Taylor who testified again on his real time notes. Let's hear what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR: The following day on September 8th, Ambassador Sondland and I spoke on the phone. He confirmed that he had talked to President Trump, as I had suggested a week earlier. But President Trump was adamant that President Zelensky himself had to clear things up and do it in public. President Trump said it was into a quid pro quo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: It's all very consistent here what the President said no quid pro quo, but Zelensky must announce the investigations publicly. That's what he was telling Sondland. No quid pro quo except for the quid pro quo. The President's attorneys rely on the first half of that sentence and would like you to forget the second half ever happened.
But we don't have to leave our common sense at the door. We don't have to rely on an incomplete description of that call. We have instead the detailed notes of Mr. Morrison and Ambassador Taylor.
But we also know what President Trump told Sondland because Sondland relayed that message to President Zelensky. During the same September 8 conversation with Taylor, Sondland described this conversation with President Zelensky. Here's Ambassador Taylor's account of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR: Ambassador Sondland also said that he had talked to President Zelensky and Mr. Yermak, and had told them that although this was not a quid pro quo, if President Zelensky did not clear things up in public, we would be at a stalemate. I understood a stalemate would mean that Ukraine would not receive the much needed military assistance. Ambassador Sondland said that this conversation concluded with President Zelensky agreeing to make a public statement in an interview on CNN.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: So not only did he relayed, Ambassador Sondland, relayed this conversation to Mr. Morrison, to Mr. Taylor. Not only to Mr. Taylor, Ambassador Taylor and Mr. Morrison talk about it, but Sondland confirms that he's relayed this conversation to Zelensky himself.
Everyone was now in the loop on the military aid being withheld for the political investigations. Taylor continued recalling the startling analogy Ambassador Sondland used to describe President Trump's approach to Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR: During our meeting, during our call on September 8th, Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman. A businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check. Ambassador Volker used the same language several days later while we were together at the Yalta European Strategy Conference. I argued to both that the explanation made no sense. The Ukrainians did not owe President Trump anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: Ambassador Taylor testified at the end of the Sondland- Zelensky conversation, President Zelensky said that he had relented and agreed to do a CNN interview to announce the investigations. So there was a break through after all.
The promised meeting wasn't enough to withheld security assistance, broke the log jam. Zelensky was going to go on CNN and announce the investigations. Taylor, though, remain concerned that even if the Ukrainian leader did as President Trump required, President Trump might continue to withhold the vital US security assistance in any event. Ambassador Taylor texted his concerns to Ambassador Volker and Sondland stating, the nightmare is they give the interview and don't get the security assistance. The Russians love it and I quit.
I mean, that's quite telling too, what's Ambassador Taylor worried about, he's worried Ukrainians are finally going to agree to do it. They're going to make the announcement and they're still going to get stiffed on the aid.
That is deposition Ambassador Taylor elaborated. The nightmare scenario -- the nightmare is the scenario where President Zelensky goes out in public, makes an announcement that he's going to investigate Burisma and the interference in the 2016 election. Maybe among other things, he might put that in some series of investigations. But the nightmare was, he would mention those to take all the heat from that, get himself in big trouble in this country, meaning Ukraine, or this country meaning United States, and probably in this country as well, meaning both, I guess, and the security assistance would not be released. That was the nightmare. If it were happened -- Taylor's testified he would quit.
Early in the morning in Europe on September 9th, which was 12:47 am in Washington, DC, Ambassador Taylor reiterated his concerns about the President's quid pro quo for security assistance. In another series of text messages with ambassadors Volker and Sondland.
So here are the September 9 text messages, Taylor texts to Sondland. The message to the Ukrainians (and Russians), we send with a decision on security assistance is key. With a hold, we have already shaken their faith in us, thus my nightmare scenario. And Taylor goes on and says, counting on you to be right about this interview Gordon? Meaning if they do it, you darn well better come through with the military aid. And Sondland says, Bill, I never said I was right. I said, we are where we are, and believe we have identified the best pathway forward. Let's hope it works.
And Taylor said, as I said, on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.
Ambassador Taylor testified about what he meant. He said that to withhold that assistance for no good reason, other than help with a political campaign made no sense. It was counterproductive to all of what we've been trying to do. It was illogical. It could not be explained. It was crazy.
In response to Ambassador Taylor's text message, Sondland replies at about 5:00 am in Washington. So the message from Taylor goes out at 12:47 am, the message back from solid compass at 5:00 am. So it looks like it may be five hours later.
So Taylor has texted at 12:47 am. As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy withhold security assistance for helping the political campaign. There he is again putting it in writing for crying out loud. And Sondland said, to call him about this stuff.
And so five hours later, you get this really interesting message from Sondland. Bill, I believe you're incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quos of any kind. The President's trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign. I suggest we stop the back and forth by text. In other words, can you please stop putting this in writing? Congress may read this one day. If you still have concerns, I recommend you give Lisa Kenna or S a call to discuss them directly. Thanks.
Now, as you can see, Ambassador Sondland subsequent testimony revealed that this text and other denials of a quid pro quo were intentionally false, and simply designed to provide a written record of a false explanation that could later be used to conceal wrongdoing. The text message says there were no quid pro quos of any kind, but you've seen his testimony.
He swore under oath. He was crystal clear when he said there was a quid pro quo for the White House meeting and he subsequently testified there was a quid pro quo for the security assistance, as well as confirmed by President Trump's direction to him on September 7th.
Sondland's recollection of his conversation with President Trump, as I mentioned has evolved over time. Initially, in his deposition, he testified that the conversation with the President occurred between Taylor's text to September 9th at 12:47, Washington time and his response at 5:00 am.
He recalled very little the conversation at that time other than his belief that his text message reflected President Trump's response. Subsequently, though, and again, this is one of the reasons why you do depositions in closed session.
Subsequently, after the opening statements of the testimony of Ambassador Taylor and Mr. Morrison were released, which described, and overlapping, and painful detail Sondland's conversation with President Trump on September 7th, Ambassador Sondland submitted an addendum to his deposition testimony, which and relevant parts said this.
Finally, as of this writing, I cannot specifically recall if I have one or two calls, phone calls with President Trump in the September 6th to 9th timeframe. Despite repeated requests to the White House and the State Department, I have not been granted access to all the phone records. And I would like to review those phone records along with any other notes and other documents that may exist to determine if I can provide a more complete testimony to assist Congress.
However, although I have no specific recollection of phone calls during this period with Mr. Taylor, Ambassador Taylor and Mr. Morrison, I have no reason to question the substance of their recollection about my September 1 conversation with Mr. Yermak. During his public testimony, Ambassador Sondland purported to remember more of this conversation with President Trump. Although he still couldn't or maintain he couldn't remember if it was on September 7 or September 9. And according to his testimony, President Trump did not specifically say there was a quid pro quo. But when Sondland asked the President what he wanted from Ukraine, President Trump immediately brought up a quid pro quo.
According to Sondland, President Trump said, I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do the right thing. And I said, what does that mean? And he said, I want him to do what he ran on.
In a subsequent testimony, Ambassador Sondland explained that President Trump's reference to what he ran on was a nod to rooting out corruption. Here, however, corruption like Burisma has become code for the investigations that President Trump has sought.
So you've got Ambassador Sondland's emerging recollection. But what you've got is actually written notes taken at the time, that he does not contest, written notes of Ambassador Taylor and Mr. Morrison, notes which I believe will reflect quite clearly the understanding of dirt for dollars that was confirmed by this telephone call with President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CRAIG GOLDMAN (R), TEXAS: Well, you weren't dissuaded then, right? Because you still thought that the aid was conditioned on the public announcement of the investigations after speaking to President Trump.
GORDON SONDLAND, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: By September 8th, I was absolutely convinced it was.
GOLDMAN: And President Trump did not dissuade you off that, in the conversation that you acknowledge you had with him.
SONDLAND: I don't ever recall because that would have changed my entire calculus of President Trump had told me directly. I'm not --
GOLDMAN: That's not what I'm asking, Ambassador Sondland. I'm just saying you still believed that the security assistance was conditioned on the investigation after you spoke to President Trump. Yes or no?
SONDLAND: From a timeframe standpoint, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: So, here we have Sondland saying that whatever his recollection may be about that call. He was still very clear what the President wanted and he was very clear there was a quid pro quo. That is consistent, obviously with what Mr. Morrison has had to say and Ambassador Taylor.
In other words, he didn't believe President Trump's denial of a quid pro quo and neither should you. Sondland's understanding was further confirmed by President Trump's own chief of staff. On October 17 at a press briefing in the White House, Mick Mulvaney admitted the President Trump withheld the essential military aid for Ukraine as leverage to pressure Ukraine to investigate the conspiracy theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: So that was -- those were the driving factors that he also mentioned to me in past that the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely, no question about that. But that's it, that's why we held up the money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: When press that he had just convinced to the very quid pro quo that President Trump had been denying, Mulvaney doubled down. Let's listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's be clear you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation with the Democratic server happened as well.
MULVANEY: We do that all the time with foreign policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIFF: This evidence demonstrates that President Trump withheld the security assistance in the White House meeting with President Zelensky until Ukraine made a public statement announcing the two investigations targeted to help his political reelection efforts. But as you will learn next, he got caught and the cover up ensued.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D), IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: Chief justices and senators, thank you for your patience. This is a lot of information, but you have a very important obligation. And that is ultimately to decide whether the President committed impeachable offenses. And in order to make that judgment, you have to have all of the facts.
And so, we're going through this chronology. We're close to being done. But it's important to know that while all of this material was going on, these deals were being made. There were other forces at work. Even before the President's freeze on US military assistance to Ukraine became public on August 28, members of both houses of Congress began to express concern.
August 9th, the Democratic leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee wrote to the OMB and the White House, warning that a hold on assistance might constitute an illegal empowerment of funds. They urged the Trump administration to follow the law and obligate the funding. When the news of the frozen aid broke on August 28, Congressional scrutiny of President Trump's decision increased. On September 3rd, a group of senators, both Republicans and Democrats, including Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Rob Portman, Senator Dick Durbin, Senator Ron Johnson, Senator Richard Blumenthal, sent a letter to acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney expressing and I quote, deep concerns that the administration is considering not obligating the Ukraine Security Initiative funds for 2019.
Two days later, as has been mentioned, on September 5th, a Washington Post editorial expressed concern that President Trump was withholding military assistance to Ukraine in order to pressure President Zelensky to announce these investigations. That was the first public report linking the frozen security aid to the investigations that Mr. Giuliani had been publicly pressing for and that President Trump, as we've heard, had privately urged President Zelensky to conduct on the July 25th call.
That same day, Senators Murphy and Johnson met with President Zelensky and Kiev. Ambassador Taylor went with him and he testified Mr. Taylor testified that President Zelensky's quote, first question to the senators was about withheld security assistance.
Ambassador Taylor testified that both senators quote, stress that bipartisan support for Ukraine and Washington, was Ukraine's most important strategic asset at that President Zelensky should not jeopardize that bipartisan support by getting drawn into US domestic politics.
Now, Senator Johnson and Senator Murphy later submitted letters, where they explained that they sought to reassure President Zelensky that there was bipartisan support in Congress for providing Ukraine with military assistance, and that they would continue to urge President Trump to lift the hold. Here is what they said in that letter.
Senator Murphy said, Senator Johnson and I assured Zelensky that Congress wanted to continue this funding and would press Trump to release it immediately.
And Senator Johnson in the letter said, I explained that I've tried to persuade the President to authorized me to announce the hold was released, but that I was unsuccessful.
Now, as news of the President's hold on military assistance to Ukraine became public at the end of August, Congress, the press, the public started to pay more attention to President Trump's activities with Ukraine, this risk exposing the scheme that you've heard so much about today.
By now, the White House had learned that the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community had found that a whistleblower complaint related to the same Ukraine matter was "credible" an urgent concern and was therefore that they were therefore required to send that complaint to Congress. On September 9th, three House investigating committees sent a letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, stating that President Trump and Giuliani, "appear to have acted outside legitimate law enforcement and diplomatic channels to coerce the Ukrainian government into pursuing to politically motivated investigations under the guise of anti- corruption activity."
The letter also said this, if the President is trying to pressure Ukraine into choosing between defending itself from a Russian aggression, without US assistance, or leveraging its judicial system to serve the ends of the Trump campaign, this would represent a staggering abuse of power, a boon to Moscow and a betrayal of the public trust.
The chairs requested that the White House preserve all relevant records and produce them by September 16. This included the transcript or actually the call record of the July 25 call between President Trump and President Zelensky. Now based on witness testimony, it looks like the White House Counsel's Office circulated the committee's document request around the White House. Tim Morrison, a senior director at the National Security Council, remembered seeing a copy of this letter.
He also recalled that the three committees Ukraine investigation was discussed at a meeting of senior level NSC staff soon after it was publicly announced. Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, we call discussions among the NSC staff members at the investigation, here's a quote, might have the effect of releasing the hold on Ukraine military assistance, because it would be, "potentially politically challenging for the administration to justify that hold the Congress."
Later that same day on September 9th, the Inspector General informed the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, he determined that the whistleblower complaint that had been submitted on August 12th, appeared to be credible, met the definition of urgent concern under the statute. And yet, he reported, that for the first time ever, the acting director of National Intelligence was withholding this whistleblower complaint from Congress. That violated the law, which required him to send it in seven days.
The acting director later testified that his office initially withheld the complaint based on the advice from the White House and an unprecedented intervention by the Department Of Justice.
Now, according to public reporting and testimony for the acting DNI, at a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee on September 26th, the White House had been aware of the whistleblower complaint for weeks prior to the IG September 9 letter to the intelligence committees.
Acting DNI Maguire testified that when he received the whistleblower complaint from the Inspector General, his office contacted the White House Counsel's Office for guidance. Consistent with acting DNI Maguire's testimony, the New York Times has reported that in late August, the President's current defense counsel, Mr. Cipollone, and NSC lawyer John Eisenberg, personally briefed President Trump about the complaints existence and told the President they believe the complaint could be withheld from Congress on executive privilege grounds.
Now, on September 10, the next day, Ambassador Bolton resigned from his position as National Security Advisor.
On that same day, September 10th, chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee wrote a letter to the acting director demanding that he provide the complaint as the law required. The next day, on September 11, President Trump lifted the hold on the security assistance to Ukraine.
Now, numerous witnesses have testified that they weren't aware of any reason why the hold was lifted. Just as there was no explanation for the whole being implemented. There was no additional review, no additional European contribution, nothing to justify the President's change in position except he got caught.
Just as there is no official explanation for why the hold on Ukrainian assistance was implemented. Numerous witnesses testified that they were not provided with any reason for why the hold was lifted on September 11. For example, Jennifer Williams, who was the special adviser to Vice President Pence, testified that she was never given a reason for that decision. Neither was Lieutenant Colonel Vindman. Here's what he told us during the hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOLDMAN: Are you also aware, however, that the security assistance hold was not lifted for another 10 days after this meeting?
JENNIFER WILLIAMS, SPECIAL ADVISOR FOR EUROPE AND RUSSIA: That's correct.
GOLDMAN: And am I correct that you didn't learn the reason why the hold was lifted?
WILLIAMS: That's correct.
GOLDMAN: Colonel Vindman, you didn't learn a reason why the hold was lifted either, is that right?
GOLDMAN: Colonel Vindman, are you aware that the committees launched an investigation into Ukraine matters on September 9th, two days before the hold was lifted?
ALEXANDER VINDMAN, DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: I am aware and I was aware.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOFGREN: Ambassador Taylor, the person in-charge of the US Embassy in Kiev, who communicated the decision to the Ukrainians also never got an explanation. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOLDMAN: Are you also aware, however, that the security assistance hold was not lifted for another 10 days after this?
TAYLOR: Finally, on September 11th, I learned that the hold had been lifted and security systems would be provided. I was not told the reason why the hold had been lifted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOFGREN: Mark Sandy, a career officer at OMB, testified he only learned of a possible rationale for the hold in early September, after the acting DNI had informed the White House about the whistleblower complaint.
Now, Sandy testified that sometime in early September, he received an email from his boss, Michael Duffy, approximately two months after the hole had been placed. The email, "attributed the hold to the presence concerned about other countries not contributing more to Ukraine," and requested, "information about what additional countries were contributing to Ukraine."
This was a different explanation, than OMB had provided at the July 26 interagency meeting that reference concerns about corruption. Lieutenant Colonel testified that none of the facts on the ground about Ukrainian efforts to combat corruption or other countries contribution to Ukraine had changed before President Trump lifted the hold.
According to a press report, after Congress began investigating President Trump's scheme, the White House Counsel's Office opened an internal investigation relating to the July 25th call. The following slides provide excerpts from a report in the Washington Post.
As part of that internal investigation, White House lawyers reportedly gathered and reviewed hundreds of documents that reveal extensive efforts to generate an after the fact justification for the hold on military assistance for Ukraine that had been ordered by the President. These documents reportedly include, "early August, email exchanges between acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and White House Budget officials seeking to provide an explanation for withholding the funds after the President had already ordered a hold in mid-July on the nearly $400 million in security assistance.
The Washington Post article also reported at and these, this is a quote, emails show, OMB director Vought and OMB staffers arguing that withholding the aid was legal while officials and the National Security Council and State Department protested. OMB lawyers said that it was legal to withhold the aid as long as they deemed it a temporary hold.