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Democratic House Managers Present Case Against Trump. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired January 22, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): This theory, by the way, has been advanced by Russian propaganda, to try to take attention away from Russian interference and shift it onto Ukraine and it's a theory that has been universally debunked by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement.
Nonetheless, the President, spurred by the June 18th press release and with the false theory that Ukraine interference in the 2016 -- with the false theory about the Ukraine interference supposedly in the 2016 election, the President started asking about the Ukraine assistance.
And on June 19th, OMB Associate Director for National Security Michael Duffey e-mailed Elaine McCusker, the DOD Comptroller. He said quote "the President had questions about the press report and that he was seeking additional information."
This was a reference to an article in the Washington Examiner, shown here on the slide in front of you. The White House withheld this e- mail from the House, of course. We first learned of it from Mr. -- from Duffey's deputy, Mark Sandy, who testified that he was copied on.
Subsequently, as a result of a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act, the public and therefore Congress received a copy of that e-mail. But the -- but the White House still refuses to comply with the subpoenas for this and other documents.
On June 20th, McCusker responded to President Trump's inquiry by providing Sandy information on the security assistance program. Sandy shared the information with Duffey but he did not know whether Duffey shared the information with the White House.
Laura Cooper also recalled receiving an e-mail inquiry about Ukraine's security assistance quote "a few days after DOD's June 18th press release." She noted that it was quote "relatively unusual to receive questions from the President."
In response, DOD provided materials explaining that the $250 million funding package was for additional training, equipment, advisory efforts to build the capacity of Ukraine's Armed Forces. DOD emphasized quote "almost all of the dozens of vendors are U.S. companies," meaning that this funding also benefited U.S. businesses and workers. Nonetheless, President Trump put the wheels in motion to freeze the funds shortly after learning about DOD's plan to release the funds. According to a New York Times article on June 27th, Chief of Staff Mulvaney e-mailed Blair quote "I'm just trying to tie up some loose ends. Did we ever find out about the money from Ukraine and whether we can hold it back?" Blair reportedly responded that it would be impossible but not pretty. He added quote "expect Congress to become unhinged."
And I suppose he said that for all of the reasons we talked about earlier, because this chamber and our chamber on the other side of the Capitol resoundingly supports it. And that was just the -- the Defense Department assistance to Ukraine. For 2019, Congress also appropriated $141 million to Ukraine through the State Department.
Unlike the Defense Department funding, which was approved by Congress and ready to be spent, OMB blocked the State Department from even seeking Congress's approval to release the funds. And I'd like to pause here to once again stress that we have learned a lot about the circumstances around the initial hold only from the public release of and reporting about these e-mails in the past few weeks.
The White House has refused to provide these e-mails in response to a subpoena. Mick Mulvaney and Rob Blair refused to comply with a subpoena to testify. These e-mails are just a few of the many thousands that likely exist on this topic but which have been concealed from Congress and the American people because of ongoing obstruction.
In fact, last night, as we were here late into the night, sometime around midnight, a new traunch of documents were released under a Freedom of Information Act request by an independent watchdog that had been asking for them. They were released last night between Mr. Duffey and Elaine McCusker and others on the things that I'm talking about right now.
Unfortunately, as you can see, there isn't a lot to read here because it's all blacked out. So if the President's lawyers contest any of the facts that I'm talking about, you should demand to see the full record. The American people deserve to see the full truth when it comes to presidential actions.
But back to the timeline. From July to September of 2019, the President and his advisers at the White House and OMB implemented the hold on Ukraine assistance through an unusual and unlawful process. First, on July 3rd, the State Department notified DOD and NSC staff that OMB was blocking this notification to Congress.
According to Jennifer Williams, Vice President Pence's aide, the hold on this assistance quote "came out of the blue" because it had not been previously discussed by OMB or NSC. Around July 12th, President Trump directed that a hold be placed on the DOD security assistance, as well. That day, Mr. Blair sent an e-mail to Duffey at OMB informing him that quote "that the President is directing a hold on military support funding for Ukraine." Around July 15th, Tim Morrison learned from Deputy Director -- or advisor Charles Kupperman quote "that it was the President's direction to hold the assistance."
Several days later, Duffey and Blair again exchanged e-mails about Ukraine's security assistance and Sandy testified that in these e- mails, Duffey asked Blair about the reason for the hold. Blair provided no explanation. Instead, he said quote "we need to let the hold take place" and then quote "revisit the issue with the President."
Between July 18th and July 31st, the NSC staff convened several interagency meetings at which the hold on security assistance was discussed. Remember those dates, July 18th to July 31st. According to Mark Sandy and other witnesses, several facts emerged.
First, the agencies learned that the President himself had directed the hold through OMB. Second, no justification or explanation was provided for the hold, despite repeated questions. Third, except for OMB, all agencies were -- supported military aid because it was in the national security interests of the United States.
And fourth, many were concerned that the hold was outright illegal. Ambassador Taylor learned of the hold on July 18th. He said, quote, "the directive had come from the president to the chief of staff to OMB." And that he, quote, "sat in astonishment because one of the key pillars of our strong support for Ukraine was threatened."
David Holmes, a diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, testified that he was shocked by the hold. Although there was an initial -- there was initially some question as to whether the hold applied to DoD funds, which was already cleared by Congress, it soon became clear that the hold applied to all 391 million.
Tim Morrison testified that DoD officials raised concerns at a meeting on July 23rd about whether it was, quote, "actually legally permissible" for the president to not allow for the disbursement of the funding.
These concerns related to possible violations of the Impoundment Control Act, the law that gives the president the authority to delay or withhold funds only if Congress is notified of those intentions and approves the proposed action.
Of course, neither of those things had been done. The issue was escalated quickly and at senior level meeting on July 26th, OMB remained the lone voice for holding the aid. According to Tim Morrison, OMB said that President Trump was concerned about corruption in Ukraine.
Cooper, from DoD, also attended the July meeting. She received no further understanding of what was meant by corruption. There was never a principals meeting convened on this issue. But there was a fourth and final inter-agency meeting on July 31st. Remember that date? A fourth and final one.
There is a process for making sure that USAID money makes it to the right place to the right people.
And, Mr. Chief Justice, I do see a lot of members moving and taking a break. Would we like to take a break at this time? I have another probably 15 minutes.
JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE U.S. SUPREME COURT: I think we can continue.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): If I may, what I was going to suggest was at 6:30 we take a 30-minute break for dinner, if that will work.
ROBERTS: So a break at -- at 6:30? OK.
MCCONNELL: What I was going to suggest was a break for dinner at 6:30 for about 30 minutes.
CROW: So we know there was a hold but there was no lawful way to implement that hold. So the OMB had to use creative methods. There is a process for making sure that USAID money makes it to the right place to the right people, a process that has been followed every year since Congress approved security assistance to Ukraine.
The administration needed to find a way, a creative way of getting around that process. Later in the evening of July 25th, the OMB found that way, even though DoD had already notified Congress that the funds would be released. Here is how it worked.
First, OMB issued guidance asserting that there was an ongoing review of assistance, even though none of the witnesses who testified where aware of any review of assistance. Second, OMB also attempted to hide the hold in a series of technical footnotes and funding documents.
And third, OMB's leadership also transferred responsibility for approving funding obligations from career civil servant Mark Sandy to a political appointee, Mark Duffey, someone with no relevant experience in this funding.
Based on recent public reporting and documents DoD released under the Freedom of Information Act, we learned that on July 25th, approximately 90 minutes after President Trump's phone call with President Zelensky, Mr. Duffey put this three-pronged plan into motion when he sent an email to senior DoD officials copying Sandy.
The email is in front of you. In this email, Duffey stated, quote, "based on guidance I've received and in light of the administration's plan to review assistance to Ukraine, please hold off on any additional DoD obligations of these funds pending direction from that process."
Duffey also underscored, quote, "given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate you keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute the direction. In other words, don't tell anybody about it.
Later that day, Sandy approved and signed the first July 25th funding document, which delayed funding until August 5th. Sandy testified that the purpose of this in subsequent footnotes, quote, "was to preclude obligation for a limited period of time but enable planning and casework to continue."
Sandy also testified that his use of footnotes was unusual and that in his 12 years of OMB experience he could, quote, "not recall another event like it."
On July 29th, Duffey told Sandy he would no longer be responsible for approving the release of DoD Ukraine funding. This was only weeks after Sandy had raised questions about the legality of the president's hold. Duffey also revoked the authority for approving the release of the State Department funding from Sandy's colleague at OMB. In short, Duffey assumed approval authority for all 391 million of the assistance.
Over the next several weeks with Duffey in charge, OMB continued to issue funding documents that kept kicking the can down the road, supposedly to allow for an inter-agency process.
And remember, an inter-agency process had already wrapped up back in July, while inserting the whole time footnotes throughout the apportionment documents, stating that delay wouldn't affect the program. And yet concerns continued to be relayed within DoD that it had.
In total, OMB issued nine of these documents between July 25th and September 10th. Even as OMB was implementing the president's hold, officials inside OMB advocated for the release of the funds.
On August 7th, OMB staff sent a memo to Director Vought recommending removing the hold because the assistance was consistent with the national security strategy in terms of, one, supporting a stable peaceful Europe, two, the fact that the aid countered Russian aggression and, three, that there was bipartisan support for the program. This meant that experts at every single relevant agency involved opposed the hold.
By mid-August DoD raised concerns that it might not be able to fully spend the DoD funds before the end of the fiscal year. Laura Cooper testified that DoD estimated 100 million of the aid was at risk of not getting to Ukraine.
DoD concluded that it could no longer support the OMB's claims that the footnotes, quote -- that in the footnotes that, quote, "this brief pause in obligations will not preclude DoD's timely execution of the final policy direction," end quote. Sandy testified that this sentence in the footnote was quote, at the heart of that issue about insuring that we don't run afoul of the Impoundment Control Act.
Records produced in response to a foil lawsuit show that Mr. Duffy and Ms. MsCusker exchanged emails on August 20th. And on that data, OMB modified the footnote. These emails are almost entirely redacted.
However, all the subsequent footnotes issued by OMB during the penance of the hold, removed the sentence regarding DODs ability to fully obligate the funds by the end of the fiscal year.
Never the less, OMB continued to implement the hold at the president's direction. We know from emails released last night that as of September 5th, OMB was continuing to obstruct DOD to hold the aid.
OMB gave these emails to a private organization just because of a foil (ph) lawsuit. On September 5th, Duffy emailed McCusker the following; quote, no movement from Ukraine. Footnote, forthcoming to continue hold through Friday. End quote.
We know that McCusker responded to OMB with a lengthy email detailing DOD's serious concerns. But OMB redacted almost the whole thing. As I explained last night, OMB has key documents that President Trump has refused to turn over to Congress.
Key documents that go to the heart of one of the ways in which the president abused his power. Concerns about whether the administration was bending if not breaking the law contributed to at least two OMB officials resigning.
Including an attorney in OMB. According to Sandy, one colleague specifically disagreed with OMB general counsel about the application of the Impound Control Act. As I mentioned earlier, the Independent and Nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has already said that the hold was illegal.
But you remember though, OMB correspondence remembering -- or referencing the quote interagency process. As we now know, there was no interagency process. It had ended months before.
They made it up. They had to make it up because they couldn't say the real reason for the hold. Sometime prior to August 16th, Ambassador Bolton had a one on one meeting with President Trump.
According to Morrison at that meeting the president, quote, was not ready to approve the release of the assistance. Ambassador Bolton instructed Morrison to look for other opportunities to get the president's cabinet together to, quote, have the direct in person conversation with the president about this topic.
Everyone was worried, including the president's national security advisor. In mid August, Colonel Vindman drafted a personal decision memorandum for Ambassador Bolton to present to President Trump for this (ph) decision on Ukraine security assistance.
The memorandum recommended that the hold be lifted. Morrison testified that the memorandum was never provided to the president because of other competing issues. Morrison testified that a meeting with the president was never arranged in August, reportedly because of scheduling problems.
According to recent press reports, on August 30th Secretary of Defense Esper, Secretary of State Pompeo met with President Trump and implored him to release the security assistance because doing so was in the interest of the United States.
However, President Trump continued to ignore everybody. Later that day, Duffy emailed undersecretary of defense, Elaine McCusker and wrote, quote, clear direction from POTUS to hold.
The Ukrainian government knew of President Trumps hold on security assistance well before it was publicly reported on August 28th. This was not surprising. U.S. diplomat, Catherine Croft testified it was quote, inevitable that it was eventually going to come out.
She said two individuals from the Ukrainian embassy here in Washington approached approximately a week apart, quote, quietly and in confidence to ask me about an OMB hold on -- on Ukraine security assistance.
She could not precisely recall the dates of these conversations but testified that she was quote, very surprised at the effectiveness of my Ukrainian counterparts. Everyone was worried. So why would these diplomats quietly make this inquiry?
It's because if it had gone public it would show that weakness against Russia that was so concerning to everybody involved. She said quote, I think that if -- that if this were public in Ukraine it would be seen as a reversal of our policy.
It would be a really big deal in Ukraine and an expression of declining U.S. support for Ukraine. Meanwhile, Laura Cooper testified that DOD heard from the Ukrainian embassy on July 25th, the same day as President Trump's call to President Zelensky.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA COOPER, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RUSSIAN, UKRAINIAN, AND EURASIAN AFFAIRS: On July 25th, a member of my staff got a question from a Ukraine embassy contact asking what was going on with the Ukraine security assistance. Because at that time we did not know what the guidance was on USAI. The OMB notice of apportionment arrived that day but the staff member did not find out about it until later.
I was informed that the staff member told the Ukrainian official that we were moving forward on USAI but recommended that the Ukraine embassy check in with State regarding the FMF.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CROW: USAI referred to the $250 million that OMB blocked DOD from sending to Ukraine. FMF referred to the $141 million that they blocked from the State Department. On July 25th, Cooper's staff also received two emails from the State Department, revealing that the Ukraine embassy was quote, asking about security assistance.
And that the Hill knows about the FMF situation to an extent and so does the Ukrainian embassy. One of Cooper's staff members reported additional contacts with Ukrainian officials about the hold in August.
Finally, we know the Ukrainians knew about the hold because the New York Times published an interview with the former deputy, former minister of Ukraine, Olena Zerkal. She stated that she and President Zelensky's office received a cable in late July informing them of the hold.
In short, by the time of politicos report on August 28th, the Ukrainians were well aware that the aid was not only important -- was not -- was not the only important official act that the White House was withholding from them.
The long sought White House visit for President Zelensky was also in Limbo. As all of this transpired, Ukrainian troops were still in the front lines in Eastern Ukraine, facing off against Russian backed forces, dying in defense of their country.
Ambassador Bill Taylor visited those Ukrainian troops on July 26th. He recalled seeing quote, the armed and hostile Russian led force on the other side of the damaged bridge across the line of the contact. When asked to reflect on that visit, here is what Ambassador Taylor had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. SEAN MALONEY, (D-NY): Let's talk about July 26th, a lot of years later. You go to the front. You go to (inaudible) with Ambassador Volker I believe and you're on the bridge and you're looking over on the front line of the Russian soldiers. Is that what you recalled? BILL TAYLOR, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Yes sir.
MALONEY: And you said the commander there, the Ukrainian commander thanked you for the American military assistance that you knew was being withheld at that moment.
TAYLOR: That's correct.
MALONEY: How'd that make you feel, sir?
TAYLOR: Because it was clear that that commander counted on us. It was clear that that commander had confidence in us. It was clear that that commander had what was appreciative of the capabilities that he was given by that assistance but also the reassurance that we were supporting him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROW: Like me, Ambassador Taylor is a combat veteran. In fact, he was awarded a bronze star. Ambassador Taylor knew how vital our military aid was to those Ukrainian troops because he knows what it feels like to have people counting on you.
Members of the U.S. Senate, I know you believe that aid is important too because 87 members of this body voted to support it. President Trump did not think the aid was important last year. He ignored you and the direction of Congress.
He betrayed the confidence of our Ukrainian partners and U.S. national security when he corruptly withheld that aid and he did so because he simply wanted to help his own political campaign.
Our men and women in uniform deserve better. Our friends and allies deserve better. The American people deserve better.
REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): Chief Justice Roberts, Senators and counsel for the president, now I want to talk to you about the White House meeting that President Trump offered to President Zelensky during their first phone call in April. But as you know, that meeting has not been scheduled; it was never scheduled.
Ambassador Sondland testified that after the May 23rd meeting with President Trump, it became clear that President Zelensky would not be invited to the Oval Office until he announced the opening of investigations that would benefit President Trump's reelection. During his testimony Ambassador Sondland stressed that it was a clear quid pro quo. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORDON SONDLAND, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question, was there a quid pro quo. As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.
Mr. Giuliani conveyed to Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and others that President Trump wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election. Mr. Giuliani expressed those requests directly to the Ukrainians and Mr. Giuliani also expressed those requests directly to us.
We all understood that these prerequisites for the White House call and the White House meeting reflected President Trump's desires and requirements.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEMINGS: Ambassador Sondland also testified that the scheme to pressure Ukraine into fulfilling the president's requirements for an Oval Office meeting became progressively and more specific and problematic. What he described as a continuing of insidiness (ph). He explained the evolution from generic requests to investigate corruption to calls to pursue specific allegations against President Trump's political opponents. Here is Ambassador Sondland again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONDLAND: Well, Mr. Chairman, when we left the Oval Office, I believe on May 23rd, the request was very generic for an investigation of corruption in a very vanilla sense and dealing with some of the oligarch problems in Ukraine which were long-standing problems.
And then as time went on more specific items got added to the menu including the Burisma and 2016 election meddling specifically, the DNC server specifically and over this - over this continuum it became more and more difficult to secure the White House meeting because more conditions were being placed on the White House meeting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEMINGS: In short, Ambassador Volker and Sondland understood that to get the meeting scheduled they needed to get Mr. Giuliani's agreement first. On June 27, Ambassador Sondland explained to Ambassador Taylor that President Trump needed to hear from the Ukrainian leader before he would consent to a White House meeting. Here is how Ambassador Taylor explained it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAYLOR: June 27th, Ambassador Sondland told me during a phone conversation that President Zelensky needed to make clear to President Trump that he, President Zelensky, was not standing in the way of investigations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEMINGS: Diplomat David Holmes testified that he understood early on the investigations to mean the Burisma-Biden investigations that Mr. Giuliani and his associates had been speaking about publicly.
Mr. Holmes noted that while President Trump was withholding an Oval meeting with Ukraine's newly-elected leader, he agreed to meet with Ukraine's chief foe, Vladimir Putin. Mr. Holmes had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID HOLMES, COUNSELOR FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE: Also on June 28 while President Trump was still not moving forward on a meeting with president Zelensky, we met with - he met with Russian President Putin at the G20 Summit on Osaka, Japan, sending a further signal of lack of support to Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP) DEMINGS: Ambassador Volker did not dispute other witnesses' testimony that President Trump conditioned Oval Office meetings on President Zelensky's willingness to announce investigations.
Indeed, Ambassador Volker helped matters along. Ambassador Volker testified that at a conference in early July he suggested that President Zelensky speak to President Trump on the phone to discuss the investigations. During his testimony, Ambassador Volker described that encounter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL GOLDMAN, DEMOCRATIC LEAD COUNSEL: And in the July 2 or 3 meeting in Toronto that you had with President Zelensky, you also mentioned investigations to him, right?
KURT VOLKER, FORMER UNITED STATES SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR UKRAINE NEGOTIATIONS: Yes.
GOLDMAN: And again, you were referring to the Burisma --
VOLKER: I was thinking of Burisma in 2016.
GOLDMAN: OK, and you understood that that's what the Ukrainians interpreted, references to investigations to be, related to Burisma and the 2016 election?
VOLKER: I don't know specifically at that time if we had talked about specifically Burisma 2016 with President Zelensky, that was my assumption though that they would have been thinking that too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEMINGS: Mr. Giuliani became an inescapable presence to both Ukrainian officials and American diplomats. To the Ukrainians Rudy Giuliani was seen as both a potential channel to President Trump and obstacle to a productive U.S.-Ukraine relationship.
A top aid to President Zelensky texted to Volker that, "I feel that the key for many things is Rudy, and I'm ready to talk with him at any time." But everyone understood that Mr. Giuliani was no rogue agent, he was acting at the direction of the president.
Ambassador Sondland clearly described Mr. Giuliani's role in regard to the president, let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONDLAND: Mr. Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew these investigations were important to the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP) DEMINGS: Concern about Mr. Giuliani's influence began to grow. On July 10 at a meeting between Ambassadors Taylor and two Ukrainian officials in Kiev, Ukrainian officials said they were very concerned because Mr. Giuliani had told the corrupt prosecutor general Leshchenko that President Trump would not meet with the Ukrainian leader.
Back in Washington, two important encounters at the White House further revealed the existence of a corrupt quid pro quo.
Ambassador Sondland first broached (ph) the investigation in a meeting in Ambassador Bolton's office, with then Bolton's Ukrainian counterpart, and President Zelensky's top aid. Also present were Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker, and NSC officials Dr. Hill and Lieutenant Colonel Vindman.
Toward the end of the meeting the Ukrainians raised the topic of an Oval Office meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky. Ambassador Bolton started to respond when Ambassador Sondland interjected and raised the demands of the investigation.
Here is how Lieutenant Colonel Vindman recalled the conversation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER VINDMAN, DIRECTOR, EUROPEAN AFFAIRS FOR THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: To the best of my recollection Ambassador Sondland said that in order to get a White House meeting that Ukrainians would have to provide a deliverable, which is investigations -- specific investigations.
DEMINGS: Ambassador Volker separately confirmed this recollection during his testimony.
VOLKER: I participated in the July 10 meeting between National Security Advisor Bolton, and then-Ukrainian Chairman of the National Security and Defense Council Oleks Danylyuk.
As I remember the meeting was essentially over when Ambassador Sondland made a general comment about investigations. I think all of us thought it was inappropriate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEMINGS: Ambassador Bolton also found an Ambassador Sondland's reference to be inappropriate, and he abruptly ended the meeting. However Ambassador Sondland was not deterred, he convened a second meeting where he discussed what needed to happen before an Oval Office meeting. Apparently Ambassador Sondland had received his marching orders from the president and he was determined to carry them out.
Bolton sent Dr. Hill to join that meeting and report back, and this is what Dr. Hill had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FIONA HILL, FORMER OFFICIAL,U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: 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 announce these investigations in to 2016 and Burisma -- and I cut it off immediately there.
Because by this point having heard 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEMINGS: After the meeting Dr. Hill followed up with Ambassador Bolton and relayed what transpired. Bolton was alarmed. In other words, Ambassador Bolton didn't want any part of it. He directed Dr. Hill to brief the NSC's top attorney, John Eisenberg as she explained during her hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOLDMAN: What was that specific instruction?
HILL: So the specific instruction was that I had to go to the lawyers, to John Eisenberg, who was (ph) senior council for the National Security Council, to basically say you tell Eisenberg, Ambassador Bolton told me that I am not part of the -- this -- whatever drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland are cooking up.
GOLDMAN: 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 for a meeting.
GOLDMAN: Did you go speak to the lawyers?
HILL: I certainly did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEMINGS: Senators, as a former Chief of Police, I think it's quite interesting that Ambassador Bolton categorized the corrupt scheme -- the pressure campaign, as a "drug deal."
I think that Ambassador Bolton was trying to send us a very powerful message -- a message that not only would the lawyers, the top lawyer understand, but that every person would understand. Every member of the House, every member of the Senate, every member of our great country -- every citizen.
And Ambassador Bolton also wanted to make clear, especially to the top attorney, that he did not want to have anything to do with the drug deal in progress. But we do know -- we know now, of course that Ambassador Bolton can testify directly about this. He can testify directly for himself about this meeting if he appears
before this body, as he has indicated that he is prepared to do, if this body is willing to issue a subpoena. We need to hear from Ambassador Bolton and I know the American people want to hear from Ambassador Bolton, as well.
Dr. Hill testified that she spoke to Mr. Eisenberg twice. Dr. Hill also indicated that Mr. Eisenberg took notes of their meeting, which we, to no surprise now, do not have.
We have not received because of the President's obstruction. It's clear Ambassador Sondland was not operating a rogue operation. He testified that everyone - everyone was in the loop. Let's listen once again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SONDLAND: Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret, everyone was informed via e-mail on July 19th, days before the presidential call. As I communicated to the team, I told President Zelensky in advance that assurances to run a fully transparent investigation and turn over every stone were necessary in his call with President Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEMINGS: In the e-mail referenced, Ambassador Sondland wrote the following to Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Perry and Mr. Mulvaney regarding President Zelensky - "he is prepared to receive POTUS's call. We'll assure him that he intends to run a fully transparent investigation and will turn over every stone."
Both Mulvaney and Perry responded to the e-mail noting that the head of state call would be scheduled right away. Now, you may be asking "what did Mulvaney know about these investigations and did he have any conversations with President Trump about them?" Senators, this body is entitled to see all of the evidence, and you know what, the American people are entitled to hear all of the evidence. And while the nature of the drug deal we've talked about was uncontested, it is important for the country to know that everyone was involved because we've heard that everyone was in the loop.
Now, later that day, July 19th, Ambassador Sondland texted ambassadors Volker and Taylor about the upcoming head of state telephone call and the text said "looks like POTUS call tomorrow. I spoke directly to Zelensky and gave him a full briefing. He's got it."
Ambassador Volker replied to Sondland's text "most important is for Zelensky to say that he will help investigations." The evidence shows that the Ukrainians understood what they needed to do to earn a White House meeting with the President.
On July 20th, the day after Ambassador Sondland's phone call with President Zelensky, Ambassador Taylor spoke with the Ukrainian National Security Advisor. Ukraine's National Security Advisor conveyed that the Ukrainian President did not want to become an instrument in U.S. politics.
Here is how Ambassador Taylor explained that concern.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOLDMAN: What did you understand it to mean when the - Zelensky had concerns about being an instrument in Washington domestic re-election politics?
TAYLOR: Mr. Danyluk understood that these investigations were pursuant to Mr. Giuliani's request to develop information, to find information about Burisma and the Bidens. This was very well known in public - Mr. Giuliani had made this point clear in several instances in the beginning, in - in the - in the springtime and Mr. Danyluk was aware that that was a problem.
GOLDMAN: And would you agree that because President Zelensky is worried about this, they understood at least that there was some pressure for them to pursue these investigations. Is that fair?
TAYLOR: Mr. Danyluk indicated that President Zelensky certainly understood it that he did not want to get involved in these type of activities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEMINGS: The next day, Ambassador Taylor relayed the Ukrainian leader's concerns to Volker and Sondland but Ambassador Sondland did not back down. Specifically, Ambassador Sondland texted in response to Ambassador Taylor's worry - "absolutely but we need to get the conversation started and the relationship built, irrespective of the pretext."
Again, Ambassador Sondland had his marching orders and he was determined to carry them out. A call between President Trump and President Zelensky was scheduled for July 25th. Before the call, President Trump spoke to Sondland and reiterated his expectation that the Ukrainian leader would commit to the investigations.
Ambassador Sondland subsequently contacted Ambassadors (sic) Volker and relayed the message to him. Volker then texted Zelensky's top aide with President Trump's instructions - "assuming President Z convinces Trump, he will investigate, get to the bottom of what happened in 2016, we will nail down the date for a visit to Washington."
Senators, in other words, even before the July 25th phone call with President Zelensky, before it ever took place, Ukraine understood what it needed to initiate, that it needed to initiate the investigations into the debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 election as a condition for President Zelensky, the newly elected Ukrainian President, to visit the White House.
Ambassador Sondland testified that acting on President Trump's direct orders, he and Ambassador Volker prepped President Zelensky for the telephone call.
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GOLDMAN: And you would agree that the message in this -- that is expressed here is that President Zelensky needs to convince Trump that he will do the investigations in order to nail down the date for a visit to Washington D.C. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
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DEMINGS: By this time, non partisan career officials involved with Ukraine policy had become aware of this quid pro quo. Here is what three of them said during their testimony. Ambassador Taylor, the meeting President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian influence in the 2016 elections.
Ambassador David Holmes, it was clear that some action on a Burisma/Biden investigation was a precondition for an Oval Office visit. Dr. Hill, there seems to be an awful lot of people involved, you know, basically turning a White House meeting into some kind of asset that was dangled out to the Ukrainian government.
A White House visit. A visit to the Oval Office dangled out to the Ukrainian government. Senators, I ask you to think about those words as we decide -- you decide what action you will take. Think about those words.
There was no doubt the direction came from the president of the United States. The president was the center of this scheme. Ambassador Sondland testified that Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States and we knew these investigations were important to the president.
Ambassador Sondland added that Mr. Giuliani followed the direction of the president and we followed the president's orders. However, as Ambassador Taylor testified, Ambassador Bolton was not interested in having -- did not want to have the call because he thought it was going to be a disaster.
He though that there could be some talk of investigations or even worse than that. He thought what was Ambassador -- I -- I ask you today, Senators, what was Ambassador Bolton so afraid that President Trump would say to the newly elected Ukrainian president.
What was the national security advisor so afraid that President Trump would say to President Zelensky. And this is another topic we'd like to ask Ambassador Bolton about if and when he appears before this body.
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): Mr. Chief Justice, distinguished members of the Senate; I thank you once again for your indulgence and for your courtesy as we all undertake our solemn constitutional responsibilities during this Senate trial.
George Washington once observed in his farewell address to the nation that the Constitution is sacredly obligatory upon all. That means everyone. And in fact that is what makes our great country so distinct from authoritarian regimes and enemies of democracy.
Vladimir Putin is above the law in Russia. Erdogan is above the law in Turkey. Kim Jung-un is above the law in North Korea. But in the United States of America, no one is above the law, not even the president of the United States.
That is what this moment is all about. As we all know, Congress is a separate and co-equal branch of government. We don't work for this president or any president. We, of course, work for the American people.
We have a constitution of responsibility to serve as a check and balance on an out of control Executive Branch. That is not the Democratic Party play book. That is not the Republican Party playbook. That is the playbook in a Democratic Republic.
James Madison once observed in Federalist 51 that the Congress should serve as a rival to the Executive Branch. In my humble opinion, why would Madison use the word rival. It's because the framers of the Constitution, I think, did not want a king. They did not want a dictator. They did not want a monarch. They wanted a democracy.
The Constitution is sacredly obligatory upon all. It is through that lens that we proceed today. For the next few moments I would like to discuss President Trump's July 25th phone call with Ukraine's newly elected leader.
The president claims that his call was perfect. Nothing can be further from the truth. The call is direct evidence of President Trump's solicitation of foreign interference in the 2020 election as part of a corrupt scheme. It is important, of course, to remember the context of this call.
The new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky was in a vulnerable position and view American and diplomatic military support as critical to his standing and to Ukraine's fragile future as a democracy.
Equally significant, as outlined by my colleagues, America has a strong national security interest in supporting Ukraine against Russia's continued aggression.
William Taylor, a West Point graduate, Vietnam War hero, ambassador to Ukraine, appointed by Donald Trump, testified Ukraine is a strategic partner of the United States, important for the security of our country as well as Europe.
Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, National Security Council officer, Trump appointee, Purple Heart recipient, Iraq War veteran, testified a strong and independent Ukraine is critical to our national security interests.
Ukraine remains under attack by Russian-backed separatists in Crimea. It is an ongoing hot war. Ukraine is a friend. Russia is a foe. Ukraine is a democracy. Russia is a dictatorship. The United States may very well be one of the only things standing between Russia and Ukraine being completely overrun as part of Vladimir Putin's continued aggression against the free world.
That is why this Congress allocated $391 million in military and security aid to a vulnerable Ukraine on a bipartisan basis, because it is then America's national security interests.
On the July 25th call, Mr. Trump could have endeavored to strengthen the relationship with this new Ukrainian leader. Instead, President Trump focused on securing a personal favor. He wanted Ukraine to conduct phony investigations designed to enhance his political standing and solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election.
On the July 25th call, President Trump maligned a highly respected American ambassador known as an anti-corruption crusader. At the same time he praised a corrupt former Ukrainian prosecutor. And on multiple occasions President Trump directed Ukraine's new leader to speak with his personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, on an official call.
Mr. Giuliani is not a member of the Trump administration. For these and other reasons, the July 25th call warrants our close scrutiny. It presents significant and shocking evidence of President Trump's corrupt intent. The call lays bare the president's willingness to do whatever it takes to get what he wants, even if his behavior undermines the national security interest of the United States of America.
At the beginning of the call, President Zelensky mentioned U.S. military aid. And the states, "I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. The great support in the area of defense includes the security assistance passed by this Congress on a bipartisan basis that Donald Trump held up in violation of the law.
Immediately after President Zelensky raised the issue of defense support, President Trump responded, "I would like you to do us a a favor though." These words will live in infamy. First President Trump said to President Zelensky, as part of the two demands that he requested: "I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation in Ukraine. They say CrowdStrike. I guess you have one of your wealthy people, the server they say, Ukraine has it."