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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

House Democrats Lay Out Abuse Of Power Case Against Trump. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired January 23, 2020 - 20:00   ET

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


(SENATE IMPEACHMENT TRIAL)

[20:20:04]

JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES: The majority leader is recognized.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Mr. Chief Justice, the House managers have requested a five-minute break.

ROBERTS: So ordered. Senate is in recess.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We're at a break in the proceedings as House managers make their case that President Trump abused the power of his office to secure political favors from Ukraine.

As we wait for things to resume, we're joined by Carl Bernstein, Bianna Golodryga, Jeffrey Toobin, Kirsten Powers and Scott Jennings.

There was a lot of effort, Jeff, today to kind of levy sort of prebuttal to what the president's attorneys are going to be saying in the coming days.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: That's true. I mean, they had a choice going into this process. Do they ignore the Bidens and their involvement in this story, backing their own argument that it's all irrelevant, or do they engage as a sort of prebuttal. And they decided to engage, which I think is a smart decision.

I mean, they are -- the president's lawyers are going to go after the Bidens at great length. So their story might as well -- might as well be out there.

You know, I think this has been a very impressive performance. It's been very factual. I mean, that's the thing that is very -- that has been so striking to me is that the rhetorical flourishes have been very few, but the presentation of real evidence, whether it's testimony from the Judiciary Committee or the Intelligence Committee and the documents that they were able to get, they have used them in PowerPoint format.

And the idea that there wasn't an exchange here of, you know, you give this -- you get your aid if you give us the announcement of the investigation of Biden. It's just -- the case is overwhelming on the facts. COOPER: Kirsten, we've also heard a lot from Democrats about how the

president was essentially doing the Kremlin's work for them by promoting this conspiracy theory that Ukraine was the one actually behind the hacks.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And I think they've gone through today like sort of very methodically of laying out all of the different ways that we know that this is what the president was doing. And Hakeem Jeffries kept saying this for that, this for that, really drawing these really clear lines between what was happening, and also relying on video of, you know, Rudy Giuliani going on "Fox & Friends" and talking about exactly what happened basically. You know, let's keep an eye on Ukraine and Biden.

And so, I think it's a very convincing case. Scott, we were talking before and he is saying it's not something that ultimately that a lot of Republican senators are going to think rises to the level of impeachment. But then I just wonder what does rise to the level of impeachment, because this is so clearly -- just going through even with the transcript at the very beginning of how the transcript was altered, and they didn't even reference some of the things that were actually in there. We didn't get to that until later.

Why would they cover that up, right? So, there's all of these facts that I think are extremely damning.

COOPER: Scott, do you see these troubling facts?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think it's pretty clear the case they're making is probably the first time the senators are hearing it in systematic fashion. They're probably seeing clips, heard drips and drabs from their staff.

COOPER: They haven't done a deep dive, which is fascinating to me. I assumed everybody would have.

JENNINGS: And so, I think that's important to know. Number two, I think a lot of people are making a very compelling argument about how thorough and detailed the case, which could be undercutting the case for witnesses. Because I think some senators may say you know, I heard 24 hours of arguments here.

I saw a lot of information. I thought it was really well done. And some of it I agree with. Some of I don't. Some of it I think is overblown. Some of it troubles me.

But, you know, at the end of the day, I don't really need to hear anything else because they did a good job.

COOPER: But the Democrats were trying to address that. I think it was Adam Schiff saying yesterday, look, we'd like to show you this email about this discussion, but we don't have access to it.

JENNINGS: Look, I think the answer to that for most Republican senators would be you know what? I hear you, except I just don't think this subject matter and what you've laid out, even if I have to accept everything you say rises to the level of removal.

That's where the Democrats have not yet argued is, you know, here's all of our facts. They have not yet argued the point of, you have to take the president out for a reason. And that's where Republicans just differ from Democrats on the severity.

POWERS: What's the defense of -- you're saying if they just accept on the facts that the president of the United States basically shook down a foreign government to try to get them to do his political dirty work, how is that not rise to the level of impeachment?

JENNINGS: Well, they wouldn't describe it the way you just described it. That's not how they --

POWERS: He pressured a foreign government to investigate a political rival by withholding aid and dangling a White House meeting that they wanted.

[20:25:02]

JENNINGS: I know, I know. As many times as you or Adam Schiff says it, that doesn't mean that the Republicans would see it that way. And they would not see it in the severe way that it's being described.

POWERS: What's another way to see it?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The same way that Nixon was looked at. What Watergate began with is a very similar but maybe not as grievous event, which was that Nixon did not want to run against Senator Edwin Muskie of Maine. So this big plot of undermining through political espionage and sabotage, Muskie's campaign was hatched.

It included the Watergate burglary and that is abuse of power. The underlying abuse of power that the Senate Watergate Committee investigated. What Sam Ervin, the senator chairing it, said, this is at bottom what Watergate is all about is undermining our very electoral process.

And this president has not only undermined our very electoral process, the basis of our democracy, he has done it with the intervention of a foreign power that he solicited that is at war with a hostile enemy of the United States and people are dying. And perhaps as we saw in some of the dots that were connected today, people indeed may be dying because it was known by Putin that Ukraine did not have the back of the United States here.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And yet the go- to line you're going hear repeatedly not only from Republican senators, but obviously from the president's defense is that they got the money, right? Obama didn't give them the aid. This president gave them the aid.

And what's happening next week? I don't think that it's a coincidence the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, will be traveling to Ukraine to meet with Zelensky.

BERNSTEIN: Yes.

GOLODRYGA: So you're going to have the opportunity for Republicans to say all's well that ends well. This is much ado about nothing. They got the aid. There is nothing to see here.

That having been said, what you did hear from Democrats today was a reminder of perpetrating this theory, this myth, this debunked myth, this lie that it was Ukraine that infiltrated the election and not Russia. They repeated Vladimir Putin's words saying thank God the pressure is not on us and they're not focusing on us. They're focusing on Ukraine right now.

And I thought it was effective that the Democrats ran video from Christopher Wray, from Tom Bossert, debunking that theory too. These were the president's own people as cabinet level member.

COOPER: Also Lindsey Graham, which we'll play you that video talking about that it doesn't need to be a crime to be an impeachable offense, that's what he said in the Clinton impeachment. Obviously, it's counter to what the president's attorneys are going to be arguing.

I want to go quickly to CNN's Manu Raju who is standing by at the Capitol.

Manu, you've been in the chamber recently. I'm wondering what it's like in there. What jumps out at you?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I -- senators are getting tired. I mean, this has been a long day, a long several day stretch, going into the night. This is going to go at least until 10:30 Eastern Time.

And you can tell, senators are paying attention. There are some empty seats, but for the most part, members are there taking notes, paying attention. Some are paying more attention than others. But it's pretty clear that senators do want this, particularly on the Republican side are eager for this to wrap up. There are already discussions under way with some Republican senators as with the president's defense team.

You mentioned Lindsey Graham, Anderson. He just spoke to reporters as he headed in to the chamber before dinnertime, and he discussed what he wants the defense team to focus on when they begin their arguments on Saturday. He said that he wants the president's legal team to talk about Joe Biden, to talk about Hunter Biden, and talk about how in his view, that the ask for the investigation into the Bidens was appropriate.

And, of course, we know Lindsey Graham has the ear of the president, is in communication with the people in his inner circle and with his legal team. So, that could be a key line of defense that they're going to try to wage, not back away from what the president did, but say it was completely defensible, and we'll see if they raise those allegations about Joe Biden as well on the floor of the Senate.

But Lindsey Graham says that's exactly what the president should do, the president's team should do when they take the case on Saturday, Anderson.

COOPER: We've also got some new reporting about how Republicans are approaching the upcoming vote on witnesses and evidence.

RAJU: Yes. The senators, the Republican senators are pointing to the president's threat to invoke executive privilege that would essentially block witnesses from coming forward, block documents to be turning over to Congress. And they're saying that there is no point in subpoenaing these documents, subpoenaing these witnesses because once executive privilege is invoked, then it could lead to a drawn-out court battle.

So they're saying why go through the drawn-out court battle when we may not get the documents we ultimately need, and it could take weeks and months and perhaps and leave this trial in limbo. And what I am being told from senators, this is a bit of a discussion point behind the scenes for several weeks. It's been an increasing line of argument that the Republican leadership has made privately. Mitch McConnell alluded to it on the Senate floor earlier this week.

[20:30:00]

But that's a line that expect them to use with their members who are on defense about whether to move forward on subpoenas.

And as you know, Anderson, four Republican senators could break ranks, join with the 47 Democrats to vote subpoena witnesses like John Bolton, like Mick Mulvaney. But the concern is if you go that route, what will that actually lead to? And that actually lead to anything other than drawn-out court fights.

So that is what they're saying to their members. And the key line today, Lisa Murkowski, one of the swing votes said -- basically criticized the House for not going the route of enforcing the subpoenas through the court and saying they left it for the Senate to do that. But the House didn't want to do it because they didn't want to get into a drawn-out court fight. Why should the Senate do the same thing?

Now, she is not saying how she will vote ultimately, but that is a sign that the argument that's being made and one that I'm told is gaining traction with the members. And that's why there's a lot of -- there's a belief on the Hill right now that it's unlikely that there'll be a vote to witness subpoena witnesses, subpoena documents largely because of that argument.

And that vote of course could take place next week. And if it fails, a vote to subpoena witnesses and documents, the President presumably could get acquitted by the end of next week, Anderson.

COOPER: Manu Raju, Manu, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

TOOBIN: Can I just say? Just -- wow, the absurdity and the outrageousness of that argument about -- well, it will be a court fight. In other words, the Republican position is you can investigate the President for obstruction of justice because he is still obstructing justice. The whole point of the second article of impeachment is that he is using his powers to stop an investigation. And what they are saying, well, he's still doing it, so I guess we better throw in the towel.

BERNSTEIN: There's even worse. He is doing to the Senate of the United States what he did to Zelensky, to Ukraine. He is hanging out the Republican senators to dry and saying, OK, you want to be there for extra time and have to work a little harder? OK, I'm going to throw this at you. It is so cynical that those Republican senators would go along with this and not uphold the dignity of the Senate of the United States.

TOOBIN: And Bolton has said that he's willing to testify. So the idea that there will be automatic court fight and earn automatic interruption in his testimony is not necessarily true. I mean he says he's going to come in there. Why the -- what's the -- what delay would it take?

BERNSTEIN: Where is the Senate's prerogative?

JENNINGS: I'll give you the alternate view which is there is no real way to spin this Rubik's cube to turn up that we're going to throw the President out of office. I think everyone in the Senate Republican conference believes that. We all probably believe that here.

So if you're a senator and you got to go home all the time and you got to explain to your constituents what you're doing, how many weeks and months do you want to have the Senate effectively shut down over this when you're not doing drug pricing, health care, transportation bill, funding of the government, whatever your priority is, jobs, economic stuff.

I think that weighs on these senators that look, it -- whether we cast the vote for acquittal next week or whether we cast it five months from now, he is still going to be acquitted, and we're still going to have an election in which the American people can make this decision because it's obviously divided the country. I think if you're a senator and you have legislative priorities, that is a competing interest.

COOPER: But is shutting down the Senate -- I mean is one to the other?

JENNINGS: I think that's one of the arguments that's being made is that if we get into a drawn-out issue here, it's going to be hard for us to do any legislative work over the next --

BERNSTEIN: They can't do those two things at once?

POWERS: Like that's just something McConnell is saying -- something that's necessarily true. There's no reason that you would be able to continue to work while this breakout unless they're looking for an excuse.

COOPER: They're not all fighting it in court themselves.

POWERS: Right. So it doesn't really make sense. It sounds like something McConnell is doing to get -- pressure people into voting the way he wants.

JENNINGS: Exactly. But whether it's slowed down, shut down for a week or five months, the reality is the vote to acquit the President is not going to change. And so if you're Mitch McConnell and you're in the majority, and you have legislative priorities you want to accomplish, the argument they would be making is let's get back to the business --

COOPER: But isn't that the same argument -- the same argument, frankly, that the Democrats wrestled with on the House side of should we even move forward with this because it's not going the lead to impeachment, and Democrats, I mean, maybe they made a political calculation that could help them with the election. But they would also say that they said it's the right thing to do.

JENNINGS: Well, yes. The Democrats would have essentially made the same calculation the Republicans did. Let's get through this as fast as we can and get this out of here, because, you know, we don't want it anymore. We want to get back to doing what we do. Essentially, the majority party in both chamber would have made the same calculation which is get this off my desk as fast as possible.

BERNSTEIN: Not necessarily.

COOPER: Let me just ask from -- for Democrats, does it help -- I mean if goal, if one of the goals besides dealing with the President is affecting the outcome of the election, riling the Democratic base up, the fact that Republicans vote not to have witnesses, does that help Democrats?

TOOBIN: It may. You know, I don't -- perhaps I'm not being cynical enough, but I think actually Democrats want the evidence.

[20:35:01]

COOPER: That's right.

TOOBIN: I mean Democrats want this to be something like an actual trial. And, you know, I don't think anyone knows for sure what the political implications of this will be. You know, it's like the discussions going on right now about, you know, is Bernie Sanders electable? Is Joe Biden electable? Nobody knows for sure. And certainly nobody knows for sure what the electoral implications are of this trial.

And I think the Democrats' straight forward position is let's have a trial. Trials have witnesses. There's relevant evidence out there. Let's hear it. I mean that's not a -- I don't know the political implications of it, if that's a winning argument or a losing argument, but I think it's an argument about how you have a trial that's fair.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, it's hard to make the argument that it helps Republicans when you have the President essentially taunting the public and saying I have the documents and you don't. I mean isn't that him coming out and advertising that he's obstructing justice and this is happening during the trial? No? JENNINGS: I mean, I don't know what he meant by that. Actually, when I first heard it, I thought he was saying that we have a better case than they have. I thought that's what he meant. I know how people have portrayed it. So I don't know exactly what he meant by that.

But I think at the end of the day, all this talk about everything that's happened today, I have not heard one single thing that would convince me that a Republican senator is going to move from acquittal to conviction. And until that happens, I -- just like in the House, the Democrats never made a case that attracted a single Republican vote, and they just -- I don't think they've done it yet here.

BERNSTEIN: Question, Scott -- I'm sorry, Kirsten, go ahead.

POWERS: That's like saying like Obama wasn't able to attract any, you know, Republican votes after Republicans said we'll never, ever work with him on a single thing. So them being intransigent and locked into their position, as you were saying before, you know, even people on this panel would agree that they're not going to vote, y to convict him.

Well, we would do that as analysts. We wouldn't do that as people who were actually -- we're looking at the situation and saying we know that from covering politics. For the senators, that really shouldn't be their position. Their position should be show me the evidence and let me draw a conclusion. Not to draw a conclusion because we already know that how everybody is going to vote.

JENNINGS: But they are drawing a conclusion. You'll have senators that aren't worried about this, that are moderately worried or really think it was terrible judgment, but it all still falls below the threshold of removal. And so I think you will see some, you know, trouble about it, but again, they don't believe it should be kicked out.

COOPER: I actually want to bring Manu back in because, Manu, I know you've been talking to senators. What are you hearing from them on this topic?

RAJU: Yes. A lot of the Republicans that I talked to, they're clearly saying that what they are hearing is not an impeachable offense and not anything that warrants removal from office. But a lot of them are not defending the President's conduct either.

They're saying the question about is the appropriateness of his ask in order to ask the Ukrainian government to investigate a political rival, they're saying it's not a question about appropriateness. It's a question about an impeachable offense.

One senator Ted Cruz just earlier, he was criticizing saying that the Democrats had opened the door of bringing in Joe Biden because of their presentation, talking about the Bidens. And I asked Cruz, well, what about the President's conduct in Ukraine?

Was it a perfect phone call as he said? And he wouldn't take the question. He said I asked the question yesterday at yesterday's press conference, and he wouldn't take my question. But another reporter tried to ask the same question, he wouldn't take that question, the same question.

But other senators, including John Cornyn of Texas has said the question is not about appropriateness. We're talking about an impeachment and a removing the President. Earlier today too, I talked to James Lankford of Oklahoma. He said he would only talk about the President being frustrated with the way he has been dealt at home, which is why he believes --

COOPER: I'm sorry, Manu, let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At 10:30, Senator Alexander and Senator Murray are involved in that. The location will be e-mailed to your office.

REP. VAL DEMINGS, (D) IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: Chief Justice Roberts, senators, and counsel for the President, we have now been through the first two official acts by the President, but neither of those official acts got the president what he wanted, help in his reelection campaign. So he turned to another official act to turn up the pressure even more. Withholding nearly $400 million of vital military assistance to Ukraine in exchange for the investigations.

Withholding military assistance to Ukraine made the original abuse of power, soliciting foreign interference in our elections that much worse. But it was also in and of itself an abuse of power.

[20:40:00]

And not only that, it violated the law. It was illegal. The government accountability office a nonpartisan independent agency concluded that President Trump's hold on the security assistance clearly violated the Impoundment Control Act, a law that Congress enacted to curb President Nixon's own abuse of power.

Now President Trump may not like it, but once a law is passed, the President cannot change that law without coming back to us, the Congress. And President Trump did not just break the law, he jeopardized our national security. Because Ukraine's national security is our national security. How? Because a free and democratic Ukraine is a shield against Russian aggression in Europe. That has been one of America's most important foreign policy and national security goals since World War II.

Freedom, liberty, democracy. Those values keep us safe. Let us now explain how President Trump's improper withholding of military assistance was clearly done to pressure Ukraine to announce the two baseless investigations a gross abuse of power.

First, we will briefly describe how important the military aid was to Ukraine's defense against Russian aggression, which affects our security. Second, we will explain how President Trump used the power of his office to freeze military aid to Ukraine in a way meant to conceal it from Congress. And third, we will present the overwhelming evidence that President Trump ordered the hold for a corrupt purpose, to pressure Ukraine to announce two investigations that would personally benefit his own reelection effort. Let us start with the importance of the aid to our, the United States' national security. The United States has supported Ukraine since it secured independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Our support was critical to convince Ukraine to forgo its pursuit of a nuclear arsenal in 1994. We promised them that we would defend them if necessary. But our support became truly vital in 2014 when Ukraine revolted against its Russian friendly president, Viktor Yanukovych.

Ukrainian citizens rose up in protest, demanding democratic reforms and an end to corruption. The protests, rightly known as the revolution of dignity, removed the pro-Kremlin president. Russia responded by using its own military forces and proxies in Ukraine to invade Ukraine. This was the first effort to redraw European boundaries by military force since World War II.

The war was devastating to Ukraine and remains so today. Approximately 7% of Ukraine's territory is now occupied by Russia. Approximately 15,000 people have been killed as a result of the conflict, and over 1.4 million people have been displaced. In response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the United States and our allies imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and entities and agreed to provide billions of dollars in assistance to support Ukrainian sovereignty and democratic development.

We understood immediately Democrats and Republicans alike that Ukraine's safety and security was directly tied to our safety and security.

[20:45:00]

With this goal in mind, since 2014, the United States has delivered roughly $1.5 billion security assistance, and another 1.5 billion in other assistance to our ally Ukraine. Our allies in Europe have provided approximately $18 billion in loans and grants since 2014.

As we have explained, the U.S. assistant comes partially from the Department of Defense which provides important military support. It comes partially from the State Department, which helps Ukraine purchase military services or equipment manufactured by American companies in the United States. Ambassador Taylor explained how security assistance counters Russian aggression and can help shorten the war in the east. Here is his testimony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM TAYLOR, ACTING U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Mr. Chairman, the security assistance that we provide takes many forms. One of the components of that -- that the security assistance that we provide takes many forms. One of the components of that assistance is counter battery radar. Another component are sniper weapons. These weapons and this assistance allows the Ukrainian military to deter further incursions by the Russians against their own -- against Ukrainian territory.

If that further incursion, further aggression were to take place, more Ukrainians would die. So it is a deterrent effect that these weapons provide. It's also the ability -- it gives the Ukrainians the ability to negotiate from a position of a little more strength when they negotiate an end to the war in Donbass negotiating with the Russians. This also is a way that would reduce the number of Ukrainians that would die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEMINGS: Congress imposed certain conditions on the DOD assistance. Those conditions require a DOD -- require DOD to hold half of the money in reserve, to release all of the funds, DOD in coordination with the State Department must conduct a review and certify to Congress that Ukraine has done enough to fight corruption.

Now President Trump may argue that the conditions imposed by Congress are similar to the hold he placed on aid to Ukraine. As Mick Mulvaney said, and I quote, "We do this all the time." But let us be very clear. These types of conditions which are often included in appropriation bills are designed to promote official U.S. policy, not the policy of one individual or one president.

This is exactly the type of permissible condition on aid that Vice President Biden was implementing when he required that Ukraine fire its corrupt prosecutor general before getting a loan guarantee. Prior to 2019, the Trump administration provided security assistance to Ukraine without incident, even under the previous Ukrainian administration of President Petro Poroshenko which suffered from serious corruption, President Trump allowed $510 million in 2017 and $559 million in 2018 to flow unimpeded to Ukraine. But in the summer of 2019, without any explanation, President Trump abruptly withheld

So what had changed by July of 2019? Congress had appropriated the funds. President Trump had signed this into law. The Department of Defense had certified that Ukraine was meeting the required anticorruption reforms.

[20:50:01]

In fact, DOD had begun to spend the funds. So what happened? Well, in April, two critical things happened. First Joe Biden publicly announced his campaign for president. Second, the Mueller investigation confirmed that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections to assist the Trump campaign and that the Trump campaign had expensive contact with Russians and even to the advantage of some of the Russian efforts.

The evidence shows that the only reason, the only logical reason, and we deal in what's reasonable, President Trump withheld the aid. It was to undermine these threats to his political future. As we have discussed, security assistance to Ukraine has broad, bipartisan support from Congress, as well as every agency within the President's own administration.

And let us be clear about something. The money mattered to Ukraine. It mattered to Ukraine. Witness testimony revealed that this money was 10% of Ukraine's defense budget. Ten percent. Now, imagine if President Trump just decided without cause or explanation to hold 10% of our own defense budget. That would have a dramatic impact on our military, and it certainly did to Ukraine, our ally.

Keep in mind, too, that President Trump had to sign the law -- the bill into law, which he did in September of 2018. At no time, at no time during the congressional debate or passage of the bill did the White House express any concerns about the funding or the program itself. I want you to see the slide before us. President Trump signs bill authorizing aid to Ukraine for fiscal year 2019.

On June 18, President Trump's own Department of Defense certified that Ukraine had met all of the anticorruption requirements necessary to receive aid. And you know what? The Department of Defense announced that the money was on its way. Just as we, the United States of America, had promised. Senators, our word must continue to mean something. Our word must continue to mean something powerful in the world. So let us make certain that America continues to live up to its promise.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN, (D) IMPEACHMENT MANAGER: Mr. Chief Justice and senators, thank you so much for the attention that you have given to our presentation throughout this day. It's a long day. You're here without your cellphones or any access to other information. It's not easy, but you're paying attention, and the country and the managers thank you for that.

Now, we've just through the importance of the security assistance to Ukraine, to our national security, and the clear consensus among Congress, the executive and the President's agencies and advisers that the aid should be released to Ukraine.

In fact, by June 18th, after having certified that Ukraine had met all the anti-corruption reform requirements to receive the aid, DOD announced its intention to provide the $250 million in security assistance to Ukraine. This brings us to the second part of this section of our argument.

[20:55:01]

Soon after that June 18th press release, President Trump quickly moved to stop the aid from flowing. He did this with no explanation against the clear consensus of his advisers and his agencies and against our nation's security interest. And he was so determined to do it in order to pressure Ukraine to do his political dirty work that he was willing to violate the law, something his own officials were well aware of and worried about.

How do we know the president ordered the hold -- first, there is no real dispute that the President ordered the hold. The hold on security assistance to Ukraine was a unilateral official act by the President. Immediately after the DOD's June 18th press release announcing the $250 million in security assistance funds for Ukraine, President Trump started asking questions about the funding programs.

Laura Cooper from DOD and Mark Sandy from OMB testified about this sudden interest in Ukraine security assistance, something that Cooper called unusual. We, of course, have received no documents from OMB and DOD because of the present obstruction. Why did the President want to hide these documents? We don't know. But thanks to freedom of information lawsuits and hard working reporters, we know a little from the documents that we do have.

For instance, we know the day after the DOD press release, the President asked for information about the Ukraine aid. On June 19th, Michael Duffy, the associate director for national security programs at OMB sent an e-mail to Elaine McCusker, the DOD controller within -- with an article by the Washington Examiner reporting that, "Pentagon to send $250 million in weapons to Ukraine."

And at this e-mail, he asked McCusker the following general question. The President has asked about this funding release, and I've been tasked to follow-up with someone over there to get more detail. Do you have any insight on this funding? It seems that on June 19, Robert Blair, Mick Mulvaney's deputy called acting OMB Director Russell Vought to discuss the Ukraine security assistance. He told him, we need to hold it up.

That's right. The hold was actually directed impulsively without any policy or agency review as soon as the President -- as President Trump apparently learned about it from press reports. And we know what was on the President's mind about Ukraine that day because President Trump gave a phone interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News.

During the interview, he mentioned the so-called crowd strike conspiracy theory that blames Ukraine rather than Russia for interfering in the 2016 election. Remember that President Trump raised the crow strike theory a month later during his July 25th call with President Zelensky and of course it had been said many times that theory has been completely refuted by U.S. intelligence agencies as well as the President's own hand picked senior advisers.

"The New York Times" also reported that on June 27th, Mick Mulvaney sent Blair an e-mail. Mulvaney wrote, "I'm just trying to tie up loose ends. Did we ever find out about the money for Ukraine and whether we can hold it back?" What was Blair's response to Mulvaney? That it was possible to hold the security systems, but Blair warned, expect congress to become unhinged.

Now, Blair, who'd previously worked for Congress knew that Congress would be unhinged because there was overwhelming bipartisan support for Ukraine. Congress had already authorized the release of the funds. DOD had already told Congress and the world that it was going to spend the $250 million on Ukraine security assistance and it already started to do so.

Mark Sandy, the senior career official at OMB responsible for this type of aid, couldn't recall any other time in his 12-year career at OMB when a hold had been placed on security assistance after a congressional notification was made.

Later, if the President's counsel starts listing other times that aid has been held, ask yourself three questions.