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House Democrats Lay Out Abuse of Power Against Trump; The Impeachment Trial of Donald Trump. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 23, 2020 - 15:30   ET



REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): This completely bogus Kremlin pushed conspiracy theory.

Now, I was also struck by that video you saw of Tom Bossert the Former Homeland Security Advisory for the President. In which he talked about how completely debunked and crazy this conspiracy theory is. And then there was that rather glib line that was, he admitted was glib but none the less made a point, the three or five ways to Impeach one's self and the third way was to hire Rudy Giuliani.

Now, instruct me in watching that clip again that it's important to emphasize that Rudy Giuliani is not some spingali (ph) here who has the President under his control. There may be an effort to say okay the human hand grenade Rudy Giuliani, it's all his fault. He had the President in his grip.

And even though the US Intelligence Agencies and the Bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee and everyone else told the President time after time, this is nonsense the Russians interfered not the Ukrainians, that he just couldn't shake himself of what he was hearing from Rudy Giuliani.

You can say a lot of things about President Trump but he is not led by the nose by Rudy Giuliani. And if he is willing to listen to his personal lawyer over his own intelligence agencies, his own advisor, then you can imagine what a danger that presents to this country.

Now, my colleague also played for you that interview with Director Wray and again I was just struck anew by that interview. And in that interview, Director Wray says we have no information that indicates that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 presidential election. That is Donald Trump's director of the FBI. We have no information that indicates Ukraine interfered with the 2016 election. None as in zero.

The reporter then says when you see politicians pushing this notion are you concerned about that in terms of the impact on the American public? And the Director says, well look, there's all kind of people saying all kind of things out there. Well, yes there are but this person was the President of the United States.

When he says there's all kinds of people out there saying all kinds of things, what he's really saying is the President of the United States. It's one thing if someone off the street says it but when it's coming from the President of the United States, you can see what a danger it is if it is patently false and it is promulgated by the Russians.

And again, the reporter says and we heard from the president himself, he wanted the crowd -- the CrowdStrike portion of this whole conspiracy investigated and I'm hearing you say there's no evidence to support this and Wray says, as I said we have no -- we at the FBI have no information that would indicate that Ukraine tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. None.

And so you can imagine the view from the Kremlin of all of this. You can imagine Putin in the Kremlin with his aids when one of his aides comes into the office and says, Vladimir, you're never going to believe this.

The President of the United States is pushing our CrowdStrike theory. I mean you can almost imagine the incredulity of Vladimir Putin. You're kidding, right? You mean he really believes this? His own people don't believe this. Nobody believes this.

And it's not -- I mean it would be bad enough of course that the President of the United States believes this Russian propaganda against the advice of all of his advisors, common sense and everything else.

But it's worse than that. It's worse than that. On the basis of this Russian propaganda, he withheld $400 million in military aid to a nation Russia was fighting; our ally.

I mean when we ask about OK, what's the national security implication of what the president did? How much more clear can it be that he's not only pushing Russian propaganda. He's not only misleading Americans about who interfered in the last election.


He's not only doing the Kremlin a favor but that he's withholding aid from a nation at war. The Russians not only got him to deflect blame from their interference in our democracy but they got him to withhold military aid. Now of course there was this convergence of interest between the Kremlin and the president.

The president wasn't pushing Kremlin talking points just to do Vladimir Putin a favor, he was doing it because it helped him -- because it helped him. Because it could get these talking points for him in his reelection campaign and for that he would sacrifice our ally and our own security.

But nothing struck me more from Representative Garcia's presentation than that quote from Vladimir Putin from November of this past year, so just a couple of months ago. Thank God, Putin said, thank God nobody is accusing us anymore of interfering in U.S. elections, now they're accusing Ukraine. Thank God Putin says.

Well you got to give Donald Trump credit for this. He has made a religious man out of Vladimir Putin. (LAUGHTER)

But I don't think -- I don't think we really want Vladimir Putin, our adversary, to be thanking God for the President of the United States because they don't wish us well. They don't wish us well.

They are a wounded animal. They are a declining power but like any wounded animal, they are a dangerous animal. Their world view is completely antithetical to ours. We do not want them thanking God for our president and what he is pushing out.

We don't want them thanking God for withholding money from our ally although we can understand why they may and to me that's what stuck out from that presentation. Now we've walked through in the first part of this presentation the corrupt object of President Trump's scheme -- getting Ukraine to announce these two political investigations that would benefit his reelection and just looking at how baseless and fabricated the allegations behind them were made plan his corrupt motive.

But in addition to this overwhelming evidence, there are at least 10 other reasons. We know that President Trump directed his scheme with corrupt intent. There are at least 10 other reasons. We know that President Trump was interested in his own personal gain and not the national interest in pressing for these investigations.

First, the president only wanted these investigations to be announced publicly, not even conducted.

Second, the president's only interest in Ukraine was the big stuff that mattered to himself not issues affecting Ukraine or the United States.

Third, the president tasked his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to pursue these investigations on his behalf not government officials.

Fourth, both before and after the July 25th call, the investigations were never part of U.S. official foreign policy. NSC officials, too, made clear that this was not about foreign policy and other witnesses confirmed the investigations in fact diverged from U.S. official policy.

Fifth, the investigations were undertaken outside of normal channels.

Sixth, Ukrainian officials understood that the investigations were purely political in nature.

Seventh, multiple administration officials reported the President's July 25th call.

Eighth, the White House buried the call.

Ninth, President Trump confirmed he wanted Ukraine to conduct investigations in his own words. And finally President Trump did not care about anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine. Let's go through these one by one. First, perhaps the simplest way that we all know that President Trump wanted these investigations done solely to help his personal political interest and not the national interest is that he merely wanted a public announcement of the investigations not an assurance that they would actually be done.


If his desire for these investigations was truly to assist Ukraine anti-corruption efforts or because he was worried about the larger issues of corruption in Ukraine someone (ph) actually investigating the facts, underlying (ph) the investigations would have been most important but he didn't care about the facts or the issues he just wanted the political benefit of the public announcement of an investigation that he could use to damage his political opponent and boost his own political standing.

Ambassador Gordon Sondland who is at the center of the scheme make this quite clear in his testimony.


DANIEL GOLDMAN, MAJORITY COUNSEL OF IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY: Now for Mr. Giuliani by this point you understood that in order to get that White House meeting that you wanted President Zelensky to have and that President Zelensky desperately wanted to have that Ukraine would have to initiate these two investigations, is that right?

SONDLAND, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN UNION: Well they would have to announce that they were going to do it.

GOLDMAN: Right because Giuliani and President Trump didn't actually care if they did them, right?

SONDLAND: I never heard Mr. Goldman, anyone say that the investigations had to start or had to be completed. The only thing I heard from Mr. Giuliani or otherwise was that they had to be announced in some form and that form kept changing.

GOLDMAN: Announced publicly?

SONDLAND: Announced publicly.


SCHIFF: The other evidence gathered by the Houses investigation confirms Ambassador Sondland's understanding. For example, recently the House received documents from Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani's now indicted in response to a subpoena.

As you know, Parnas was indicted by the southern district of New York for crimes including election law violations. As part of the documents that Parnas turned over we obtained hand written notes that Parnas apparently took sometime in 2019.

One of those notes lays out the scheme very clearly and succinctly. Now it's not everyday that you get a document like this -- what appears to be a member of the conspiracy writing down the object of the conspiracy but that's exactly what we see here.

The scheme that ultimately was directed by President Trump to cohorts (ph) Ukraine to announce the investigation of the Biden's. I repeat to announce the investigations, not investigate, not conduct, the only thing that mattered was the public announcement as this note says with an asterisk, "get Zelensky to announce that the Biden case will be investigated".

And in early September after Mr. Giuliani and Ambassador Volker and Sondland had tried but failed to get President Zelensky to issue a public statement. President Trump made this clear himself. He explained to Ambassador Bolton that he wanted Zelensky in the public box. That is, President Trump would only be satisfied if Zelensky made a public announcement of the investigations, which he subsequently agreed to do on CNN.

Here's Ambassador Taylor's testimony on this.


GOLDMAN: And so even though President Trump was saying repeatedly that there is no quid-pro-quo. Ambassador Sondland relayed to you that the facts of the matter were that the White House meeting and the security assistants were conditioned on the announcement of these investigations. Is that your understanding?


GOLDMAN: Now you reference a television interview and a desire for President Trump to put Zelensky in a public box, which you also have in quotes . Was that in your notes?

TAYLOR: It was in my notes.

GOLDMAN: And what did you understand that to mean to put Zelensky in a public box?

TAYLOR: I understood that to mean that President Trump through Ambassador Sondland was asking for President Zelensky to very publicly commit to these investigations that it was no sufficient to do this in private that this needed to be a very public statement.


SCHIFF: The fact that the President only wanted a public announcement and not the investigations to actually be conducted demonstrates that his desire for investigations was simply and solely to boost his re- election efforts.

Number two, turning to the second reason. President Trump's agents who helped carry out this scheme confirm that his desire for Ukraine to announce the investigations was solely for his personal political benefit. As we will explain in more detail in a few minutes President Trump

never expressed any interest in the United States anti-corruption policy towards Ukraine nor did he care about Ukraine's war against Russia.


He only expressed interest in one thing, investigating his political opponent. This was unequivocally confirmed by the testimony of David Holmes, the senior official in the US Embassy in Kyiv. The day after the July 25th call Holmes overheard a conversation between President Trump and Ambassador Sondland who was in Kyiv. The only topic they discussed related to Ukraine was the investigations. Here's his testimony.


HOLMES, COUNSELOR FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE: Ambassador Sondland placed a call on his mobile phone and I heard him announce himself several times along the lines of Gordon Sondland holding for the President.

It appeared he was being transferred through several layers of switchboards and assistants and I then noticed Ambassador Sondland's demeanor changed. And I understood that he had been connect to President Trump.

While Ambassador Sondland's phone was not on speaker phone I could hear the President's voice through the ear piece of the phone. The President's voice was loud and recognizable.

And Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume. I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the President and explain he was calling from Kyiv. I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine.

Ambassador Sondland replied, yes he was in the Ukraine and went on to state that President Zelensky "loves your ass". I then heard President Trump asked, so he's going to do the investigation? Ambassador Sondland replied that he's going to do it adding that President Zelensky will do anything you ask him to do.


SCHIFF: After the call Ambassador Sondland confirmed to Holmes that the investigations were the President's sole interest with the Ukraine because and this is very important, they benefit the President.


HOLMES: After the call ended Ambassador Sondland remarked that the President was in a bad mood as Ambassador Sondland stated it was often the case early in the morning. I then took the opportunity to ask Ambassador Sondland for his candid impression of the President's views on Ukraine. In particular, I asked Ambassador Sondland if it was true that the

President did not give a expletive about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland agreed the President did not give an expletive about Ukraine. I asked why not, and Ambassador Sondland stated that the President only cares about big stuff. I noted there was big stuff going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia.

And Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant big stuff that benefits the President, like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing. This conversation then moved on to other topics.


SCHIFF: This understanding by Ambassador Sondland is independently confirmed by President Trump's own interaction with Ukraine. During his two telephone calls with President Zelensky, first on April 21st and then on July 25th, President Trump did not refer to any anti- corruption efforts or the war against Russia. He never even uttered the word corruption. Instead he only spoke about investigating his political opponents.

He later confirmed this narrow and singular focus to the press. On October 3rd when then asked about the Ukraine scheme, he said well I would think if they were honest about it, they would start a major investigation into the Biden's, it's a very simple answer. Here's that conference.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I would think that if they were honest about it they'd start a major investigation into the Biden's. It's a very simple answer.


SCHIFF: So we know from witnesses, the President's personal agents, and most importantly the President himself, the only think President Trump cared about with Ukraine was his investigations to benefit himself.

To see this even more starkly, it's helpful to remember what presidential head of state calls are normally used for. Talk to any former occupant of the Oval Office and they will tell you that the disparity in power between the President of the United States and other heads of state is vast.

Since World War II and consistent with the requirement to faithfully execute their oath of office, U.S. president's from both political parties have made good use of the disparity in power in their telephone calls from foreign leaders.

They've used those calls to secure commitments that bolstered American security and prosperity. Acting as our chief diplomat, President Regan used his calls to European allies like Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to rally the world against the Soviet threat, the shining city on the hill standing up to the evil empire. [15:50:04]

His calls laid the foundation for landmark non proliferation agreements that averted a nuclear Armageddon. It was during a phone call on Christmas day, 1991 that President George H.W. Bush learned that Mikhail Gorbachev intended to resign as Soviet primer marking the end of the Soviet Union.

Historians credited his deft diplomacy, including numerous one on one phone calls for bringing about a peaceful end to the Cold War. Following September 11th, President George W. Bush used his calls with heads of state to rally global support for the U.S. Campaign to defeat Al Qaeda; to work with our allies to protect and defend the U.S. national security and combat terrorism.

President Obama used his calls with foreign leaders to contain the fall out from the global economic crisis, assemble and international coalition to fight the Islamic State and of course to rally support for Ukraine following Russia's invasion of Crimea.

No matter what you think of the policy views or priorities of these prior presidents, there was no question that they are examples of the normal diplomacy that happens during presidential telephone calls and there is no doubt when you're the President of the United States and you call a foreign leader, you are on the clock for the American people.

Consistent with the faithful execution of his or her oath of office, a President's first and only objective is to get foreign leaders to do what is in the best interests of the United States. That's not what happened on July 25th.

On that date, President Trump used the head of state call with the leader of Ukraine to help himself, to press a foreign leader to investigate the President's political opponent in order to help his re-election campaign. President Trump abused his authority as Commander in Chief and chief diplomat to benefit himself and he betrayed the interests of the American people when he did so.

Let's go to the third reason that we know the President put his interests first. The third reason you know that the investigations were politically motivated is the central role played by President Trump's personal attorney, Mr. Giuliani, who has never had an official role in government -- in this government but instead was at all times representing the President in his personal capacity. There is no dispute about this.

For example, Mr. Giuliani made this point clearly in his May 10 letter to the President of Ukraine himself, where he wrote "Dear President Elect Zelensky, I am private counsel to President Donald J. Trump. Just to be precise, I represent him as a private citizen, not as President of the United States."

This is quite common under American law because the duties and privileges of a President and a private citizen are not the same. Separate representation is the usual process. Mr. Giuliani also repeated this publicly.

For example, he confirmed this point on May 9th in the New York Times, where he said -- well, many things, he said "we're meddling in an election -- we're not meddling in an election, we're meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do. There's nothing illegal about it," he said. "Somebody could say it's improper and this isn't foreign policy."

He went on to say, referring to the President, "he basically knows what I'm doing, sure, as his lawyer. My only client is the President of the United States," he said. "He's the one I have an obligation to report to, tell him what happened."

Think about that. The President is using his personal lawyer to ask Ukraine for investigations that aren't quote "foreign policy" but that will be very, very helpful to the President personally. It's not often you get it so graphically, as we do here.

Let's go to the fourth reason that these investigations were never part of U.S. policy. It wasn't just that President Trump used his personal lawyer, it's also that what he was asking for was never part of U.S. policy.

Witnesses told us that President Trump's investigations were not in his official prepared talking points or briefing materials. To the contrary, they went against official policy and diverged from our national security interests.


All three witnesses -- Tim Morrison at the National Security Council, Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman at the Security Council, Jennifer Williams -- listened to the July -- the -- the July 25th call, testified that when President Trump demanded that President Zelensky investigate the Bidens, he had completely departed from the talking points that they had prepared for him.

Now, before I get to the video clip I just want to underscore this. He's not obligated to use his talking points, he's not obligated to follow the recommendations of his staff, no matter how sound they may be, but what this makes clear is it wasn't U.S. policy that he was conducting, it was his private, personal interest that he was conducting.

If it was U.S. policy, it probably would have been in the talking points and briefing materials but of course it was not.

Let's look at Mr. Morrison's testimony on this point.


GOLDMAN: Now Mr. Morrison, were these references to Crowdstrike, the server, the 2016 election and to Vice President Biden and his son, were they included in the President's talking points?



SCHIFF: And here's Lieutenant Colonel Vindman on this point.


REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): Colonel Vindman, you are the National Security Council's Director for Ukraine. Did you participate in preparing the talking points for the President's call?


SPEIER: So you prepared them, they were then reviewed and edited by multiple senior officers at the NSC and the White House, is that correct?

VINDMAN: That is correct.

SPEIER: Did the talking points for the President contain any discussion of investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens or Burisma?

VINDMAN: They did not.

SPEIER: Are you aware of any written product from the National Security Council suggesting that investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens or Burisma are part of the official policy of the United States?

VINDMAN: No, I am not.


SCHIFF: Dr. Hill also elaborated on this point.


FIONA HILL, FORMER OFFICIAL AT THE U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: My point, Mr. Nunes, is that we at the National Security Council were not told, either by the President directly or through Ambassador Bolton, that we were to be focused on these issues as a matter of U.S. foreign policy towards Ukraine.

So when you're talking about Ukraine in 2016, I never personally heard the President say anything specific about 2016 and Ukraine. I've certainly seen (ph) -- plenty of things publicly but I was not given a directive.

In fact, I was given a directive on July 10th by Ambassador Bolton very clearly to stay out of domestic politics.


SCHIFF: So to be clear, when President Trump asked for these investigations, he was not asking for them based on an official U.S. policy. His top official advisors had not even been told about these investigations. To the contrary, they were told to stay out of U.S. politics.

And it gets worse. It was not just that President Trump ignored official U.S. policy and the talking points he was given, it was that what he was doing, withholding support from Ukraine, was actually contrary to and harmful to U.S. policy.

There is clear and undisputed bipartisan support for Ukraine. Ukraine is our ally. What's more, they're at war with our adversary. So our goal should be helping President Zelensky's anti-corruption reforms and helping Ukraine fight its adversary, Russia, in any way that we can.

President Trump's own National Defense Strategy stated that the United States and its European allies quote "will deter Russian adventurism" end quote, a clear reference to Russia's usurpation of Ukrainian territory and sovereignty.

Consistent with that strategy, we have currently approximately 68,000 troops stationed in Europe. Roughly 10,000 of those US Troops are deployed on NATO's Eastern Border with Russia, to countries like Poland, Hungary, Lithuania and Bulgaria. These American Forces are literally holding the line against another land grab by Vladimir Putin.

The author of that strategy, Former US National Security Advisor Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster issued this stark warning about Russia's aggression. For too long some nations have looked the other way in the face of these threats. Russia brazenly and then plausibly denies its actions and we have failed to impose sufficient costs.

The Kremlin's confidence is growing as its agents conduct their sustained campaigns to undermine our confidence in ourselves and in one another.