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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Day Three For House Democrats To Argue Their Case Against Trump. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired January 24, 2020 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That seems a tall order as of right now to get even just four. And then the other audience, the larger audience, is, of course, the American people, who they are trying to convince, did -- that President Trump did wrong and deserves to be removed from office.
Let's bring CNN's Dana Bash back in. Dana, it does not look as of right now, at least from what I'm hearing from the four senators who've seen the most open-minded of the 53, which is not to say that they are open-minded, that it does not sound like Collins or Murkowski or necessarily Alexander or Romney are ultimately going to vote for more evidence and more witnesses.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't know. But what we do know is that there is a lot of pressure on them from their fellow Republicans to say, no, no, that they're not going to do that, and arguments being made in closed-door lunches that it would be hypocritical for the senators to say, yes, we will grant you witnesses in the trial when the House Democrats decided not to go to the courts to try to force that back when this issue was completely before the House.
At the same time, Jake, you did See Susan Collins as this trial began. She's been very careful not to say anything since then, but she released a statement saying she is likely to support witnesses.
So as much as we are hearing from the managers for hours on end about their arguments for why the president should, in fact, be convicted, for why he should be thrown out of office, they continue to weave in the, yes, but, but it would be easier to convince you of this if we had the witnesses who have direct knowledge of what the president is saying would be.
We're going to hear more of that before we actually go to the final argument they're going to make today, which is the second article, which is obstruction of Congress, Jake.
TAPPER: Yes. Basing my comments and my observations on the most recent comment, Dana, from Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican from Alaska, who said, if we could put up full screen 2, quote, the House made a decision that they didn't want to slow things down by having to go through the courts, and yet now they're basically saying, you guys have to go through the courts. We didn't but we need to. That's obviously and argument that the White House and Republican leaders are making, and for Lisa Murkowski to be repeating it suggests that it's still going to be a tall order to get four Republican senators.
BASH: Yes, you're exactly right. That was really a very key quote that our colleague, Jeremy Herb, got last night. And it comes directly from that lunch she was in with other senators where they brought in experts on how these things work through the courts, trying to convince her and others who are on the fence about witnesses, that it's a bad idea, and, again, hypocritical for the House Democrats to argue, okay, now we can go to the courts but we couldn't back then.
There are all kinds of discussions about the speed with which it could happen now versus back then. But you're exactly right, that was a really potentially telling quote that Lisa Murkowski put out there and certainly not good news for Democrats who were really hoping that four Republicans come their way when it gets to the point next week when they have to vote on these witnesses and documents.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Dana, I have to point out the seven House managers that are now there, they're on the Senate floor. They're getting ready for this final session, their opening argument. The White House legal team, they are there as well. We're waiting for the chief justice to walk in. He will be presiding. We'll hear an opening prayer and the pledge of allegiance, and then we'll hear from the Senate majority leader, will give us a little outline of when there are going to be breaks, usually in the 3:00 p.m. Eastern hour, maybe again in the 6:00 p.m. hour.
They have, John King, up to eight hours to make their case, and the Republicans keep complaining it's repetitious. But one of the goals of the House managers is to get their message across to the American public as well, and they know that most Americans are not spending eight hours watching this like we are. They're spending a half hour, an hour, so there is a lot repetition.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The repetition is to pick up the television audience at various points throughout the day. The repetition is also to try to shame those four Republicans they believe they need further witness votes.
Look, there is crystal clear proof that the Democratic argument has been effective so far. But it's not -- the change is not what they mean. In your interview earlier today, you had the Indiana senator, Mike Braun, just elected from Mike Pence's ruby red State of the Indiana, he said what the president did here was inappropriate. That's the word he used. But he also said he doesn't think it rises to the death penalty, meaning, convict and remove from office.
Rob Portman, one of the senators we're watching, to see if he could conceivably support witnesses, said last night, there are some things done that were not appropriate.
So more Republicans are feeling the need to cover themselves politically, to come out and say, this is not good. But what the Democrats have not done publicly yet, and that statement from Murkowski is very important, they have not gotten more of the Republicans to say, their case is so compelling, I need to hear more. So they're affecting what the Republicans are saying, more Republicans being critical to the president, but they're not getting the votes yet.
BLITZER: But it's important to remember 21 years ago, during the Bill Clinton impeachment trial, a whole bunch of Democratic senators were saying exactly the same thing, what the president did was wrong, it was inappropriate, he should never have done it, but they argued it doesn't rise to the level of conviction and removal from office.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And a lot of them are making a different argument now but it is a different case.
I think what we saw this morning from Adam Schiff --
BLITZER: Hold on, here's the chief justice of the United States.
(SENATE IMPEACHMENT TRIAL)
CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT: The Senate will convene as a court of impeachment. The chapel will please lead us in prayer.
J. ROBERTS: The senators please be seated.
If there is no objection, the journal of proceedings of the trial are approved to date. Hearing no objection, so ordered.
The sergeant-at-arms will make the proclamation.
CLERK: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. All persons are commanded to keep silent on pain of imprisonment while the Senate of the United States is sitting in a trial of the articles of impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives against Donald John Trump, president of the United States.
MCCONNELL: Chief Justice?
J. ROBERTS: The majority leader is recognized.
MCCONNELL: For all of our colleagues, information about scheduling. Today, we'll plan to take short breaks every two to three hours, and we'll accommodate a 30-minute recess for dinner assuming it is needed, until the House managers have finished their opening presentation.
For scheduling purposes, we've organized tomorrow's session to convene at 10:00 a.m. and run for several hours as the president's counsel begins their presentation.
J. ROBERTS: Pursuant to the provisions of Senate Resolution 483, the managers for the House of Representatives have seven hours and 53 minutes remaining to make the presentation of their case. The Senate will now hear you.
SCHIFF: Mr. Chief Justice, Senators, distinguished counsel of the President, I keep wanting to say good morning, but good afternoon.
I just wanted to give a very brief orientation to the argument you'll hear today. We will begin with Jason Crow, who was talking about the conditionality of the military assistance. This is the latter part, although not the end of the argumentation on the application of the Constitution and law as it respects Article I, the abuse of power. I will have a presentation after Mr. Crow. And soon thereafter, we will conclude the presentation on Article I.
We'll then begin the presentation on Article II, once again applying the Constitution and law to the facts on the president's obstruction of Congress. We will then have some concluding thoughts, and then turn it over to the president's counsel. And that is what you should expect for the day.
And with that, I will now yield to Mr. Crow of Colorado.
CROW: Good afternoon. I woke up this morning and walked to my local coffee shop where, unlike my esteemed colleague Mr. Jeffries from New York, nobody complained to me about Colorado baseball. So I could only conclude that this is only a New York Yankees problem.
As Mr. Schiff mentioned, we talked last night about the July 25th call, and the multiple officials who confirmed the intent of the president in withholding the aid. So now I'd like to turn to what happened around the time that the aid was lifted.
And we know that the aid was lifted ultimately on September 11th. But it wasn't lifted for any legitimate reason, it was only lifted because President Trump had gotten caught.
But let's go through how we know that. On August 26th, the whistleblower complaint had been sent to the Director of National Intelligence and public reports indicate that President Trump was told about the complaint by White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
On - on September 5th, though, the scheme became public. An editorial in the Washington Post on that day, for the first time publicly, explicitly linked the military aid hold and the investigations that President Trump wanted.
Now, keep in mind that public scrutiny of the President's hold increased exponentially after this became public. And this is where things start moving really fast. A few days later, on September 9th, the House Investigative Committees publicly announced their investigation of President's conduct in Ukraine.
Lieutenant Colonel Vindman testified that the National Security Council and others at the White House learned about the investigation when it was announced and a colleague of his said that it might have the effect of releasing the aid.
And on that same day, the House Intelligence Committee learns of the administration had withheld the whistleblower complaint from Congress. The scheme was unraveling. And what happens two days later? President Trump released the military aid. He only released it after he got caught.
But there's another reason we know the President lifted the aid only because he got caught, because there's no other explanation. The testimony of all of the witnesses confirms it. Both Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and Ms. Williams testified that they were not provided any reason for lifting the hold.
Vindman testified that nothing on the ground had changed in the two months of the hold and Mark Sandy of the OMB also confirmed that. And Ambassador Taylor, too, testified that quote "I was not told the reason why the hold had been lifted."
Now let me take a moment to address another defense I expect you will hear, that the aid was released and the investigations were never announced, so therefore no harm, no foul, right? Well this defense would be laughable if this issue wasn't so serious.
First, I have spoken over the past three days about the real consequences of inserting politics into matters of war. Real people, real lives are at stake, every day, every hour matters. So no, the delay wasn't meaningless. Just ask the Ukrainians sitting in trenches right now.
And to this day, they are still waiting on $18 million of the aid that hasn't reached them. Jennifer Williams, who attended the Warsaw meeting with Vice President Pence, described President Zelensky's focus during this time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOLDMAN: And you testified in your deposition that in that conversation, President Zelensky emphasized that the military assistance, the security assistance was not just important to assist Ukraine in fighting a war against Russia but that it was also symbolic in nature. What did you - what did you understand him to mean by that?
WILLIAMS: President Zelensky explained that more than - or equally with the financial and physical value of the assistance that it was the symbolic nature of that assistance that really was the show of U.S. support for Ukraine and for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and I think he was - he - he was stressing that to the Vice President to really underscore the need for the security assistance to be released.
GOLDMAN: And that if the United States was holding the security assistance, is it also true then that Russia could see that as a sign of weakening U.S. support for Ukraine and take advantage of that?
WILLIAMS: I believe that's what the president - President Zelensky was indicating that any signal or sign that U.S. support was wavering would be construed by Russia as potentially and opportunity for them to strengthen their own hand in Ukraine. (END VIDEO CLIP)
CROW: This is an important point, particularly when the president and his attorneys tried to argue no harm, no foul. The financial assistance itself was really important to Ukraine, no question about it, but the aid was equally important as a signal to Russia of our support for Ukraine. And regardless of whether the aid was ultimately released, the fact that the hold became public sent a very clear signal to Russia that our support for Ukraine was wavering and Russia was watching very closely for any sign of weakness. The damage was done.
Now any possible doubt about whether the aid was linked to the investigations has been erased by the president's own Chief of Staff, and we've seen this video before during the trial, but there's a really good reason for this. It's a complete admission on national T.V. that the military aid ws conditioned on Ukraine helping the president's political campaign. Here, once again, is what Mulvaney said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MULVANEY: That he also mentioned to me in past that the corruption related to the DNC server, absolutely. No question about that. But that's it. That's why we held up the money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROW: And when pressed that he had just confessed to the very quid pro quo that President Trump had been denying, Mulvaney doubled down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: But to clear, what you just described is a quid pro quo.
MULVANEY: It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happened as well. We do - we do that all the time with foreign policy. If you believe the news reports and you believe them - what did McKinney say yesterday? Well, McKinney said yesterday that he was really upset with the political influence in foreign policy. That was one of the reasons he was so upset about this, and I have news for everybody. Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy. I'm talking...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROW: Now, remember at the time he made these statements, Mulvaney was both the Head of OMB and the Acting Chief of Staff at the White House. He knew about all of the legal concerns. He also knew about the president's so-called drug deal as Ambassador Bolton called it. He knew exactly what was going on in the Oval Office and how OMB implemented the president's illegal order to hold the aid.
Mulvaney confirmed why the president ordered the hold. It was not to develop further policy to counter Russian aggression, it was not to convince Ukrainians to implement anticorruption reforms, and it was not to pressure our allies to give more to Ukraine.
Now, since we won't have an opportunity to respond to the president's presentation, I'm going to take a minute to respond to some of the arguments that I expect them to make. You will notice, I'm sure, that they will ignore significant portions of the evidence while trying to cherry pick individual statements here and there to manufacture defenses, but don't be fooled.
One defense you may hear is that the aid was held up to allow for a policy review. This is what the administration told the GAO at one point, but the evidence shows the opposite. The evidence shows that the administration didn't conduct a review at any time after the president ordered the hold. Laura Cooper was not aware of any review of the funding conducted by DOD in July, August, or September, and similarly George Kent testified that the State Department did not conduct and was never asked to conduct a review of funding administrated by the State Department.
In fact, on May 23, the anticorruption review was complete and DOE certified to Congress that Ukraine had complied with all of the conditions and that the remaining half of the aid should be released. This was confirmed by the June 18 press release announcing the release or announcing the funding.
And do you remember the fictitious, quote, unquote, "interagency review process"? Well, that was made up, too. So no review was necessary because it had already been done.
Next, the president's counsel keeps saying this was about corruption in Ukraine.
President Trump was not concerned with fighting corruption. It's difficult to even say that with a straight face. The president never mentioned corruption on either call with President Zelensky, but let's go through the evidence.
As we just discussed, DOD had already completed a review and included that Ukraine had, quote, "made sufficient progress in meeting defense reform and anticorruption goals consistent with the National Defense Authorization Act in order to receive the funds." And, in fact, Mark Sandy, who was not at that meeting but who was initially responsible for approving that hold, said he had never heard corruption as a reason of the hold in all of the discussions he had about is.
Similar to the anticorruption argument, there is simply no evidence to support the president's after-the-fact argument that he was concerned about burden ship. Now, that's other countries also contributing to Ukraine.
I imagine the president may cite the emails in June about what other countries provided to Ukraine, the reference to other countries' contributions in the July 25 call, and testimony from Sandy about a request for information about what other European countries give to Ukraine, but there is simply no evidence that ties the concern to his decision to hold the funding.
First, let's actually look at the contributions of European countries to Ukraine. There's a slide in front of you. It shows that other European countries have significantly contributed to Ukraine since 2014, and the European Union in total has given far more than the U.S. The E.U. is the single largest donor to Ukraine having provided over $16 billion in grants and loans. The president's assertion that other countries did not support Ukraine is meritless, and there are other reasons, too.
After DOD and OMB responded to the president's request, presumably with some of the information we just provided you showing Europe gives a lot to Ukraine, nobody in the Trump administration mentioned burden sharing as a reason for the hold to any of the 17 witnesses that we've been talking about.
Sondland, who's actual portfolio is the E.U., not Ukraine, testified that he was never asked to speak to the E.U. or E.U.-member countries about providing more aid to Ukraine. And if President Trump were truly concerned about that, he would have been the perfect guy to handle it because he was our Ambassador to the E.U., but it never happened. And how could it? Because Sondland himself knew the aid was linked to the investigations because that's what the president himself had told him.
It wasn't until the president's scheme began to unravel after the White House learned of the whistleblower complaint and after Politico publicly revealed the existence of the hold that the issue of burden sharing came up again. If the president's concern were genuinely about burden sharing, he never made any public statements about it, never ordered a review of burden sharing, and never ordered his officials to push Europe to increase their contributions. And then he released the aid without any changes in Europe's contributions.
This last point is important. You know the president purported -- the president's purported concern about burden sharing rings hollow because the aid was released after the president got caught. Not because the EU or and European country made any new contributions. As Lieutenant Colonel Vindman testified the facts on the ground had not changed.
Finally, you may hear the President's Counsel say that Ukraine didn't know about the hold until August 28th long after the hold was implemented. So, therefore, they could not have felt (ph) pressure. But this makes no sense. First, they found out about it long before August 28th. Multiple witnesses testified that the Ukrainians showed quote "impressive diplomatic tradecraft" in learning quickly about the hold and of course they would know. The DOD release was announced in June and US Agencies knew about it in July. So it should be no surprise that the first inquiries about the aid were on July 25th the same day as the call.
You see it doesn't matter if extortion last two weeks or two months, it's still extortion and Ukraine certainly felt the pressure. Other Ukrainian Officials also expressed concerns that the Ukrainian Government was being singled out and penalized for some reason. And they were by President Trump. And you know how else you know they felt the pressure from the hold because President Zelensky finally relented and was planning to do the CNN interview. Ultimately, right around the time of President Zelensky's conversation with Vice President or with President Trump, which is the subject of the classified document that I urge all Senators to look at.
President Zelensky canceled the CNN Interview. But the damage was already done. The evidence is clear, the question for you is whether it's okay for the President to withhold tax payer money, aid for ally, our friend at war for a personal political benefit. Whether it's okay for the President to sacrifice our National Security for his own election. It's not okay to me, it's certainly not okay with the American people and it should not be okay to any of you.
JEFFRIES: The Chief Justice, Distinguished Members of the Senate, President's Counsel, the American People. Once again we gathered here, not as Democrats or Republicans, not as the left or the right, not as Progressives or Conservatives, but as Americans. Doing our Constitutional duty during this moment of Presidential accountability. And as House Managers we thank you for you courtesy, you attentiveness and your hospitality.
At the heart of Article Two, Obstruction of Congress, is a simple troubling reality. President Trump tried to cheat, he got caught and then he worked hard to cover it up. The President tried to cheat, he got caught and then he worked hard to cover it up. Patrick Henry, one of the nations great patriots once said that the liberties of a people never were nor ever will be secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.
Let's now address the effort by President Trump and his team to cover up his wrongdoing. By July 2019 White House Officials were aware of serious allegations of misconduct by President Trump regarding Ukraine. But of instead of halting the President's corrupt scheme they worked overtime to conceal it from the American people. As additional evidence of the President's wrongdoing mounted, White House Lawyers redoubled their efforts to prevent Congress and the American people from learning of the President's misconduct.
At the same time, top Administration Officials including Secretary of State Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Esper and National Security Advisory John Bolton tried to convince President Trump to lift the hold on the Security Assistance, they failed. President Trump was determined to carry out his corrupt scheme. The Military and Security Aid was only released on September 11 after the hold became public, after the House launched an investigation and after Congress learned about the existence of a whistleblower complaint.
The $391 million in Security Aid was only released because President Trump was caught red handed. The actions of President Trump and high level White House Officials allowed his abuse of power to continue beyond the watchful eye of Congress and most importantly the American people. As we have discussed at length on July 10th, Ambassador Sondland told the Ukrainians and other US Officials that he had a deal with Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to schedule the White House Meeting President Zelensky wanted if the new Ukrainian Leader committed to the phony investigations that President Trump sought.