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Impeachment inquiry testimony transcripts released: Live updates

運営事務局 JIMOPLE 50 November 6, 2019

CNN Political Director David Chalian looks at the transcripts of interviews with US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and former special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker on the latest episode of "The Daily DC: Impeachment Watch" podcast.

The House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees released deposition transcripts of Sondland and Volker today as they shifted toward the public phase of their impeachment inquiry.

Chalian also covers:

  • The latest polling numbers, which show President Trump’s approval rating is holding steady while attitudes on impeachment fall along party lines 
  • Republican Sen. Rand Paul's remarks on wanting the whistleblower's identity to be revealed
  • Trump's comments on impeachment at his rally

Chalian is joined today by CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger and CNN White House reporter Maegan Vazquez.

Listen to the podcast here.

 US President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on during a meeting in New York on September 25, 2019, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
 US President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looks on during a meeting in New York on September 25, 2019, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Before President Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky's July 25 call, Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, reminded Zelensky that Trump wanted a corruption investigation.

"I think I said: It looks like your call is finally on, and I think it's important that you, you know, give President Trump — he wanted this — some kind of a statement about corruption," Sondland told the House committees, according to the transcript released Tuesday.

This highlights that Trump's requests to Zelensky on July 25 for political help weren't off-the-cuff.

"And, you know, it was just sort of a 'I'm handing it off to you now, we finally got this done.' And he was very happy and said: Great, we'll have a good call tomorrow," Sondland added.

Sondland and Zelensky's call happened July 19, and the Trump-Zelensky call was originally scheduled for the next day, then pushed back to July 25.

Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, acknowledged that Rudy Giuliani brought up Joe Biden – by name – during at least one conversation.

It happened on July 19, when they met for breakfast, according to the transcript. Giuliani brought up all the Biden accusations and Volker pushed back, saying it was “simply not credible” that Biden would abuse his office.

There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe Biden.

“One of the things that I said in that breakfast that I had with Mr. Giuliani, the only time Vice President Biden was ever discussed with me, and he was repeating he wasn't making an accusation and he wasn't seeking an investigation but he was repeating all of the things that were in the media that we talked about earlier about, you know, firing the prosecutor general and his son being on the company and all that,” Volker told lawmakers.

Volker continued, “And I said to Rudy in that breakfast the first time we sat down to talk that it is simply not credible to me that Joe Biden would be influenced in his duties as Vice President by money or things for his son or anything like that. I've known him a long time, he's a person of integrity, and that's not credible.”

The acknowledgement from Volker that Biden was specifically named during his conversations with Giuliani stands in contrast with US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who has maintained all along that he didn’t make the Biden-Burisma connection until after the scandal burst into public view.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney answers questions during a briefing at the White House on October 17
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney answers questions during a briefing at the White House on October 17 Win McNamee/Getty Images

House impeachment investigators have requested acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney testify on Capitol Hill on Friday.

The House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees sent Mulvaney a letter today requesting he appear for a closed-door deposition as part of the Democrats' impeachment inquiry into President Trump and Ukraine.

"We believe that you possess substantial first-hand knowledge and information relevant to the House's impeachment inquiry," the Democratic chairs wrote.

They also wrote that "the evidence and public reporting suggest you played a central role in President Trump's attempt to coerce Ukraine into launching his desired political investigations."

It is unclear if Mulvaney will show up to testify before the committees.

Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, described to lawmakers his phone call with President Trump after receiving a text from diplomat Bill Taylor, calling a potential quid pro quo over military assistance to Ukraine "crazy."

On Sept. 9, Taylor, the top diplomat to Ukraine, texted Sondland, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

Sondland testified that the text was “fairly shocking” and called the President. 

Here what he said about the call with Trump:

Sondland testified that “there were a lot of rumors swirling around as to why the aid had been held up, including they wanted a review, they wanted Europe to do more. There were all kinds of rumors. And I know in my few previous conversations with the President he’s not big on small talk so I would have one shot to ask him. And rather than asking him, ‘Are you doing X because of X or because of Y or because of Z’ I asked him one open-ended question: 'What do you want from Ukraine?'”

“And as I recall, he was in a very bad mood. It was a very quick conversation. He said: 'I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do the right thing.' And I said: 'What does that mean?' And he said: 'I want him to do what he ran on.' And that was the end of the conversation. I wouldn’t say he hung up on me, but it was almost like he hung up on me,” Sondland added.

Sondland then reached back out to Taylor, and suggested he call Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

In his testimony, former special representative Kurt Volker said it was correct that no quid pro quo had been communicated to him — and he said he never felt he was ever instructed to do anything wrong.

“I was never asked to do anything that I thought was wrong. And I found myself in a position where I was working to put together the right policies for the administration and using all the friends and network and contacts that you have, Pentagon, State Department, NSC, to stitch that together, and I feel that we were successful at doing that,” he said.

Here's his exchange with Rep. Mark Meadows:

Meadows: …And that message that I heard you very loud and clear today is that there was no quid pro quo at any time ever communicated to you. Is that correct?
Volker: Not to me, that is correct.
Meadows: In your conversations with the Ukrainian officials, was there ever a time where they communicated to you that they believed that there was a quid pro quo?
Volker: No. We went over earlier this thing about a statement and how that would be helpful in getting a White House date, but I think that we eventually dropped that, kept working on the date and saying we are still going forward.
Meadows: In fact, the readout, according to your testimony, from Ukraine and the understanding from the State Department, two groups that didn't talk to each other, were very similar in that they felt like the call was a positive call and a positive move going forward. Is that correct?
Volker: That is correct.
Meadows: Okay. Were you ever asked to do something that was wrong by this administration or anybody connected with this administration?
Volker: No, I wasn't.
Meadows: Including the President of the United States?
Volker: Including by the President. I was never asked to do anything that I thought was wrong. And I found myself in a position where I was working to put together the right policies for the administration and using all the friends and network and contacts that you have, Pentagon, State Department, NSC, to stitch that together, and I feel that we were successful at doing that

Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, acknowledged that he knew Hunter Biden was affiliated with Burisma when Rudy Giuliani was pressing for the Ukrainians to mention “Burisma” in their public statement.

But Volker maintained that asking for an investigation of Burisma is not the same as asking for an investigation of the Bidens, and that it is OK to ask for an investigation of Burisma because there is a history of corruption by its Ukrainian ownership.

Asked if calling for an investigation into Burisma was essentially calling for an investigation of Biden, Volker said, "No. In my mind, those are three separate things."

He continued: "There is Bidens; there is Burisma as a company, which has a long history; and there is 2016 elections. And part of what I was doing was making sure and why I wanted to make sure I was in this conversation that we are not getting the Ukrainians into a position about talking about anything other than their own citizens, their own company, or whether their own citizens had done anything in 2015."

Rep. Mark Meadows tried to bait Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, into saying other countries have quid pro quos with Ukraine in exchange for corruption investigations, prompting Sondland to compare his questioning to the comedy "My Cousin Vinny."

Sondland said the European Union, for which he is the ambassador, is concerned with cleaning up corruption in Ukraine. He then links that concern with the amount the EU sends in aid to Ukraine. 

"My Cousin Vinny" was released in 1992. The hit film tells the story of a well-intentioned lawyer, played by Joe Pesci, who makes up for his legal "ignorance and inexperience with an aggressive, perceptive questioning style," according to IMDB.

Here's how the discussion between Sondland and Meadows went:

Sondland: "Well, in my discussions with the EU, they would like to do more. They would like to see some things cleaned up before they contribute more has been my impression. I think it is one of their conditions."

Meadows: "So they have a condition to giving additional foreign aid. So you're saying--this is groundbreaking--so you're saying that someone other than ... Donald J. Trump is concerned with corruption, and they might withhold foreign aid based on that. Is that correct, Ambassador? I can tell by your smile it's a yes, is that correct. Is that correct?"

Sondland: "This is like 'My Cousin Vinny.'"

Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, testified that Rudy Giuliani “kept repeating Burisma and 2016 election” on their calls, but he never mentioned the Bidens to him.

“I never heard Biden,” Sondland testified. “I never heard him mention Biden. I’m not saying he didn’t use it. I never heard him say it.”

Sondland also said he “never” heard Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, talk about investigating the Bidens.

Sondland said he thought he participated in one or two conference calls with Volker and Giuliani and had one or two short calls directly with Giuliani. The calls were “likely” in August. 

“All I can recall is the gist of every call was what was going to go in the press statement,” Sondland said. “It was solely relating to negotiating the press statement, where, you know, Volker had taken the lead on it, and then I poked my nose into it to see if I could broker some kind of a compromise so we could get moving on the White House visit.”

“I think Volker was trying to get to the bottom of what was it that the President wanted to see from the Ukrainians in order to get the White House visit scheduled,” Sondland added. “And I think Giuliani kept saying it needs to be some kind of a public utterance.”

Sondland repeatedly said he does not recall when he put together connection between Burisma and Bidens.