tv ABC7 News 600AM ABC November 20, 2019 6:00am-7:00am PST
with ukraine's president. >> in the afternoon, we will hear from laura dessectaryrussi affairs. it starts right now. >> announcer: this is an abc news special report. the house impeachment hearings, now reporting, george the our special coverage of the impeachment of president trump. that is the scene right now on capitol hill. 1100house longworth building where the where the committee has been gathering for their fourth day of testimony hearings. it could be the most critical day yet. so far, the witnesses that have appeared have not had first hand contact or much first hand contact with the president. today is gordon sondland. he was hand picked to the european union. there you see him arriving on
capitol hill today. he had meetings with president trump, and in his testimony today, he is expected to tie his work directly to president trump in stark terms. here is some of the words from his testimony this morning. as a presidential appointee, i follow the directions of the president, followed the president's orders talking about him, secretary perry as well, and he also said that everyone was in the loop. there had been many questions about how far ambassador sondland would go today. he has already revised his testimony once, and that's one of the reasons republicans considered him a wild card in these hearings. i want to go to our congressional correspondent mary bruce. republicans feared he was a wild card, and now he may be turning in their worst nightmare. >> reporter: this is what republicans have been fearing. in just a few moments here, the president's hand picked appointed person in ukraine will tell the american people there was a quid pro quo, that in order to get a coveted meeting with president trump, the ukrainian president zelensky would have to announce he was launching investigations into
president trump's political rivals. now sondland will it seems try to walk a fine line when it comes to the question of the key military aid that was being withheld. he will say he came to understand that that aid would not flow unless zelensky announced these investigations, but the big question here is how? how did he tell the ukrainians they would not receive this money until these investigations? the question will be if sondland was acting at the direction of the president. they will say that giuliani was running this show, and he was in charge of this rogue diplomacy, and he will say that giuliani was being directed by the president. george, democrats here are going to hammer away at the contact that gordon sondland had with president trump, and republicans we have talked to are considece they don't know what sondland will say to answer these questions. >> he's being very direct as a presidential appointee.
i followed the directions of the president. i want to bring in our chief white house correspondent, jon karl adds wes well. the ambassador has a complicated history with the president. you can't call him a never trumper, be you he hasn't been an always trumper either. >> reporter: that's certainly the case. he gave that money to the inauguration, and he was awarded with one of the embassadorial posts. he is truone of trump's promine critics. he was krill of the campaign back in 2008, and a supporter of jeb bush in 2016. he did support president trump for a time during the 2016 general election, and dropped out of a fundraiser after the president or then-candidate donald trump attacked the khans, the gold star parents who spoke at the democratic convention. but he made up for all of that, with that million dollar
donation and was rewarded. but you're right, george, he is not somebody the president can call a never trumper, but he is not a long time trump support ere either. >> the president called him a great ambassador, and a great he american, but the president has been backing away in recent days. >> reporter: he praised him several times since the story broke, you know, talking about him being a good man. this is when we knew about sondland's text messages including where he said there is no quid pro quo. as the story started to shift so, did the president's views of sondland. most recently what he has said about sondland is he barely knew the man. >> david muir, i'm struck by how democrats -- it's not only democrats who think he will be a star witness today, but here's what congressman mark meadows had to say overnight. the impeachment effort comes down to one guy, ambassador sondland. all the other testimony has a sondland core to it, and a ko sondland connection. >> reporter: there is no
question. e-i was struck by how many times and going back through the testimony, vindman said, bolton cut the meeting short when sondland started to speak about the requirement that ukraine deliver specific investigations to secure that meeting with president trump. it was the republican witnesses as well, tim morrison formerly with the nsc. morrison, he said, that the ukrainians would have to have the prosecutor general make a statement with respect to the investigations as a condition of having the aid lifted. he was pressed again. what did you say to the senior adviser zelensky? the ukrainians would have to have the prosecutor general make that statement of investigation. >> ambassador sondland has taken his seat. let's enter the room. following the normal course of action here. chairman schiff will gavel it in. opening statements from the chairman and congressman nunes as well, the ranking republican on the committee.
of course, it will be followed by those 45 minutes of questioning from the councils. i would expect that they will have extensive questioning for the ambassador, and maybe even go to second rounds which we haven't seen too much of. let's go to martha raddatz. this also directly ties secretary pompeo to so much his work. >> reporter: it does, and we have both talked to secretary pompeo, and he has been evasive about what he knew about this parallel track. he'll say that relevant decision makers at the state department knew the important details of our efforts. the suggestion that we were engaged in some irregular or rogue diplomacy is absolutely false. he backs this up with some emails directly to pompeo. we don't know what he knew, but i'm sure there will be a lot of questions about that. >> chairman schiff has now entered the room. dan abrams, as he takes a seat,
one of the things that sondland complains about is the state department won't give him the documents he needs to prepare himself. >> he's saying the process isn't fair because he can't get access to the documents that he needs to prepare. one of the things we're going to hear about again and again is rudy giuliani. that's a name you're going to hear because he says he wants to make it clear, and i want to make a few key points. he makes six points. in five of those six points, it's rudy giuliani. we worked with mr. giuliani because the president directed us to do so. >> even though he says he didn't want to do that. >> again and again he says he didn't want to. >> let's go back to the room. ambassador sondland is ready to go. let's hear from chairman schiff. ambassador sondland is known as a gregarious ambassador. i guess that comes with the
territory of an ambassador and a political appointee. we'll see how he handles the questioning today, and if that smile remains through these several hours. they are clearing the room. it is about to begin. one of the big questions here, can any witness break this partisan stalemate on this committee which has been so evident over those four days, expected to be evident again as we hear the opening statements of chairman schiff and congressman nunes.
need a little more time to get settled in than it has over these past few days. >> the meeting will come to order. good morning, everyone. this is the fifth in a series of public hearings the committee will be holding as part of the house of representatives impeachment inquiry. without objection, the chair is authorized to declare a recess at any time. we will proceed today in the same fashion as our other hearings. i'll make a opening statement, and ranking member nunes will have an opportunity to make an opening statement. then we will turn to our witness for an opening statement, and then to questions. for our audience, we respect your interest in being here, and in turn, we ask for your respect. we would like to proceed without disruptions. i'll maintain and order and
ensure this is run with accordance to house rules. i recognize myself to give an opening statement in the impeachment inquiry into donald j. trump, the 45th president of the united states. this morning, we will hear from gordon sondland, the american ambassador to the european union. we are here today as part of the house of representatives impeachment inquiry because president donald trump sought to condition military aid to ukraine, in an oval office meeting with president volodymyr zelensky in exchange for political investigations that trump believed would help his re-election campaign. the first was a discredited conspiracy theory that ukraine, not russia, was responsible for interfering in the 2016 election. the second investigation that trump demanded into -- was into a political rival that he apparently feared most, joe biden. trump sought to weaken biden and to refute the fact that his own
election campaign in 2016 had been helped by a russianing hackihac hacking and dump social media campaign by vladimir putin to help trump. trump's scheme undermined military and diplomatic support for a key ally and undercut u.s. anti-corruption efforts in ukraine. trump put his personal and political interests above those of the united states. as ambassador sondland would later tell career foreign service officer david holmes immediately after speaking to the president, trump did not give a expletive about ukraine. he cares about big stuff that benefits him, like the biden investigations that rudy giuliani was pushing. ambassador sondland was a skilled deal maker but in trying to satisfy direction from the president found himself increasingly embroiled in an effort to press the ukrainian president, and deviated sharply from the norm in both terms of policy and process.
in february, ambassador sondland traveled to ukraine on his first official trip to that country. while in kyiv, he met with marie yovanovitch, and found deep internal dynamics. on april 21st, zelensky was elected president to north carolina, and spoke to president trump who congratulated him and said he would look into his inauguration, but plans to send someone at a very, very high level. between the time of that call and the inaugural on may 20, trump's attitude towards ukraine hardened. on may 13th, the president ordered vice president mike pence not to attend zelensky's inauguration, opting instead to dispatch the self-dubbed three amigos, energy secretary rick perry, ambassador sondland and the former u.s. special representative to ukraine, kurt volker. they briefed president trump on
their encouraging first interactions with the ukrainian administration. they urged the president to meet with zelensky, but the president's reaction was decidedly hostile. the president's order was clear, however. talk with rudy. during this meeting, ambassador sondland first became aware of what giuliani and the president were really interested in. this whole thing was sort of a continu continu continuum, he testified at his deposition starting at the may 23rd meeting, ending up at the end of the line when the transcript of the call came out. it was a continuum he would explain that became more insidious over time. the three amigos were disappointed with trump's directive to engage giuliani, but vowed to press ahead. ambassador sondland testified, we could abandon the goal of the white house aiding from president zelensky, which the group deemed crucial for
u.s./ukrainian relations, or we could do as president trump directed and talk to mr. giuliani to address the president's concerns. we thochose the latter path. in the coming weeks, ambassador sondland got more clearly involved in policy making, starting with the meeting into the eu in brussels one month early. secretary perry, ulrich bre brechbu brechbuhl, and others attended the event. secretary perry organized a conference call with sondland, then national security adviser, john bolton, volker and others. they reviewed ukraine strategy perry,ondld d volker wouldat assist bill taylor, the new acting ambassador in kyiv and ukraine and decide for giuliani to be some sondland, he said,
with the strategy moving forward. on june 27th, sondland called taylor so say, quote, zelensky, needed to make clear to president trump he was not, quote, standing in the way of investigations. on july 10th, sondland and other u.s. officials met at the white house with u.s. and ukrainian officials. sondland invoked mick mulvaney and said the white house meeting sought by the ukrainian president with trump would happen only if ukraine undertook certain investigations. national security adviser bolton abruptly ended the meeting upon hearing this. undeterred, sondland brought the ukrainian delegation downstairs to another part of the white house that was more explicit. according to witnesses, ukraine needed to investigate the bidens, burisma and election interference if they wanted a meeting at all.
bolton said he would not be part of whatever drug deal sondland and mulvaney are trying toing coo up on this. they were willing to settle for a phone call as an immediate step. tailer texted sondland that, quote, president zelensky is sensitive about ukraine being taken seriously, not merely as an instrument of washington domestic politics. sondland responded, absolutely, but we need to get the conversation started and the relationship built irrespective of the pretext so that zelensky and trump could meet and this could all be fixed. on the day of the trump/zelensky call, in kyiv with a senior aide, he was texted to say he had heard from the white house, assuming president z gets to investigate. get to the bottom of what
happened, and we will nail down a date. good luck. ambassador sondland spoke to president trump a few minutes before the call was placed, but was not on the call. during that now infamous call with zelensky, trump responded to the ukrainian expression of appreciation for u.s. defense support and requests to buy more missil missiles by saying, i would like you to do us a favor though. trump asked zelensky to investigate the discredited conspiracy theory, and even more ominously, look into the bidens. neither had been part of the official preparatoritoriay mate for the call, but they were in donald trump's personal interests and the interest of his re-election campaign. and the ukrainian president knew about both in advance in part because of ambassador volker and ambassador sondland's efforts to make him aware of what the president was demanding. around this time, ambassador sondland became aware of the suspension of security assistance to ukraine which had been announced on a secure video
conference on july 18th telling us it was extremely odd nobody involved in making and implementing policy toward ukraine knew why the aid had been put on hold. sondland was on conference calls and text messages with volker and giuliani talking about what would go in the press statement. in august 9 text message with sondland stated, i want potus really wants the deliverable which was according to sondland, a deliverable public statement that president trump wanted to see or hear before a white house meeting could happen. on september 1, ambassador sondland participated in vice president pence's bilateral meeting in warsaw. during which zelensky, raised the security assistance. during that meeting, sondland approached a official to tell him he believed what could help them move the aid was if the ukrainian prosecutor general would go to the mic and announce
he was opening the burisma investigation. sondland told taylor that he had made a mistake by telling the ukrainians that an oval office meeting was dependent on a public announcement of investigations. in fact, everything was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance. but even the announcement by the prosecutor general would not satisfy the president. on september 7, sondland spoke to the president and told tim morrison and bill taylor about the call shortly thereafter. the president said that although this was not a quid pro quo, if president zelensky did not clear things up in public, we would be at a stalemate. moreover, an announcement by the prosecutor general would not be enough. president zelensky must personally -- must announce personally that he would open the investigations. sondland told taylor that president trump is a businessman. when a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes
him something, he said the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check. the check referred to here was the u.s. military assistance to ukraine, and ukraine had to pay up with investigations. throughout early september, volker and sondland sought to close the deal that they would announce investigations. after sondland received a text that said, i think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign. 16 days later, the transcript of the july 25th call was made public and the american people learned the truth of how our president tried to take advantage of a vulnerable ally. now it is up to congress as the people's representatives to determine what response is appropriate. if the president buabused his power and invited foreign interference into our elections, or tried to extort an ally, for
an election campaign and did so by withholding official acts, it will be up to us to decide whether those acts are compatible with the office of the presidency. finally, i want to say a word about the president and secretary pompeo's obstruction of this investigation. we have not received a single document from the state department and as ambassador sondland's opening statement will make clear, those documents bear directly on this investigation, and this impeachment inquiry. i think we know now based on a sample of the documents attached to ambassador sondland's statement, that the knowledge of this scheme was far and wide, and included among others, secretary of state pompeo as well as the vice president. we can see why secretary pompeo
and president trump have made such a concerted and across the board effort to obstruct this investigation and this impeachment inquiry, and i will just say this. they do so at their own peril. i remind the president that article 3 of the impeachment articles drafted against president nixon was his refusal to obey the subpoenas of congress. with that, i recognize ranking member nunes for any remarks that he would wish to make. >> thank you to the gentleman. as we learned last night, story time last night, we get story time first thing this morning. ambassador sondland, welcome. glad you're here. really not glad you're here, but welcome to the fifth day of this circus. as i have noted before, the democrats on this committee spent three years accusing president trump of being a
russian agent. in march, 2018 after a year-long investigation, intelligence committee republicans issued a 240-page report describing in detail how the russians meddled in the 2016 elections and making specific recommendations to improve our election security. denouncing the report as a whitewash and accusing republicans of subverting the investigation, the democrats issued their own report, focusing on their now-debunked conspiracy theory that the trump campaign colluded with russia to hack the elections. notably, the democrats vowed at the time to present a further, quote, comprehensive report, unquote, after they finished their investigation into trump's treasonous collusion with russia. for some completely inexplicable reason after the implosion of their russia hoax, the democrats
failed mprensive report. we're waiting. this episode shows how the democrats have exploited the intelligence committee for political purposes for three years, culminating in these impeachment hearings in their mania to attack the president. no conspiracy theory is too outlandish for the democrats. time and time again, they floated the possibility of some far-fetched malfeasance by trump to have the dire need to investigate, and then dropped the issue to move onto their next asinine theory. their accusations and insinuations includes these. trump is a long time russian agent as described in the steele dossier. the russians gave trump advanced access to emails stolen by the dnc and the hillary clinton
campaign. the trump campaign based some of his activities on these stolen documents. trump received nefarious materials from the russians through a trump campaign aide. trump laundered russian money through real estate deals. trump was blackmailed by russia through his financial exposure with deutsch bank. trump had a diabolical plan to build a trump tower in moscow. trump changed the republican national committee platform to hurt ukraine and benefit russia. the russians laundered money through the nra for the trump campaign. trump's son-in-law lied about his russian contacts while obtaining his security clearance. it's a long list of charges, all false, and i could go on and on and on, but i'll spare you for these moments. clearly these ludicrous accusations don't reflect committee members who are honestly searching for the truth. they are the actions of partisan
extremists who hijacked the intelligence committee, transformed it into the impeachment committee, abandoned its core oversight functions and turned it into a beach head for ousting a president in office. you have to keep in mind as you consider the democrats' latest catalog of supposed trump outrages. granted, a friendly call with the ukrainian president wouldn't seem to rise to the same level as being a russian agent. the democrats were running out of time. if they waited any longer, their impeachment circus would intervene with their own candidates' 2020 campaigns. so you have to give them points for creativity in selling this absurdity as an impeachment offense. all this explains why the democrats have gathered zero republican support in the house of representatives for their impeachment crusade.
in fact, the vote we held was a bipartisan vote against this impeoplemei impeachment inquiry. speaker pelosi, chairman schiff and chairman nadler, the key figures behind this impeachment crusade all claim the impeachment is critical to the country only if it can proceed with bipartisan support. are those declarations suddenly no longer true? did impeachment become less divisive? of course, not. they know exactly what kind of damage they're inflicting on this nation, but they have passed the point of no return. after three years of preparation work, much of it spearheaded by the democrats on this committee using all the tools of congress to accuse, investigate, indict and smear the president, they stoked a frenzy amongst their most fanatical supporters that
they can no longer control. ambassador sondland, you are here today to be smeared. but you'll make it through it, and i appreciate your service to this country, and i'm sorry that you have had to go through this. in closing, the democrats have zeroed in on an anonymous whistle-blower complaint that was cooked up in cooperation with the democrats on this very committee. they lied to the american people about that cooperation, and refused to let us question the whistle-blower to discover the truth. meanwhile, the democrats lash out against anyone who questions or casts doubt on this spectacle. when ukrainian president zelensky denies anything improper happened on the phone call, the democrats say that he's a liar.
when journalists report on ukraine election meddling and hunter biden's position on the board of corrupt ukrainian companies, the democrats label them conspiracy theorists. when the democrats can't get any traction for their allegations of quid pro quo, they move the goal posts and accuse the president of extortion, then bribery and at last resort, obstruction of justice. the american people sent us to washington to solve problems, not to wage scorched earth political warfare against the other party. this impeachment is not helping the american people. it's not a legitimate use of taxpayer dollars, and it's definitely not improving our national security. finally, the democrats' fake outrage that president trump used his own channel to communicate with ukraine.
remind my friends on the other side of the aisle that our first president, george washington, directed his own diplomatic channels to secure a treaty with great britain. if my democratic colleagues were around in 1794, they would probably want to impeach him too. mr. chairman, this morning, we have transmitted to you a letter exercising our rights under 660 to subpoena documents and witnesses. we take this step because you have filled to ensure fairness and objectivity in this inquiry. as such, we need to subpoena hunter biden and the whistle-blower for closed door depositions as well as relevant documents from the dnc, hunter biden's firm, rosemont zeneca, and the whistle-blower. in the interest of some, basic level of fairness, we expect you
to concur with these subpoenas. i'll submit that letter for the record, and yield back the balance of my time. >> i thank the gentleman. we are joined this afternoon by ambassador gordon sondland. i'm sorry, this morning. it was a long day yesterday. gord gordon sondland is the u.s. representative to the european union with the rank of ambassador. ambassador sondland was the founder and ceo of prominence hotels and national operator of full service hotels. ambassador sondland was engaged in charitable enterprises. two final points before our witness is sworn, first witness depositions as part of this inquiry were in unclassified -- were unclassified in nature and all open hearings will be held at at the unclassified level. any information that may touch on classified information will be addressed separately.
second, congress will not tolerate any reprisal, threat of reprisal or attempt to retaliate against any u.s. government official testifying before congress including you or any of your colleagues. if you would please rise and raise your right hand, i will begin by swearing you in. do you swear or affirm that the testimony you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? >> i do. >> let the record show the witness has answered in the affirmati affirmative. thank you and please be seated. microphone is without objection, your written statement will be made part of the record, and with that, ambassador sondland, you are now recognized for your opening statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman and thank you ranking member nunes. i appreciate the opportunity to speak again to the members of this committee. first, let me offer my thanks to
the men and women of the u.s. department of state who have committed their professional lives to support the foreign policy work of the united states. in particular, i want to thank my staff at the u.s. mission to the european union. your integrity, dedication and hard work often performed without public acclaim or recognition serve as a shining example of true public service, and i am personally grateful to work beside you each and every day. it is my honor to serve as the u.s. ambassador to the european union. the u.s. mission to the eu is the direct link between the united states and the european union and its members. america's longest standing allies and one of the largest economic blocks in the world. every day, i work to support a
strong, united and peaceful europe. strengthening our ties with europe serves both american and european goals as we together promote political stability and economic prosperity around the world. i expect that few americans have heard my name before these events. so before i begin my substantive testimony, please let me share some of my personal background. my parents fled europe during the holocaust, escaping the atrocities of that time, my parents left germany for uruguay, and then in 1953, emigrated to seattle, washington where i was born and raised. like so many immigrants, my family was eager for freedom and you hungry for opportunity. they raised my sister and me to be humble, hardworking and patriotic. and i am forever grateful for the sacrifices they made on our
behalf. public service has always been important to me. as a lifelong republican, i have contributed to initiatives of both republican and democratic administrations. in 2003, i served as a member of the transition team for oregon democratic governor. the governor also appointed me to serve on various statewide boards. in 2007, president george w. bush appointed me as a member of the commission on white house fellows. i worked with president bush on charitable events for his foundation's military service initiative, and i also worked briefly with former vice president biden's office in connection with the vice president's nationwide anti-cancer initiative at a local northwest hospital. and of course, the highest honor
in my public life came when president trump asked me to serve as the united states ambassador to the european union. the senate confirmed me as the ambassador on a bipartisan voice vote, and i assumed the role in brussels on july 9, 2018. although today is my first public testimony on the ukraine matters, this is not my first time cooperating with this committee. as you know, i have already provided ten hours of deposition testimony, and i did so despite directives from the white house and the state department that i refuse to appear as many others have done. i agreed to testify because i respect the gravity of the moment and i believe i have an obligation to account fully for my role in these events. but i also must acknowledge that
this process has been challenging, and in many respects, less than fair. i have not had access to all of my phone records, state department emails and many, many other state department documents, and i was told i could not work with my eu staff to pull together the relevant files and information. having access to the state department materials would have been very helpful to me in trying to reconstruct with whom i spoke and met, and when and what was said. as ambassador i have had hundreds of meetings and calls with individuals, but i'm not a note taker or a memo writer. never have been. my job requires that i speak with heads of state, senior government officials, members of the cabinet, the president, almost each and every day.
talking with foreign leaders might be memorable to some people, but this is my job. i do it all the time. my lawyers and i have made multiple requests to the state department and the white house for these materials. yet these materials were not provided to me, and they have also refused to share these materials with this committee. these documents are not classified, and in fairness -- and in fairness, should have been made available. in the absence of these materials, my memory admittedly has not been perfect, and i have no doubt that a more fair, open and orderly process of allowing me to read the state department records and other materials would have made this process far more transparent. i don't sfweintend to repeat my prior opening statement or try to summarize ten hours of
deposition testimony, however, a few critical points have been obscured by noise over the last few days and weeks, and i'm worried that the bigger picture is being ignored. so let me make a few key points. first, secretary perry, ambassador volker and i worked with mr. rudy giuliani on ukraine matters at the express direction of the president of the united states. we did not want to work with mr. giuliani. simply put, we were playing the hand we were dealt. we all understood that if we refused to work with mr. giuliani, we would lose a very important opportunity to cement relations between the united states and ukraine. so we followed the president's orders. second, although we disagreed
with the need to involve mr. giuliani, at the time we did not believe that his role was improper. as i previously testified, if i had known of all of mr. giuliani's dealings or his associations with individuals, some of whom are now under criminal indictment, i personally would not have acquiesced to his participation. still, given what we knew at the time, what we were asked to do did not appear to be wrong. third, let me say precisely because we did not think that we were engaging in improper behavior, we made every effort to ensure that the relevant decision-makers at the national security council and the state department knew the important
details of our efforts. the suggestion that we were engaged in some irregular or rogue diplomacy is absolutely false. i have now identified certain state department emails and messages that provide contemporaneous support for my view. these emails show that the leadership of the state department, the national security council and the white house were all informed about the ukraine efforts from may 23, 2019 until the security aid was released on september 11, 2019. i will quote from some of those messages with you shortly. fourth, as i testified previously, as i testified previously, mr. giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo for
arranging a white house visit for president zelensky. mr. giuliani demanded that ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election dnc server and burisma. mr. giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the united states and we knew these investigations were important to the president. fifth, in july and august of 2019, we learned that the white house had also suspended security aid to ukraine. i was adamantly opposed to any suspension of aid. i w i was adamantly opposed to any suspensi suspension of aid as ukrainians needed those funds to fight against russian aggression. i tried diligently to ask why the aid was suspended, but i
never received a clear answer. still haven't to this day. in the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, i later came to believe that the resumption of aid would not occur until there was a public statement from ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 elections and burisma as mr. giuliani had demanded. i shared concerns of the potential quid pro quo regarding the security aid with senator ron johnson, and i also shared my concerns with the ukrainians. finally, at all times i was acting in good faith. i was acting in good faith. as a presidential appointee, i followed the directions of the president. we worked with mr. giuliani because the president directed us to do so.
we had no desire to set any conditions. we had no desire to set any conditions on the ukrainians. indeed my own personal view which i shared repeatedly with others was that the white house and security assistance should have proceeded without preconditions of any kind. we were working to overcome the problems given the fact as they existed. our only interest and my only interest was to advance longstanding u.s. policy and to support ukraine's fragile democracy. now let me provide additional details, specifically about ukraine and my involvement. first, my very first days as ambassador to the eu which was
starting back in july of 2018, ukraine has featured prominently in my broader portfolio ukraine's political and economic development are critical to the longstanding and long-lasting stability of europe. moreover, ukraine and crimea remains one of the most significant security crises for europe and the united states. our efforts to counterbalance an aggressive russia depend in substantial part on a strong ukraine. on april 21, 2019, volodymyr zelensky was elected president of ukraine in an historic election. with the express support of secretary pompeo, i attended president zelensky's inauguration on may 20th as part of u.s. delegation which was led
by energy secretary rick perry. the u.s. delegation also included senator johnson, j ukraine special envoy volker, and alex vindman, the security counsel. my attendance at the inauguration was not my first involvement with ukraine. as i testified previously, just four days after assuming my post as ambassador in july of 2018, i received an official delegation from the government of then-ukraine president petro poroshenko. the meeting took place at the u.s. mission in brussels and was prearranged by my career eu staff, and i have had several meetings since then in brussels. later in february of 2019, i worked well with u.s. ambassador marie yovanovitch in making my first official visit to ukraine
for a u.s. navy visit to the strategic black sea port of odessa. the reason i raised these prior activities, the meetings in brussels, my visit to odessa, is to emphasize that ukraine has been apart of my portfolio for the very first days of mine as u.s. ambassador. any claim that i somehow muscled my way into the ukraine relationship is simply false. during the zelensky inauguration on may 20th, the u.s. delegation developed a very positive view of the ukraine government. we were impressed by president zelens zelensky's desire to promote a stronger relationship with the united states. we admired his commitment to reform and we were excited about the possibility of ukraine making the changes necessary to
support a greater western economic investment, and we were excited that ukraine might after years and years of lip service, finally get serious about addressing its own well known corruption problems. with that enthusiasm, we returned to the white house on may 23rd to brief president trump. we advised the president of the strategic importance of ukraine, and the value of strengthening the relationship with president zelensky. to support this reformer, we asked the white house for two things. first, a working phone call between presidents trump and zelensky, and second, a working oval office visit. in our view, both were vital to cementing the u.s./ukraine relationship. demonstrating support for ukraine in the face of russian aggression and advancing broader
u.s. foreign policy interests. unfortunately president trump was skeptical. he expressed concerns that the ukrainian government was not serious about reform, and he even mentioned that ukraine tried to take him down in the last election. in response to our persistent efforts in that meeting to change his views, president trump directed us to, quote, talk with rudy. we understood that talk with rudy meant talk with mr. rudy giuliani, the president's personal lawyer. let me say again, we weren't happy with the president's directive to talk with rudy. we did not want to involve mr. giuliani. i believed then as i do now that the men and women of the state department, not the president's personal lawyer, should take responsibility for ukraine
matters. nonetheless, based on the president's direction, we were faced with a choice. we could abandon the efforts to schedule the white house phone call and a white house visit between presidents trump and zelensky which was unquestionably in our foreign policy interest, or we could as preside t had directed, and talk with rudy. we chose the latter course not because we liked it, but because it was the only constructive path open to us. over the course of the next several months, secretary perry, ambassador volker and i were in communication with mr. giuliani. secretary perry volunteered to make the initial calls with mr. giuliani given their prior relationship. ambassador volker made several of the early calls and generally
informed us of what was discussed. i first communicated with mr. giuliani in early august, several months later. mr. giuliani emphasized that the president wanted a public statement from president zelensky committing ukraine to look into the corruption issues. mr. giuliani specifically mentioned the 2016 election, including the dnc server and burisma as two topics of importance to the president. we kept the leadership of the state department and the nsc informed of our activities, and that included communications with secretary of state pompeo, his counselor, ulrich brechbuhl, lisa kenna, and also communications with ambassador bolt bolton, dr. hill, mr. morrison and their staff at the nsc.
they knew what we were doing, and why. on july 10, 2019, junior ukrainian national security officials met with ambassador bolton, ambassador volker, dr. hill, secretary perry, myself and several others in washington, d.c. during that meeting, we all discussed the importance of the two action items i identified earlier. one, a working phone call and two, a white house meeting between presidents trump and zelensky. from my perspective, the july 10th meeting was a positive step towards accomplishing our shared goals. while i am now aware of accounts of the meeting from lieutenant colonel vindman, their recollections don't square with my own or with those of
ambassador volker or secretary perry. i recall mentioning the prerequisite of investigations before any white house call or meeting, but i do not recall any yelling or screaming or abrupt terminations as others have said. instead, after the meeting, ambassador bolton walked outside with our group and we all took some great pictures together outside on the white house lawn. more important, those recollections of protest do not square with the documentary record of our interactions with the nsc in the days and weeks that followed. we kept the nsc apprised of our efforts including specifically our efforts to secure a public statement from the ukrainians that would satisfy president trump's concerns. for example, on july 13th, and this is three days after that
july 10th meeting, i emailed tim morrison. he had just taken over dr. hill's post as the nscnsc euras director. i met him with these words. the call between zelensky and potu potus, president of the united states, should happen before 7/21, which is the parliamentary elections in ukraine. sole purpose is for zelensky to give potus assurances of new sheriff in town, corruption ending, unbundling moving forward and and i emphasize, any hampered investigations will be allowed to move forward transparently. goal is for potus to invite him to oval. volker, perry, bolton and i strongly recommend.
mr. morrison acknowledged and said, thank you, and specifically noted that he was tracking these issues. again, there was no secret regarding moving forward, and the discussion of investigations. moreover, i have reviewed other state department documents, some of which are not currently in the public domain, detailing mr. giuliani's efforts. for example, on july 10th, the very same day that ambassador volker, secretary perry and i were meeting with the ukraine officials in washington, ambassador taylor received a communication that mr. giuliani was still talking with ukrainian prosecutor yuriy lutsenko. in whatsapp messages with ambassador volker and i, ambassador taylor wrote to us as follows. just had a meeting with andriy
and vadym, referring to ukraine forei 's foreign minister. very concerned about what he told him. meaning according to rg, this zelensky/potus will not happen. volker responded, good grief. please deal vadym to let u.s. government representatives speak for the u.s. lutsenko has his own self-interest here. taylor confirmed that he had communicated that message to the ukrainians, and he added, i briefed ulrich this afternoon on this. referring to state department counselor ulrich brechbuhl. again, everyone's in the loop. three things are critical about this whatsapp exchange. first, while the ukrainians were in washington at the white
house, mr. giuliani was communicating with the ukrainians without our knowledge. ambassador taylor, ambassador volker and i were all surprised by this. second, mr. giuliani was communicating with the reportedly corrupt ukrainian prosecutor lutsenko, and discussing whether a zelens zelensky/trump meeting was going to happen again without our knowledge, and third, with this alarming news ambassador taylor briefed ulrich brechbuhl who is the counselor to secretary of state pompeo. even as late as september 24th of this year, secretary pompeo was directing kurt volker to speak with mr. giuliani. in a whatsapp message, kurt volker told me, in part, spoke with rudy, as per s. s is the secretary.
spoke with rudy per guidance from s. look. we tried our best to fix the problem. while keeping the state department and the nsc closely apprised of the challenges we faced. on july 25th, presidents trump and zelensky had their official call. i was not on the call, and i don't think i was invited to be on the call. in fact, i first read the transcript on september 25th, the day it was publicly released. all i had heard at that time was that the call had gone well. looking back, i find it very odd, very odd that neither i nor ambassador taylor nor ambassador volker ever received a detailed readout of that call with the biden references. now there are people who say they had concerns about the call, but no one shared any concerns about the call with me
at the time, which frankly would have been very helpful to know. on july 26th, ambassador taylor, ambassador volker and i were all in kyiv to meet with president zelensky. the timing of that trip immediately after the call between presidents trump and zelensky, was entirely, entirely coincidental. the kyiv meetings had been scheduled well before the date that the white house finally fixed the call. during our kyiv meeting, i do not recall president zelensky discussing the substance of his july 25th call with president trump. nor did he discuss any request to investigate vice president biden which we all later learned was discussed on the july 25th call, sand this is consistent with ambassadors volker and taylor. after the zelensky meeting, i
also met with zelensky's senior aide, andriy yermak. i don't really the specifics of our conversation, but i'm sure the phone call was probably on the agenda of our meeting. also on july 26th, shortly after their kyiv meetings, i spoke by phone with president trump. the white house which is finally, timely sharing certain call dates and times with my attorneys con fimfirms this. the call lasted five minutes. i remember i was at a restaurant in kyiv, and i have no reason to doubt that this conversation included the subject of investigations. again given mr. giuliani's demand that president zelensky make a public statement about investigations, i knew that investigations were important to president trump. we did not discuss any classified investigation. other witnesses have recently