tv MSNBC Live With Ali Velshi MSNBC November 20, 2019 12:00pm-1:00pm PST
obligation to account fully for my role in these events. did by obligation, you mean simply your legal obligation? or did you mean something bigger? >> well, both my legal obligation and my moral obligation. >> your moral obligation? i actually want to present an alternative theory. your family came here escaping the holocaust via uruguay. and your parents moved lucy and later you here where, frankly, you've been an american success story. through dent of hard work and innovation, good idea, and knack to hire the right people and some luck, you've built a considerable successful business. one that i know for a fact would make your parents proud. they came here because they knew
that it was here that they could have freedom that they had not enjoyed, security that they had not enjoyed, and opportunity that they had not enjoyed. and no doubt, on some level, you're grateful and it's created a sense of patriotism in you. is that fair to say? >> very fair. >> why then, sir, with your courage to come before us does that same standard not apply to mr. mulvaney, mr. duffy, mr. pompeo, mr. bolton, mr. giuliani? why shouldn't those same sentiments beat within their hearts to do their patriotic duty and do what you have done, sir? indeed, why doesn't that same standard apply to the president of the united states? >> i wish i could answer. >> i suspect you can't because there is no good answer. but i do appreciate your
willingness to come here today. with that, i yield back, mr. chairman. >> thank you, congressman. mr. jordan. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i ask unanimous consent to enter into record a statement from chief of staff mick mulvaney. >> without objection. we haven't seen all the statements but presume they are accurate and no objection. >> thank you. ambassador, president trump's not a big fan of foreign aid, is that right? >> i don't know if that's a fair characterization. i think he's careful. >> express concerns about foreign aid going to certain countries. fair enough. and he knew ukraine was corrupt, is that right? >> he believed ukraine was corrupt. >> yeah and he wanted europe to do more? >> definitely. >> definitely wanted europe to do more. and the president had a belief that ukrainian government officials, some senior ukrainian government officials, supported his opponent in 2016. won't go into all the details but i think of the one member of parliament who said the majority of ukrainian politicians want hilary clinton to win so he had that belief as well. and obviously, he understood
what was happening. we got a brand new guy in ukraine. this zelensky guy wins, right? >> right. >> and his party takes over and president trump wants to see with all these other things that are of concern to him, he wants to see if this new guy's actually, as i like to say, the real deal. a real reformer and actually going to deal with the corruption problem. so aid gets held up for 55 days. gets held up on june 18th -- excuse me, july 18th -- and then is released on september 11th. but it seems to me, more important than the 55-day pause is the 14 days when ukraine realized aid was held up on the 29th. we've now had you testify to that. the two witnesses yesterday testified that. the politico article. so aid gets held up on august -- excuse me, ukraine learns aid is held on august 29th. and then, of course, released on -- released on september 11th. in those 14 days, there are three important meetings with senior government officials and president zelensky. there's the august 29th meeting
between ambassador bolton and president zelensky. there's the meeting september 1st that you're part of, vice president pence meeting with president zelensky. and then there's the meeting on september 5th where u.s. senators murphy and johnson meet with president zelensky. none of those meetings, none of those meetings, did any linkage to security assistance dollars and announcement or start of any investigation ever come up. none of them. but it seems to me the one that's most important is probably the one we've talked least about and that's the september 5th meeting. because that's actually a meeting where there is no one -- well, it's much more congressional focused than white house focused. this is the meeting where senators murphy, senators murphy and johnson, bipartisan, meet with president zelensky. and what's interesting is what both senators in the last two days have given us letters recounting what happened in that meeting. senator murphy said i broached
the topic of pressure on zelensky from rudy giuliani and the president's -- to launch investigations into trump's political rival. murphy brought it up. you got two senators who both strong supporters of money going to ukraine. these guys are all for it. and senator murphy, the democrat, even brings up the issue everyone's been talking about. it seems to me if ever there was gonna be a time where the president of ukraine says, guys, you don't know what i'm dealing with, i'm getting pressure from the president of the united states. he wants me to do this. it seems if ever there was a time that the president of ukraine, the new guy, who now knows the aid has been on hold. if ever there was a time to bring it up, that would've been the time. but guess what? at no time, senator johnson tells us, at no time on this meeting or any other meeting on this trip was there any mention by zelensky or any other
ukrainian that they were feeling pressure to do anything in return for military aid. not even, senator johnson says, not even after murphy warned them about getting involved in the election. so murphy gave this big deal on giuliani and nothing. nothing. guess what murphy also said? i do not dispute any of senator johnson's factual representations regarding the meeting. if ever it was gonna happen, september 155th was the day. no one from the white house there. not ambassador bolton. not vice president. no one there. but even then, it didn't happen and we got all kinds of other meetings when it didn't happen. and of course, as you testified earlier, there was never announcement. you said there were three quid pro quos but there weren't because there was never announcement. i mean, this is as clear as it gets but these guys want to keep stirring it up based on no direct evidence whatsoever.
and the best direct evidence we have is actually what the president told you. i want nothing. there is no quid pro quo. i want zelensky to do exactly what he campaigned on. and when that became clear to us, guess what? they got the money. they got the money. god bless america. it all worked out. right? this is crazy what we're going through because the facts are so darn clear. i yield back. >> mr. welch. >> thank you, mr. chairman. ambassador, i'm impressed with your career. been very successful in business. i'm impressed with your commitment to public service. and i was very impressed with your forthright statements so thank you for that. you said it was the highest honor for you to have that opportunity to have this appointment to serve as ambassador to the eu, correct? >> correct. >> and you quickly became very involved in the ukraine policy. and that policy has been described by you and others was
really very clear. help ukraine fight internal corruption and resist external aggression, correct? >> correct. >> and this congress, i think with the support of everybody up here, republicans and democrats, and in fact with a significant amount of republican leadership, authorized the release of military aid, right? >> right. >> and you and others who were working with you believed it was very important to the new government, president zelensky, to have that white house meeting to show our support and send a signal to russia, correct? >> that's correct. >> and from hearing you and from hearing our other witnesses, ambassador yovanovitch, ambassador volker, ambassador taylor, there was a concerted team effort on your part to get that meeting and release that aid, correct? >> well, there was always a concerted effort on my part to get the meeting.
that was my -- that was my singular narrow focus was to get the meeting. >> right and that was shared by all of the colleagues i just mentioned, correct? >> yes. >> all right. and incredibly urgent, ambassador taylor described going to the front where ukrainians were dying. 14,000 had died and it was an existential issue for them that they get the aid. and you were well aware of that and shared i'm sure ambassador taylor's concern, is that correct? >> i did. >> right. and -- and your forthright testimony, you had -- you've -- you've testified and it's really with the benefit of hindsight because you couldn't piece it all together. you know, giuliani knew in real time what you were trying to figure out as you went along, is that a fair statement? >> i think so. >> one, you testified that you acted on the orders of the president. that was you acting on his orders, correct? >> correct. >> and you said quite explicitly there was a quid pro quo.
>> relating to the meeting and the burisma dnc. >> that's exactly right. no meeting -- no meeting unless there's an investigation, right? >> that's what we were told by mr. giuliani. >> all right. and mr. giuliani, you absolute i -- >> wait. no meeting unless there was announcement of investigation. >> okay. thank you. and i asked -- by the way, did the efforts of mr. giuliani authorized by the president impede the efforts that you and others were making to try to advance what you thought was ukraine policy? >> not initially. we were just working toward -- >> ultimately? >> well, ultimately, nothing happened. >> right. and giuliani was the one who was absolutely insistent on the meeting, correct? >> giuliani was insistent on the -- >> investigations. >> investigation. yeah. >> all right. now, i asked this of ambassador taylor or ambassador volker
if -- if the mayor of portland said to the police chief, i'm not going to authorize your budget unless you agree to do an investigation into my political opponent, would that be wrong? >> of course. >> and likewise, if it were the governor of the state of oregon doing the same thing, correct? >> correct. >> and would that same rule apply to the president of the united states? >> to investigate a political opponent? yes. >> that's correct. >> yes. >> all right. so that's the question here. the president, in his phone call, he asked president zelensky, who desperately needed the release of that aid, who desperately needed the white house meeting, to do an investigation and it was focused on the bidens and hunter biden and burisma and crowd strike. i mean, you don't have to answer that. the president's words speak for themselves. do you feel, as a person who
went into public service to serve, who had a team of people that shared your desire to help ukraine, do you feel in any way betrayed by the double dealing of the president? it's a real question. >> i don't want to characterize. >> you don't have to characterize him. i'm just -- you know, we all if you get a chance to do something useful, we like to do it. and there's no better joy than when you're doing it with other people. >> mr. welch, let me answer your question this way. i would have preferred and i'm sure everyone would have preferred that the president simply met with mr. zelensky right away. our assessment of mr. zelensky was that he and the president would get on famously. he was smart. he was funny. he was charming. he was the kind of person the president would like. and once the two of them got together, we thought the chemistry would take over and good things would happen between the u.s. and ukraine relationship. that's why we were pushing for a
quick, unconditional meeting. >> so it's unfortunate that he was unwilling to meet without the commitment on the investigation. thank you, ambassador. >> thank you. >> mr. maloney. >> mr. ambassador, let's pick up right there. you would have preferred if they just had the meeting with the president of ukraine without these conditions. is that what you're saying? >> yes. >> but there were these conditions. and it involved an investigation, right? >> well, remember, the -- the initial invitation that the president sent to president zelensky had no conditions. >> but that -- that didn't last very long, did it? and then there were conditions. this is not controversial at this point i don't believe, sir. there were conditions that the president wanted investigations, right? >> right. >> and you thought they were of burisma and the 2016 election. >> correct. >> we now know of course that burisma means bidens, right? >> today, we do. >> and we can probably, from today until the end of time, set aside any confusion that when somebody's asking for an investigation of burisma over the summer, what they really
meant was bidens. right? >> with 20/20 hindsight, yes. >> right. with hindsight. and of course, on the day after the president's famous call, you're having lunch with david holmes. we've covered this. and he overhears your conversation. and i know you said you have no reason to dispute what mr. holmes said. and i think you said you wouldn't have any reason to believe -- to -- to think he didn't speak about investigations with the president. the president raised investigations with you, right? >> correct. >> on the 26th? >> correct. >> and we now know of course that was about the bidens and burisma and 2016, right? i mean, i know you didn't know that at the time. that's your testimony. >> i understood it meant to mean burisma. >> mr. holmes said you said bidens right after that but you don't recall that, right? >> that's correct. >> do you dispute it? >> i do. >> okay but you don't recall it but we know that's what the president meant, right? and you do confirm that he wanted to talk about investigations with you. >> well, now with the complete picture what he said 24 hours before, yes, it makes sense. >> i understand. and you've said it's wrong to
investigate political opponents. we've agreed on that today, haven't we, sir? >> yes. >> and yet, of course that's what we know the president was asking for. let me ask you something. who would have benefitted from an investigation of the president's political opponents? >> i don't want to characterize who would've and who would not have. >> i know you don't want to, sir. that's my question. would you -- would you answer it for me? >> restate your question. >> who would benefit from an investigation of the president's political opponent? >> well, presumably, that -- the person who asked for the investigation. >> who is that? >> if the president asked for the investigation, it would be he. >> well, it's not a hypothetical, is it, sir? we just went around this track, didn't we? the president asked you about investigations. he was talking about the bidens. when he asked you about the biden investigation, who was he seeking to benefit? >> he did not ask me about the biden investigation. >> when he asked you about investigations. >> said that about 19 times.
>> sir, we just went through this. when he asked you about investigations, which we all agree now means the bidens. we just did this about 30 seconds ago. it -- it's a pretty simple question, isn't it? i guess -- i guess i'm having trouble why you can't just say -- >> when he asked about investigations, i assumed he meant -- >> i know what you assumed. but who would benefit from an investigation of the bidens? >> they're two different questions. >> i'm just asking you one. who would benefit from an investigation into the bidens? >> i assume president trump would benefit. >> there we have it. see? didn't hurt a bit, did it? didn't hurt a bit. but let me ask you something. >> mr. maloney, excuse me, i've been very forthright and i really resent what you're trying to -- >> fair enough. you've been very forthright. this is your third try to do so, sir. didn't work so well the first time, did it? we had a little declaration come in after. you remember that? and now, we're here a third time and we got a doozy of a statement from you this morning. there's a whole bunch of stuff
you don't recall so all due respect, we appreciate your candor but let's be really clear on what it took to get it out of you. so my question is, when the president's putting pressure on the ukrainians withholding a meeting to get this investigation that you and i agree would benefit him politically, what kind of -- what kind of position does that put the ukrainians in, sir? >> a terrible position. >> terrible position. why? >> why does it put them in a terrible position? >> why? >> well, obviously, they're not receiving ultimately what they thought was coming to them. and they're put in a -- in a position that jeopardizes their security. >> a position that jeopardizes their security and they're being asked to do an investigation to help their security essentially that would benefit the president politically. in other words, you might say they're being asked to give him
a personal benefit in exchange for an official act. is that a fair summary? >> in your hypothetical, that's correct. >> it's not a hypothetical, sir. this is real life. were they asked to give him a personal benefit in exchange for an official act? >> sir, i am not going to go around in circles with you. please, be clear about what you're asking me. >> my time's expired, sir. thank you for your appearance. >> ms. demings. >> good afternoon, ambassador. it's good to see you again. >> thank you. >> do you have any knowledge of a possible meeting on or around may 7th involving then president elect zelensky and several of his aides to discuss how to handle pressure from president trump and mr. giuliani about investigating the bidens? >> i don't recall such a meeting. >> you don't recall such a
meeting? you don't recall hearing anything about such a meeting? if you don't have firsthand knowledge. >> well, if i don't have -- if i don't have records, schedules, i don't -- right now, i don't recall anything about such a meeting. >> ambassador, in the may -- >> was this a meeting among the ukrainians? >> it's a meeting among the ukrainians involving then president elect zelensky, so this would have been early on in his presidency with several aides to discuss how to handle pressure from president trump and mr. giuliani about investigating the bidens. >> yeah. i don't recall such a meeting. >> you don't remember that. ambassador, in the may -- i believe it was the may 23rd meeting, you talked about how the president categorized ukraine. what he thought about ukraine. i believe that meeting was on may 23rd. did you ever hear president zelensky relay any concerns about you about how he felt about how the united states
viewed him? whether he was being taken seriously or any concerns about being used as a tool for political reasons? >> well, i saw that in an e-mail from ambassador taylor. we obviously tried to relay to president zelensky the glass half full version of how the united states felt about ukraine, not the glass half empty version, which is we're here for you. we support you. and we're trying very hard to get you the meeting with president trump. >> so after hearing that from ambassador taylor, you relayed -- you tried to reassure president zelensky that america was truly on their side. is that what you just said? >> i think we've been trying to assure president zelensky throughout his entire -- his entire term as a president. >> ambassador, i know you said you don't quite remember exactly when you came to the realization that burisma actually meant bidens. but back on may 6th, when asked about a news report about the
role of former vice president's son on burisma, president trump told fox news that it was and i quote, a major scandal, major problem. on may 9th, "the new york times" reported that rudy giuliani planned to travel to ukraine and quote, shortly to meet with president zelensky to urge him to pursue the 2016 election and the involvement of hunter biden in burisma unquote. are you saying that you do not -- did not realize at that time, we're talking about on may 9th of this year, that mr. giuliani wanted to urge president zelensky to pursue the 2016 election and the involvement of hunter biden of burisma? >> i do now but i did not then. >> you did not know that -- and i believe you said earlier that you did not pay any attention or much attention at all to any of the numerous news reports of the person you were directed by the president to work with.
when he was on television over and over and over again talking about hunter biden and burisma. >> no, i did not. >> on september 9th, in a text from ambassador taylor, he said something to the effect or are we now saying that aid is tied to investigations? and i believe you text back, call me. then you had a conversation with president trump. and president trump said something to the effect that there's no quid pro quo. do you know what prompted him to say that? you asked him what do you want? and he goes directly to there is no quid pro quo. as opposed to going directly to the list of things that he wanted. what -- what prompted him to use that term? >> i have no clue. >> did you discuss your conversation or your text from ambassador taylor with president trump before he made that statement? >> i did not. i asked a very open-ended question. what do you want from ukraine? >> and you remember that directly, although there are
several other conversations that you cannot recall because you don't have your notes or your documents or your e-mails or other information. but you remember that call specifically, exactly what the president said to you in response to your question about what do you want? why is that? >> i remember the first girl i kissed. i mean, i remember -- >> well, i won't say that. but anyway -- >> i remembered that conversation because, as i said, it was a pretty intense, short conversation. >> and tell me again about the conversation you had at the restaurant that was overheard by mr. holmes because that was a conversation with the president. tell me about that conversation with the president. what was said on the phone? >> again, i don't remember the specifics. i'm -- i'm being guided by what mr. holmes testified to. i said i didn't dispute the basic, you know, subject of the conversation. as i said, we were talking primarily about asap rocky.
that was a completely unrelated matter and i think the president may have brought up, you know, how to go with zelensky or is he going to do the investigations? which we'd been talking about for -- for weeks. and then as i said, i dispute -- is it mr. holmes characterization of what i said afterwards. >> thank you, ambassador. mr. chair, i yield back. >> christian murphy. >> good afternoon, ambassador. i'm just going to pick up on that september 9th conversation which the president allegedly said i want nothing. i don't want a quid pro quo. i presume that on this september 9th conversation, the president did not mention that that was the same day that we launched a congressional investigation into whether there was a quid pro quo, did he say that to you? >> again, i know all of that today but he did not -- we didn't have a time to talk about things like that. >> and i presume he also didn't mention the whistle-blower complaint that also alleged that there was a quid pro quo that
day. >> he did not. >> okay. so you can't rule out the possibility that the reason why he started talking that way on that day is because of the congressional investigation. >> i can't rule that out. >> you know, the inauguration of president zelensky was on may 20th, correct? >> correct. >> as you stated, you attended this inauguration with senator johnson, secretary perry, lieutenant colonel vindman, and others, right? >> correct. >> but vice president pence was supposed to originally attend that, correct? >> i believe so. >> we learned from jennifer williams, a witness who testified, that it was at the president's direction on may 13th that the vice president not attend. she said quote, that according to the vice president's chief of staff, the president determined that the vice president would not go. do you know why the vice president did not attend the inauguration? >> no clue. >> i want to point to a new york times article from last week that says that lev parnas's
attorney. you have you have heard of this gentleman lev parnas. an associate of rudy giuliani. >> only what i read recently. >> recently indicted. mr. parnas told a representative of the incoming government, the zelensky government, that it had to announce an investigation into trump's political rival, joseph r. biden and his son, or else vice president mike pence would not attend the swearing in of the new president and the united states would freeze aid. did the vice president not attend possibly because this investigation had not yet been initiated by the zelensky government? >> i have no idea. >> you can't rule it out, right? >> again, i have no idea. >> you have no basis for ruling it out, however, correct? >> all i know is that the leader of the delegation was secretary perry, who invited me along. >> interestingly, ambassador sondland, since you came forward in these proceedings, others in the administration have tried to distance themselves from you.
you know, on october 14th, rudy giuliani told "the washington post" that sondland quote, seemed to be in charge closed quote of the effort to get ukrainian officials to publish -- or to publicly announce investigations. of course, that's false, correct? >> if i had been in charge, i would have asked president trump to have the meeting without preconditions and the meeting would have occurred a long time ago. >> that's exactly right. the president is the one that wanted these investigations, as we learn later on in -- in reading the july 25th call transcript, isn't that right? >> the president, through mr. giuliani, as conveyed through mr. giuliani, wanted the investigations. >> mr. tim morrison came in yesterday and his deposition testimony, as well as yesterday, disparaged you, too. he called you quote/unquote the gordon problem. >> that's what my wife calls me. maybe they're talking.
>> he -- >> should i be worried? >> maybe. you know, on october 8th of this year, the president tweeted that you are a really good man and a great american. and of course, on november 8th, one month later, he -- he said let me just tell you. i hardly know the gentleman. >> easy come, easy go. >> you know, what i'm concerned about, you were part of the three amigos. but what i'm really concerned about, ambassador sondland, is that the president and the good folks over here, my republican colleagues, are now casting you as the one amigo. the one lonely amigo they're going to throw under the bus. but the truth is that, as you said in your opening statement, the suggestion that you were engaged in some rogue diplomacy
or irregular channel of diplomacy is quote/unquote absolutely false. isn't that right? >> that's correct. >> the presumption that military aid was conditioned on investigations was based on mulvaney's statement that we saw on the video, isn't that right? >> well, i didn't have the benefit at that time of mulvaney's statement. >> but you would stand by the presumption that you had based on what you know now, right? >> correct. >> and on september 1, when you told andriy yermak your presumption, which you've told us about military aid being conditioned on the investigations, you then told mr. morrison what you told yermak. and morrison did not try to dispute your presumption, correct? >> i don't recall him disputing it. i think i went right over to him and -- and just repeated the conversation. >> and when you told vice president pence your concerns, he did not dispute that, as well? >> he didn't respond. he just listened.
>> and when you told secretary pompeo, that wasn't disputed as well? >> i don't recall. >> thank you. >> that concludes the member questioning. mr. nunes, do you have any closing remarks? >> just briefly, ambassador, i know you want to get on a plane so i want to thank you for your indulgence today. once again, the american people have seen another failure of their preposterous conspiracy theory, which that's if their conspiracy theory doesn't change between now and our next hearing, which is in a few hours from now. or another hour or so. and it keeps changing every day. the claim, ambassador, that you had an irregular -- you were accused of having an irregular channel, drug deals. now, supposedly, you're one amigo. nobody on this side of the aisle claimed you're one amigo. >> i lost my amigos? >> not from us. not from us. no bribes given to -- that you
made any bribes to the ukrainian people or to the ukrainian president. your co-conspirator, kurt volker. i find it remarkable and troubling how the democrats and their collaborators and the press have been able to vilify ambassador volker. who was supposed to work on these matters in ukraine, like you, ambassador. it was a very regular channel and no amount of story telling by the left and the democrats will change that. it was the regular channel. testimony received today was far from compelling, conclusive, and provides zero evidence of any of the crimes that have been alleged. in fact, ambassador sondland testified that he presumed the temporary pause in military aid was conditioned on ukraine carrying out the investigations
the democrats are desperate to portray as nefarious. the democrats have, as their custom, seized on this presumption as proof they can use it against the president. however, ambassador sondland testified in his deposition that when he asked president trump what do you want from ukraine? president trump replied, i want nothing. there is no quid pro quo. let me repeat. president trump said, i want nothing, there is no quid pro quo. this comes on the heels of the testimony by ambassador volker. that he saw no evidence of bribery, extortion, quid pro quo, or treasonous actions. we didn't get to ask him about obstruction of justice. we didn't know that was on the table until today. like the president's call with president zelensky, democrats want the american people to believe, as one democrat on this committee put it, that hearsay is much better than direct
evidence. and i think mr. ratcliff from texas laid out the direct evidence we have from your testimony today. nothing we have heard establishes a claim that the president acted improperly in his dealings with ukraine. and certainly, nothing has been presented to support anything near impeachment. in the meantime, mr. chair, we continue to have no answers to the questions that only you know. starting with who is the whistle-blower who gave birth to this hoax? and what was the nature of his coordination with the democrats on this committee? second, what is the full extent of ukraine's election meddling against the trump campaign in 2016? and finally, why did burisma hire hunter biden? what did he do for them? and did his position impact any u.s. government actions under the obama administration? another hearing in the books and no answers to basic three
material, factual questions that we need answers to. yield back and thank you, ambassador, for being here. >> thank you. >> i thank the ranking member for his remarks. ambassador sondland, thank you for your testimony today. this is a seminal moment in our investigation. and the evidence you have brought forward is deeply significant and troubling. it's been a long hearing and i know americans watching throughout the country may not have had the opportunity to watch all of it. so i'm going to go through a few of the highlights and i'm not going to try to paraphrase what you said. i'm going to refer to your opening statement. we all understood that if we refused to work with mr. giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the united states and ukraine. so we followed the president's orders. 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 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 that these investigations were important to the president. later, you testified, i tried diligently to ask why the aid was suspended but i never received a clear answer. in the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, i later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 election 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 concern with the ukrainians. so much for the ukrainians didn't know. you can't have a quid pro quo unless the ukrainians know. and you have testified today, ambassador, the ukrainians knew. you further testified, mr. giuliani emphasized that the president wanted a public statement from president zelensky committing ukraine to look into corruption issues. mr. giuliani specifically mentioned the 2016 election, including the dnc server and burisma as two topics of importance to the president. in reference to the july 10th meeting at the white house, which you attended with ambassador bolton and others and ukrainian delegation, you said, i recall mentioning the
prerequisite of investigations before any white house call or meeting. you further testified, again, mr. giuliani's demand that president zelensky make a public statement about investigations. i knew that the topic of investigations was important to president trump. you testified later, i know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question. was there a quid pro quo? as i testified previously with regard to the requested white house call and white house meeting, the answer is yes. we all understood these prerequisites for the white house call and white house meeting reflected president trump's desires and requirements.
later, on the subject of security aid, you testified in the absence of any credible explanation for the hold, i came to the conclusion that the aid, like the white house visit, was jeopardized in preparation for a -- the september 1 meeting in warsaw, i asked secretary pompeo whether a face-to-face conversation between trump with zelensky could help break the log jam. and this is from an e-mail that the state department refuses to provide to us but you have provided to us, ambassador. it reads, should we block time in warsaw for a short pull-aside for potus to meet zelensky? i would ask zelensky to look him in the eye, that is the president, and tell him that once ukraine's new justice folks are in place, in mid-september, that z should be able to move forward publicly with confidence
on those issues of importance to potus and to the united states. hopefully, that will break the log jam. and secretary pompeo's reply, yes, not what issues of importance to the potus. not what are you talking about, ambassador sondland? because secretary pompeo was on the july 25th phone call. he knew what issues were important to potus and there were two of them. the investigation into 2016 and the dnc server and the investigation into the bidens. by the end of august, you testified, my belief was that if ukraine did something to demonstrate a serious intention to fight corruption, specifically addressing burisma and the 2016 server, then the hold on military aid would be lifted. i mentioned to vice president pence before the meetings with ukrainians that i had concerns that the delay in aid had become
tied to the issue of investigations. and as you testified, he gave you no response. no what are you talking about, ambassador? how could that be, ambassador? how do we clear this up, ambassador? he merely nodded his head or took it in. and of course, the record of that 25th call between president trump and zelensky was in the vice president's reading book earlier. then you testified, my goal at the time was to do what was necessary to get the aid released. to break the log jam. i believe that the public statement we have been discussing for weeks was essential to advancing that goal. now, my colleagues seem to believe -- and let me add, too, about this call you had with the president. you have confirmed today, in addition to claiming there was no quid pro quo, the president was adamant that president zelensky had to quote clear things up and do it in public.
that's what you have confirmed. that is what you also told ambassador taylor. so he would deny there was a quid pro quo. but he was adamant that zelensky had to quote clear things up and do it in public. now, i've said a lot of things about president trump over the years. i have very strong feelings about president trump which are neither here nor there. but i will say this on the president's behalf. i do not believe that the president would allow himself to be led by the nose, by rudy giuliani or ambassador sondland or anybody else. i think the president was the one who decided whether a meeting would happen, whether aid would be lifted. not anyone who worked for him. and so the answer to the question, who was refusing the meeting with zelensky? that you believe should take place and ambassador volker
believes should take place and everybody believes should take place. the only question was when? who was the one standing in the way of that meeting? who was the one refusing to take that meeting? there's only one answer to that question and it's donald j. trump, 45th president of the united states. so who was holding up the military assistance? was it you, ambassador sondland? no, it wasn't. was it ambassador volker? no. was it ambassador taylor? no. was it deputy secretary kent? no. was it secretary of state pompeo? no. who had the decision to release the aid? it was one person, donald j. trump, president of the united states. now, my colleagues seem to think unless the president says the magic words i hereby bribed the ukrainians, that there's no evidence of bribery or other high crimes or misdemeanors. but let's look to the best evidence of what's in the president's head.
what's his intent? what's the reason behind the hold on the meeting and on the aid? let's look at what the president has to say. let's look at what's undisputed about what the president has to say. and you know how we know what the president has to say? not because what you have represented or others have represented but because we have a record of his conversation and with who? the one who really matters. with the other president, zelensky. and this is what he says. he says, rudy very much knows what's happening. and he is a very capable guy. this is after he says he wants a favor. and he goes into crowd strike in 2016. he says rudy giuliani very much knows what's happening and is a very capable guy. if you could speak to him, that would be great. the former ambassador from the united states, the woman was bad news and the people she was dealing with in ukraine were bad news. so i just want to let you know
that. the other thing, there's a lot of talk about biden's son. that biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that. so whatever you can do with the attorney general, that would be great. biden went around blackiragging he stopped the prosecution so if you could look into it, it sounds horrible to me. so what's in the president's mind when he has placed this otherwise inexplicable hold on the aid when he refuses to take the meeting? what's on his mind? biden. he makes that abundantly clear. i understand, ambassador, you said you didn't make the connection between burisma and biden. i will let the american people judge the credibility of that answer. but there's no mistaking what donald trump's interest was. there's no mistaking about what donald trump meant when he had that call with you on an unsecure phone as you're sitting there outdoor terrace in ukraine when the president said investigation, he meant biden. he made that abundantly clear to
the president of ukraine the day before. the question is not what the president meant. the question is not whether he was responsible for holding up the aid. he was. the question is not whether everybody knew it. apparently, they did. the question is, what are we prepared to do about it? is there any accountability? or are we forced to conclude that this is just now the world that we live in? when a president of the united states can withhold vital military aid from an ally at war with the russians, an ally fighting our fight too, to defend our country against russian aggression. are we prepared to say, in the words of mick mulvaney, get over it? or get used to it? we are not prepared to say that. we're not prepared to say that and i appreciate ambassador volker -- ambassador sondland -- i appreciate the fact that you
have not opined whether the president should be impeached or not be impeached or the impeachable offense of bribery or other crimes have been committed. that is for us to decide. in consultation with our constituents and our conscience. that is for us to decide. and much as my colleagues have said otherwise, this is not an easy decision for any of us. and much as my colleagues may say otherwise, this is not something we relish. for over a year, i resisted this whole idea of going down the road to impeachment. but it was made necessary and not by the whistle-blower but by the actions of the president. i'm continually struck how my colleagues would suggest that because the president got caught, we should ignore the fact that he was conditioning official acts in order to get
political favors. in order to get an investigation against his rival. getting caught is no defense. not to a violation of the constitution or to a violation of his oath of office. and it certainly doesn't give us a reason to ignore our own oath of office. we are adjourned. [ applause ] you do not have to be a card carrying member of the political nerds club to have found what we have witnessed today on live television riveting. we have been watching testimony in president donald trump's impeachment inquiry that has the potential to change everything. gordon sondland.
he's donald trump's hand-picked ambassador to the eu. stating explicitly in testimony today that military aid and a trump/zelensky meeting were conditioned on a commitment to investigations sought by president trump. he suggested officials at the highest levels of donald trump's white house and cabinet were fully aware and briefed on every step of the pressure campaign against ukraine. sondland also drawing a direct line to president trump. saying that he was the one directing his aides to coordinate with rudy giuliani. the man allegedly behind the quid pro quo. it's significant because sondland is the only witness so far who had a direct and seemingly open line of communication with the president himself. i'm very lucky to be joined by my colleague ari melber, msnbc anchor and chief legal correspondent. msnbc legal analyst, maya wily, who previously worked in the civil division of the u.s. attorney's office in the
southern district of new york. former u.s. attorney and former senior fbi official, nbc news and msnbc legal analyst, chuck rosenberg. politics editor for the root and msnbc political contributor, jason johnson. we are also joined by former u.s. ambassador to russia and msnbc international affairs analyst michael mcfaul. paul butler, georgetown school of law professor. former federal prosecutor and an nbc news and msnbc legal analyst. let me start with you, ari melber. we've been staring at the trees. there's a instinct to sometimes look at the trees and skip over the forest. but what do we see when we look at the whole picture today? >> when you look at the whole picture today, you have the star witness to a bribery plot and he's also now made himself new today the star witness to obstruction article of impeachment against president trump. i have not seen testimony like this to date in the trump era. not comey, not the diplomats last week who were impressive in their own way.
i have never seen a day in the trump presidency like this ever. and like you, i live and breathe this, like it or not. this was a complete and exhaustive accounting from not only a star witness we've heard the term but from someone who could either be the lynchpin to the entire alleged bribery plot or a co-conspirator. mr. sondland came to this story as the point person with the unusual access. he says under oath, 20 calls with the president. one on one. keep everyone in the loop. and -- and we're going to watch, i think, a little bit more from the hearing as he -- as i believe mr. sondland's about to depart. but what we saw from him today was someone who started trying to defend the trump -- defend t administration, and now is only trying to defend himself. and in so doing not unlike john dean and other witnesses who could have been co-conspirators who were written into american history, he has issued an indictment. and he speaks, and i say this not to be dramatic. but it is striking.
he speaks as someone who is the current political appointee and ambassador of the president. in that sense even though he was caught in certain ways, he also did, like others, demonstrate courage today. he stood up in a way that mick mulvaney and others have not and said stop the defiance, cooperate with the subpoenas. he all but said the word obstruction which is not his job. the congress will decide that. and it was really striking to see. >> all right. he also left the republicans with zero defenses left. but they tried. and they're spinning a little bit now. let's listen into that. >> the investigation after the white house learned about the whistle-blower complaint. is it just a coincidence that that happened just days before the white house actually believes -- >> no. it got released because so many senior government officials met with president zelensky and they determined, hey, this new kid in town, he's actually legit, he is a real reformer. oh, remember what also happened on september 5th the same day
the senators are meeting with president zelensky. they start the anti-corruption court. they had already passed getting rid of sovereign immunity for members of congress, members of their parliament. all of those things are happening. plus, remember senator johnson came back, senator murphy came back, senator portman. they all talked to the president and they said we really want this aid released before september 30th and the president doesn't. it happened because we all believed that president zelensky was legitimate. >> ambassador sondland today through cabinet secretary and the vice president into the impeachment -- told the committee that secretary of state -- >> no. i'm more concerned that i think it was 359 times in the ambassador's deposition where he said i can't recall, i don't remember, i'm not going to answer it. i do think i'm more concerned about the fact that the most exculpatory piece of evidence
was what representative stefanik just talked about the statement that he gave the president that he gave to ambassador sondland and of course he left that out of his 23-page opening statement. i am more concerned about those. >> if you have no concerns about the vice president and these other officials, why not let them speak? >> that's the white house's call. look, this process has been so unfair. what adam schiff has done, just the fact that he told us last night at 10:00, if we wanted to look at mr. sondland's deposition, we found out about that i believe last night at 10:00 our lawyer got notified. we would have liked to have mr. sandy's deposition available to be able to use in this proceeding today. we couldn't do that. that's just one of the many unfair that you all know has been unfair throughout this entire process. you all know that. >> all right. and because they don't have much to defend, they are spinning to the point of lying. let me just fact-check some of
that. they are complaining about a transcript of a deposition that took place saturday about not having that. the chairman took to the microphones actually in the hearing room to make clear that whatever portions the republicans were seeking for the purpose of today's hearing they would make available and that the process right now is the witness is reviewing that transcript. the other complaints seem to be something about the process being unfair. but they did seem to focus, chuck, on trying to suggest that any crime that doesn't have a first hand witness. so any murder that isn't, you know, caught on video camera or witnessed by a dozen people doesn't result in the murderer going to jail. that's not how our justice system works, is it? >> thank goodness. i think i can explain this if you give me a moment. >> please. >> near or at the end of every federal criminal trial the judge holds what we call a charging conference. she asks both sides to propose
jury instructions. what would you like me to tell the jury at the end of this case? and the standard thing we always request as prosecutors is for the judge for her to explain to the jury that direct evidence what you see and circumstantial evidence, what you piece together from pieces of evidence are given equal weight. and i can give you a good example. if you wake up in the morning and you see snow on your front lawn, did it snow, nicole? >> yes. >> was possible that someone dumped snow on your lawn and everyone else's. but logic, common sense experience tells us, what, if there's snow on your front lawn, it probably snowed. that is circumstantial evidence if it's snowing. if you stayed up all night and stood on your front lawn and watched it snow, that's direct evidence. and a judge will always tell the jury you can give these things equal weight. they are equally valuable. if we were limited only to direct evidence to this notion that you had to stand on your
front lawn all night long and watch it snow, maya knows from her days in the southern district of new york, we would have a far, far harder time. >> even though ambassador sondland saw it snow and surmised that it snowed and knew that there was snow everywhere, he couldn't possibly know that it had snowed. his opening statement asserted that there was a quid pro quo that military aid and a meeting with donald trump in the oval office was conditioned on a public commitment into the political investigations into the bidens and into the 2016 election. so what were they even trying to shake loose? >> so i think they're trying to do a bunch of different things, and they didn't always articulate it in a linear way. so on one hand they are arguing you can't trust circumstantial evidence, you can't trust hearsay evidence. both of those things aren't true. they may go to weight of the
evidence but they are often reliable means of gathering information. the other thing i think they were arguing, it's just wrong. in other words he may have heard this but he misinterpreted it or he may have heard part of the conversation but not the whole thing. here is -- >> can i ask you a question about that, though? because all of the evidence including the evidence provided by donald trump argues for the quid pro quo. donald trump's words on a transcript released by donald trump's white house say i need a favor, though. so -- i mean take sondland out of it for a minute. and all of the evidence from the white house in the president's own words argue the same thing. >> and by the way to their objections that is both direct evidence and not hearsay. something that comes directly from the mouth of the person who is either being impeached or who's under trial is by definition not hearsay. so, what they are doing, and you often see this in federal criminal trials where defense
attorney doesn't have much to work with. they try a lot of everything. you don't have direct information. it's hearsay. you didn't perceive it correctly, your story has changed over time. you are not a credible witness, nicole. and hoping that one of those things will resonate with at least one juror because in a criminal case you only need one juror to create -- >> can i echo chuck briefly? he has so much more legal experience than me. he does it so ornately and in detail. when the evidence helps you, you try to get it in. when the evidence hurts you, you try to get it out. they are trying to get the evidence out. and that's part of what sondland was calling them out on. if you have good material that helps you look innocent, what the lawyers call exculpatory. when you don't have that you are trying to get the evidence out. you are defying which, in other historical impeachments has been an article of impeachment. when you defy lawful subpoenas the justice department obstruction, congress.
then you do the rest of this, which is even if it is technically legal you try to hold back everything. sondland literally pleaded to his own boss donald trump let me put more information in the record and donald trump in this white house says no. and that looks guilty. >> all right. we are covering a day of blockbuster testimony from donald trump's hand-picked ambassador to the e.u., gordon sondland. he was seated next to his attorney who made the case earlier in the day that he had a plane to catch. we believe he's on his way back to the airport. but the day started in the 7:00 hour with the scoop of the "new york times" about what sondland was going to say. we are joined now by "new york times" reporter mike schmidt. your paper has a story now we have all watched the testimony now. but you have this interesting observation here, some analysis that the testimony could create new legal and political pressure on senior officials who have either refused to testify in the
inquiry or who have not yet been called including mr. pompeo, mr. mulvaney and john bolton, the president's former national security adviser. any new reporting on any of those individuals and their posture toward the impeachment proceeding? >> no. but from those group of people, especially pompeo, you saw pushback today. you saw them trying to refute what sondland was saying and put as much distance between him and the administration as possible. pompeo coming out and saying in a statement that he put out on his plane that any implication that he talked to sondland about the fact that the aide was linked to the investigations is not true. now, we went back and looked at the transcript and it's not entirely clear that sondland said that exactly. what sondland was saying that was the aide had been basically -- not the aide but sondland is basically