tv Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer CNN November 20, 2019 2:00pm-3:00pm PST
>> announcer: this is cnn breaking news. welcome to our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." we're standing by for the impeachment inquiry to resume with now testimony from pentagon official laura cooper and david hale. that is about to begin. but what we've heard so far today is truly remarkable. president trump's hand-picked ambassador to the european union gordon sondland testifying there was a quid pro quo with ukraine. sondland saying in part what he calls the express direction of president trump and that the vice president, the secretary of state, and the acting white house chief of staff all knew about it. let's bring in our reporters and our analysts to discuss. and i want to play a clip first
of all and i'll start with kaitlan with you. listen to this. this is sondland making this very significant statement earlier today. >> i know that members of this committee frequently frame 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 the white house meeting, the answer is yes. >> he makes it clear, absolutely, totally discarding what the president and his allies are saying for weeks. >> and what the white house are relying on and what the president was reading from earlier was the conversation where he had and called the president to ask if there was a quid pro quo and he said the president got angry and said there was not one and that he didn't want anything from ukraine. but what they are -- they are ignoring is what he started his testimony with today that yes,
in relation to the aid to the white house -- to the white house call and the white house meeting, there was a quid pro quo. and we should note there has still been no white house meeting for the ukrainian leader. so it is interesting how the white house and the republican allies are picking certain parts of the testimony to focus on but ignoring everything else he said which is there was no secret there was a pressure campaign and the secretary of state was involved and the vice president, he discussed it with, the chief of staff, the energy secretary, just encompassing everyone who surrounds the president. and so that is the question here. as the democrats are saying -- or republicans are saying he didn't explicitly say it. based on his other testimony it didn't seem like he needed to. >> it is interesting, kylie, because ambassador sondland, you can't say he's a never-trumper or deep straight. he's a political appointee someone named by the president to be the ambassador to the eu, someone who donated a million dollars -- a million dollars to the trump inaugural committee.
>> that is right. he's not folks who republicans could pick up and say this is the reason we elected president trump to get rid of these diplomats who have been in the state department and are acting against the orders of president trump. because the bottom line here is that you are right, ambassador sondland is someone who was hand-picked by trump himself and could pick up the phone and make a call to president trump whenever he wanted to and discussed a few of those instances and the other fact of the matter is grea-- is gordon sondland said he was following the direction of the president through and through and coming at times through rudy giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, but gordon sondland was not freelancing here and that is what this testimony demonstrated. >> because rudy giuliani was the key guy. every time the president was asked what should you do, speak to rudy. ask rudy. bring rudy in. he knows what is going on. he's smart. rudy giuliani, with all due respect to the former mayor of new york city, now the private attorney to the president, he had business dealings in that part of the world, some of his
associates have now been criminally indicted and he had no security clearances at all. listen to this. >> president trump directed us to, quote, talk with rudy. the president directed us to do so. when the president says talk to my personal lawyer, mr. giuliani, we followed his direction. >> i worked with mr. rudy giuliani on ukraine matters at the express direction of the president of the united states. so we followed the president's orders. i followed the directions of the president. >> you were attorney at the national security agency, the top secret u.s. intelligence agency. is it appropriate that someone with no security clearances is in charge of u.s./ukraine relations. >> the president of the united states is allowed to use private citizens in personal capacity but that said there is no question this is highly inappropriate and the significant testimony about giuliani was to the extent he
made clear rudy giuliani was not entirely freelancing here. this is something we're seeing emerging as a republican talking point as if whatever rudy giuliani was doing it is not attributable to the president of the united states personally. what sondland is saying, no, the president told us to talk to rudy. he made clear to everyone around him that rudy giuliani was speaking for him on these matters. that is especially critical because the other big element and consistent theme of sondland's testimony today was there was a quid pro quo and driven by the president personally and even if the president didn't say it expressly, every single person around him, all of his staff and the ukrainians understood he was exchanging these official acts of military aid and a white house meeting in exchange for investigations. >> and jamie, he also made it clear in his lengthy testimony, he was there for hours and hours, that everyone, every senior official from the president on down to the vice president and the secretary of state, the acting white house chief of staff, they were all in on it. they knew exactly what was going
on. listen to this. >> in august when you worked with rudy giuliani and a top ukrainian aid to draft a public statement for president zelensky to issue including the announcement of the investigation news burisma you understood that was required by president trump before he would grant the white house meeting to president zelensky? >> that is correct. >> and the ukrainians understood that as well? >> i believe they did. >> and you informed secretary pompeo about that statement as well? >> i did. >> so what do you think? >> well, what were the first words at the beginning of the day that we knew were a bombshell? he said everyone was in the loop. and that is what we heard all day long. pompeo, pence. but just to put in context, we're seeing the president twice say he gets very excited, you see on the phone call he said -- i said no quid pro quo and yet throughout this testimony he is
saying they clearly all thought there was a quid pro quo. and let's remember the phone call with the president, after the whistle-blower. they knew what was coming. that was clean-up on aisle six. the president knew exactly what that phone call was about and remember sondland said he was in a bad mood when he called. he knew what he to say. >> and it is clear, sarah, this is a devastating setback now for the white house. >> i think it is a big set back for the white house. i think that there are republicans who went into today thinking/hoping that gordon sondland would be a good witness for them. i think the best thing they could say they got out of it was that president trump never explicitly said to gordon sondland and by the way, i'm sitting on this $400 million check in exchange for the ukrainians announcing an investigation into joe biden. president trump never said that
complicitly to gordon sondland and the best they got out of this and the rest is gordon sondland explaining, yes, the president may have said there was no quid pro quo but then he described acting out a quid pro quo but just not calling it that. he described how he thought ukraine was so corrupt and he didn't want to move forward with the white house meeting and still sitting on $400 million in military assistance. all while the ukrainians were panicking and other diplomats were panicking about what was going on. >> and remember there was another series of words from the president after he said there is no quid pro quo, he says they should want to do this. right? keep in mind. >> code. >> that is a very key phrase because what it tells you is the president's frame of mind there is, look, i shouldn't have to tell them for god's sake. >> they know. >> right. they should know by now. and really it turns out everyone knew. everyone had the signal. and obviously the president and his allies keep telling us to look at the transcript. well the transcript makes clear
that the president is saying go talk to rudy giuliani, he knows what i want. and so it is hard for you to distance the president from where this is. >> and a big republican argument is that sondland doesn't have a lot of credibility left but you saw him bring text messages and emails that he with the secretary of state, the chief of staff, several of their top deputies talking about this and none of them asked when he said hopefully the ukrainian president will be what breaks the log jam and pleases president trump and no one acted surprised at what he said and they all seemed to understand what he was saying so maybe it wasn't explicit but if they are presuming the president wants the same thing you have to ask why do they all operate under the same mentality. >> and this is one of the most significant and striking things that happened today. the republicans started out thinking that sondland was going to be a friendly witness. we saw this reversal occur which all of a sudden the democratic counsel was going out of his way to try and rehabilitate
sondland's credibility, talking about, well, you refreshed your memory using the documents that is the democrats realizing in realtime that gordon sondland they need him to be credible and the republicans are shifting their strategy to try and start attacking him. >> i think it is significant, jamie, that the acting white house chief of staff mick mulvaney, who is refusing to testify before these committees as so many others including secretary pompeo refusing to testify, his name repeatedly came up during the hearing today, listen to this exchange. >> you've testified that mulvaney was aware of this quid pro quo, of this condition that the ukrainians had to meet that is announcing the public investigations to get the white house meeting, is that right? >> yeah, a lot of people were aware of it. and -- >> including mr. mulvaney? >> correct. >> and including the secretary
of state? >> correct. >> now, have you seen the acting chief of staff press conference in which he acknowledged that the military aid was withheld in part because of a desire to get that 2016 investigation you've talked about? >> i don't think i saw it live. i saw it later, yeah. >> so you saw him acknowledge publicly what you have confirmed, too, that mr. mulvaney understood that two plus two equals four, is that right? >> well, again, i didn't know that the aid was conclusively tied. i was presuming. he was in a position to say yes, it was or no it wasn't because -- >> and he said yes it was. >> he said yes, it was. >> and jamie, that is a pretty strong indictment. >> and there you have it. where is the white house defense? where is mulvaney? where is bolton? where is pompeo? where are all of the key
witnesses -- the folks from -- from omb, where are all of the documents that were being referred to. i will say one thing, he was not a perfect witness. there were -- when it came to the president, he was vague. there were a lot of i don't remember, i'm not sure about that. and he is not a direct link to the president. and that is what the republicans are going to hold on to. the big question here, was this a bombshell today? absolutely. did it bring it altogether? absolutely. >> one quick -- >> will it matter in the end? will it change one vote. >> one thing to note is the allegations he made, the secretary of state denied what he said about him today and the energy secretary denied what he said about him. >> and vice president pence. >> and you saw this and of course the vice president also denied what he said about him. the only person we didn't get a denial from while he was testifying was mick mulvaney the chief of staff. >> listen to this exchange. then we'll discuss.
>> did the president ever tell preconditions for anything? >> no. >> so the president never told you about any preconditions for the aid to be released? >> no. >> the president never told you about any preconditions for a white house meeting? >> personally, no. >> what do you think? >> so that is something that you're seeing republicans talk about today. is the conversations that he had with the president and exactly what it was that the president said. because they're saying that essentially if the president didn't say this is what i want you to tell them, these are the preconditions for them to get this aid, this meeting, this phone call, then they say it does prove the president that it exonerates him but ignoring what he's talking about, this pressure campaign that he said was clear to the ukrainians that he brought up with people like the vice president and he claims which pence has denied. >> and it is almost impossible for the white house to take that position when they are themselves preventing the individuals who would be in a position to give that direct link, that precise information, people like mick mulvaney,
people like secretary of state mike pompeo, it is the president himself that are preventing them from testifying. we did see denials from the offices today. but it is very different to see them -- >> mick mulvaney in that awkward news conference in the white house briefing room a couple of weeks or so ago, he basically confirmed that quid pro quo. although a few hours later he tried to deny it. >> yeah, he did. and one of the things that gordon sondland had trouble with today was telling lawmakers who else could come forth and provide some of the answers to their remaining questions. because the reality is the white house is preventing those folks from coming forth. and did he eventually say that mick mulvaney would be one of those people who would be able to give a definitive answer. he believed as if president trump saw a direct connection between the assistance and the investigations that were being asked for. >> you cover the state department for us, kylie, how much of a setback is this for secretary of state mike pompeo? >> it is extremely damning for
secretary pompeo in the sense that we knew he was aware generally of what was going on. what his ambassadors were doing, what his envoys were doing. but now we have some more direct knowledge of some of those specific things that he signs off on because we have email that gordon sondland brought to the meeting to lay out the things he was working with the kreerns and that was pushing them to come out and make an announcement they are doing these investigations and secretary pompeo signed off on all of those things never holding him back or reeling him in. >> i want to go to our chief white house constituent jim acosta. the president is in austin, texas, weighing in once again on all of the dramatic testimony today. >> that is right. the president just spoke to reporters down in austin, texas, touring a manufacturing facility with the ceo of apple tim cook. and the president was once again as he was on the south lawn of
the white house earlier today latching on to comments made by the eu ambassador gordon sondland that the president feels clears him in all of this and here is what the president had to say just a short while ago. >> -- down exactly what he said. he called and he said -- he asked me where -- what should he do? i said i want nothing. and i repeated it. i want nothing. i want no quid pro quo. tell the president, as you know, of ukraine, to do the right thing. and then he finished off and said this is the final word from the president of the united states. so what did the president want? i want nothing. >> now, wolf, you could see that the president was referring to his notes. he was doing this on the south lawn of the white house earlier today and a couple of photographers who were keen snatched some pictures of the president's notes saying i want nothing. i want nothing. i don't want a quid pro quo.
essentially reading from sondland's testimony about their phone call. and one thing to point out about the phone call, they had the phone call after the whistle-blower complaint was filed and after concerns were being raised inside of the administration about the president's july 25th phone call with the leader of ukraine. now separately from this, wolf, we should report that we understand there was a sense of panic inside of the white house, inside of the trump campaign and in some sections of the republican party up on capitol hill earlier this morning as gordon sondland was beginning to deliver his testimony. we are told that some of these aides and associates were blindsided, quote, blindsided by what gordon sondland had to say and some were, quote, freaking out according to the sources and one of the sources from this afternoon said that it seemed as if gordon sondland was throwing top administration officials under the bus, describing his testimony as really bizarre. so, wolf, it sounds as though people inside of trump world
were not expecting gordon sondland to testify to what he testified to earlier today. the president latching on to those comments as you saw just a short while ago. but remember what gordon sondland said during his testimony. that everyone was in the loop. this was not a secret. the president is trying to make the case tonight i think, wolf, that everybody was in the loop but himself. wolf. >> that is an important point indeed. stand by over there at the white house. evan, the president was denying any quid pro quo in that phone conversation with gordon sondland. shortly after the whistle-blower's complaints were released, there was deep concern at the white house, deep concern up on capitol hill already, the public was beginning to learn all about this. so it is not surprising that the president would say no quid pro quo, no quid pro quo. >> and also, my question is when were the notes written? were they written before he went to the cameras today or not? and to jamie's point, i think
today was an interesting thing that we saw unfurl. we saw sondland just the fact that he went there was a blow to pompeo and the state department. if pompeo had his preference, sondland would not have been testifying today. and certainly not the president either. and but at the same time, i do think that sondland could have been more damaging to the president and for whatever reason chose not to or he chose a different path. he decided to give the democrats enough of what they needed but not go all the way. because there is a lot of i don't remember in that testimony. which i found very interesting. because it seems that gordon sondland is saying that he's going to take his own path. he's not resigning, he said. he said he's going back to his job. i'm not sure how you do that. but he's decided that he is going to take his own path and stay within the administration, but making problems for the president. >> right. >> everybody stick around. we're standing by.
the next round, round two of the hearings today about to begin. a top pentagon official, a top state department official, they will walk into the house intelligence committee hearing room. none of the members have showed up yet. we'll continue to anticipate this next round. a lot going on on this historic breaking news day. we'll be right back. look, this isn't my first rodeo... and let me tell you something, i wouldn't be here if i thought reverse mortgages took advantage of any american senior, or worse, that it was some way to take your home.
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round two of today's hearings about to begin. two senior officials from the state department and the pentagon about to walk into that room. it is beginning to fill up a bit. members will be coming in. the chairman and the ranking member and david hale from the state department, number three official and laura cooper from the pentagon will be sworn in and making statements and answering questions as well. manu raju is up on capitol hill watching all of this unfold. manu, what are you hearing, what is the very latest? >> reporter: democrats are now debating exactly how to move forward. because we are reaching the end of this public hearing phase. today these last two witnesses about to testify, tomorrow two more witnesses are going to testify, fiona hill the former top russia adviser and david holmes in kiev and that individual overheard that conversation between president trump and gordon sondland in which president trump according
to holmes' testimony called for that investigation into the bidens. they discussed that and nevertheless democrats are discussing how to exactly move forward. some say they have more than enough evidence. it is time to go to the next phase which is write the report from the house intelligence committee and move forward with actual votes in the house intelligence -- the house judicial committee for articles of impeachment and move toward the full house vote as soon as next month. they believe they have gotten to that point even though they don't have someone who heard from the president directly saying that linking the aid to the statements, demanding those investigations into the president's political opponents they believe there is far more than enough circumstantial evidence and mick mulvaney comments are enough evidence. and here is steny hoyer, do you think you have enough to move forward. >> -- as the judge tells the jury, don't make a decision until you hear all of the
evidence and that is where we are and where we'll remain until all of the evidence is? >> reporter: do you think you could do this before the end of the year, articles of impeachment? >> we're going to do it as edid expeditiously as we can and do a thorough job before we act. >> reporter: and steny hoyer not committing to a time table but democrats are under the belief where they are now is enough to get to the next phase. potentially to move forward with impeachment. nancy pelosi has been skeptical about putting a specific time frame publicly but privately they are preparing for the next moment. and there are some democrats who believe it may make sense to pursue some of the key fact witnesses who could come testify like mike pompeo, mick mulvaney and fight to get the witnesses to come and testify if they were to win the court fights and there is a key court ruling they are awaiting in a matter of days about a separate matter, whether the former white house counsel
don mcgahn should testify before the white house judiciary committee and they hope that may influence other individuals to come forward and testify in this impeachment inquiry. we'll see if that actually happens. but nevertheless you're hearing from democrats who feel good about what they're hearing. they believe they have more than enough evidence to move forward. we'll see when they ultimately decide if this is it with the house intelligence committee. this could be the last week before they move into the next phase, wolf. >> we'll stand by. we're getting ready for round two as i say of this hearing. david hale and laura cooper are about to walk into the hearing room and the chairman of the committee adam schiff will bring this session to order. it is interesting, kaitlan, that ambassador sondland couldn't remember all of the precise details of that july 26th phone call he had. he was sitting in a restaurant, outdoors, in kiev, in ukraine. the u.s. embassy councillor for political affairs and he got the
president on the phone and david holmes who will testify tomorrow about what he heard and what he saw. he could hear it. listen to sondland today describe that. >> well, he also testified that you confirmed to president trump that you were in ukraine at the time and that president trump zelensky, quote, loves your ass, unquote. do you recall saying that? >> that sounds like something i would say. that is how president trump and i communicate. a lot of four letter words. in this case three letter. >> he got a sense of humor. but he confirmed what david holmes has testified behind closed doors and what he's probably going to say tomorrow before the tv cameras. >> he said he didn't recall talking about what he said after, which is that the president only cares about the investigation. but what was also equally important to that is that he didn't dispute what people like david holmes have testified
about the call and how loud it was. that is what was interesting. his insight into the president. so when he said he spoke with and obviously they spoke enough that he didn't remember every detail of the call. if you haven't spoke to the president that much you're more than likely to remember everything the president would say to new a phone call. he said they had spoken around 20 times if he to guess. and then the president was distancing himself. but what he revealed today is that the president wanted these investigations, he didn't actually care about the end result of the investigations, he said the president just simply wanted the announcement of the investigations. which goes back to the whistle-blower complaint -- >> that is a big deal. >> tell us about that. >> i think that is a big deal. because if the president's defense is that we were really genuinely concerned about corruption, then you have the fbi go through the official channels and do a real investigation. and by the way, that would definitely be quiet and not public. there could be nobody at the
microphone announcing this but that is not the what the president wanted. if they were, they would have done it through the official channels. they wanted an investigation announced publicly because of the bonanza that would bring for the president's campaign. and i think that is why it is a very big deal that -- and i think we should remember this, that they wanted a public announcement of an investigation. they didn't care how it turned out or if the ukrainians actually did it. what they wanted was the public announcement. because that, getting that into the mainstream and the media and the coverage of the 2020 campaign, is what the president needed. >> and that is an important point because sondland kept saying it was all for the statement. they wanted a statement from the ukrainian leadership about the investigation and evan is 100% right, i don't think if there was an investigation. >> and that is what gordon sondland said. nobody followed up with what they wanted the investigation part to show if it was completed but they just wanted president
zelensky to go to the microphone and announce an investigation that would involve the biden family. and when you think about gordon sondland's credibility there are knocks along the way and plenty of i don't remembers and i don't recalls. but he was also one of the people who went there and testified under oath. the denials were not provided by people who sat there and were sworn in. those were provided by people who refused to testify. and gordon sondland even said i don't have a perfect memory and i could have done this better if i were given the documents to refer back to. but they're not being provided to me by the white house, by the state department. so he essentially said this is the best i can provide. while the rest of the administration is stonewalling because they felt it was my duty to show up here today. >> and this goes to another area where someone has questionable credibility and that is something he said he never made the connection between burisma and the biden and something we all saw kurt volker claim yesterday and that the president was very interested in the one
specific country -- company that rudy giuliani was going on television and linking to the biden but they had no idea these two things were linked. and tim morrison said all it took was a google -- he googled the name and realized this isn't about the company, this is really about the bidens and we saw sondland refusing to acknowledge that anyone with a modicum of common sense would have made that connection. >> it strains credibility. i'm shocked and shocked and there is gambling going on. within this group, they knew what burisma stood for. and just to go to the point of his memory, he said several times, i'm not a note-taker. and tomorrow a man who is a note-taker is going to testify. and that is david holmes. who was at lunch, who heard the phone call. you know, every time we got to where sondland and trump intersected, he was very, very
careful not to remember. his memory became vague because those are phone calls and conversations that are more likely to be transcribed somewhere. >> i want to play this clip. i want to play many clip. kaitlan, listen closely to this exchange that the ambassador had with sean patrick maloney. listen to this. >> when he asked you about investigations which we all agree now means the bidens, we just did this about 30 seconds ago, it is pretty simple question, isn't it? i guess i'm having trouble why you can't just say- >> when he asked about investigations, i assumed he meant -- >> i know whatta assumed. but would would benefit from an investigation of the bidens? >> they are two different questions. >> i'm just asking you one. who would benefit from an investigation of the biden? >> i assume president trump. >> there we have it. see. [ applause ] >> didn't hurt a bit, did it?
didn't hurt a bit. >> even got applause. >> got a round of applause because it was something obvious to people in the room talking about who that would have benefited and it won't benefit joe biden as he's running for office and that is where you saw him testifying and the members coming back in the room but gordon sondland was going about this being careful about what he was saying about the president because he still works for the president. he returned home to brussels and on a flight now and talking about how he couldn't get the emails from the state department and implicitly critical of the secretary of state and his boss technically going about that and that is fascinating to watch. as you saw him up there testifying, walking that fine line of what -- who he was criticizing and what exactly he was saying. >> it is interesting, kylie, because the chairman, adam schiff is not back in the hearing room. the ranking republican devin nunes is there. so presumably this hearing is getting ready to start fairly
soon. >> and we could predict that one person who is not very excited for this hearing is secretary pompeo. he's on his way back from brussels. he's just been traveling. and when he was asked about this testimony today, he actually came out pretty aggressively against the reporter and said he had been doing work today and charged the reporter of not doing their work because they were asking those type of questions. but david hale is one of the folks that will come before lawmaker this is evening and he is someone who worked closely with the secretary. now he didn't resign when ambassador yovanovitch was abruptly kicked out of her position because president trump lost confidence in her. but the thing here is that david hale did say that he time and time again spoke with the secretary about trying to put out some sort of statement on yovanovitch. it is going to draw secretary pompeo back into the spotlight this evening. >> by the way, you could see adam schiff the chairman. he's now in his chair. so once the photographers move away from that table, the witnesses are there and this
hearing will begin. go ahead, susan. >> and this testimony is going to be less flashy than gordon sondland all day but this is really critical witnesses who are about to testify. these are both people that are going to be able to testify to the decisions to hold -- withhold that aid. the areas in which the ordinary policy process was deviated from. why they understood this aid was being held up because keep in mind this is not the president's personal piggy bank, the president's personal fund to dole as he likes and feels they are -- >> and it is very important, evan, these two officials like almost every other national security official were deeply concerned that the president of the united states was delegating authority to rudy giuliani. >> right. they had deep concerns and another part of this is the part that -- the very important part which is the removal of the ambassador. again, if there is a crime -- >> ambassador yovanovtch. >> right. because, again, if there is a crime, one of them could be the
campaign to remove her in retaliation for what she was doing to fight corruption. now there is a federal law in the united states that you're not allowed to retaliate against someone who is essentially assisting the fbi and the authorities in fighting corruption. so the campaign to remove her, again, there might have been a crime committed there and who would be part of that, i think hale would have a big window into exactly what was happening and what giuliani was doing and who else was involved in this and how that came to be and i think that is why he's an important witness. >> to evan's point, we've asked over and over again why didn't alarm bells go off with more of the officials who were on the july 25th phone call when they heard this, why didn't mike pompeo think that -- because, as we heard from sondland's testimony today, they all knew what was going on. >> and the ukrainians knew what was going on, too. the ukrainians were very well plugged in. >> and also speaks to a problem
for working for donald trump. and that is this kind of behavior is normal. top aides get desensitized. >> and laura cooper is walking in now. laura cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for russia and ukraine and asia. >> and when they got -- >> and there is david hale, the undersecretary of state for political affairs. go ahead. >> cooper testified whenever they got the surprising call that the aid was being withheld that on that call the line from the white house was this was coming from the president himself. and so she's someone who is going to be able to testify the view from the department of defense, how involved was the president, what was being communicated to them about why this aid was being frozen? >> that is another interesting thing about the testimony and may get into that here, she testified the white house is saying this is all about -- about anti-corruption and she testified that during this period it was held july, august
and september, she testified there was no new reviews to see what they were doing to combat corruption if that is what they were basing the release on. >> and david hale is a former u.s. ambassador to pakistan and lebanon and jordan. and he's a career foreign service officer, a career diplomat. a lot of experience in the world of diplomacy. you wanted to make a point? >> everything had been signed off on. and that we know and announced publicly. >> the photographers are -- the photographers are leaving right now. they'll be watching from a different location. there is the chairman adam schiff. he's about to begin this hearing. he'll make a statement, i assume the ranking republican devin nunes, there he is and make a statement and nen swear in the two witnesses. they will have opening statements. and then the q&a will begin. this could be pretty significant right now, what we're about to hear in the course of this round two of the hearings today. let's listen in. >> the meeting will come to
order. good afternoon, everyone. this is the sixth in a series of public hearings the committee will hold as part of the house of representatives impeachment inquiry. without objection the chair is authorized to declare a recess of the committee at any time. there is a core chore um present. we'll see in the same fashion as our other hearings and i'll make an opening statement and then the ranking member will have an opportunity to make a statement and we'll turn to our witnesses for their opening statements if they should choose to make one. for audience members, we welcome you and respect your interest in being here. in turn we ask for your respect as we proceed with this hearing. as chairman i'll make any necessary or take any necessary appropriate steps to maintain order and ensure that the committee is run in accordance with house rules and house resolution 660. with that, i now recognize myself to give an opening statement in the impeachment inquiry into donald j. trump, the 45th president of the united
states. this afternoon the american people will hear from two witnesses who are both veteran national security professionals. one at the department of tate and the other at the defense department. david hale is the undersecretary of state for political affairs the third most senior official in the department and the most senior foreign service officer. laura cooper is deputy assistant secretary of defense for russia, ukraine, eur asia and responsible for the former soviet union and the balkens. they have served both republican and democratic presidents. and as we have heard from other dedicated public servants like former ambassador to ukraine marie yovanovitch, former deputy secretary bill kent and ambassador bill taylor and alexander vindman and jennifer williams and the only priority has been the security of the united states. undersecretary hale was witness to the smear campaign against marie yovanovitch and the efforts by some in the state department to help her.
in late march yovanovitch reached out to hale for assistance telling him in an email that the tempo of social media and other criticisms of her were such that she felt she could no longer function unless there was a strong statement of defense of her from the state department. hale pushed to get the statement to put out a robust full-page statement of defense and praise. ambassador yovanovitch sadly to no avail. that silence continues to today. in late april we heard in riveting testimony last week from ambassador yovanovitch she was recalled to washington and informed that she ha lost the confidence of the president. secretary of state did not meet with her. the subordinates dealt with her instead, with the departure of yovanovitch hale watched as three players assuming the poll in the ukraine policy. the three amigos were led by rick perry and ambassador volker
and sondland working with ambassador taylor who would be the ones doing the continual work here. in midsummer trump ordered a suspension of military aid to ukraine, despite the fact the aide had been authorized and appropriated by congress and that the defense department in consultation with the state department had certified ukraine met all of the necessary requirements to receive the aid including anti-corruption reform. the aid was in the national interests of the united states and critical to ukraine's security. the country that had been invaded by russia. from her office in the pentagon, miss cooper oversaw significant amount of security assistance flowing to ukraine and was involved in efforts to understand and reverse the suspension of nearly $400 million in u.s. aide. cooper along with others learned about the freeze during a series of interagency meetings in the last two weeks of july. at the first meeting, on july
18th, an omb representative relayed that the white house chief of staff has conveyed that the president has concerns about ukraine and ukraine security assistance, unquote. and that a hold had been ordered by the president. no explanation was provided. all of the agencies responsible for ukraine policy supported security assistance and advocates for lifting of the hold. the only dissenting voice was the office of management and budget which was following the orders of president trump and still no good explanation of the hold was provided. while the aid suspension had not been made public word was getting out. catherine croft special adviser for ukraine negotiations worked with ambassador volker and received two separate calls in july or august from officials at the ukraine embassy who quote, approached me quietly and in confidence to ask me about an omb hold on ukraine security
assistance. croft was, quote, very surprised at the effectiveness of my ukraine counter part's diplomatic trade craft. as in to say they found out very early on much earlier than i expected them to. ukrainians wanted answers but croft did not have a good response. but then in late august cooper met with kurt volker, with whom she had met many times in the past. during that meeting in which they were discussing the hold on security assistance, volker revealed that he was engaged in an effort to have the government to ukraine issue a statement that would, quote, commit to the prosecution of any individuals involved in election interference, unquote. cooper understood that if volker's effort were successful, the hold might be lifted. unbeknownst to cooper, no such statement was forthcoming but the aid was abruptly restored on september 11th, days after the three committees launched an investigation into the trump/ukraine scheme.
and with that i now recognize the ranking member. >> thank you. as we republicans have argued at these hearings, the american people are getting a skewed impression of these events. that is because the democrats assume full authority to call witnesses and they promptly rejected any new witnesses the republicans requested. so i would like to take a moment to discuss a few of the people whose testimony has been deemed unacceptable for the american people to hear. the whistle-blower. the whistle-blower is the key figure who started this entire impeachment charade but submitting a complaint against president trump that relied on secondhand and thirdhand information and media reports. this began a bizarre series of events, although the complaint had no intelligence component whatsoever. the intelligence community inspector general accepted it and even changed the guidance on the complaint forms to eliminate the requirement for firsthand
information. then his office back-dated the forms to make them appear as if they were published a month before. democrats then took the extremely rare step of pushing a whistle-blower complaint into the public. using it as the centerpiece of their impeachment crusade. we later learned that democratic staff had prior coordination with the whistle-blower. the democrats themselves had denied it on national television. following that revelation, democrats did a dramatic about face. they suddenly dropped their insistence that the whistle-blower testify to us and rejected our request to hear from him. then in its hearing yesterday the democrats cut off our questions. and accused us of trying to out the whistle-blower. even though they claim they don't even know who he is.
alexander chalupa, a former operative for the democrat national committee who worked with the officials in washington, d.c. in order to smear the trump campaign in 2016. she met directly about these matters with then ukrainian ambassador chalay who wrote an article criticizing trump during the 2016 campaign. chalupa's activity were one example of meddling in 2016 all of which were aimed at the trump campaign. once you understood that ukrainian officials were cooperating directly with president trump's political opponents to undermine his candidacy it is understandable why the president would want to learn the full truth about the operations and skeptical of ukraine. hunter biden, biden is another witness who the democrats are sparing from cross-examination.
the securing of an extremely well-paying job on the board of a corrupt ukrainian company burisma highlights the precise corruption problem in ukraine that concerned not only president trump but all of the witnesses we've interviewed so far. the democrats have dismissed questions about biden's role at burisma as conspiracy theories. yet they're trying to impeach president trump for having express concerns about the company. if we could hear from biden, we could ask him how he got his position. what did he do to earn his lavish salary and what light could he shed on corruption at this notorious company. but so they've blocked his testimony. at these hearings, we heard a lot trump's aside
from rejecting our witnesses, the democrats have tried other petty tricks to shape public opinion. just this morning, they called a break in the hearing in order to give arguments to tv cameras. then, for this hearing they cancelled multiple rounds for questioning earlier today with ambassador sondland and they had with all the previous witnesses who they bizarrely consider as their star witnesses. when you looking through the presumptions, assumptions and smoke and mirrors, you see the facts of this case are clear.
president trump was skeptical of foreigned againly and especially skeptical to countries like ukraine. he wanted to discover the facts about ukraine meddling in the 2016 election against his campaign. a brief hold on ukrainian aid was lifted without ukraine taking any steps, they were supposedly being bribed to do. president zelensky repeatedly said there was nothing improper about president trump's call with him and he did not even know about the hold in aid at the time he was supposedly being ex-sorted with it. what exactly are the democrats impeaching the president for? none of us here really know because the accusations change by the hour. once again, this is impeachment in search of a crime. mr. chairman, i would urge you to bring this to a close, adjourn this hearing and move on and get back to the work of the intelligence committee.
that, i yield back. >> i thank the gentleman. today, we are joined by ambassador david hale and miss laura cooper. david hale serve business as the undersecretary of state for political affairs with the department, a position he has held since august 30, 2018. mr. hale joined the foreign service in 1984 and holds the rank of career ambassador. he previously served as ambassador to pakistan, ben non, special envoy for middle east peace and deputy special envoy and ambassador to jordan. he served as executive assistant secretary of state to secretary albright. laura cooper is the secretary of defense to russia, ukraine and eurasia at the department of defense. shays career member of the senior executive service. miss cooper principally served as principle director in the office of assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security affairs.
prior to joining the secretary of defense in 2001 miss cooper was a policy officer in the state department and coordinator of counter-terrorism. two final points before witnesses are sworn, first, witness depositions as part of this inquiry were unclassified in nature and all open hearings will be held at the unclassified level. any information that may touch on classified information will be addressed secondly and congress will not tolerate reprisal or threat of reprisal or attempt to retaliate against any u.s. government official to testify before congress including you or any of your colleagues. if you would both please rise and raise your right hand i really begin by swearing you in? >> do you swear or affirm the testimony you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth so help you god? let the record show the witness answered in the affirmative. be seated.
the microphone is sensitive. speak directly into it. your opening statements will be part of the record and mr. hale, you can give that and after that, miss cooper you can give your opening statement. >> mr. chairman, i don't have a prepared opening statement. as you said i've been undersecretary since august of 2018, foreign service officer over 35 years, ambassador three times, serving both republican and democratic administrations proudly and i'm here in response to your subpoena to answer the questions of the committee. >> thank you, mr. undersecretary. miss cooper. >> mr. chairman, ranking members of this committee, i appear today to provide facts and answer question based on my experience as a deputy assistant secretary of defense for russia, ukraine and eurasia. i would first like to describe my background as well as my role and vantage point relative to
your inquiry. i bring to my daily work and this proceedings my sense of duty to u.s. national security, not to any political party. i have proudly served two democratic and two republican presidents. i entered government service through the presidential management internship competition joining the state department in 1999 to work on counter-terrorism in europe and the former soviet union. inspired by working with the u.s. military on a department of defense rotational assignment, i decided to accept a civil service position in the policy organization of the office of the secretary of defense in january, 2001, where i have remained for the past 18 years. my strong sense of pride in serving my country and dedication to my pentagon colleagues were cemented in the moments after i felt the pentagon shake beneath me on september 11th, 2001. my office was scheduled to move into the section of the pentagon that was destroyed in the attack
but a construction delay meant we were still at our old desks in the adjacent section on that devastating day. after we had wiped the black dust from our desks and tried to get back to work, i found meaning by volunteering to work on afghanistan policy and would give my next four years to this mission. i later had the opportunity to move into the leadership ranks of my organization and had the privilege to manage issues ranging from defense strategic planning to homeland defense and mission assurance. i accepted the position of principle director for russia, ukraine and eurasia in 2016 and was honored to be appointed formally to the position of deputy assistant secretary of defense in 2018. in my current role, i work to advance u.s. national security with focus of deterring russian aggression and building strong partnerships with the front line states of ukraine and georgia,
as well as 10 other allies and partners from the balkans to the caucuses. strengthening ukraine's capacity to defend itself against russian aggression is central to my team's mission. the united states and our allies provide ukraine with security assistance because it is in our national security interests to deter russian aggression around the world. we also provide security assistance so ukraine can negotiate a peace with russia from a position of strength. the human toll continues to climb in this ongoing war with 13,000 ukraines lives lost since the invasion. these sacrifices are in my mind as i lead efforts to provide vital training and equipment and assistance to the ukrainian armed forces. i have also supported a robust ukrainian defense program of defense reform to insure the
long term stainability of u.s. investments and transformation of ukraine military to soviet model to nato interoperable force. the national defense authorization act requires defense to release half of the ukraine security assistance initiative or usai funds, a proisk we find very helpful. a provision. based on recommendations from me and other key d.o.d. advisors, the department of defense and in coordination with department of state certified in may of 2019 ukraine had taken substantial actions to make substantial institutional reforms tore decreasing corruption and increasing accountability and sustained combat capability unquote and the entire 250 million in usdi funds.
this brings me to the topic of today's proceedings. i would like to recap my recollection of the timeline in which these events played out. i testified about all of this at length in my deposition. in july, i became aware of a hold being placed on obligation of the state department's military financing or fmf and dod's usai fund. in meetings i heard the president directed the office of management and budget to hold the funds because of his concern for corruption in ukraine. let me say at the outset i have never discussed this or any other matter with the president and never heard directly from him about this matter. at a senior level meeting i attended july 26th chaired by national council security leadership as in all other interagency meetings on this topic of which i was