Dec 9, 2019
House Judiciary Committee Impeachment Hearing Transcript – Day 2
The House Judiciary Committee held its second day of impeachment hearings regarding President Donald Trump. This impeachment hearing featured the Democrat and Republican counsel. Read the transcript of the hearing right here.
Jerry Nadler Opening Statement
Jerry Nadler: (00:00)
We are conducting this hearing on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald J. Trump. Presentations from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Judiciary Committee pursuant to House Resolution 660 and the special Judiciary Committee procedures that are described in section 4A of that resolution.
Jerry Nadler: (00:20)
Here is how the committee will proceed for this hearing, I will make an opening statement and then I will recognize the ranking member for an opening statement. After that, we will hear two sets of presentations. We will hear 30 minute opening arguments from counsels for the majority and the minority-
Jerry Nadler and the Democrat [inaudible 00:00:38] are committing treason in this country. You can kick me out, but he’s the one committing crimes, you are, Chairman Nadler. You’re the one committing treason. America is done with this. America is sick of the treason committed by Democrat [crosstalk 00:00:51].
Jerry Nadler: (00:51)
Order in the room. Order in the room.
We’re not going to sit here and watch you run an impeachment scam-
Jerry Nadler: (00:55)
Order in the committee room.
… and remove our vote. We voted for Donald Trump and they’re attempting to remove him because they don’t like him. Americans are sick of your impeachment scam. They are sick of the Democrat treatment. We know who committed the crimes and it wasn’t Trump. Trump is innocent.
Jerry Nadler: (01:15)
The committee will come to order. Obviously, I shouldn’t have to remind everyone present that the audience is here to observe but not to demonstrate, not to indicate agreement or disagreement with any witness or with any member of the committee. The audience is here to observe only and we will maintain decorum in the hearing room.
Jerry Nadler: (01:38)
And again I will say here is how the committee will proceed for this hearing, I will make an opening statement and then I will recognize the ranking member for an opening statement. After that, we will hear two sets of presentations. We will hear 30 minute opening arguments from counsels for the majority and the minority of this committee. Then we will hear 45 minute presentations of evidence from majority and minority counsel from the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Followed by 45 minutes of questioning by the chair and ranking member who may yield to counsel for questioning during this period.
Jerry Nadler: (02:11)
Finally, all of our members will have the opportunity to question the presenters from the Intelligence Committee under the five minute rule. I would note that the president’s counsel was given the opportunity to participate today, but the White House as declined the invitation. I will now recognize myself for an opening statement.
Jerry Nadler: (02:31)
No matter his party or his politics, if the president places his own interests above those of the country, he betrays his oath of office. The president of the United States, the speaker of the house, the majority leader of the Senate, the chief justice of the Supreme Court and the chairman and ranking members of the House Committee on the Judiciary all have one important thing in common. We have each taken an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Jerry Nadler: (03:04)
If the president puts himself before the country, he violates the president’s most basic responsibility, he breaks his oath to the American people. If he puts himself before the country in a manner that threatens our democracy, then our oath, our promise to the American people requires us to come to the defense of the nation. That oath stands even when it is politically inconvenient, even when it might bring us under criticism, even when it might cost us our jobs as members of Congress, and even if the president is unwilling to honor his oath, I am compelled to honor mine.
Jerry Nadler: (03:44)
As we heard in our last hearing, the framers of the Constitution were careful students of history and clear in their vision for the new nation. They knew that threats to democracy can take many forms, that we must protect against them. They warned us against the dangers of would be monarchs, fake populace, and charismatic demigods. They knew that the most dangerous threat to our country might come from within in the form of a corrupt executive who put his private interests above the interests of the nation.
Jerry Nadler: (04:16)
They also knew that they could not anticipate every threat a president might someday pose, so they adopted the phrase treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors to capture the full spectrum of possible presidential misconduct. George Mason, who proposed this standard, said that, “It was meant to capture all manner of great and dangerous offenses against the Constitution.”
Jerry Nadler: (04:41)
The debates around the framing made clear that the most serious of such offenses include abuse of power, betrayal of the nation through foreign entanglements and corruption of public office. Any one of these violations of the public trust would compel the members of this committee to take action. When combined in a single course of action, they state the strongest possible case for impeachment and removal from office. President Trump put himself before country.
Jerry Nadler: (05:15)
Despite the political partisanship that seems to punctuate our hearings these days, I believe that there is common ground around some of these ideas, common ground in this hearing room and common grounds across the country at large. We agree, for example, that impeachment is a solemn, serious undertaking. We agree that it is meant to address serious threats to democratic institutions like our free and fair elections. We agree that when the elections themselves are threatened by enemies, foreign or domestic, we cannot wait until the next election to address the threat. We surely agree that no public official, including and especially the president of the United States should use his public office for private gain. And we agree that no president may put himself before the country, the Constitution and his oath of office. This promise to America’s citizens require the president to put the country first.
Jerry Nadler: (06:18)
If we could drop our blinders for just one moment, I think we would agree on a common set of facts as well. On July 25th, President Trump called President Zelenskyi of Ukraine and asked him for a favor. That call was part of a concerted effort by President Trump to compel the government of Ukraine to announce an investigation, not an investigation of corruption at writ large, but an investigation of President Trump’s political rivals and only his political rivals. President Trump put himself before country.
Jerry Nadler: (06:53)
The record shows that President Trump withheld military aid allocated by the United States Congress from Ukraine. It also shows that he withheld a White House meeting from President Zelenskyi. Multiple witnesses, including respected diplomats, national security professionals and decorated war veterans all testified to the same basic fact, President Trump withheld the aid and the meeting in order to pressure a foreign government to do him that favor. President Trump put himself before country. And when the president got caught, when Congress discovered that the aid has been withheld from Ukraine, the president took extraordinary and unprecedented steps to conceal evidence from Congress and from the American people. These facts are not in dispute. In fact, most of the arguments about these facts appear to be beside the point.
Jerry Nadler: (07:51)
As we review the evidence today, I expect we will hear much about the whistleblower who brought his concerns about the July 25th call to the inspector general of the intelligence community. Let me be clear. Every fact alleged by the whistleblower has been substantiated by multiple witnesses again and again, each of whom has been questioned extensively by Democrats and Republicans alike. The allegations also match up with the president’s own words as released by the White House. Words that he still says we’re, “perfect.”
Jerry Nadler: (08:26)
I also expect to hear complaints about the term quid pro quo, as if a person needs to verbally acknowledge the name of a crime while he is committing it for it to be a crime at all. The record on this point is also clear. Multiple officials testified that the president’s demand for an investigation into his rivals was a part of his personal political agenda and not related to the foreign policy objectives of the United States. Multiple officials testified that the president intended to withhold the aid until Ukraine announced the investigations. And yes, multiple officials testified that they understood this arrangement to be a quid pro quo for the president’s personal political benefit. President Trump put himself before country.
Jerry Nadler: (09:18)
The president’s supporters are going to argue that this whole process is unfair. The record before us is clear on this point as well. We invited the president to participate in this hearing, to question witnesses and to present evidence that might explain the charges against him. President Trump chose not to show. He may not have much to say in his own defense, but he cannot claim that he did not have an opportunity to be heard.
Jerry Nadler: (09:46)
Finally, as we proceed today, we will hear a great deal about the speed with which the House is addressing the president’s actions. To the members of the committee, to the members of the house and to my fellow citizens, I want to be absolutely clear, the integrity of our next election is at stake. Nothing could be more urgent. The president welcomed foreign interference in our elections in 2016. He demanded it for 2020. Then he got caught. If you do not believe that he will do it again, let me remind you that the president’s personal lawyer spent last week back in Ukraine meeting with government officials in an apparent attempt to gin up the same so-called favors that brought us here today and forced Congress to consider the impeachment of a sitting president. This pattern of conduct represents a continuing risk to the country.
Jerry Nadler: (10:43)
The evidence shows that Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States, has put himself before his country. He has violated his most basic responsibilities to the people. He has broken his oath. I will honor mine. If you would honor yours, then I would urge you to do your duty. Let us review the record here in full view of the American people and then let us move swiftly to defend our country. We promised that we would.
Jerry Nadler: (11:17)
I now recognize the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee-
Speaker 3: (11:20)
Jerry Nadler: (11:20)
… the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Collins-
Speaker 3: (11:21)
Mr. Chairman. I have a unanimous consent.
Jerry Nadler: (11:22)
… and his opening statement.
Speaker 3: (11:23)
Mr. Chairman, I have a unanimous consent.
Jerry Nadler: (11:27)
The gentleman from Georgia is recognized.
Mr. Collins: (11:29)
[inaudible 00:11:29] someone is asking you for [inaudible 00:11:26].
Jerry Nadler: (11:29)
The gentleman from Georgia is recognized. [inaudible 00:11:28]. The gentleman from Georgia is recognized.
Mr. Collins: (11:32)
So, you’re not going to recognize a possible motion before me?
Speaker 5: (11:35)
Unanimous consent, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. Collins: (11:36)
Unanimous consent request.
Speaker 6: (11:37)
It’s a unanimous consent. [inaudible 00:11:38].
Mr. Collins: (11:37)
It’s a unanimous consent request.
Jerry Nadler: (11:40)
The gentleman from Georgia is recognized. We’ll entertain that later.
Mr. Biggs: (11:43)
Point of order, Mr. Chairman.
Jerry Nadler: (11:45)
The gentleman from Georgia is recognized.
Mr. Biggs: (11:46)
Mr. Chairman, I have a point of order.
Jerry Nadler: (11:47)
Point of order, the gentleman will state his point of order.
Mr. Biggs: (11:49)
Mr. Chairman, last week, you were furnished with a proper demand for minority hearing pursuant to clause 2J1 of rule 11. In a blatant and egregious violation of the rules you are refusing to schedule that hearing. Therefore, I insist on my point of order unless you are willing to immediately schedule a minority hearing day.
Jerry Nadler: (12:04)
That is not a proper point of order in today’s hearing. As I have told the ranking member several times now, I am considering the minority’s request.
Mr. Biggs: (12:11)
It’s not to be considered, Mr. Chairman.
Jerry Nadler: (12:14)
The gentlemen will suspend. If the ranking member thinks we would be violating the rules of the House if we considered articles of impeachment before holding a minority day hearing, his point of order would be timely at a meeting where we considered articles of impeachment. That is not the purpose of today’s hearing and the point of order is not timely. The gentleman from Georgia.
Doug Collins Opening Statement
Doug Collins: (00:00)
Well that got us started, again. The chairman completely not answering a question. It is timely and it’s frankly not up to his discretion. But again, we’ve not really cared about that from the start, to begin with. So my question is, is just schedule the hearing, but undoubtedly that’s not what they want out there. So let’s start over. Now the chairman is recognized and we’ve got that point. There’ve been famous moments and impeachment. There’ve been famous moments and impeachment as we’ve gone forward. There are famous lines from Nixon like, what did the president know and when did he know it? From the Clinton impeachment there was, I did not have sex with that woman.
Doug Collins: (00:37)
What would be known about this one is probably, where’s the impeachable offense? Why are we here? I’ll tell you, this may though become known as the focus group impeachment because we don’t have a crime, we don’t have anything we can actually pin, and nobody understands really what the majority is trying to do, except to interfere and basically make sure that they believe the president can’t win next year if he’s impeached. The focus group impeachment takes words and then takes them to people and say, how can we explain this better because we don’t have the facts to match it?
Doug Collins: (01:08)
A focus group impeachment says, we really aren’t working with good facts but we need a good PR move. That’s why we’re here today. This is all about, as I said last week, a clock and a calendar. And it really became evident to me that this was true because last Wednesday, after we had a long day of hearing here. The next morning, before anything else could get started, the speaker of the house walked up to the podium and said, “go write articles of impeachment.” She just quit. She just stopped, go write articles of impeachment. I appreciate that the majority practice for two days this weekend on this hearing. I appreciate the fact that you got to try and get it right, to try and convince the American people of your problem. But your speaker has already undercut you. She took the thrill out of the room.
Doug Collins: (01:58)
You’re rotting artists of impeachment. Why couldn’t we just save that time today? And if you’re going to write the dog’s impeachment, go ahead and write them. Well, there’s probably a reason for that because the chairman laid out some amazing claims, none of which I think after this hearing today, the American people can honestly look at and see that there was overwhelming evidence. There is a proper reason he abused these power because as the speaker, another statement, she said, that to do impeachment, you have to be so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, all of which we are not. So why not? Why are we here? Well, I think we can do this. Let’s look at the three things that typically are associated with making your case or a crime. Let’s do it against what the majority has said. And I think they have motive they have means and they have opportunity.
Doug Collins: (02:46)
What’s their motive? It’s November, 2020. It’s been said over and over and over again. The chairman said it again this morning. It’s been said all along that we have to do this because if we don’t impeach him, he’ll win again next year. The reason is shown is clearly as last week on the jobs report and the economy. And as I had a man come up to me in the grocery store this weekend, he said, keep doing what you’re doing. He said, I’ve never seen an economy this good. He said, “people are working, people are being taken care of.” And this is just a fatal distraction on a president that they don’t like. Motive as easy. November, 2016 they lost. January, 2017, just a few minutes in, the Washington Post confirmed what every Democrat had been talking about. Now’s the time for impeachment. We see tweet after tweet saying, now let’s get it. It’s amazing that they start with impeachment and then they spent two years trying to figure out what do we impeach him on?
Doug Collins: (03:39)
Well, the means became what we see now. The means is to always talk about impeachment, to always say, this president is doing something wrong. To say he is illegitimate, as the chairman has said before, that he’s not even a legitimate president, is to constantly tear down at a president who is working on behalf of the American people. The sham impeachment. When we go through this, I think the chairman said something that was interesting. He said that the president should not be above the law and should be held accountable for the oath of their office. I think Congress ought to be held accountable for their oath of office as well and not to do what we’re doing right now, and that is run a process that doesn’t fit fairness or decorum, to run a process and a fact pattern that you’re having to force against a president you don’t like. But what was the opportunity?
Doug Collins: (04:23)
The opportunity came last November, when they got the majority and they began their impeachment run. They began in the process, even as they’re selecting the chairman, the chairman said, “I would be the best person for impeachment.” This is November of last year. Before we had any hearings, before we had even more sworn in to this Congress for anyone, the media or watching on TV or watching in this room, for anyone to think that this was not a baked deal is not being honest with themselves. You see, presumption has now become the standard instead of proof. It should cause anyone to begin to question, because the entire case is built on a presumption. Or as we found out last week from three scholars, that inference is okay. If you just infer that that’s what they mean, then we’ll take that. That was an interesting line.
Doug Collins: (05:18)
You know, it’s interesting they made their whole case built on Gordon Sandlin. You’re going to see that a lot today. He testified that he presumed that the aid was connected to an investigation, but he said nobody ever told him that. When Sandlin even asked the president directly, he said, “what do you want?” The president said, “I want nothing.” I almost want Zielinski to do what he ran on, Ukraine, did nothing and got the aid anyway. But you know how I know that this is also a problematic experience. Just look over the past three weeks when the chairman of the intelligence committee, who by the way is absent today, I guess he can’t back up his own report, but he started his own hearing by making up the factual call. When he made it up, he started the fairy tale that we’re having today. If you can’t even put the transcript in the right context, just read it. Chairman Schiff couldn’t even read the transcript.
Doug Collins: (06:04)
He had to make it up because if he didn’t make it up, it didn’t sound as bad. It didn’t sound as bad. He said, let’s make up some dirt. That’s not what was said. The transcript. The chairman misled the American people as an attorney, as a chairman, as a member of Congress who swore an oath to tell the, basically to be honest with the American people and uphold the constitution. That was such a massive malpractice I’ve never seen, because you know why? Again, they don’t care about what actually was in the transcript. They don’t actually care what happened and we heard last week from witnesses, they don’t even care that the aid was released. They’re simply looking at the facts to make it fit their narrative. What else happened? You know, this is also the chairman Schiff who also said, that he had seen collusion in plain sight, that it was already there before the Mueller Report ever came out, that all of this was going to happen.
Doug Collins: (06:55)
But you know, I guess maybe I might need to just not stop commenting on chairman Schiff and his guidance because I may end up on the next phone records subpoena, as we go forward. You see we’ve taken a dangerous turn in this Congress. Subpoenas are fine, properly done, and should be done properly. But they should never be at the expense of a political vendetta. Professor Turley testified last week; presumption is no substitute for proof. The current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate and in some respects dangerous and the basis for impeachment of an American president. Today what we were supposed to get was like a lot of my friends on the majority of this committee said, Mueller, when we got the Mueller Report, it didn’t go real well, so we had a lot of hearings. Didn’t go real well.
Doug Collins: (07:45)
Then we finally got Bob Mueller and they said, this is going to be the movie version. In fact, what happened, they did. My colleagues on the majority had a live readings from Capitol Hill. They made dramatic broadcasts. They even wrote a comic book rendition that breathed life into the Mueller report and it didn’t work. So they brought Bob Mueller. This was the movie version. They told us. Robert Mueller’s testimony would be the thing that people watched and would be convinced. Guess what? They wasn’t convinced. In fact, it fell flat. But you know today I guess is the movie version of the Schiff report, except one thing, the star witness failed to show up. Mr. Nunez is here, his staff is here. The leading headline is there, Schiff report? But where’s Mr Schiff? And Mueller, Robert Mueller testified. The Ken Starr report, Ken Starr testified. The author of the Schiff report is not here.
Doug Collins: (08:36)
Instead he’s sending his staff to do his job for him. I guess that’s what you get when you’re making up impeachment as you go. So as we look forward here, there’s going to be plenty of time to discuss the factual case for this and the statements that are not being made. What is very detrimental to me though is this. This committee is hearing from a factual witness. This committee is not doing anything past hearing from law school professors and staff. The chairman said something about the president not being able to come. Show me where he would actually have a proper process in this that’s not talking to staff and not talking to law school professors, when we could actually have witnesses that will be called by both sides?
Doug Collins: (09:14)
But I want to say this, I love this institution. I was here as a 19 year old kid, as an intern, almost 32 years ago. This institution, as we see it today is in danger. We see chairman who are issuing subpoenas for personal vendettas. We see committees such as the judiciary committee that has held many, many substantive hearings, has been the very center point of impeachment, being used as a rubber stamp because we get not our marching orders from this committee and what it should be doing, but from the speaker and the intelligence committee chairman. We’re not able to do what we need to do because we’re a rubber stamp. I love this institution. But in the last three or four days, I’ve seen stuff that just bothered me to no end, and it should bother everyone. The speaker of the house after hearing one day of testimony and the judiciary committee said, “go write articles.” Facts be damned.
Doug Collins: (10:17)
Al green, another member of the house majority said, “we can keep impeaching him over and over and over and over again.” Adam Schiff, when he told us he wasn’t going to come, instead hide behind his staff. He also told us that we’re going to keep investigating because they know this is going nowhere in the Senate, and they’re desperate to have a impeachment vote on this president. The economy’s good, job creation is up, military is strong, our country is safe and the judiciary committee has been relegated to this.
Doug Collins: (10:53)
Why? Because they have the means, they have the motive, and they have the opportunity, and at the end of the day, all this is about, it’s about a clock and a calendar because they can’t get over the fact, Donald Trump is president of the United States and they don’t have a candidate that they think can beat him. It’s all political, and as we have talked about before, this is a show. Unfortunately today, the witness who was supposed to be the star witness, chose to take a pass and let a staff answer for him. With that, I yield back.
Democratic Counsel Barry Berke Opening Statement
Barry Berke: (00:00)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, [crosstalk 00:00:01], Ranking Member Collins, and all the members. Before I had the great honor of being a counsel for this committee, my young son asked me a question. He said, “Dad, does the president have to be a good person?” Like many questions by young children, it had a certain clarity but it was hard to answer. I said, “Son, it is not a requirement that the president be a good person, but that is the hope.” And it is not a requirement that the president be a good person. That is not why we are here today. That is not the issue.
Barry Berke: (00:42)
But the very document that created the awesome presidency and its powers that we have made clear, it is a requirement that the president be a person who does not abuse his power. It is a requirement that the president be a person who does not risk national security of this nation and the integrity of our elections in order to further his own reelection prospects. It is a requirement that the president not be a person who acts as though he is above the law in putting his personal and political interests above the nation’s interests. That is the lesson of the constitution. That is the lesson of the founders.
Barry Berke: (01:29)
They were concerned that someone would be elected president who would use all the power of that office to serve his own personal interests at the expense of the people who elected him. They decided there needed to be a remedy because they had suffered the abuses of King George where they had no remedy. The remedy they imposed was that if a president commits a grave offense, a high crime or misdemeanor, this body has the power to impeach that president. They wanted to ensure that a president could not serve his own interests over that of the nation. It flows from the very oath that all members of this body must take to support and defend the constitution and bear true faith and allegiance to the same.
Barry Berke: (02:26)
That is why we are here today, and it is an unfortunate occasion that these proceedings are necessary. But the president’s actions have left no choice. The founders were very clear in spelling out what they saw to be the greatest abuses that would raise the most concerns for our nation. They spelled them out as warning signals that if a president violated or committed one of these, that would be a reason to potentially impeach that president. They were abuse of power, betrayal of the national interest, corruption of elections. And what is so extraordinary is the conduct we’re going to be talking about today of President Trump didn’t violate one of these but all three.
Barry Berke: (03:16)
First, the evidence is overwhelming that the president abused his power by pressuring Ukraine and its new president to investigate a political opponent. The evidence is overwhelming that the president abused his power by ramping up that pressure by conditioning a wanted White House meeting and a needed military aid that had been approved in order to get that president to investigate a political rival. It is clear and overwhelming that in abusing that power, the president betrayed the national interest by putting his own political prospects over the national security of our country. It is clear that the president risks corrupting our elections by inviting foreign interference to knock out an adversary to help his prospects in reelection.
Barry Berke: (04:08)
It is why in debating the constitution, James Madison warned that because the presidency, “Was to be administered by a single man,” his corruption, “might be fatal to the Republic.” The scheme by President Trump was so brazen, so clear, supported by documents, actions, sworn testimony, uncontradicted, contemporaneous records that it’s hard to imagine that anybody could dispute those acts, let alone argue that that conduct does not constitute an impeachable offense or offenses. This is a big deal. President Trump did what a president of our nation is not allowed to do. It is why last week, the constitutional scholar, Professor Michael Gearhart said, “If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable.” President Trump’s actions are impeachable offenses. They threaten our rule of law. They threaten our institutions and as James Madison warned us, they threaten our Republic.
Barry Berke: (05:24)
Let me begin where we must with the facts and evidence. First, it’s important to understand why Ukraine was so important to our national security. Ukraine was under attack by its aggressive and hostile neighbor, Russia. They had already encroached on its territories. The Ukraine was at great risk that Russia would again take further territory or try. Europe had a stake in this and so did we. I’m going to turn to an expert on this, Ambassador Taylor, who is one of the most highly-decorated and recognized diplomats. For over 40 years, he served our country honorably and he was appointed by President Trump himself to be in charge of the U.S. embassy in Ukraine.
William Taylor: (06:09)
The Russians are violating all of the rules, treaties, understandings that they committed to that actually kept the peace in Europe for nearly 70 years. That rule of law, that order that kept the peace in Europe and allowed for prosperity as well as peace in Europe was violated by the Russians. It affects the world that we live in, that our children will grow up in and our grandchildren. This affects the kind of world that we want to see overall.
Barry Berke: (06:49)
That is Ambassador Taylor explaining why Ukraine was so important and explaining why the president’s actions so significantly risked hurting our national security, our national defense policy, and our national interest. Now, you’ve already heard there is significant proof that President Trump himself told the new president of the Ukraine, President Zelensky, that he wanted him to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. You’ll hear a lot about that today, but that proof is only the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more events, and meetings, and contemporaneous text messages, emails, other documents that show this happened and happened exactly as it is alleged. And it is clear that in this scheme to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival, the person at the center of that scheme was President Donald Trump.
Barry Berke: (07:42)
The facts cannot be disputed. President Trump use the powers of government for a domestic political errand to put his political interests above that of the nation. I’m going to turn to another expert. I’m going to turn to Dr. Fiona Hill, the National Security Council senior director in the Trump administration, and she’s going to explain what happened.
Fiona Hill: (08:03)
But it struck me on yesterday when you put up on the screen Ambassador Sondland’s emails and who was on these emails and he said, “These are the people who need to know that he was absolutely right.” Because he was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security foreign policy and those two things had just diverged.
Barry Berke: (08:26)
And that tells you what the evidence shows. The president put his own domestic political interests over the nation’s national security and foreign policy. A president cannot abuse his power to secure an election. He cannot do that at the expense of the American people. That is an impeachable offense. The president has tried to make excuses for his conduct, why it’s not wrongful, or corrupt, or an abuse of power. But the truth holds together. It makes sense. It’s consistent with the evidence. When someone is offering an excuse that is not true, it is not consistent with the evidence, it does not make sense, it cannot be squared with what the facts show, and you will see these excuses do not make sense.
Barry Berke: (09:18)
The facts are clear that President Trump put his own political and personal interests over the nation’s interest. I’d like to go through what you are going to see about the president’s scheme and you’re going to hear about today from the facts that we have. First, you’re going to hear that President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, pushed Ukraine to open an investigation of his political rival. Mr. Giuliani, prior to the July, 25th call, he made public statements that Ukraine should investigate the former Vice President Joe Biden. He tweeted about it, putting pressure on the new president. He went to Ukraine and later, went again with the assist and direction of U.S. officials who were told to aid the president’s personal lawyer on the president’s behalf.
Barry Berke: (10:13)
You’ll hear that President Trump told his aides that he was relying on for Ukraine, that he wanted them to, “Talk to Rudy.” What you’re going to hear is that his close advisors had just gotten back on May, 23rd from the inauguration of the new president, President Zelensky. They told President Trump, “We were impressed. He was elected on an anti-corruption platform, a reform platform. You should schedule a White House meeting. It’s very important. This is very good for the United States.” And the president’s response was, “Talk to Rudy,” who had been out there claiming what the Ukrainian president had to do was investigate his political rival. You’ll hear that President Trump’s advisers told President-
Barry Berke: (11:03)
President Trump’s advisers told President Zelensky that President Trump would not schedule the wanted White House meeting unless he announced a Ukrainian investigation of former Vice President Biden. There are documents. There’s sworn testimony. This happened and there is no question from the evidence that the president did this. President Zelensky desperately needed a white house meeting both to show Russia that the US was still supporting Ukraine and for his own credibility as a new president.
Barry Berke: (11:29)
You’ll hear then, to ramp up the pressure, what President Trump did is he told his agencies to withhold military and security aid that had been approved and was supposed to be released to Ukraine, hundreds of millions of dollars, in order to put more pressure on Ukraine. All the agencies involved, state department, feds department, national security council said it should be released. It had been approved. It was going to be released until President Trump personally stopped it. Again, contemporaneous evidence and documents show it and prove it.
Barry Berke: (12:05)
People said that they were shocked. Ambassador Taylor said he was in astonishment. Witnesses said that it was illogical to do this and the president never offered an explanation, but ultimately it was discovered why he did it. Then on the July 25th call, President Trump explicitly told him he wanted him to do two Ukrainian investigations, one of a US citizen and his political rival and the other about the origins of interference in the 2016 election, some conspiracy theory that Russia, who all the intelligence agencies agreed, interfered with the 2016 election. Maybe it was Ukraine. Again, another investigation intended to help the president politically. That is it.
Barry Berke: (12:49)
You know, the president cared about the investigations that would help him politically and not Ukraine and not the national security interest. You don’t have to take my word. I’m going to play something from David Holmes, who had worked in the US Embassy in Ukraine and was speaking to Ambassador Sondland, who president Trump appointed. Ambassador Sondland that had just come to the Ukraine on the 26th. He met with President Zelensky. He went to a restaurant with Mr. Holmes, the US Political Affairs Counselor in Ukraine. He called President Trump on his cell phone and Mr. Holmes could hear that call. Then he spoke to Mr. Sondland. Let’s see what happened on July 26, the day after that call.
Mr. Holmes: (13:28)
I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the president and explain he was calling from [inaudible 00:02:31]. I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland replied, “Yes, he was in Ukraine,” and went on to state that President Zelensky, “Loves your ass.” I then heard President Trump ask, “So he’s going to do the investigation?” Ambassador Sondland and replied that he’s going to do it, adding that President Zelensky will do anything you ask him to do.
Barry Berke: (13:57)
That is sworn testimony by David Holmes who heard it from the president himself. It was clear to everyone, the most experienced people in government who Donald Trump himself appointed in their positions, they knew what was going on. Let’s look at a text message from Ambassador Taylor. Around this time on September 9th he said, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” Again, that is President Trump putting his own political and personal interests over the nation’s interests to hold aid desperately needed by Ukraine in order to combat Russia and show the support. He did it to help his own campaign.
Barry Berke: (14:45)
Now there’ve been excuses offered by the president. I’d like to briefly talk about those excuses. The first excuse offered by President Trump is that the aid was ultimately released and President Trump met with Mr. Zelensky. We heard it today. The challenge with that, though, as an excuse is the aid was only released after President Trump got caught doing this scheme. On September 9th, the committees of this house started their investigation and announced they were investigating his conduct with regard to Ukraine. Two days later was when he released the aid. There also was a news article which we’ll talk about in a moment by the Washington Post on September 5th exposing his scheme. It was only after that, that he met with President Zelensky, not in the White House, but in New York.
Barry Berke: (15:32)
Another excuse offered, the president was motivated by general corruption concerns. Again, the evidence shows that is not true that, that’s what caused him to withhold the aid. President Zelensky in fact was elected on an anticorruption platform. He was a reform candidate. His own people told them again and again, President Zelensky is a hope. He’s doing it the right way. They urged him just be supportive.
Barry Berke: (15:58)
On his call with President Zelensky on July 25th, President Trump ignored the talking points that were prepared to talk about corruption. He only wanted to talk about two things: the two investigations that helped him politically. Every intelligence agency unanimously supported releasing the to Ukraine, that it was appropriate. They did a corruption study. They said, “Release it.” The White House never provided an explanation. The aid had already been approved and it was not for any corruption issues that President Trump withheld it.
Barry Berke: (16:30)
The next is Ukraine was not pressured. The argument about that is, well, today they haven’t said they were pressured. Well, Ukraine was pressured then and still is pressured. They are desperately in need of the United States support as they battle the threat of Russia. Of course they have to be careful what they said, but contemporaneous documents, emails, texts from the Ukrainian officials themselves show the pressure they felt, showed they knew what the President Trump was doing, showed what they had to do.
Barry Berke: (16:59)
This is one from Bill Taylor to, again, Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Ambassador Kurt Volker: “Gordon, one thing Kurt and I talked about yesterday was Sasha Danyliuk’s, a senior aide of President Zelensky, point that President Zelensky is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely an instrument in Washington’s domestic reelection politics.” They not only felt the pressure, they got the message. They were not going to get a White House meeting. They were ultimately not going to get military aid unless they furthered President Trump’s reelection efforts. That is a corrupt abuse of power.
Barry Berke: (17:38)
Another argument that’s made is that Trump never said quid pro quo. What you’re going to hear is on a call with Ambassador Sondland, after a Washington Post article came out on September 5th, which we will look at. After that, there was a Washington Post article that came out that, again, exposed the Ukrainian scheme. Days after that President Trump was on a phone call with Ambassador Sondland and without prompting said, “There was no quid pro quo,” because he got caught. He’s offering his defense, but even Ambassador Sondland, in his sworn testimony, didn’t buy it because ultimately then President Trump not only was not dissuaded, he again described what he wanted. He didn’t want Ukraine to actually conduct these investigations. He wanted them to announce the investigations of his political rival to help him politically. He continued and you’ll hear more about that. Again, none of these excuses hold any water and they are refuted by testimony, contemporaneous records, and more.
Barry Berke: (18:46)
Now, some have suggested that we should wait to proceed with these impeachment proceedings because we’ve not heard from all of the witnesses or obtained all the documents, but the reason we have not heard from all the witnesses or documents is because President Trump himself has obstructed the investigation. He’s directed his most senior aides who are involved in some of these events not to come testify, to defy subpoenas. He has told every one of his agencies with records that could be relevant not to produce those records to us, to try to obstruct our investigation.
Barry Berke: (19:20)
Now this is evidence that President Trump is replaying the playbook used in the prior Department of Justice investigation. In that investigation he directed his White House council to create a false, phony record and document and lie, denying that President Trump had told him to fire the special counsel. He did many other things to try to interfere with that investigation. He attacked the investigators, and witnesses, and called them horrible names just as he has done here. President Trump thought he got away with it. On July 24th was the day that the special counsel testified before this committee and the House Intelligence Committee, the 24th.
Barry Berke: (20:07)
It was exactly the following day, the 25th, that President Trump spoke to Presidents Zelensky and in furtherance of Ukrainian scheme. He thought he got away with it. Not only that he thought he could use his powers to interfere with that investigation so he could do what he wanted, he could act like he was above the law. If he got caught, he would again use his powers to try to obstruct the investigation and prevent the facts from coming out.
Barry Berke: (20:31)
That’s exactly what he did, but fortunately, because of the true American Patriots who came forward to testify despite the threats by the president against the people who worked in his own administration, they told the story. They, on their own, produced documents that provide uncontroverted, clear, and overwhelming evidence that President Trump did this scheme. He put his political reelection interests over the nation’s national security and the integrity of its elections. He did it intentionally. He did it corruptly. He abused his powers in ways that the founders feared the most. No person in this country has the ability to prevent investigations and neither does the president. Our constitution does not allow it. No one is above the law, not even the president. One of the concerns and requirements of finding an impeachable offense, is there an urgency? Is there a sense that you have to move because it could be repeated? Well, again, first, all the constitutional experts who testified recognize that obstructing an investigation is an impeachable offense, but here, the offense we’re talking about that’s being interfered or obstructed with is interfering with this very election that’s coming up. I submit to you, given what happened with the department of justice …
Barry Berke: (22:03)
And I submit to you, given what happened with the Department of Justice investigation, given what’s happening here, if in fact President Trump can get away with what he did again, our imagination is the only limit to what President Trump may do next or what a future president may do next, to try to abuse his or her power to serve his own personal interest over the nation’s interest.
Barry Berke: (22:27)
I’d like to turn back to what the founders most cared about and we talked about the ABCs of of potential presidential abuses. It is extraordinary that the president’s conduct was a trifecta, checking all three boxes. Let’s begin with abuse of power.
Barry Berke: (22:47)
What that means, it’s to use the power of the office to obtain an improper personal benefit while ignoring or injuring the national interest, or acts in ways that are grossly inconsistent with and undermine the separation of powers that is the foundation of our democratic system.
Barry Berke: (23:07)
Now this question of whether president engaged in abuse of power came up before when this Congress considered the impeachment of President Nixon and after action was taken, President Nixon famously said, “If the president does it, it is not illegal,” and this body rejected that because that’s not so that goes directly contrary to what the founder said. But President Trump has said the same thing in responding to the prior investigation by the Department of Justice in defending his conduct. Here’s what he said.
Donald Trump: (23:40)
Then I have an article to, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.
Barry Berke: (23:49)
That he has the right to do whatever he wants as president. That is as wrong as when President Nixon said a similar thing. That is not what the constitution provides. That is not what the country demands. He does not have the right to do whatever he wants.
Barry Berke: (24:03)
Turning to the second abuse of power, most of the concerned betrayal of the nation involving foreign powers. The American people have suffered that foreign influence. When President Trump treated military aid that had been approved, taxpayers’ dollars and decided to treat it as his own checkbook to try to further his own re-election chances, that reflects what the founders were concerned about it.
Barry Berke: (24:32)
And finally, corruption of our elections. The framers knew that corrupt leaders or leaders acting corruptly concentrate their powers to manipulate elections and undercut adversaries. They talked about it frequently. That is why the framers thought electoral treasury, particularly involving foreign powers, was a critical abuse and and that could support and lead to impeachment. Now, the American people learned last election how dangerous foreign intervention or elections can be.
Barry Berke: (25:09)
Let me show another clip from President… from candidate Trump on the campaign trail.
Donald Trump: (25:15)
Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.
Barry Berke: (25:29)
And Russia was listening. Within approximately five hours, five hours of President Trump’s invitation to Russia to interfere in our election by trying to hack in, obtain the emails of his political opponent, Russia, in fact, tried to do that for the first time. The very officers who were then indicted by the Department of Justice for that conduct, they took candidate candidate Trump’s invitation.
Barry Berke: (25:58)
Now the American people learned a lesson. President Trump unfortunately, apparently learned a different lesson. Let’s look.
Donald Trump: (26:13)
Well, I would think that if they were honest about it, they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens’. It’s a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens’.
Barry Berke: (26:24)
So this was President Trump answering a question about what did he want President Zelensky to do. So even after he got caught, he is saying again, this vulnerable nation, dependent on US support militarily and otherwise, again, he’s telling them what to do and unlike in 2016 when he only had a campaign platform, which to extend the invitation to a foreign power, now he has the levers of government in his control to not only request it and invite it, but to pressure that country to do it and that’s exactly what he did and you’ll hear more about that in the presentation for the House Intelligence Committee.
Barry Berke: (27:05)
What’s most striking as we come back to this issue that the framers were concerned about, is there a continuing risk of wrongdoing? The fact that President Trump did this, after he was caught, shows the risk, shows the risk of what will happen if this body doesn’t act.
Barry Berke: (27:23)
He really does believe he can act as though he were above the law. He really does believe, as evidenced by this conduct, that he can put his personal and political interests over the nation’s interest, over the nation’s national security interests, over the nations integrity of its elections.
Barry Berke: (27:48)
So of course we do have an election coming up. That’s not a reason to postpone this discussion. That’s a reason we must have this discussion; to make sure it is not interfered with to make sure this president doesn’t do it, to make sure future presidents do not do it.
Barry Berke: (28:06)
It is the hope that in these discussions can put aside political rancor, disagreements and have a fair discussion about the facts in this conduct, not just as it relates to President Trump, but as to the presidency itself and future presidents. My son, our children, our grandchildren, they will study this moment in history. They will read all of your remarks. They will learn about all of your actions and that is not a reason to vote for or against impeachment. For that, of course, you must vote your conscience, but that is a reason for us to have a fair debate about what the undisputed facts show to recognize that it is wrong. It is very wrong and in cannot happen again with this president or any president. It is a reason to talk about whether we want our children and grandchildren to live in a country where the president elected by the people can put his own personal and political interests over the interests of the people who elected them.
Barry Berke: (29:24)
It is a reason for these debates to, again, fairly focus on the facts and to make sure the presentations we’re going to hear will not distort the record. Focus on process points, raise extraneous matters that really are intended to distract rather than focus on what the conduct was at issue here. It is a reason to focus on the facts and what is in the country’s best interest. History, future generations will be the judge.
Republican Counsel Stephen Castor’s Opening Statement
Stephen Castor: (00:00)
Morning, Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Collins, members of the Committee and members of the staff. My name is Steve Castor. I’m a congressional staff member. I serve with the Oversight Committee on the Republican staff with Mr. Jordan. I’m also, for purposes of this investigation, I’m a shared staffer with the Judiciary Committee and Mr. Collins and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and Mr. Nunez. It sure is atypical for a staffer to be presenting, but again, thanks for having me.
Stephen Castor: (00:29)
The purpose of this hearing, as we understand it, is to discuss whether President Donald J Trump’s conduct fits the definition of a high crime and misdemeanor. It does not, such that the Committee should consider articles of impeachment to remove the president from office and it should not. This case, in many respects, comes down to eight lines in a call transcript. Let me say clearly and unequivocally that the answer to that question is no.
Stephen Castor: (00:57)
The record in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry does not show that President Trump abused the power of his office or obstructed Congress. To impeach a president, who 63 million people voted for, over eight lines in a call transcript is baloney.
Stephen Castor: (01:16)
Democrats seek to impeach President Trump not because they have evidence of high crimes or misdemeanors, but because they disagree with his policies. This impeachment inquiry is not the organic outgrowth of serious misconduct. Democrats have been searching for a set of facts in which to impeach President Trump since his inauguration on January 20th, 2017. Just 27 minutes after the president’s inauguration that day, the Washington Post ran a story that the campaign to impeach the president has already begun. The article reported Democrats and liberal activists are mounting broad opposition to stymieing Trump’s agenda, and noted that impeachment strategists believed the Constitution’s emoluments clause would be the vehicle.
Stephen Castor: (02:03)
In the first two years of the administration, Democrats in the House introduced articles of impeachment to remove President Trump from office on several very different factual bases. On January 3rd, the very first day of the new Congress, Congressman Sherman introduced articles of impeachment against the president. The same day Representative Tlaib said, “We’re going to go in there. We’re going to impeach the president.”
Stephen Castor: (02:32)
In May 2019, Representative Green said on MSNBC, “If we don’t impeach this president, he will be reelected.” Even Speaker Pelosi, who has said that impeachment is a somber and prayerful exercise, has called President Trump an impostor and said it is dangerous to allow voters to judge his performance in 2020.
Stephen Castor: (02:59)
The obsession with impeaching the president is reflected in House Democrats, have used the power of their majority in the past 11 months. In the Oversight Committee, the Democrats’ first announced witness was Michael Cohen, a disgraced felon who pleaded guilty to lying to Congress. When he came before us at the Oversight Committee, he then lied again as many as eight times. Oversight Committee Democrats demanded information about the president’s personal finances and even subpoenaed the president’s accounting firm, Mazar, for large swaths of sensitive and personal financial information about the entire Trump Family. The subpoena was issued over the objection of Committee Republicans and without a vote.
Stephen Castor: (03:45)
In the Ways and Means Committee, Democrats demanded the president’s personal tax return information. The reason they cited for wanting the president’s tax returns, they said was to oversee the IRS’s audit process for presidential tax returns. You can judge that for yourself.
Stephen Castor: (04:04)
In the Financial Services Committee, Democrats demanded and subpoenaed the president’s bank records, going back 10 years. The Financial Services Committee Staff, the Republicans tell me the information demanded would cover every withdrawal, credit card swipe, or debit card purchase of every member of the Trump Family, including his minor child. The reason that the Democrats gave for why they needed such voluminous and intrusive personal information about the Trump Family was, get this, financial industry compliance with banking statutes and regulations.
Stephen Castor: (04:40)
Here in the Judiciary Committee, Democrats sent out letters demanding information from over 80 recipients, including the president’s children, business partners, employees, his campaign, businesses, and foundation. Of course the main event for the Judiciary Committee was the report of Special Counsel Mueller, which Democrats would believe would serve as the evidentiary basis for impeaching the president.
Stephen Castor: (05:09)
Despite interviewing 500 witnesses, issuing 2,800 subpoenas, executing almost 500 search warrants, and spending $25 million, the Special Counsel’s 19 attorneys and 40 FBI agents, analysts, and staff found no conspiracy or coordination between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government.
Stephen Castor: (05:36)
After the Trump/Russia collusion allegations did not pan out, Democrats focused their efforts on obstruction of justice. They criticized the Attorney General Bar for concluding that no crime of obstruction had occurred in the Special Counsel Investigation, but in fact was entirely appropriate for the Attorney General to make that call, because the Special Counsel declined to do so. Not surprisingly, the Democrats’ Mueller hearing was underwhelming to say the least. And the sequel with Corey Lewandowski definitely did not move the impeachment needle either.
Stephen Castor: (06:12)
The Intelligence Committee, too, is heavily invested in the Russia Collusion Investigation. Committee Democrats hired former federal prosecutors to prepare for their anticipated efforts to impeach the president. Now that the Russian collusion allegations did not work out, Democrats have settled on the Ukraine phone call, eight lines the president uttered on July 25th with Ukrainian President Zelensky.
Stephen Castor: (06:37)
But the Foreign Affairs Committee, the committee of jurisdiction wasn’t the committee leading the impeachment inquiry or holding the hearings. Neither was the Oversight Committee, the House’s chief investigative entity. The Judiciary Committee was only recently brought back into the mix after fact finding concluded.
Stephen Castor: (06:59)
Instead, the impeachment inquiry was run by the House Intelligence Committee and these former federal prosecutors. Democrats on the Intelligence Committee ran the impeachment inquiry in a manifestly unfair way. All the fact finding was unclassified and that was made clear at the top of every single deposition, but the Democrats took advantage of the closed door process in the Capitol basement bunker, the skiff, to control access to information.
Stephen Castor: (07:28)
The secrecy effectively weaponized the investigation, allowing misleading public narratives to form and catch hold with careful leaks of witness testimony. Democrats refused to invite Republican witnesses and directed witnesses called by the Democrats not to answer our questions.
Stephen Castor: (07:46)
In the public hearings, many of these unfair processes continued. Democrats refused to invite numerous witnesses requested by Republicans, interrupted Republican questioning and prevented witnesses from answering Republican questions. Democrats voted down, by virtue of a motion to table, with no notice, subpoenas for documents and testimony requested by Republicans. I’ll note that Democrats never once brought any of their subpoenas to a vote before the Intelligence Committee.
Stephen Castor: (08:19)
This unfair process reflects the degree to which Democrats are obsessed with impeaching the president. The Democrats went searching for a set of facts on which to impeach the president. The emoluments clause, the president’s business and financial records, the Mueller Report, allegations of obstruction, before landing on the Ukraine phone call.
Stephen Castor: (08:42)
The impeachment inquiry is clearly an orchestrated effort to upend our political system. According to Politico, the speaker has tightly scripted every step of the impeachment inquiry. Democrats have reportedly convened focus groups to test which allegations, whether it be quid pro quo or bribery or extortion, were most compelling to the American Public.
Stephen Castor: (09:08)
Speaker Pelosi said, “Democrats must strike while the iron is hot on impeaching the president.” The entire duration of the impeachment inquiry, from the time Speaker Pelosi announced it on September 24th until today, has been 76 days. As Professor Turley testified last Wednesday, this impeachment would stand out among modern impeachments as the shortest proceeding with the thinnest evidentiary record and the narrowest grounds ever used to impeach a president.
Stephen Castor: (09:45)
The artificial and arbitrary political deadline by which Democrats are determined to finish impeachment by Christmas leads to a rush process and missed opportunities to obtain relevant information. Democrats avoided the accommodations process required by federal courts and disputes between Congress and the executive. Democrats declined to attempt to negotiate with the administration for the production of documents and witnesses. Democrats did not exhaust all their options to entice witnesses or agencies to cooperate, such as allowing witnesses to appear with agency lawyers or initiating contempt proceedings. Sometimes the threat of a contempt proceeding gets you a different result. Sometimes the witnesses choose to appear when contempt is on the table.
Stephen Castor: (10:35)
Democrats even withdrew a subpoena to one witness who asked a federal court to resolve conflicting orders from Congress and the executive, either because the Democrats did not want to wait for the court to rule or they didn’t like the presiding judge, Judge Leon. Instead, Democrats made their demands and refused to budge. Democrats told witnesses at the outset that their refusal to cooperate in full would be used against them and the president. Democrats threatened federal employees that their salaries could be withheld for not meeting committee demands. These tactics are fundamentally unfair and counterproductive for gathering information in any serious inquiry.
Stephen Castor: (11:20)
This rushed and take it or leave it approach to investigating is contrary to how successful congressional investigations typically work. Congressional investigations take time. There is no easy button. In this job, you must take the information that’s offered even if you don’t like the terms. You should not say no to taking a witness’s testimony because you would prefer the agency counsel is not present. If that’s the only means of obtaining the testimony, you should take it. Your priority must not be on blocking information out. It must be on seeking information.
Stephen Castor: (11:59)
In all recent major congressional investigations, for example, Chairman Goodlatte and Gowdy’s investigation into the Justice Department’s decision during 2016, the IRS targeting investigation, the Bengazi investigation, and Fast and Furious, there have been give and take between Congress and the executive. In the Goodlatte/Gowdy investigation, for example, it took two months; two months of negotiations before the committees conducted the first witness interview with Deputy Director McCabe. The Justice Department only began producing documents to the Committee after many more months of discussions. In none of these investigations did Congress get everything it wanted right at the beginning, certainly not within 60 or 76 days. But with persistence and patience, we eventually did receive enough information to do our work.
Stephen Castor: (12:50)
And contrary to talking points, the Trump Administration has in fact cooperated with and facilitated congressional oversight and investigations. For example, earlier this year, the Oversight Committee conducted an investigation into security clearances at the White House. The central allegation put forward was that the White House deviated from established procedures to grant clearances to certain White House staff. The Democrats sought to interview career staff who perform these security clearance reviews, but declined the witness initially to appear with agency counsel.
Stephen Castor: (13:28)
The House and the White House were at an impasse. However, after a little bit of time, we, the Republican staff with the help of Mr. Jordan, convinced the witness to appear with agency counsel for our own transcribed interview. And the Democrats came along. The subsequent interviews in the security clearance investigation were conducted with agency counsel. The testimony allowed the committee to obtain the evidence to get to the bottom of what was going on and it wasn’t what was alleged. Nobody outside the security clearance office was handing out clearances, certainly not to senior White House staffers.
Stephen Castor: (14:14)
In this impeachment inquiry however, Democrats have turned away information that could be valuable to the inquiry by disallowing agency counsel to accompany witnesses. Democrats have turned away information by declining to negotiate in good faith with the administration about the scope of document requests. As a result of these failures, the evidentiary record and the impeachment inquiry is incomplete, and in many places incoherent.The failure to exhaust all avenues to obtain information severely risks undermining the legitimacy of any articles of impeachment.
Stephen Castor: (14:52)
As professor Turley said to the committee last week, “I’m concerned about lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. I believe this impeachment not only fails the standard of past impeachments, but would create a dangerous precedent for future impeachments.” Professor Turley elaborated that the current lack of proof is another reason why the abbreviated investigation into this matter is so damaging for the case of impeachment.
Stephen Castor: (15:24)
The substantive case for impeaching President Trump as a result of an artificial arbitrary and political schedule relies heavily on ambiguous facts, presumptions, and speculation. President Turley warned here too that impeachments have been based on proof, not presumptions. The Democrats do not have the proof.
Stephen Castor: (15:52)
Now, my Democrat counterparts on the Intelligence Committee are talented attorneys. I’m sure they will tell you a riveting story about a shadow or irregular foreign policy apparatus and a smear campaign designed to extort Ukraine for the president’s political benefit. They’ll tell you about President Trump and how he put his own political interests ahead of national security by mentioning former Vice President Joe Biden by name and raising the allegations of Ukrainian influence in the 2016 election on the July 25th call. They’ll try to convince you that the Trump Administration, the same administration Democrats regularly accused of being incompetent, orchestrated an international conspiracy at the highest levels.
Stephen Castor: (16:42)
None of this adds up. It may be a great screenplay, but it’s not what the evidence shows. The Democrats’ impeachment inquiry ignores all of the evidence that does not advance their story. The Democrats’ impeachment narrative resolves all ambiguous facts and conflicting evidence in a way that is most unflattering to the president. The Democrats’ impeachment narrative ignores public statements from senior Ukrainian officials that contradict the narrative.
Stephen Castor: (17:12)
As you listen to the Democrat presentation later today, I urge you to keep these points in mind. What evidence that has been gathered in the impeachment inquiry paints a different picture? I won’t provide a detailed presentation now, but allow me to highlight a few points. First, the summary of the July 25th phone call reflects no conditionality or pressure. President Zelensky never vocalized any discomfort or pressure on the call. Contrary to Democrat allegations, President Trump was not asking for a favor that would help his reelection. He was asking for assistance in helping our country move forward from the divisiveness of the Russia collusion investigation.
Stephen Castor: (17:58)
Second, since President Trump has declassified and publicly released the call summary 75 days ago, President Zelensky has said publicly and repeatedly that he felt no pressure. He said it on September 25th at the United Nations General Assembly. He said it in an interview published on October 6th. He said it again on October 10th. And most recently, he said it just last week in Time Magazine. Other senior Ukrainian officials have also said there was no linkage between a meeting, security assistance, and an investigation. If President Trump was truly orchestrating a pressure campaign to force Ukraine to investigate former Vice president Biden, one would think that Ukraine would have felt some pressure.
Stephen Castor: (18:46)
Third, at the time of the July 25th call, senior officials in Kiev did not know that the security assistance was paused. They did not learn it was paused until the pause was reported publicly in the U.S. media on August 28th. As Ambassador Volker testified, because the highest levels of the Ukrainian government did not know about the pause, there was no leverage implied.
Stephen Castor: (19:12)
Finally, President Zelensky met with President Trump in New York on September 25th at the United Nations. Shortly thereafter, or shortly before that, the security assistance flowed to Ukraine. Both happened without Ukraine ever taking actions or investigations. The impeachment record also has substantial evidence going to the president’s state of mind, undercutting the Democrats assertion of some malicious intent. Witnesses testified that president Trump has a deeply rooted, genuine, and reasonable skepticism of Ukraine, stemming from its history of corruption. President Trump is skeptical of U.S. taxpayer funded foreign assistance and believes that our allies should share more of the burden of Ukraine’s defense.
Stephen Castor: (20:06)
Ukrainian politicians openly spoke out against President Trump during the 2016 election. These events bear directly on the president’s state of mind. President Zelensky had run on an anti-corruption platform, but he was an untried politician with a relationship to a controversial Ukrainian oligarch. When Vice President Pence met with Presidents Zelensky in Warsaw on September 1, he stressed to him the need for reform and reiterated the president’s concern about burden sharing, especially among European allies.
Stephen Castor: (20:46)
In late August and early September, after his party took control of the Ukrainian Parliament, Ukraine passed historic reforms to fight corruption. These reforms, including removing parliamentary immunity, which witnesses said had been a historic source of corruption. Imagine if members of our Congress had immunity. President Trump later lifted the pause on security assistance and met with presidents Zelensky two weeks later. The aid was paused for 55 days.
Stephen Castor: (21:16)
Very simply, the evidence in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry does not support the conclusion that President Trump abused his power for his own personal political benefit. There is simply no clear evidence that President Trump acted with malicious intent, in withholding a meeting, or security assistance. Indeed there are, and the Republican report articulates them, legitimate explanations for these actions that are not nefarious, as the Democrats allege.
Stephen Castor: (21:47)
The evidence shows that President Trump faithfully executed the duties of his office by delivering on what he promised the American voters he would do. Democrats may disagree with the president’s policy decisions or the matter in which he governs, but those disagreements are not enough to justify the irrevocable action of removing him from office. The Democrats hyperbole and histrionics are no good reason, 11 months out from an election, to prevent the American People from deciding on their own who is going to be the next president.
Stephen Castor: (22:24)
This record also does not support a conclusion that President Trump obstructed Congress during the impeachment inquiry for many of the procedural defects I touched on earlier. Additionally, as a factual matter, the only direct testimony the investigation has obtained about the president’s reaction to the inquiry is from Ambassador Sondland, who testified President Trump told him to cooperate and tell the truth. President Trump has also declassified and released the summaries of his two phone calls with President Zelensky. President Trump has said that he would like witnesses to testify, but he’s been forced to resist the unfair and abusive process.
Stephen Castor: (23:06)
I believe strongly in the prerogatives of the Congress. It’s awful to hear President Turley’s testimony from last week when he critiqued the House for proceeding on impeachment so rapidly and on such a thin record. Professor Turley said, “To set this abbreviated schedule, demand documents, and then impeach because they haven’t been turned over when they go to court, I think is an abuse of power.”
Stephen Castor: (23:32)
“The Impeachment of a duly elected president,” as Chairman Nadler said in 1998, “is the undoing of a national election.” Now, I understand Democrats’ issue to report over the weekend, arguing that contrary to the Chairman’s statement in the 1998 Impeachment is not undoing an election. I would just respond by saying that I don’t think many of the 63 million Americans from all around the country who voted for President Trump in 2016 would agree. By impeaching President Trump, the House would essentially be nullifying the decision of those Americans, and the House would be doing it in less than 11 months before the next election.
Stephen Castor: (24:15)
There still is no compelling argument for why Democrats in the House must take this decision out of the hands of the voters and do it before Christmas. During the Clinton Impeachment in 1998, the Chairman said that at bare minimum, the president’s accusers must go beyond hearsay and innuendo and beyond the demands that the president prove his innocence of vague and changing charges. I would submit that those words ring as true today as the Chairman believed them to be in 1998.
Stephen Castor: (24:47)
The impeachment record is heavily reliant on hearsay, innuendo, and presumptions. Democrats have lobbed vague and ever changing charges for impeachment, going as far back as the president’s inauguration. For all these reasons, the extraordinary exercise of the House’s impeachment authority is not warranted on the evidentiary record presented.
Stephen Castor: (25:13)
Thank you for allowing me to present this information this morning, and I yield back.
Democratic Counsel Daniel Goldman Opening Statement
Jerry Nadler: (00:00)
Mr. Goldman, you may begin.
Daniel Goldman: (00:02)
Thank you Mr. Chairman. Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Collins, members of the committee. We are here today because Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States, abused the power of his office, the American presidency, for his political and personal benefit. President Trump directed a months-long campaign to solicit foreign help in his 2020 reelection efforts, withholding official acts from the government of Ukraine in order to coerce and secure political assistance and interference in our domestic affairs. As part of this scheme, President Trump applied increasing pressure on the president of Ukraine to publicly announce two investigations helpful to his personal reelection efforts. He applied this pressure himself and through his agents, working within and outside of the US government, by conditioning a desperately sought oval office meeting and $391 million in taxpayer funded, congressionally appropriated security assistance, vital to Ukraine’s ability to fend off Russian aggression. And he conditioned that on the announcement of these two political investigations that were helpful to his personal interests.
Daniel Goldman: (01:38)
When the president’s efforts were discovered, he released the military aid, though it would ultimately take congressional action for the money to be made fully available to Ukraine. The Oval Office meeting still has not happened. And when faced with the opening of an official impeachment inquiry into his conduct, President Trump launched an unprecedented campaign of obstruction of Congress, ordering executive branch agencies and government officials to defy subpoenas for documents and testimony. To date, the investigating committees have received no documents from the Trump administration pursuant to our subpoenas. Were it not for courageous public servants doing their duty and honoring their oath to this country and coming forward and testifying, the president’s scheme might still be concealed today. The central moment in this scheme was a telephone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25th of this year. During that call, President Trump asked President Zelensky for a personal favor, to initiate the two investigations that President Trump hoped could ultimately help his reelection in 2020.
Daniel Goldman: (03:05)
The first investigation involved former Vice President Joe Biden, and was an effort to smear his reputation as he seeks the democratic nomination in next year’s presidential election. The second investigation sought to elevate an entirely debunked conspiracy theory, promoted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, that Ukraine interfered in the last presidential election to support the democratic nominee. In truth, as has been made clear by irrefutable evidence from throughout the government, Russia interfered in the last election in order to help then-candidate Trump. The allegations about Vice President Biden and the 2016 election are patently false, but that did not deter president Trump during his phone call with the Ukrainian president and it does not appear to deter him today.
Daniel Goldman: (04:03)
Just two days ago, President Trump stated publicly that he hopes that his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, will report to the Department of Justice and to Congress, the results of Mr. Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine last week, to pursue these false allegations meant to tarnish vice president Biden. President Trump’s persistent and continuing effort to coerce a foreign country to help him cheat to win an election is a clear and present danger to our free and fair elections and to our national security.
Daniel Goldman: (04:41)
The overwhelming evidence of this scheme is described in detail in a nearly 300 page document entitled The Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report, formerly transmitted from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to this committee a few days ago. The report relies on testimony from numerous current and former government officials, the vast majority of whom are nonpartisan, career professionals, responsible for keeping our nation safe and promoting American values around the globe. The evidence from these witnesses cannot seriously be disputed. The president placed his personal interests above the nation’s interests in order to help his own reelection efforts. Before I highlight the evidence and the findings of this report, I want to take just a moment to introduce myself and discuss today’s testimony. I joined the house intelligence committee as Senior Advisor and Director of Investigations at the beginning of this year. Previously, I served for 10 years as a prosecutor in the Southern district of New York, when I joined the Department of Justice under the George W. Bush administration. The team that I led on the intelligence community includes other former federal prosecutors, a retired FBI agent, and investigators with significant national security expertise. The report that I am presenting today is based entirely on the evidence that we collected in coordination with the Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees that were gathered as part of the impeachment inquiry into president Trump’s actions. Nothing more and nothing less.
Daniel Goldman: (06:32)
The three investigating committees ran a fair, professional, and thorough investigation. We followed the house rules for depositions and public hearings, including the rule against agency counsel being present for depositions and members and staff from both parties had equal time to ask questions and there were no substantive questions that were prevented from being asked and answered. This investigation moved swiftly and intensively as all good investigation should, to the extent that other witnesses would be able to provide more context and detail about this scheme, their failure to testify is due solely to the fact that President Trump obstructed the inquiry and refused to make them available.
Daniel Goldman: (07:23)
Nevertheless, the extensive evidence that the committee’s uncovered during this investigation led to the following critical findings. First, President Trump used the power of his office to pressure and induce the newly elected president of Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 presidential election for president Trump’s personal and political benefit. Second, in order to increase the pressure on Ukraine to announce the politically motivated investigations that President Trump wanted, President Trump withheld a coveted Oval Office meeting and $391 of essential military assistance from Ukraine. Third, President Trump’s conduct sought to undermine our free and fair elections and poses an imminent threat to our national security. And forth, faced with the revelation of his pressure campaign against Ukraine, President Trump directed an unprecedented effort to obstruct Congress’s impeachment inquiry into his conduct.
Daniel Goldman: (08:33)
And with that context in mind, I would like to turn to the evidence of President Trump’s conduct concerning Ukraine. My colleague, Mr. Castro, just said that it revolves around eight lines in one call record, but that sorely ignores the vast amount of evidence that we collected, of a months long scheme directed by the president. But I do want to start with that July 25th phone call because that is critical evidence of the president’s involvement and intent. It was on that day that he held his second phone call with the new Ukrainian president. The first in April was short and cordial, following the Ukrainian president’s election success. But this second call would diverge dramatically from what those listening had expected. Now just prior to this telephone call, President Trump spoke to Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, who had donated $1 million to the president’s inaugural campaign and who had been directed by the president himself to take on a leading role in Ukraine issues.
Daniel Goldman: (09:44)
Ambassador Sondland relayed the president’s message to President Zelensky through Ambassador Kurt Volker, who had had lunch that day with President Zelensky’s top aid, Andriy Yermak, who appears repeatedly through this scheme as President Zelensky’s right hand man. Ambassador Volker texted Mr. Yermak with President Trump’s direction. “Good lunch – thanks. Heard from White House – assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016 we will nail down for a visit to Washington. Good luck! See you tomorrow – Kurt.” So even before the phone call with President Zelensky took place, President Trump had directed that Ukraine initiate the investigation into 2016, the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine had interfered in the election, in order for President Zelensky to get the White House visit that he desperately coveted. Ambassador Sondland was clear in his testimony about this quid pro quo.
Gordon Sondland: (11:07)
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.
Daniel Goldman: (11:25)
During this call with the Ukrainian leader, President Trump did not discuss matters of import to the United States, such as Ukraine’s efforts to root out corruption. Instead, president Trump veered quickly into the personal favor that he wanted President Zelensky to do. Two investigations that would help President Trump’s reelection effort. Witnesses who listened to the call described it as unusual, improper, inappropriate, and concerning. To of them immediately reported their concerns to White House lawyers. Now, let me just take a few minutes walking through that important call step-by-step, because it is evidence that is central to the president’s scheme. Near the beginning of the call, President Zelensky said, I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps. Specifically, we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.”
Daniel Goldman: (12:28)
The great support in the area of defense included the nearly $400 million of US military assistance to Ukraine, which one witness testified was nearly 10% of Ukraine’s defense budget. And this support comes as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, when Russia illegally annexed nearly 7% of Ukraine’s territory. Since then, the United States and our allies have provided support for Ukraine, an emerging post-Soviet democracy, to fend off Russia in the East. Yet just a few weeks before this July 25th call, President Trump had inexplicably placed a hold on military assistance to Ukraine without providing any reason to his own cabinet members or national security officials. The evidence the committee’s collected showed that there was unanimous support for the aid from every relevant agency in the Trump administration. Nevertheless, during the call, President Trump complained that US support for Ukraine was not reciprocal, that somehow Ukraine needed to give more to the United States.
Daniel Goldman: (13:41)
What did he mean? Well, it became clear, because immediately after President Zelensky brought up us military support and purchasing Javelin anti-tank weapons, President Trump responded, “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it.” Now, the favor that he referenced there included two demands that had nothing to do with official US policy or foreign policy. First, President Trump said, “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike” As you saw yesterday, excuse me, “I guess you have one of your wealthy people,” it says. “The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people.” And he went on later, “I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”
Daniel Goldman: (14:59)
Here again, president Trump was referring to the baseless conspiracy theory that the Ukrainian government, not Russia, was behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee in 2016. Not a single witness in our investigation testified that there was any factual support for this allegation. To the contrary, a unanimous assessment of the US intelligence community found that Russia alone interfered in the 2016 US election. And Special Counsel Mueller, who indicted 12 Russians for this conspiracy, testified before Congress that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion. Dr. Fiona Hill, an expert on Russia and President Putin, who served on the National Security Council until July, testified that the president was told by his own former senior advisors, including his Homeland Security Advisor and his former National Security Advisor, that the alternative theory that Ukraine had interfered in the election was false.
Daniel Goldman: (16:03)
Alternative theory that Ukraine had interfered in the election, was false. And although no one in the US government knew of any factual support for this theory, it did have one significant supporter, Russian President Vladimir Putin. In February of 2017, President Putin said “Second, as we all know, during the presidential campaign in the United States, the Ukrainian government adopted a unilateral position in favor of one candidate. More than that, certain oligarchs certainly with the approval of the political leadership, funded this candidate or female candidate to be more precise.”
Daniel Goldman: (16:39)
And if there was ever any doubt about how benefits from this unfounded theory put forward by President Trump and his associates, President Putin made it clear very recently when he said “Than God no one is accusing us anymore of interfering in U.S. elections. Now they’re accusing Ukraine.” In the face of clear evidence, not only from intelligence community experts, but from his own national security team, that Russia, not Ukraine, interfered in the 2016 election for the benefit of Donald Trump. President Trump still pressed the Ukrainian government to announce an investigation into this conspiracy theory. And why? Because it would help his own political standing.
Daniel Goldman: (17:26)
President Trump even sought to withhold and Oval Office meeting from the President of Ukraine until he fell in line with President Putin’s lies. The leader who had actually invaded Ukraine.
Daniel Goldman: (17:39)
The second demand that President Trump made of President Zelensky during the July 25th call was to investigate the front runner for the Democratic nomination for President in 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. President Trump stated “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 would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it. It sounds horrible to me.”
Daniel Goldman: (18:16)
Witnesses unanimously testified that there was no factual support for this claim. Rather, they noted that Vice President Biden was acting in support of an international consensus and official U.S. policy to clean up the Prosecutor General’s office in Ukraine. Despite these facts, by the time of the July 25th call, Mr. Giuliani had been publicly advocating for these two investigations for months, while also using back channels to press Ukrainian officials to initiate them in support of his client, Donald Trump.
Daniel Goldman: (18:52)
Ambassador Sondland understood Mr. Giuliani’s role very clearly. He testified “Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States, and we knew these investigations were important to the President.” To others, Mr. Giuliani was working at cross purposes with official policy channels toward Ukraine, even as he was working on behalf of President Trump. According to former National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton, Mr. Giuliani was a quote “Hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up” un quote.
Daniel Goldman: (19:28)
Near the end of the July 25th call, President Zelensky circled back to the precooked message that Ambassador Volker had relayed to President Zelensky’s top aide before the call. President Zelensky said “I also wanted to thank you for your invitation to visit the United States, specifically Washington DC. On the other hand, I also wanted to ensure you that we will be very serious about the case and we will work on the investigation.”
Daniel Goldman: (19:58)
In other words, on one hand is the White House visit, while on the other hand, he agreed to pursue the investigations. This statement shows the President Zelensky fully understood at the time of the July 25th call, the quid pro quo between these investigations and the White House meeting that President Trump required, and that Ambassador Sondland had testified so clearly about.
Daniel Goldman: (20:28)
Numerous witnesses testified about the importance of a White House meeting with the President of the United States, specifically a meeting in the Oval Office, an official act by President Trump. As David Holmes, Senior Official in the U.S. embassy in Ukraine said “It is important to understand that a White House visit was critical to President Zelensky. President Zelensky need to show U.S. support at the highest levels in order to demonstrate to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he had U.S. backing as well as to advance his ambitious anti-corruption reform agenda at home.”
Daniel Goldman: (21:06)
In other words, the White House visit would help Zelensky’s anti-corruption reforms. And that support remains critical as President Zelensky meets today with President Putin to try to resolve the conflict in the East. Now the day after this phone call, President Trump sought to ensure that President Zelensky got the message. On July 26th, U.S. officials met with President Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials in Kyiv. And President Zelensky mentioned that President Trump had brought up some quote “Very sensitive issues” un quote.
Daniel Goldman: (21:44)
After that meeting, Ambassador Sondland had a private, one on one meeting with Andrey Yermak, President Zelensky’s top aide, during which Ambassador Sondland said that they probably discussed the issue of investigations. At lunch right after that with Mr. Holmes and tow other state department officers, Ambassador Sondland pulled out his cell phone and called President Trump. Somewhat shocked, Mr. Holmes recounted the conversation that followed. “I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the President and explain he was calling from Kyiv. I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland replied, yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state that President Zelensky, quote “loves your ass.” Un quote. I then heard President ask “So he’s going to do the investigation?” Ambassador Sondland replied that he is gong to do it, adding the President Zelensky will do “anything you ask him to do.”
Daniel Goldman: (22:47)
After the call, Ambassador Sondland told Mr. Holmes that President Trump did not give a bleep about Ukraine and only cares about the big stuff that benefits the President himself, like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing. To repeat, and this is very important, Ambassador Sondland spoke to President Trump before the July 25th call with President Zelensky and relayed to Ukrainian officials President Trump’s requirement of political investigations in exchange for a White House meeting.
Daniel Goldman: (23:21)
And during that call, President Trump asked for the favor of these two political investigations immediately after the Ukrainian President brought up U.S. military support for Ukraine, which President Trump had recently suspended or put on hold. And at the end of the call, President Zelensky made a point of acknowledging the link between the investigations that President Trump requested and the White House meeting that President Zelensky desperately wanted.
Daniel Goldman: (23:50)
And then the following day, Ambassador Sondland confirmed to President Trump on the telephone in person, that the Ukrainians would indeed initiate the investigations discussed on the call, which was the only thing about Ukraine that President Trump cared about.
Daniel Goldman: (24:09)
Now, it’s very important to understand that this investigation revealed that the July 25th call was neither the start nor the end of President Trump’s efforts to use the powers of his office for personal political gain. And you have to look at all of the evidence in context, as a whole. Prior to the call, the President had removed the former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, to clear the way for his three handpicked agents to spearhead his corrupt agenda in Ukraine, Secretary Perry, Ambassador Sondland and Ambassador Volker, all of whom attended President Zelensky’s inauguration on May 20th. All political appointees, they proved to be more than willing to engage in what Dr. Hill later described as an “improper domestic political errand for the President.”
Daniel Goldman: (25:01)
On April 21, President Zelensky won the Ukrainian election with 73 percent of the vote. And he had two primary platforms. To resolve the war in the East with Russia and to root out corruption. That same day, President Trump called to congratulate him on his win. Even though the White House press release following the call stated that President Trump expressed his shared commitment to quote “Root out corruption” un quote, President Trump in fact did not mention corruption at all on this call, just like he did not mention corruption on the July 25th call.
Daniel Goldman: (25:38)
Shortly after this call, President Trump asked Vice President Mike Pence to attend President Zelensky’s inauguration. But on May 13, President Trump did an about face and directed Vice President Pence not to attend. An advisor to Vice President Pence testified that the inauguration had not yet been scheduled and therefore the reason for the abrupt change of plans was not related to any scheduling issues.
Daniel Goldman: (26:04)
So what had happened in the three weeks between April 21 and May 13 when Vice President Pence was originally invited and then disinvited or removed from the delegation? A few things. First, on April 25th, Vice President Biden formally announced his bid for the Democratic nomination for President. Then about a week later on May 3, President Trump spoke with President Putin on the telephone. One Senior State Department official testified that the conversation between President Trump and President Putin included a discussion of Ukraine. Third, on May 9th, Mr. Giuliani told the New York Times that he intended to travel to Ukraine on behalf of his client, President Trump, in order to quote “Meddle in an investigation” un quote.
Daniel Goldman: (26:56)
But after public backlash and apparent pushback from the Ukrainians, Mr. Giuliani canceled his trip the next day, claiming the President Zelensky was surrounded by enemies of President Trump.
Daniel Goldman: (27:09)
At a critical May 23 meeting in the Oval Office, President Trump said that Ukraine was corrupt and tried to take him down in 2016. The same false narrative pushed by President Putin and Mr. Giuliani. And in order for the White House meeting to occur, President Trump told the delegation they must talk to Rudy to get the visit scheduled.
Daniel Goldman: (27:32)
These comments from President Trump were the first of many subsequent indications that in his mind, corruption equals investigations. In the weeks and months following, Mr. Giuliani relayed to both Ukrainian officials and the government officials that President Trump had designated at the May 23 meeting to take a lead on Ukraine policy. The directive from President Trump that a White House meeting would not occur until Ukraine announced the two political investigations that President Trump required. And well before the July 25th call, Ambassador Sondland and Volker also relayed this quid pro quo to the Ukrainians, including to President Zelensky himself.
Daniel Goldman: (28:18)
Ambassador Volker conveyed the message directly to President Zelensky at the beginning of July, urging him to reference investigations associated with the Giuliani factor with President Trump. And in meetings at the White House on July 10, Ambassador Sondland told other U.S. officials and two of President Zelensky’s advisors, including Mr. Yermak, that he had an agreement with acting Chief of Staff Mich Mulvaney that the White House visit would be scheduled if Ukraine announced the investigations.
Daniel Goldman: (28:50)
One witness testified that during the second of the meetings, Ambassador Sondland began to review what the deliverable would be in order to get the meeting, referring to an investigation of the Bidens. The witness told the committee that the request was explicit. There was no ambiguity. And then Ambassador Sondland also mentioned Burisma, a major Ukrainian energy company that Hunter Biden sat on the board of.
Daniel Goldman: (29:16)
To the witnesses that testified before the committee, the references to Burisma was shorthand for an investigation into the Bidens. Ambassador Bolton as well as his staff members, objected to this meeting for an investigations trade. And Ambassador Bolton told Dr. Hill “You go and tell Eisenberg, John Eisenberg, the Legal Advisor for the National Security Council. That I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this, and you go ahead and tell him what you’ve heard and what I’ve said.”
Daniel Goldman: (29:53)
Yet this was not a rogue operation by Mr. Giuliani and Ambassador Sondland and Volker. As Ambassador Sondland testified, everyone was in the loop, including Mr. Mulvaney, Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Perry and their top advisors. On July 19th, Ambassador Sondland emailed Mr. Mulvaney, Secretary Perry, Secretary Pompeo and others after speaking with President Zelensky. The subject was “I talked to Zelensky just now.”
Daniel Goldman: (30:27)
And Ambassador Sondland wrote “He is prepared to receive POTUS’ call.” POTUS is the President of the United States. “We’ll assure him the he intends to run a fully transparent investigation and will quote ‘turn over every stone’ un quote.” Both Secretary Perry and Chief of Staff Mulvaney quickly responded to the email, noting that given that conversation, a date would soon be set to schedule the White House telephone call.
Daniel Goldman: (30:57)
The evidence also unambiguously shows that the Ukrainians understood this quid pro quo and had serious reservations, particularly because President Zelensky had won the election on an anti-corruption platform. In fact, a few days before the July 25th call, Ambassador William Taylor, the acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine and the former permanent Ambassador to Ukraine, texted Ambassador Sondland and Volker. Or rather, he stated in his testimony “On July 20th, I had a phone conversation with Mr. Danyliuk, during which he conveyed to me that President Zelensky did not want to be used as a pawn in a U.S. reelection campaign.”
Daniel Goldman: (31:41)
But President Trump’s pressure campaign on President Zelensky did not relent. And just four days later, President Zelensky received that message via Kurt Volker, that he needed to convince President Trump that he would do the investigations in order to get that White House meeting. And as I have described, President Zelensky tried to do exactly that on the July 25th call with President …
Daniel Goldman: (32:03)
He tried to do exactly that on the July 25th call with President Trump. In the weeks following the July 25th call, President Zelensky headed President Trump’s request sending his top aid, Mr. Yermak to Madrid to meet with Mr. Giuliani in coordination with Mr. Giuliani and the President Trump’s handpicked representatives. They continued this pressure campaign to secure a public announcement of the investigations. Now, according to Ambassador Sondland, and this is very important, President Trump did not require that Ukraine actually conduct the investigations as a prerequisite for the White House meeting. Instead, the Ukrainian government needed only to publicly announce the investigations.
Daniel Goldman: (32:49)
It is clear that the goal was not the investigations themselves or not any corruption that those investigations might’ve entailed, but the political benefit that President Trump would enjoy from an announcement of investigations into his 2020 political rival and against a unanimous assessment that showed that he received foreign support in the 2016 election. For that reason, the facts didn’t actually matter to President Trump because he only cared about the personal and political benefit from the announcement of the investigation. Over the next couple of weeks, Ambassador Sondland and Volcker worked with President Trump’s aid, Mr Yermak to draft a statement for President Zelensky to issue.
Daniel Goldman: (33:36)
When the aid proposed a statement that did not include specific references to the investigations that President Trump wanted, the Burisma and Biden investigation and the 2016 election investigation, Mr Giuliani relayed that that would not be good enough to get a White House meeting. And here you can see a comparison on the left of the original statement drafted by Mr. Yermak, the top aid to President Zelensky, and on the right, a revised statement with Mr. Giuliani’s requirements. It says we intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, and here’s the critical difference, including those involving Burisma and the 2016 US elections, which in turn will prevent the recurrence of this problem in the future.
Daniel Goldman: (34:25)
The only difference in the statement that Giuliani required and the statement that the Ukrainians had drafted was this reference to the two investigations that President Trump wanted and told President Zelensky about on the July 25th call. Now, ultimately, President Zelensky’s administration temporarily shelved this announcement though efforts to press Ukraine would remain ongoing. By mid August, Ukraine did not make a public announcement of the investigations that President Trump required, and as a result, no White House meeting was scheduled. But by this time the president was pushing on another pressure point to coerce Ukraine to announce the investigations, the hold on the vital military assistance that the president had put in place for more than a month and still without any explanation to any of the policy experts.
Daniel Goldman: (35:17)
Our investigation revealed that a number of Ukrainian officials had made quiet inquiries to various US officials about the aid as early as July 25th the day of the phone call. Inquiries by Ukrainian officials continued in the weeks that followed until the hold was revealed at the end of August. But this is important. It was important for the Ukrainian officials to keep it quiet because if it became public, then Russia would know that the US support for Ukraine might be on ice. So by the end of that month, the evidence revealed several facts. One, the president demanded that Ukraine publicly announced two politically motivated investigations to benefit his reelection. Two, A coveted white house meeting was expressly conditioned on Ukraine announcing those investigations. Three, President Trump had placed a hold on vital military assistance to Ukraine without any explanation and not withstanding the uniform support for that assistance from the relevant federal agencies and Congress.
Daniel Goldman: (36:28)
Ambassador Taylor testified that this quid pro quo between the investigations President Trump wanted and the security assistance that President Trump needed was crazy. And he told Ambassador Sondland, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” Now, in an effort to move the White House meeting and the military aid along, Ambassador Sondland wrote an email to Secretary Pompeo on August 22nd. He wrote, “Mike, 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 and tell him that once Ukraine’s new justice folks are in place, parentheses, mid September, Ze, President Zelensky should be able to move forward publicly and with confidence on those issues of importance to POTUS and to the US. Hopefully that will break the logjam. Ambassador Sondland testified that this was a reference to the political investigations that President Trump discussed on the July 25th call, which Secretary Pompeo ultimately admitted to that he listened to in real time.
Daniel Goldman: (37:43)
Ambassador Sondland hoped that this would help lift the logjam, which he meant the hold on critical security assistance to Ukraine and the White House meeting. And what was Secretary Pompeo’s response three minutes later, “Yes.” After the hold on, military assistance became public on August 28th, senior Ukrainian officials expressed grave concern, deeply worried of course about the practical impact on their efforts to fight Russian aggression, but also, and this goes back to why it remained confidential, also about the public message that it sent to the Russian government. On September 1st at a pre-briefing with Vice President Pence before he met with President Zelensky, Ambassador Sondland raised the issue of the hold on security assistance. He said, “I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations.”
Daniel Goldman: (38:45)
Vice President Pence simply nodded in response expressing neither surprise nor dismay at the linkage between the two. And following Vice President Pence’s meeting with President Zelensky, Ambassador Sondland went over to Mr. Yermak again, President Zelensky’s top aide and pulled him aside to explain that the hold on security assistance was also now conditioned on the public announcement of the Burisma, Biden, and the 2016 election interference investigations. Ambassador Sondland then explained to Ambassador Taylor that he had previously made a mistake in telling Ukrainian officials that only the White House meeting was conditioned on a public announcement of the political investigations beneficial to President Trump.
Daniel Goldman: (39:32)
In truth, everything, the White House meeting and the vital security assistance to Ukraine was now conditioned on the public announcement. President Trump wanted President Zelensky in a public box, a private commitment was not good enough. Nearly one week later on September 7th, the hold remained and President Trump and Ambassador Sondland spoke on the phone. The president immediately told Ambassador Sondland that there was no quid pro quo, but, and this is very important, President Zelensky would still be required to announce the investigations in order for the hold on security assistance to be lifted, and he should want to do it.
Daniel Goldman: (40:15)
In effect, this is the equivalent of saying there is no quid pro quo, no this for that, before then demanding precisely that quid pro quo. And immediately after this phone call with President Trump, this was the precise message that Ambassador Sondland passed directly to President Zelensky. According to Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Sondland also said that he had talked to Presidents Zelensky and Mr. Yermak and had told them that although this was not a quid pro quo, if President Zelensky did not clear things up in public, we would be at a stalemate. And I understood a stalemate to mean that Ukraine would not receive the much needed military assistance.
Daniel Goldman: (41:02)
Needing the military assistance and hoping for the White House meeting, President Zelensky finally relented to President Trump’s pressure campaign and arrangements were soon made for the Ukrainian president to make a statement during an interview on CNN where he would make a public announcement of the two investigations that President Trump wanted in order for President Zelensky to secure the White House meeting and for Ukraine to get that much needed military assistance. And although there is no doubt that President Trump had ordered the military aid held up until the Ukrainians committed to the investigations, on October 17th acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney confirmed in public that there was such a quid pro quo. Let’s watch what he said.
Mick Mulvaney: (41:53)
Those were the driving factors. Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that’s it. And that’s why we held up the money. Now, there was a report-
Speaker 1: (42:05)
So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he ordered to withhold funding to Ukraine?
Mick Mulvaney: (42:12)
The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about corruption with that nation. And that is absolutely appropriate.
Daniel Goldman: (42:22)
There you have it. By early September, the president’s scheme was unraveling. On September 9th, the intelligence oversight and foreign affairs committees announced an investigation into President Trump and Mr. Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine. And later that same day, the intelligence committee learned that a whistleblower had filed a complaint nearly a month earlier related to some unknown issue, but which the president and the White House knew was related to Ukraine and had been circulating among them for some time. And then two days later on September 11th in the face of growing public and congressional scrutiny, President Trump lifted the hold on security assistance to Ukraine.
Daniel Goldman: (43:05)
As with the implementation of the hold, no reason was provided. Put simply, President Trump got caught, so he released the aid. But even since this investigation began, the president has demonstrated no contrition or acknowledgement that his demand for a foreign country to interfere in our election is wrong. In fact, he has repeatedly called on Ukraine to investigate Vice President Biden, his rival. These and other actions by the president and his associates demonstrate that his determination to solicit foreign interference in our election continues today. It did not end with Russia’s support for Trump in 2016, which President Trump invited by asking for his opponent to be hacked by Russia. And it did not end when his Ukrainian scheme was exposed in September of this year.
Daniel Goldman: (43:55)
President Trump also engaged once this investigation began in an unprecedented effort to obstruct the inquiry, and I look forward to answering your questions about that unprecedented obstruction. But in conclusion, I want to say that the intelligence committee has produced to you a nearly 300-page report, and I am grateful that you have offered me the opportunity today to walk you through some of the evidence underlying it. Admittedly, it is a lot to digest, but let me just say this. The president’s scheme is actually quite simple and the facts are not seriously in dispute. It can be boiled down to four key takeaways. First that President Trump directed a scheme to pressure Ukraine into opening two investigations that would benefit his 2020 reelection campaign and not the US national interest.
Daniel Goldman: (44:48)
Second, President Trump used his official office and the official tools of US foreign policy, the withholding of an oval office meeting and $391 million in security assistance to pressure Ukraine into meeting his demands. Third, everyone was in the loop, his chief of staff, the secretary of state, and vice president. And forth, despite the public discovery of this scheme, which prompted the president to release the aid, he has not given up. He and his agents continue to solicit Ukrainian interference in our election causing an imminent threat to our elections and our national security.
Jerry Nadler: (00:00)
The committee will reconvene when we recess. We’re about to hear from Mr. Caster. Mr. Caster, you are recognized for 45 minutes.
Stephen Castor: (00:11)
Afternoon, chairman, ranking member Collins, members of the committee, members of the staff. Thank you again for having me back and giving me the opportunity to testify about the evidence gathered during our impeachment inquiry. At the outset, let me say that the evidence does not support the allegations that my Democrat colleagues have made. I don’t believe the evidence leads to the conclusions they suggest. I’m hopeful to add some important perspective and context to the facts under discussion today.
Stephen Castor: (00:51)
The chief allegation that the Democrat’s impeachment inquiry has been trying to assess over the last 76 days is this: Whether President Trump abused the power of his office through a quid pro quo bribery, extortion or whatever, by withholding a meeting or security assistance as a way of pressuring Ukrainian President Zelensky to investigate the president’s political rival, former VP Biden, for the president’s political benefit in the upcoming election.
Stephen Castor: (01:27)
The secondary allegation that has been levied is whether President Trump obstructed Congress during the inquiry. The evidence obtained during the inquiry does not support either of those allegations. The Republican report of evidence lays out the reasons in more detail, but I will summarize. I will begin with the substantive allegation about an abuse of power. The inquiry has returned no direct evidence that President Trump withheld a meeting or security assistance in order to pressure President Zelensky to investigate former VP Biden. Witnesses who testified in the inquiry have denied having awareness of criminal activity or even an impeachable offense. On the key question of the President’s state of mind, there is no clear evidence that President Trump acted with malicious intent.
Stephen Castor: (02:27)
Overall at best, the impeachment inquiry record is riddled with hearsay, presumptions, and speculation. There are conflicting and ambiguous facts throughout the record. Facts that could be interpreted in different ways. To paraphrase Professor Turley from last week, the impeachment record is heavy on presumptions and empty on proof. That’s not me saying that, that is Professor Turley.
Stephen Castor: (03:02)
Let me start with the best direct evidence of any potential quid pro quo or impeachable scheme. This is President Trump’s phone call with Zelensky for which the National Security Council and the White House Situation Room staff prepared a call summary. According to testimony from Tim Morrison at the NSC, the summary was accurate and complete. NSC staff member Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Veneman testified that any omissions in the summary were not significant and that editing was not done maliciously. President Trump has declassified and released the call summary so the American people can review it and assess it for themselves.
Stephen Castor: (03:49)
I’ll make a few points that seem to have gone under noticed. The call summary reflects absolutely no pressure or conditionality. President Zelensky vocalized no concerns with the subject matters discussed, and there is no indication of bribery, extortion, or other illegal conduct on the call. The call summary shows President Trump and President Zelensky engaged in pleasantries and cordialities. The call summary reveals laughter. Simply put, the call is not the sinister mob shakedown that some Democrats have described. President Trump raised his concerns about European allies paying their fair share and security assistance to Ukraine, a concern that President Trump would continue to raise both publicly and privately. There is no discussion on the call, I repeat no discussion on the call, about the upcoming 2020 election or security sectors assistance to Ukraine.
Stephen Castor: (05:06)
Beyond the call summary, the next best piece of evidence are the statements from the two participants on the call. President Zelensky has said he felt no pressure on the call. On September 25th at the United Nations, he said, “We had I think a good phone call. It was normal. Nobody pushed me.” On October 6th President Zelensky said, “I was never pressured and there were no conditions being imposed.” Four days later on October 10th, President Zelensky said again, “There’s nothing wrong with the call. No blackmail. This is not corruption. It was just a call.” Just recently in Time Magazine, President Zelensky said, “I never talked to the president from a position of a quid pro quo.” Because President Zelensky would be the target of any alleged quid pro quo scheme, his statements denying any pressure carry significant weight. He is in fact the supposed victim here.
Stephen Castor: (06:19)
Other senior Ukrainian government officials confirmed President Zelensky’s statements. Foreign minister Prystaiko said on September 21st, ” I know what the conversation was about and I think there was no pressure.” Oleksandr Danylyuk, who was then secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Counsel told Ambassador Bill Taylor on the night of the call that the Ukrainian government was not disturbed by anything on the call. President Trump, of course, has also said that he did not pressure President Zelensky. On September 25th, President Trump said there was no pressure when asked if he wanted President Zelensky to do more to investigate the former VP, President Trump responded, “No, I want him to do whatever he can. Whatever he he can do in terms of corruption, because corruption is massive. That’s what he should do.”
Stephen Castor: (07:20)
Several witnesses attested to the president’s concerns about Ukrainian corruption. The initial readouts of the July 25th call from both the Ukrainian government and the state department raised no concerns. Although Lieutenant Colonel Veneman noted concerns, those concerns were not shared by National Security Council leadership. They were not shared by General Keith Kellogg who listened on the call. Lieutenant General Kellogg said in a statement, “I heard nothing wrong or improper on the call. I had and have no concerns.” Lieutenant Colonel Veneman superior, Tim Morrison, testified that he was concerned the call would leak and be misused in Washington’s political process, but he did not believe that anything discussed on the call was illegal or improper.
Stephen Castor: (08:24)
Much has also been made about President Trump’s reference on the July 25th call to Hunter Biden’s position on the board of Burisma, a corrupt Ukrainian energy company and the actions of certain Ukrainian officials in the run up to the 2016 election. Democrats dismissed these conspiracy theories to suggest that the president has no legitimate reason other than his own political interests to raise these issues with President Zelensky. The evidence, however, shows that there are legitimate questions about both issues. With respect to Burisma, Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent testified that the company had a reputation for corruption. The company was founded by Mykola Zlochevsky who served as Ukraine’s Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources. When Zlochevsky served in that role, his company Burisma received oil exploration licenses without public auctions. Burisma brought Hunter Biden onto its board of directors, according to the New York Times, as part of a broad effort by Burisma to bring in well-connected Democrats during a period when the company was facing investigations backed not just by domestic Ukrainian forces, but by officials in the Obama administration. George can’t testify about these efforts. Hunter Biden reportedly received between $50,000 and $83,000 a month as compensation for his position on Burisma’s board. At the time that Hunter Biden joined the board, his father, the former VP, was the Obama administration’s point person for Ukraine. Biden has no specific corporate governance expertise and we don’t believe he speaks Ukrainian or Russian. We don’t believe he moved there. So he’s getting this gigantic paycheck for what? The Washington Post wrote at the time of Biden’s appointment to Burisma’s board that it looked nepotistic at best and the Washington Post said, The Washington Post, “Nefarious at worst.” According to the Wall Street Journal, anti-corruption activists in Ukraine also raised concerns that the former VP’s son received money from Zlochevsky and worried that that would mean Zlochevsky would be protected and not prosecuted.
Stephen Castor: (11:13)
Witnesses in the impeachment inquiry noted Hunter Biden’s role on the board and how it presented at minimum a conflict of interest. Lieutenant Colonel Veneman testified that Hunter Biden did not appear qualified to serve on Burisma’s board. Witnesses testified that Hunter Biden’s role on the board was a legitimate concern to raise. In fact, George can’t explain that in 2015, he raised a concern to the office of former Vice President Biden at Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board presented a potential conflict of interest. However, Hunter Biden’s role did not change and former Vice President Biden continued to lead US policy in Ukraine. On this record, there is a legitimate basis for President Trump to have concern about Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board.
Stephen Castor: (12:17)
The prospect that some senior Ukrainian officials worked against President Trump in the run up to the 2016 election draws an even more visceral reaction from most Democrats. Let me say very, very clearly that election interference is not binary. I’m not saying that it was Ukraine and not Russia. I am saying that both countries can work to influence an election. A systemic coordinated Russian interference effort does not mean that some Ukrainian officials, some Ukrainian officials, did not work to oppose President Trump’s candidacy, did not make statements against President Trump during the election. Ambassador Volker testified in his public hearing that it is possible for more than one country to seek influence in US elections. Dr. Hill testified likewise at her public hearing.
Stephen Castor: (13:23)
Contemporaneous news articles in 2016 noted how President Trump’s candidacy led Kiev’s wider political leadership to do something they would never have attempted before intervene, however indirectly, in a US election. In August, 2016 the Ukrainian ambassador to the US published an oped in the Hill criticizing candidate Trump. Other senior Ukrainian officials called candidate Trump a clown and other words. They alleged that he challenged the very values of the free world. One prominent Ukrainian parliamentarian explained that the majority of Ukraine’s political figures were on Hillary Clinton’s side. A January 2017 Politico article lays out in more detail efforts by the Ukrainian government officials to oppose President Trump’s candidacy. The article notes how Ukraine work to sabotage the Trump campaign by publicly questioning his fitness for office. The article detailed how a woman named Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian American contractor paid by the DNC and working with the DNC and the Clinton campaign, traded information and leads about the Trump campaign with the staff at the Ukrainian embassy in Washington. Chalupa explained how the Ukrainian embassy worked directly with reporters to point them in the right direction. Witnesses in the impeachment inquiry testified that the allegation of Ukrainian influence in the 2016 election was appropriate to examine. Ambassador Volker testified that he thought it was fine to investigate allegations about 2016 influence. Ambassador Taylor said, for example, that the allegations surprised and disappointed him. On this record, I do not believe that one could conclude that President Trump had no legitimate basis to raise a concern about efforts by Ukrainians to influence the 2016 election.
Stephen Castor: (15:43)
Let me now turn to the first assertion that President Trump withheld a meeting with President Zelensky as a way of pressuring him to investigate the former VP. Here it is important to note Ukraine’s long profound history of endemic corruption. Several witnesses in the inquiry have testified about these problems. Ambassador Marie Evanovich, for example, said Ukraine’s corruption is not just prevalent, but frankly is the system. Witnesses testified to having firsthand knowledge that President Trump is deeply skeptical of Ukraine due to its corruption dating back years, and that this skepticism contributed to President Trump’s initial hesitancy to meet with President Zelensky. Ambassador Volker testified, so I know he had a very deep rooted skeptical view and my understanding at the time was that even though he agreed in the meeting that we had with him and say, okay, “I’ll invite him, I’ll invite him.” “He didn’t really want to do it,” Volker said, “and that’s why the meeting kept getting delayed.”
Stephen Castor: (16:59)
Another relevant set of facts here is the effort of some Ukrainian officials to approach President Trump’s candidacy in the 2016 election. Some of these Ukrainian politicians initially remained in government when President Zelensky took over. Witnesses testified that these Ukrainian efforts in 2016 colored how President Trump viewed Ukraine. It’s also important to note that President Zelensky was a relatively unknown quantity for US policymakers. Ambassador Evanovich called him an untried politician. Dr. Hill testified that there were concerns within the National Security Council about Zelensky’s relationship with Igor Kolomoisky, a controversial oligarch in Ukraine. Although President Zelensky ran on a reform platform, President Zelensky appointed Kolomoisky’s lawyer, Mr. Bogdan as his chief of staff. Both ambassador Volker and Senator Ron Johnson noted that this appointment raised concerns. These facts are important in assessing the president’s state of mind and understanding whether President Zelensky was truly committed to fighting corruption in Ukraine.
Stephen Castor: (18:13)
The evidence shows the President Trump invited President Zelensky to meet at the White House on three separate occasions, all without any conditions. The first was on April 21st during the initial congratulatory phone call. The second was via letter on May 29th. This letter followed an Oval Office meeting on May 23rd with the US Delegation to the inauguration. During this meeting, President Trump again expressed his skepticism about Ukraine. Ambassador Volker recalled the president saying, “These are terrible people and a corrupt country.” Ambassadors Sondland similarly testified that Ukraine, in the president’s view, tried to take them down in the 2016 election. Senator Ron Johnson confirmed this testimony in his submission to the impeachment inquiry.
Stephen Castor: (19:02)
Finally the third time that President Trump invited Zelensky to meet, again without any preconditions, was during the July 25th phone call. Although sometime time passed between May 2019 when the president formally invited Zelensky to meet and September 25th when the presidents met, the evidence does not show that the Ukrainian government felt additional pressure due to this delay. To the contrary, Ambassador Volker testified that the Ukrainian regime felt pretty good about its relationship with the Trump administration in this period. During those four months, senior Ukrainian government officials had at least nine meetings or phone calls with President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary Pompeo, National Security Advisor Bolton and US ambassadors.
Stephen Castor: (19:56)
The evidence does not support a conclusion that President Trump conditioned to meeting with President Zelensky on investigating former Vice President Biden. Mr. Yermak, President Zelensky’s close advisor, said that explicitly in an August, 2019 New York Times story which was published before the beginning of the impeachment inquiry. In this article, Yermak said that he and Mayor Giuliani did not discuss a link between a presidential meeting and investigations. Witness testimony confirms Yermak’s statement. Ambassador Volker testified there was no linkage between a potential meeting and investigations. Although Ambassador Sondland testified that he believed there was a quid pro quo, his testimony is not as clear as it has been portrayed. In his deposition, Ambassador Sondland testified that he believed the meeting was conditioned on a public anti corruption statement, not on investigations themselves. A distinction that during his deposition he was keen to note, Ambassador Sondland said then that nothing about the request raised any red flags. In his public testimony, Ambassador Sondland clarified that he had no firsthand knowledge of any linkage coming from the president and never discussed any preconditions with the president. He merely presumed there were preconditions. I’d also like to address the July 10th meeting and Ambassador Bolton’s office with two senior Ukrainian officials. Allow me to submit that here too there is conflicting evidence about the facts. Both Dr. Hill and Lieutenant Colonel Veneman testified that Ambassador Sondland raised investigations during this meeting causing Ambassador Bolton to abruptly end the meeting. Dr. Hill testified she confronted Ambassador Sondland over his discussion about investigations. Ambassador Sondland’s testimony about this meeting however, is scattered. In his closed door deposition, he testified that no National Security staff member ever once expressed concerns to him that he was acting improperly. He denied that he raised investigations during this meeting. But when he came here to testify in public, he acknowledged for the first time that he raised investigations, but he denied that the meeting ended abruptly. He maintained that Dr. Hill never raised concerns to him and that any discussion of investigations did not mention anything specific such as Biden or 2016.
Stephen Castor: (22:53)
Let me lastly address the allegation that President Trump directed Vice President Pence not to attend President Zelensky’s inauguration as another way of pressuring Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden. Jennifer Williams, a senior advisor in the office of the Vice President, testified that a colleague, she said it was the Chief of Staff’s assistant, told her, the Chief of Staff’s assistant, that President Trump had directed Vice President Pence not to attend the inauguration. However, Williams had no firsthand knowledge of any such direction or the reasons given for any such direction. If indeed such a direction was given, it’s not clear from the evidence why it was done because the Vice President’s office was juggling other potential trips during that time and the Ukrainian parliament scheduled the election on an extremely short timeframe. It was just four days notice. Williams explained that there was a window, there was a window of dates May 30th through June 1st during which the Vice President could attend the inauguration, and that was communicated. And that if it wasn’t one of those dates, it would be difficult or impossible to attend the inauguration.
Stephen Castor: (24:17)
Separately, the office of the Vice President was also planning an unrelated trip to Canada to promote the USMCA during the same window. The USMCA was and still is a significant priority for the administration. Vice President Pence has done a number of public events in support of it. President Trump was also planning foreign travel during this time period. As Dr. Hill testified, both President Trump and Vice President Pence cannot both be out of the country at the same time. Williams explained that these factors created a narrow window for the Vice President’s participation in the inauguration.
Stephen Castor: (25:08)
Dr. Hill testified that she had no knowledge that the Vice President was directed not to attend. On May 16th, the outgoing Ukrainian parliament scheduled the inauguration for May 20th, only four days later. May 20th was not one of the three dates that Vice President Pence’s office had provided for his availability. Williams testified that, “This early date surprised the Vice President’s office because we weren’t expecting the Ukrainians to look at that time frame.” George Kent at the state department said that, “This short notice from the Ukrainians forced the state department to scramble to find a US official to lead the delegation.”
Stephen Castor: (25:48)
Finally, settling on Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry. On May 20th, the date of President Zelensky’s inauguration, Vice President Pence was in Jacksonville, Florida for an event promoting USMCA. Finally on September 25th, President Trump and President Zelensky met during the United Nations General Assembly. The two met without Ukraine ever taking action on investigations and according to Ambassador Taylor, there was no discussion of investigations during this meeting.
Stephen Castor: (26:18)
I will now turn to the second assertion that President Trump withheld taxpayer funded security assistance to Ukraine as a way of pressuring Zelensky to conduct these investigations. Here too context is critically important. President Trump has been skeptical of foreign assistance in general and believes quite strongly that our European allies should share more of the burden for regional defense. That’s an assertion he made the campaign trail. It’s something he’s raised consistently since. It’s also important to note that US security assistance is conditioned to countries around the world and that USAID, including aid to Ukraine, has been temporarily paused in the past for various reasons and even for no reason at all. Ambassador Volker testified the 55 day pause on security assistance did not strike him as uncommon and that the pause was not significant. Dr. Hill and state department official, Catherine Croft both testified that security assistance to Ukraine specifically had been temporarily paused in the past.
Stephen Castor: (27:20)
In fact, Ambassador David Hale, under Secretary of State for political affairs, the third most senior person at the state department, testified that the National Security Council had launched a review of US foreign assistance across the world to make sure taxpayer dollars were spent in the national interest and to advance the principle of burden sharing by our allies. Dr. Hill testified that as she was leaving the NSC in July, there had been a directive for a whole scale review of our foreign policy assistance. She said, “There had been more scrutiny on security assistance as a result.”
Stephen Castor: (27:59)
Another important data point is President Trump’s willingness to take a stronger stance in supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression compared to the previous administration. Several witnesses testified the President Trump’s willingness to provide Ukraine with lethal defensive assistance, javelin anti-tank missiles was a substantial improvement, a stronger policy, and a significant decision. When we discuss Democrat allegations that President Trump withheld vital security assistant dollars from Ukraine, we should also remember that it was President Trump and not President Obama who provided Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons.
Stephen Castor: (28:41)
I make all of these points here because there are relevant pieces of information that bear on how the House should view the evidence in question. Although the security assistance was paused in July, the evidence is virtually silent on the definitive reason for the pause. In fact, the only direct evidence of the reason for the pause comes from OMB official Mark Sandy, who testified that he-
Stephen Castor: (29:03)
For the pause, comes from OMB official, Mark Sandy, who testified that he learned in September that the pause was related to the president’s concern about other countries contributing more to Ukraine. He explained how OMB received requests for information on what other countries were contributing to Ukraine, which OMB provided in the first week of September. The aid, of course, was released September 11th. Several witnesses have testified that security assistance was not linked to Ukraine’s investigations. Ambassador Volker’s testimony is particularly relevant on this point, because he was a key intermediary with Ukrainian government, and someone who they trusted and sought for advice. Ambassador Volker testified that he was aware of no quid pro quo, and the Ukrainians never raised such concerns to him. When Ambassador Taylor raised the possibility of a quid pro quo to Ambassador Volker, Volker said he replied, “There’s no linkage here.” During his deposition, Chairman Schiff tried to pin him down on this point, but Ambassador Volker was clear, there was no connection.
Stephen Castor: (30:06)
In his public testimony. Ambassador Volker reiterated there was no linkage. Similarly, George Kent at the State Department said he did not associate aid to investigations, and he relayed how Ambassador Taylor told him that Tim Morrison and Ambassador Sondland also believed the two were not linked. Ambassador Sondland’s testimony, as we have seen already, is a bit more scattered. In his deposition, he said that he was never aware of preconditions on security assistance, or that the security assistance was tied to investigations. Ambassador Sondland then later provided a written statement, supplementing his deposition, in which he explained for the first time, that in the absence of any clear explanation, he presumed a link between security assistance and anti-corruption statement were linked. Ambassador Sondland also tested in his written supplement that he likely voiced this concern to Mr. Yermak, a close advisor of President Zelensky on September 1st in Warsaw.
Stephen Castor: (31:10)
Mr. Yermak, however, in a subsequent news account published on November 22nd, disputed Ambassadors Sondland’s account, and said he doesn’t remember any reference to the military aid. In his public testimony, Ambassador Sondland reiterated that his testimony was based on a presumption, acknowledging to Congressman Turner, that no one on the planet told him that security assistance to Ukraine was conditioned on investigations. Ambassador Taylor is the other relevant actor here. He testified in his deposition that he had a clear understanding that Ukraine would not receive security assistance until President Zelensky committed to the investigations. However, in his public testimony, Ambassador Taylor acknowledged that his clear understanding came from Ambassador Sondland, who was merely presuming that there was a link. President Trump, too, rejected any linkage between security assistance to Ukraine and investigations. The president’s statements in this regard, ought to be persuasive, because he made the same statement in two separate private conversations with two different U.S. officials 10 days apart.
Stephen Castor: (32:22)
There would be no reason for the president to be anything less than candid during these private conversations. On August 31st, President Trump spoke by phone with Senator Johnson, who was traveling to Ukraine in the coming days, and sought the president’s permission to tell President Zelensky that the security assistance would be forthcoming. President Trump responded that he was not ready to do that, citing Ukrainian corruption and burden sharing among European allies. When Senator Johnson raised the potential linkage between security assistance and investigation, President Trump vehemently denied any connection, saying, “No way. I would never do that. Who told you that?” In closing the call, President Trump told Senator Johnson that we’re reviewing it now, referring to this security assistance. “And guess what? You’ll probably like my final decision.” He told that to Senator Johnson on August 31st. This statement strongly suggests that President Trump was already leaning toward lifting the aid. Separately, on September 9th, President Trump spoke by phone with Ambassador Sondland. Ambassador Sondland asked the president, “What do you want from Ukraine?” President Trump responded, “I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do the right thing.”
Stephen Castor: (33:41)
In addition, senior Ukrainian government officials denied any awareness of a linkage between U.S. security assistance and investigations. These denials are persuasive because if there was, in fact, an orchestrated scheme to pressure Ukraine by withholding security assistance, one would think the pause on security assistance would have been clearly communicated to the Ukrainians. Foreign Minister Prystaiko told the media in November, following news of Ambassador Sondland’s written supplemental testimony, that Sondland never linked security assistance to investigations. Prystaiko said, “I have never seen a direct relationship between investigations and security assistance.” Although there is some testimony that Ukrainian officials from the embassy in Washington, made informal inquiries to the State Department and Defense Department about these issues with security assistance in July and August, the evidence does not show President Zelensky or his senior advisors in Kiev, were aware of the pause, until it was publicly reported by Politico on August 28th.
Stephen Castor: (34:48)
A subsequent news article explained the conflicting testimony that embassy officials in Washington had made informal inquiries about issues with the aid, while senior officials Kiev denied awareness of the pause. The article explained that then Ukrainian Ambassador Chaly, who was appointed by President Zelensky’s predecessor, went rogue, and did not inform President Zelensky that there was any issue with the aid. According to the news account, President Zelensky and his senior team only learned of a pause when it was reported on August 28th. As Ambassador Volker testified, because senior Ukrainian officials were unaware of the pause, there was no leverage implied. The actions of senior Ukrainian government officials while the security assistance was paused, reinforces a conclusion that they did not know the aide was on hold. In the 55 days during which the security assistance was paused, President Zelensky had five discussions with U.S. senior officials. On the July 25th, he spoke with President Trump on the phone.
Stephen Castor: (35:55)
July 26th he met with Ambassador Volker, Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Sondland in Kiev. On August 27th, he met with Ambassador Bolton. September 1st, he met with Vice President Pence in Warsaw, and on September 5th, he met with Senator Ron Johnson, Senator Chris Murphy in Kiev. In none of these meetings, did President Zelensky raise any concern about linkage between security assistance and investigations. In particular, the September 5th meeting with Senator Johnson and Senator Murphy is notable because they’re not part of the Trump Administration, and President Zelensky could be candid with them. What did occur during those 55 days, were historic efforts by Ukraine’s parliament called the Rada to implement anticorruption reform.
Stephen Castor: (36:46)
“Vice President Pence had pressed President Zelensky about these reforms during their September 1st meeting. In their depositions, Ambassador Taylor lauded President Zelesky’s rapid reforms and National Security Council Official Morrison testified that during a meeting in Kiev, they noted that everyone on the Ukrainian side of the table was exhausted because they’d been up all night working on these reforms. On September 11th, President Trump discussed the matter with Vice President Pence, Senator Portman, and acting Chief of Staff Mulvaney. According to Tim Morrison’s testimony, they discussed whether Ukraine’s progress on anticorruption reform was enough to justify releasing the security assistance. Morrison testified that Vice President Pence was obviously armed with the conversation he had with President Zelensky, and they convinced the president that the aid should be dispersed immediately. The president then lifted the hold. And concluding this point, we have considerable evidence that President Trump was skeptical of Ukraine due to its corruption. We have evidence the president was skeptical of foreign assistance, in general, and that he believes strongly our allies should share the burden for regional defense.
Stephen Castor: (37:57)
We know the white house was reviewing foreign assistance, in general, to ensure it furthered U.S. interests, and that OMB research provided information about which foreign countries were contributing money to Ukraine. President Trump told Senator Johnson on August 31st, “We’re reviewing it now, and you’ll probably like my final decision.” He told Ambassador Sondland on September 9th, “I want Zelensky to do what he ran on.” President Zelensky, who ran on an anti-corruption platform, was an untried politician with ties to a potential controversial oligarch. Vice President Pence reiterated President Zelensky, that on September 1st, the need for reform was paramount. After President Zelensky passed historic anti-corruption reforms, the pause on security assistance was lifted, and the presidents met two weeks later. The Ukrainian government never took any action on investigations at issue in the impeachment inquiry. Much has been made about a so-called shadow, or irregular foreign policy apparatus, that President Trump is alleged to have orchestrated as a mechanism to force Ukraine to initiate investigations. The allegation is President Trump conspired to recall Ambassador Yovanovitch from Ukraine, so his agents could pursue a scheme to pressure Ukraine to conduct these investigations, but there are logical flaws with these arguments. First, every ambassador interviewed in the impeachment inquiry, acknowledged the president has an absolute right to recall ambassadors for any reason or no reason. It’s apparent that President Trump lost confidence in Ambassador Yovanovitch, and it’s simply not an abuse of power for him to recall her. Beyond that, the Trump Administration replaced Ambassador Yovanovitch with Ambassador Bill Taylor, who became one of the first State Department officials to voice concerns discussed during the course of our inquiry here. In fact, Ambassador Taylor played a prominent role in some of the hearings last month. If President Trump truly sought to remove Ambassador Yovanovitch as part of a nefarious plan, he certainly would not have replaced her with someone of the likes of Ambassador Bill Taylor.
Stephen Castor: (40:15)
Second, the three U.S. officials who comprise the so called shadow foreign policy apparatus, Ambassador Volker, Sondland, and Secretary Perry can hardly be called irregular, and certainly not outlandish. All were senior U.S. officials with official interest in Ukraine policy. The three kept the State Department and the NSC informed of their activities. Finally, there is evidence that Mayor Giuliani did not speak on behalf of the president. According to a news story on November 22nd, Mr. Yermak asked Ambassador Volker to connect him with Mayor Giuliani because the Zelensky team was surprised by the mayor’s negative comments about Ukraine. They wanted to change his mind. Both Ambassador Volker, in his deposition, and Yermak in an August New York times article, denied that Mayor Giuliani was speaking on behalf of President Trump as his agent. Instead, as Ambassador Volker explained, the Ukrainian government saw Giuliani as a conduit through which they could change the president’s mind.
Stephen Castor: (41:18)
The second allegation at issue, of course, is whether the president obstructed Congress by not agreeing to all the demands for documents and testimony. As somebody with experience with congressional investigations and I strongly believe in Congress’s article one authority, but this impeachment inquiry is departed drastically from past bipartisan precedents for presidential impeachment, as well as the fundamental tenants of fair and effective congressional oversight. First, process matters. The bipartisan Rodino-Hyde precedents guaranteed fundamental fairness and due process to the president. It allowed substantive minority participation and participation from the president’s council in the fact finding process. Neither aspect was present in here. Democrats denied us witnesses. Democrats voted down subpoenas we sought to issue for both documents and testimony, and I’ll note Democrats never brought to a committee vote any of the subpoenas that were issued. They were all tabled. Democrats direct the witnesses not to answer our questions, and these sorts of actions de-legitimized the inquiry, and do not give the witnesses or the president confidence that the inquiry is fair.
Stephen Castor: (42:35)
Second, the president or any potential witness to this impeachment inquiry should be allowed to raise defenses without it being used as an adverse inference against him. Courts have held that The Constitution mandates an accommodations process between the branches. For this reason, congressional oversight is a time-intensive endeavor. It certainly takes longer than 76 days. Here, however, the initial letters from the Democrats instructed potential witnesses that if they did not cooperate in full, it shall constitute evidence of obstruction. Democrats wanted all their demands honored immediately, and were unwilling to consider the executive branch’s privileges or defenses.
Stephen Castor: (43:20)
Finally, there is no basis for obstruction. The one witness who said he spoke to President Trump about his appearance as a witness, Ambassador Sondland, testified the president told him to cooperate and tell the truth. The president has declassified and released the call summary of his July 25th and April 21st calls with President Zelensky. The White House wrote to Speaker Pelosi to say that it was willing to cooperate further if the House returned to a well-established, bipartisan, Constitutional-based impeachment process. As we know, these protections were never afforded. In closing, I’d like to briefly address the Democrats’ narrative as articulated in their report. The Democrat narrative virtually ignores any evidence that’s not helpful for their case. It ignores, for instance, that Ambassador Sondland’s testimony that he presented, that there was a quid pro quo, and it ignores the many public statements made by Ukrainian officials.
Stephen Castor: (44:24)
The report presents a story as if the evidence is clear, when in reality, it’s anything but. Democrats have gone to great lengths to gather information to build their case, and they’ve even obtained and released phone records relating to the communications of the president’s personal attorney, a reporter, and a member of Congress. There are additional phone records that have not yet been released, and our members remain concerned about the prospect of more phone records being released. There have been a lot of hyperbole and a lot of hysteria over the last three months about this inquiry and the underlying facts. I believe a lot of this can be traced back to the anonymous whistleblower complaint. I believe the whistleblower reframed a lot of the facts at issue, and caused witnesses in the inquiry to recast their views. And it’s unfortunate that we haven’t been able to interview the whistleblower.
Stephen Castor: (45:20)
Finally, some have likened the impeachment inquiry to a special prosecutor’s investigation. If one accepts that comparison, one should also expect that, like Ken Starr and Robert Mueller, the chairman should testify. And our members, all the committees believe very strongly that Chairman Schiff should testify and answer questions. With that, Mr. Chairman, the time is yours.
Jerry Nadler: (45:45)
The gentleman’s time has expired. We will now proceed to the first round of questions.
Stephen Castor: (45:51)
Point of order.
Jerry Nadler: (45:54)
Gentleman will state his point of order.
Louie Gohmert: (45:56)
We’ve been told that counsel for the Democrats was a witness, and that’s why he didn’t have to comport with the rules of decorum. And now he’s sitting up here-
Jerry Nadler: (46:08)
Gentleman will state a point of order.
Louie Gohmert: (46:08)
I’ve been a judge, and I know that you don’t get to be a witness and a judge in the same case. That’s my point of order. He should not be up here.
Jerry Nadler: (46:16)
It’s not a point of order. Pursuant to House Resolution 660 and it’s accompanying judiciary committee procedures, there’ll be 45 minutes of questions conducted by the chairman, or majority council, followed by 45 minutes by the ranking member, or minority council. Only the chair and ranking member, and their respective councils, may question witnesses during this period. Following that, unless I specify additional equal time for extending questioning, we will proceed under the five minute rule, and every member will have the chance to ask questions. I now recognize myself for the first round of questions. The Republican’s expert witness last week, Professor Turley, wrote in an article that, quote, “There is no question that the use of public office for personal gain is an impeachable offense, including the withholding of military aid in exchange for the investigation of a political opponent. You just have to prove it happened.” Close quote. That was Mr. Turley’s comment. Now Mr. Goldman, did the investigative committees conclude that the evidence proved that the president used his public office for personal gain?
Daniel Goldman: (47:24)
Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Jerry Nadler: (47:26)
And in fact, finding of fact five said, “President Trump used the power of the office of the president to apply increasing pressure on the president of Ukraine and the Ukrainian government to announce the politically motivated investigations desired by President Trump.” And did the evidence also prove that President Trump withheld military aid in exchange for an announcement of an investigation of his political opponent?
Daniel Goldman: (47:49)
Yes, it did.
Jerry Nadler: (47:50)
In fact-finding of fact 5B said, quote, “President Trump, acting through his agents and subordinates, conditioned release of the vital military assistance he has suspended to Ukraine on the president of Ukraine’s public announcement of the investigations that President Trump sought.” And did the evidence demonstrate that President Trump undermined the national security interests of the United States?
Daniel Goldman: (48:14)
Yes, in several ways.
Jerry Nadler: (48:16)
And finding of fact six said, “In directing and orchestrating this scheme to advance his personal political interests, President Trump did not implement, promote, or advance U.S. anti-corruption policies. In fact, the president sought to pressure and induce the government of Ukraine to announce politically motivated investigations, lacking legitimate predication that the U.S. government otherwise discourages and opposes, as a matter of policy in that country in and around the world. In so doing, the present undermined U.S. policy supporting anti-corruption reform and the rule of law in Ukraine, and undermined U S national security.” And did the evidence also show that President Trump compromised the national security of the United States?
Daniel Goldman: (48:59)
Jerry Nadler: (49:00)
In fact-finding of fact seven said, “By withholding vital military assistance and diplomatic support from a strategic foreign partner government engaged in an ongoing military conflict illegally instigated by Russia, President Trump compromised national security to advance his personal political interests.” And did the evidence prove that President Trump engaged in a scheme to cover up his conduct and obstruct congressional investigators?
Daniel Goldman: (49:29)
Yes, right from the outset.
Jerry Nadler: (49:30)
And in fact-finding of fact nine says, “Using the power of the office of the president and exercising his authority over the executive branch, President Trump ordered and implemented a campaign to conceal his conduct for the public and frustrate and obstruct the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry.” Finally, the constitutional scholars from our hearing last week testified that the president’s conduct toward Ukraine, and pattern of inviting foreign election interference was a continuing risk to our free and fair elections. Did the evidence prove that President Trump was a threat to our elections?
Daniel Goldman: (50:09)
Yes, it did, Mr. Chairman.
Jerry Nadler: (50:10)
And in fact-finding of fact eight says, “Faced with a revelation of his actions, President Trump publicly and repeatedly persisted in urging foreign governments, including Ukraine and China, to investigate his political opponent. This continued solicitation of foreign interference in a U.S. election presents a clear and present danger that the president will continue to use the power of his office for his personal political gain.” Close quote. I would add, in the next election. I now yield to my counsel, Mr. Berke, for additional questioning.
Barry Berke: (50:45)
Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr Caster, as an experienced investigator, would you agree that it’s relevant to look at evidence bearing on the president’s state of mind that may help explain the president’s actions?
Stephen Castor: (51:01)
I think the evidence that we talked about show-
Jerry Nadler: (51:04)
Use your mic please.
Barry Berke: (51:06)
Sir, my only question to you is, is that a relevant thing to consider?
Stephen Castor: (51:11)
Right, like the call he had with Senator Johnson.
Barry Berke: (51:13)
It’s relevant to consider. Sir, would you agree that Joe Biden was a leading democratic contender to face President Trump in 2020?
Stephen Castor: (51:21)
I wouldn’t agree with that.
Barry Berke: (51:22)
You disagree with it? So sir, it’s your testimony-
Stephen Castor: (51:25)
It’s too early.
Barry Berke: (51:25)
… that President Trump did not view President Biden to be a legitimate contender?
Stephen Castor: (51:30)
I don’t know what President Trump believed or didn’t believe, but it’s too early.
Barry Berke: (51:33)
Sir, as part of your inquiry, did you determine whether President Trump tweeted at all about former Vice President Joe Biden between January and July 25th, and how many times?
Stephen Castor: (51:44)
I didn’t look at Twitter. I try to stay off Twitter lately.
Barry Berke: (51:46)
Did you know President Trump tweeted about former Vice President Joe Biden over 25 times between January and July 25th?
Stephen Castor: (51:57)
I didn’t look at those tweets.
Barry Berke: (51:59)
Did you look at how many times President Trump mentioned Vice President Biden in a speech or rally leading up to the July 25th call?
Stephen Castor: (52:07)
President Trump goes to a lot of rallies, he does a lot of tweeting. I think it’s pretty difficult to draw too many conclusions from his tweets or his statements at rallies.
Andy Biggs: (52:17)
Mr. Chairman, pardon my inquiry.
Jerry Nadler: (52:20)
The Gentleman is not recognized for parliamentary inquiry.
Andy Biggs: (52:23)
Mr. Chairman, what is-
Jerry Nadler: (52:24)
Gentleman is not recognized. The gentleman, Mr. Berke has the time.
Louie Gohmert: (52:30)
We’re going to ignore the rules and allow [crosstalk 00:52:33] witnesses to ask the questions, then-
Jerry Nadler: (52:35)
Gentleman will suspend.
Louie Gohmert: (52:36)
… how many other rules are you just going to disregard?
Jerry Nadler: (52:39)
Gentleman will suspend. Parliamentary inquiries are not in order at this time.
Louie Gohmert: (52:44)
How about a point of order [crosstalk 00:52:45]? This is not appropriate to have a witness be a questioner of somebody that [crosstalk 00:52:51] was a witness when he was.
Jerry Nadler: (52:52)
Gentleman will suspend.
Louie Gohmert: (52:53)
It’s just wrong.
Jerry Nadler: (52:56)
Gentleman will refrain from making-
Andy Biggs: (52:57)
Mr. Chairman, point of inquiry.
Jerry Nadler: (52:59)
Louie Gohmert: (52:59)
Well, I made a point of order, and you won’t rule on it.
Jerry Nadler: (53:02)
I have not heard a point of order. If the gentleman has a state of point-
Andy Biggs: (53:04)
Mr. Chairman, point of order.
Jerry Nadler: (53:06)
If the gentleman has a point of order, he will… State your point of order.
Andy Biggs: (53:08)
Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Louie Gohmert: (53:08)
There is no rule nor precedent for anybody being a witness, and then getting to come up-
Jerry Nadler: (53:14)
That is not a point of order.
Louie Gohmert: (53:15)
… and question. And so-
Jerry Nadler: (53:15)
I have ruled that is not-
Louie Gohmert: (53:16)
The point of order is he’s inappropriate to be up here asking questions.
Jerry Nadler: (53:21)
That is not a point of order. He’s here in accordance with Resolution 66-
Louie Gohmert: (53:24)
How much money do you have to give to get to do that?
Jerry Nadler: (53:26)
The gentleman will not cast dispersions on members of staff of the committee. Gentleman-
Andy Biggs: (53:33)
Louie Gohmert: (53:34)
It was a legitimate question.
Jerry Nadler: (53:35)
Mr. Berke has the time. Mr. Berke-
Andy Biggs: (53:45)
Is Mr. Berke a member of the committee?
Jerry Nadler: (53:45)
Mr. Berke has the time. Mr. Berke has the time-
Andy Biggs: (53:45)
Mr. Chairman, I have a legitimate point of order.
Jerry Nadler: (53:46)
Mr. Berke has the time.
Speaker 1: (53:47)
You have to recognize the point of order.
Jerry Nadler: (53:49)
Point of order. The gentleman will state a point of order.
Speaker 1: (53:51)
This gentleman is presenting his opinions as a witness. He’s supposed to present the material facts-
Jerry Nadler: (53:57)
Gentleman will state a point of order.
Speaker 1: (53:59)
… in the report, not to appear for his opinions. Is that right or not?
Jerry Nadler: (54:02)
[inaudible 00:54:02] That is not a point of order. It is Mr. Berke’s time pursuant to rule 66-
Speaker 1: (54:08)
It’s inappropriate testimony to the committee.
Jerry Nadler: (54:12)
I have ruled the gentleman has the time pursuant to rule 660.
Andy Biggs: (54:17)
Point of order, Mr. Chairman.
Jerry Nadler: (54:22)
Gentleman will state a point of order [crosstalk 00:54:20]. The gentleman will state a point of order if he has one.
Andy Biggs: (54:24)
Yes. The point of order is this. We operate by rules and if there’s nothing specifically in the rule permitting this, we go by precedent. It is unprecedented for a person to come and sit, who you’ve described as a witness to then return to the bench and begin questioning.
Jerry Nadler: (54:42)
Gentleman has stated-
Andy Biggs: (54:43)
That is a point of order.
Jerry Nadler: (54:45)
The gentleman has stated… Is that a point of order [inaudible 00:54:46]? It is not a cognizable point of order. I will point out that the gentleman has been designated by me to do this questioning, pursuant to House Resolution 660, which is part of the rules of the House. [crosstalk 00:55:03] It is in accordance with the rules of the House and the gentleman’s time will resume. Mr. Burke.
Barry Berke: (55:09)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Caster, you are aware that President Trump announced his candidacy for reelection in 2020, and he announced it the month before the July 25th call on June 21st?
Stephen Castor: (55:19)
Barry Berke: (55:21)
Did you look at that in your investigation, as part of looking at President Trump’s intent, and what he intended on the July 25th call?
Stephen Castor: (55:28)
I mean, he’s obviously running for reelection. What does the date he announced his intent to run for reelection matter?
Barry Berke: (55:37)
And sir, you knew that president Biden had already announced his intent to run in April of that year too, correct?
Stephen Castor: (55:42)
It’s been related to me. I don’t know when Vice President Biden indicated he was going to run, as I sit here today.
Barry Berke: (55:49)
So you would agree with me that if the Ukraine announced a corruption investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, that would hurt his credibility as a candidate. Would you agree with that basic principle, sir?
Stephen Castor: (56:00)
Barry Berke: (56:02)
Yes or no sir? Would you agree with that principle?
Stephen Castor: (56:04)
Well, I slightly disagree with the premise of your question, because we’re talking about-
Mr. Chairman, I object to the question that requests opinion-
Jerry Nadler: (56:12)
Gentleman is not recognized. The gentleman has the floor.
I object to the question. Rule on whether the question is in order or not.
Jerry Nadler: (56:20)
The question is in order. The question is in order, the gentlemen will continue.
Jerry Nadler: (56:25)
The gentleman will continue. It’s his time.
Stephen Castor: (56:28)
Let’s get back to the fact that we’re talking about eight ambiguous lines in a call transcript. The president was not asking for a personal favor. He was speaking on behalf of the American people. He said, and I’ll read it, “I’d like you to find out what happened with the whole situation in Ukraine. They say CrowdStrike, I guess you have one of your wealthy people-”
Barry Berke: (56:53)
Sir, I’m not asking you to read that. If you want to talk about the transcript, I want to talk to you about some… You said it’s eight lines. Let’s look at slide three, if we may, the reference to Biden. Sir, you see on the July 25th call, on page four, isn’t it the fact that President Trump in his call with President Zelensky said that he heard that former Vice President Joe Biden had stopped the prosecution of his son? Is that correct, sir? Yes or no?
Stephen Castor: (57:27)
It says the other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and-
Barry Berke: (57:33)
That is correct. He said he stopped the prosecution.
Point of order. He’s entitled to answer the question fully, Mr. Chairman.
Jerry Nadler: (57:38)
The gentleman is not recognized.
Stephen Castor: (57:40)
There’s a video of the former VP. I think that’s what the president’s referring to. He was at the council on foreign relations, and the former VP was a little bit audacious in how he describes, he went over to the-
Barry Berke: (57:57)
I’m only asking you what it says on the transcript. Is that what it says, sir?
Stephen Castor: (58:00)
Barry Berke: (58:00)
… says, sir?
Stephen Castor: (58:03)
It says the other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son.
Barry Berke: (58:07)
And that Biden stopped the prosecution. It says that, correct?
Stephen Castor: (58:10)
That’s what it says here, yes.
Barry Berke: (58:11)
And then it also says, it goes on to say, President Trump asked President Zelensky if you can look into it, correct? Is that the words? If you can look into it, correct?
Stephen Castor: (58:22)
That’s what it says. And then he says it sounds horrible to me.
Barry Berke: (58:31)
So President Trump, am I right, President Trump was asking Ukrainian President Zelensky to have the Ukrainian officials look into Vice President Joe Biden, correct? Is that correct, yes or no?
Stephen Castor: (58:45)
I don’t think the record supports that.
Barry Berke: (58:47)
It doesn’t say can you look into it? President Trump is not asking him to-
Stephen Castor: (58:51)
I don’t think it supports that. I think it’s ambiguous.
Barry Berke: (58:54)
Mr. Goldman, you’re an experienced federal prosecutor. I know that first hand. Is this President Trump asking President Zelensky to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden?
Daniel Goldman: (59:08)
I don’t think there’s any other way to read the words on the page than to conclude that.
Barry Berke: (59:13)
And Mr. Castor, you made the point… Let me ask you a question. As an experienced investigator is it your experience that when someone has done something wrongful or corrupt and they’re dealing with somebody who’s not in the scheme that they state they’re intentions to do something wrongful and corrupt? Is that your experience as an investigator?
Stephen Castor: (59:32)
Well, I mean, are you talking about the call transcript?
Barry Berke: (59:33)
I’m just asking you in general.
Stephen Castor: (59:34)
Barry Berke: (59:35)
Stephen Castor: (59:36)
You’re saying that the schemer-
Barry Berke: (59:38)
Stephen Castor: (59:38)
… would talk about his scheme?
Barry Berke: (59:40)
Would he generally admit that he was doing something wrongful and corrupt to someone not in the scheme?
Stephen Castor: (59:45)
Barry Berke: (59:45)
And you made a bit point, sir, in your presentation that on that call, President Trump did not go further and tell President Zelensky that he wanted the investigation announced to help his 2020 election.
Stephen Castor: (59:57)
He definitely did not talk about 2020.
Barry Berke: (59:58)
Yeah. And Mr. Goldman, would you agree that if President Trump was acting corruptly, wrongfully, abusing his power, that it was unlikely he was going to confess to President Zelensky that he was asking for the investigation explicitly to help his 2020 election prospects?
Daniel Goldman: (01:00:14)
Yeah, in my experience as 10 years as a prosecutor, you almost never have a defendant or someone who’s engaging in misconduct who would ever explicitly say, in this case, President Zelensky, I’m going to bribe you now. Or I’m going to ask for a bribe. Or I am now going to extort you. That’s not the way these things work.
Barry Berke: (01:00:38)
Thank you, Mr. Goldman. And Mr. Castor, getting back to you, you said that … You said about Hunter Biden and talked about it, Hunter Biden had been on the board of Burisma going back to 2014, correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:00:49)
Barry Berke: (01:00:49)
President Trump supported Ukraine with aid and otherwise both in 2017 and 2018, correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:00:58)
President Trump has done a lot for the Ukraine.
Barry Berke: (01:01:00)
Yes. And sir, but isn’t it correct that President Trump did not raise anything about Hunter Biden and his father, Vice President Joe Biden, in 2017 or 2018. He only did it the year before his election in 2020 when both he and Vice President Joe Biden were leading candidates. Isn’t that true, sir?
Stephen Castor: (01:01:19)
I think what happened is the president saw this video of the former VP and I think it coalesced in his mind.
Barry Berke: (01:01:26)
Sir, please answer my question. He didn’t raise any of these issues in 2017 or 2018.
Stephen Castor: (01:01:30)
I don’t know that he did or he didn’t. I mean, that is not something that we’ve looked at.
Barry Berke: (01:01:33)
You’ve no evidence that he did, did you?
Stephen Castor: (01:01:35)
No, but I have no evidence he did not. I mean, this video is pretty remarkable.
Barry Berke: (01:01:39)
All right, sir, let me ask you this. You talked about Lt. Col. Vindman who is a highly decorated Purple Heart recipient and worked in the Trump administration, correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:01:49)
Barry Berke: (01:01:51)
He had a reaction to the call, didn’t he?
Stephen Castor: (01:01:54)
Barry Berke: (01:01:54)
He was listening to it, correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:01:56)
He did. He was.
Barry Berke: (01:01:57)
Let’s look at his reaction. He said, “I immediately went to John Eisenberg, the lead legal counsel. He said it is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a US citizen and a political opponent.” That was his testimony, correct? Yes or no. That was his testimony. Yes?
Stephen Castor: (01:02:22)
Barry Berke: (01:02:23)
Yes. And let me ask you this, sir. You had said that the Intelligence Committee, Majority Report, that Mr. Goldman had talked about, you said it presents as if things are clear, but they’re not clear. Is that what you said, sir?
Stephen Castor: (01:02:36)
That’s absolutely correct.
Barry Berke: (01:02:38)
And you also worked on, you were, personally, you said worked on the Minority Report, correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:02:44)
Barry Berke: (01:02:45)
Was it important to you to be accurate in the Minority Report-
Stephen Castor: (01:02:48)
Barry Berke: (01:02:48)
… that you worked on?
Stephen Castor: (01:02:49)
Barry Berke: (01:02:49)
Was it important to be fair to witnesses, to be accurate about what they said?
Stephen Castor: (01:02:53)
Barry Berke: (01:02:53)
Was it important to be fair to the American people-
Stephen Castor: (01:02:56)
Barry Berke: (01:02:56)
… to accurately report what people said?
Stephen Castor: (01:02:58)
Barry Berke: (01:02:58)
Well, let me ask you about somebody else on that call. Let me ask you about Jennifer Williams. Now she was a special advisor to Vice President Pence on Europe and Russia affairs, is that correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:03:10)
Barry Berke: (01:03:10)
She worked for Vice President Pence, correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:03:13)
Barry Berke: (01:03:14)
And you said in your opening statement that these accusations that President Trump was trying to do something for political purpose, that was made by people who had pre-determined motives for impeachment. Isn’t that correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:03:29)
Some of them, but I also indicated that some of these, the witnesses in the impeachment inquiry, I think, have revised their views after the call transcript came out and the whistle blower complaint was released.
Barry Berke: (01:03:42)
Are you calling Vice President Pence’s special advisor a liar, sir?
Stephen Castor: (01:03:46)
No, I didn’t say that.
Barry Berke: (01:03:47)
Are you saying she was predetermined to impeach?
Stephen Castor: (01:03:51)
I didn’t say that. You know what, the question about Jennifer Williams is interesting is-
Barry Berke: (01:03:56)
I didn’t ask you, sir.
Stephen Castor: (01:03:58)
She never mentioned anything to her supervisor. She never mentioned anything to anybody in the Vice President’s office en route to Warsaw when the Vice President was going to meet with President Zelensky, she didn’t even raise it as a potential issue that might catch the Vice President off guard.
Barry Berke: (01:04:17)
Well, Mr. Castor-
Stephen Castor: (01:04:17)
So her concern that she articulated during the course of the deposition and during the course of the hearing was incongruent, incongruent, with the facts and what she did during times relevant.
Barry Berke: (01:04:31)
Mr. Castro, let’s look at your report, what you wrote in the report about Ms. Williams.
Barry Berke: (01:04:34)
So if we could put up slide six, please. And sir, you made the same point that you tried to make to discount her testimony. You said, “She testified that although she found the call to be unusual, she did not raise concerns to her supervisor.”
Stephen Castor: (01:04:56)
Right. Nobody in America knew about Jennifer Williams’ concerns until she walked in the door for her deposition.
Barry Berke: (01:05:03)
Sir. Sir, when you said that although she found the call to be unusual, that wasn’t accurate. That’s not what she said about the call. She didn’t say that it was just unusual, did she?
Stephen Castor: (01:05:12)
She said it was unusual.
Barry Berke: (01:05:14)
That’s not all she said about it, was it?
Stephen Castor: (01:05:17)
Okay, I mean, she was here for nine hours in the bunker, so she said a lot about the call.
Barry Berke: (01:05:22)
Sir, that was you in the minority
Matt Gaetz: (01:05:23)
Mr. Chairman, could we get a copy of the slide deck? We can’t see… I just want to see-
Jerry Nadler: (01:05:26)
The gentleman will suspend. The gentleman has the time.
Matt Gaetz: (01:05:29)
But we can’t see the stuff. Can we just get a copy of them?
Jerry Nadler: (01:05:30)
The gentleman has the time.
Barry Berke: (01:05:32)
I’m happy to read it. Jennifer Williams testified that “although she found the call to be unusual,” she did not raise concerns to her supervisor.
Barry Berke: (01:05:43)
Isn’t it a fact, sir, that Ms. Williams said a lot more than that?
Jim S.: (01:05:47)
Mr. Chairman, I have a point of order.
Jerry Nadler: (01:05:50)
Gentleman will state his point of order. The clock will stop.
Jim S.: (01:05:52)
The point of order is the gentleman from Florida is complain that he can’t see what the questioner is relying on and would like to see if and-
Jerry Nadler: (01:06:03)
That is not a recognizable point of order and it was read to him. The gentleman will proceed.
Jim S.: (01:06:07)
Only half of it was read to him.
Jerry Nadler: (01:06:09)
Jim S.: (01:06:10)
Now let’s slow down a bit here.
Jerry Nadler: (01:06:12)
Gentleman, the gentleman-
Jim S.: (01:06:12)
Let’s slow down a bit here so that members are able to fully see what is being put in in support of what you’re trying to do. We can’t do that without being able to see it or read it.
Jim S.: (01:06:24)
Mr. Gaetz has said that. Now, let’s slow down so that we can see or hear what he is referring to. And you’re not letting that happen. And that goes to the privileges of the members and you are asking to sit in on this meeting and the vote.
Matt Gaetz: (01:06:42)
Jerry Nadler: (01:06:43)
Gentleman will suspend. The gentleman will suspend.
Matt Gaetz: (01:06:46)
Mr. Chairman. I can see now. I appreciate the accommodation. Well the monitor was turned. Now we can see, thank you.
Jerry Nadler: (01:06:52)
Gentleman will resume.
Barry Berke: (01:06:54)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. So in here it says that you said Ms. Williams said that she found it to be “unusual” and nothing more.
Barry Berke: (01:07:03)
Let’s look at like seven if we may.
Stephen Castor: (01:07:05)
I didn’t say and nothing more.
Barry Berke: (01:07:05)
Let’s look at, it says “unusual,” correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:07:07)
Right but it doesn’t say and nothing more.
Barry Berke: (01:07:09)
No, it says unusual. Isn’t it a fact, sir, that what Ms. Williams says is it struck her as unusual and inappropriate. Isn’t that correct, sir?
Stephen Castor: (01:07:19)
Barry Berke: (01:07:19)
That’s what she said in her testimony.
Stephen Castor: (01:07:19)
Barry Berke: (01:07:20)
In your staff report you left out the “inappropriate” part, didn’t you?
Stephen Castor: (01:07:23)
It wasn’t a block quote. She felt it was unusual. She didn’t raise the concerns to Lt. Gen. Kellogg.
Barry Berke: (01:07:28)
So, sir, let me ask you. Were you as fair to the American people in describing what Ms. Williams said as you were in describing everything else in your report?
Stephen Castor: (01:07:37)
I don’t have an issue with the way we described Ms. Williams’ testimony.
Barry Berke: (01:07:41)
Well, let’s look at what else Ms. Williams said. Can we put up slide eight? This is from Ms. Williams’ public testimony at 34.
Barry Berke: (01:07:50)
She said, “I thought that the references to specific individuals and investigations such as former Vice President Biden and his son struck me as political in nature given that former Vice President is a political opponent of the president.”
Barry Berke: (01:08:07)
Sir, you left that out of your staff report, too, didn’t you?
Stephen Castor: (01:08:13)
Barry Berke: (01:08:14)
Sir, did you leave that out of your report, yes or no?
Stephen Castor: (01:08:18)
If you’re telling me I did, I mean, I don’t know as I sit here right now if that’s in the report.
Barry Berke: (01:08:21)
I’m telling you you did.
Stephen Castor: (01:08:22)
Barry Berke: (01:08:26)
And you have an explanation where you said Ms. Williams said that the call was unusual, when she in fact, she said it was unusual and inappropriate and of a political nature because it raised the Vice President who she recognized was a political opponent of the President.
Stephen Castor: (01:08:43)
Her views of the call differ remarkably from Mr. Morrison, also from Lt. Gen. Kellogg’s.
Barry Berke: (01:08:48)
That’s not my question. My question is why did you misquote Ms. Williams in terms of-
Stephen Castor: (01:08:52)
I didn’t misquote her.
Barry Berke: (01:08:52)
… Why did you do it?
Stephen Castor: (01:08:53)
We certainly didn’t misquote her.
Barry Berke: (01:08:55)
So you stand… So from the standard that you apply to your fact finding in your report, you believe that it was entirely proper to say that Ms. Williams found the call to be unusual when, in fact, she found the call to be unusual and inappropriate and of a political nature given that the former Vice President is a political opponent of the President. Is that your testimony sir?
Stephen Castor: (01:09:16)
I mean, we described what Ms. Williams said. She said it was inappropriate.
Barry Berke: (01:09:19)
Sir, is that your testimony? No you didn’t.
Doug Collins: (01:09:20)
Mr. Chairman, you can ask or you can-
Jerry Nadler: (01:09:23)
Doug Collins: (01:09:24)
Mr. Chairman, I’m not. He can either ask or answer, he can’t do both. [inaudible 01:09:27] You can ask or answer, you can’t do both.
Jerry Nadler: (01:09:29)
Gentleman is not recognized. The gentleman has the time [crosstalk 01:09:30].
Jim S.: (01:09:30)
Mr. Chairman I make the point of order that he’s badgering the witness.
Jerry Nadler: (01:09:34)
The gentleman will continue.
Barry Berke: (01:09:37)
And sir, you invoked, sir, you invoked Mr.-
Jim S.: (01:09:42)
Mr. Chairman can you rule on my point of order that he’s badgering the witness because he’s doing that.
Barry Berke: (01:09:47)
Sir, you invoked-
Jerry Nadler: (01:09:48)
That is not a recognizable motion. It does not call for a ruling and the time belongs to the gentleman.
Jim S.: (01:09:54)
A point of order the committee is not in order and the chairman is not in order.
Jerry Nadler: (01:09:58)
That is not a point of order. The committee is in order.
Jim S.: (01:10:01)
Well, would you rule on my original point of order?
Jerry Nadler: (01:10:04)
The original point of order was not recognizable and does not necessitate a ruling.
Jim S.: (01:10:09)
The lawyer is badgering the witness. We have to have some decorum in here and you have your rules of decorum, which aren’t comporting with everybody else’s rules of decorum.
Jerry Nadler: (01:10:19)
I will say that sharp cross examination of a witness is not badgering the witness. The gentleman will continue.
Mike Johnson: (01:10:26)
Jim S.: (01:10:27)
It is if it’s by another witness.
Jerry Nadler: (01:10:29)
The gentleman has the time.
Mike Johnson: (01:10:30)
Mr. Chairman, point of order.
Jerry Nadler: (01:10:32)
Gentleman will say the point of order.
Mike Johnson: (01:10:34)
Under Resolution 660 we’re supposed to follow the Federal Rules of Evidence, is that right? What is it-
Jerry Nadler: (01:10:40)
No it is not correct.
Mike Johnson: (01:10:41)
What are the rules? What are the objections that we’re able to me.
Jerry Nadler: (01:10:44)
That is not a point of order.
Mike Johnson: (01:10:45)
It is a point of order. There’s no rules here.
Jerry Nadler: (01:10:47)
It is not a point of order. The gentleman will continue.
Mike Johnson: (01:10:49)
Where’s the list of rules?
Jerry Nadler: (01:10:50)
The gentleman will continue.
Mike Johnson: (01:10:52)
We allow for virtually anything then.
Barry Berke: (01:10:53)
Thank you, thank you Mr. Chairman.
Jerry Nadler: (01:10:53)
The gentleman will continue.
Barry Berke: (01:10:55)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Castor, you just invoked Tim Morrison. He was someone on the call, too, correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:11:01)
Barry Berke: (01:11:03)
And let me put up slide nine of Mr. Morrison’s testimony on page 38 of his public testimony. And Mr. Morrison said… Well, the question was, question by Mr. Goldman. You heard the call. You recognized that President Trump was not discussing the talking points that the NSC had prepared based on official US policy and was instead talking about the investigations that Fiona Hill had warned you about. And then you reported it immediately to the NSC legal advisor, is that the correct [inaudible 01:11:39] events here?
Barry Berke: (01:11:40)
And Mr. Morrison said, “That’s correct.” Before I ask you, Mr. Castor, let me ask you, Mr. Goldman, earlier, before your presentation, we showed the testimony of Ms. Hill where she referred to what President Trump was trying to do as running a domestic political errand. Is that what you intended to ask Mr. Morrison about in your question to him?
Daniel Goldman: (01:12:01)
Yes, it was about these two specific investigations that President Trump ultimately did discuss and ask President Zelensky to do. These are the same two investigations that were discussed and were the only two investigations that were at issue throughout the entirety of the scheme. And so what our evidence found was that any time that there was a reference to investigations, it referenced the Biden investigation and the 2016 election investigation. And, in fact, Ambassador Volker actually said that whenever he was using the term corruption, what he meant was those specific two investigations.
Barry Berke: (01:12:39)
And what was the significance to you that Mr. Morrison who Mr. Castor has, himself, relied on and invoked twice today where he said that he understood these were the investigations that Fiona Hill had warned him about, warned him about. What did you understand that to mean?
Daniel Goldman: (01:12:54)
When Dr. Hill left and Tim Morrison replaced her, they had transition meetings and during one of those transition meetings, Dr. Hill told Tim Morrison about what she believed to be this irregular channel that Ambassador Sondland was operating where they were pushing for Ukraine to do these investigations. And Dr. Hill, in particular, was very concerned because as she said, as you pointed out, that was a domestic political errand and what she was working on and the National Security Council was working on related to national security and foreign policy and those were two entirely separate things.
Barry Berke: (01:13:31)
And was she expressing the view that President Trump had chose his own personal political interest over the foreign policy positions that Ms. Hill was trying to pursue?
Daniel Goldman: (01:13:42)
At the time that she said that to Tim Morrison, she was not aware of whether President Trump had actually endorsed these investigations but she did testify that after she read the call transcript, which she only read after it was released, like the rest of us, she said that she put two and two together and realized that that is exactly what he was talking about.
Barry Berke: (01:14:02)
And what was two and two again?
Daniel Goldman: (01:14:04)
It equals four.
Barry Berke: (01:14:05)
And what is four in this investigation, sir?
Daniel Goldman: (01:14:07)
Well, it was used by two witnesses, Ambassador Sondland and David Holmes as the only logical conclusion to explain why the security assistance was being withheld from Ukraine. And based on all of the various factors and their direct involvement in issues related to Ukraine, they concluded that the security assistance was being withheld to put pressure and as a condition on the initiation of the two investigations that are referenced here.
Barry Berke: (01:14:38)
Yep. Turning to you, Mr.-
Stephen Castor: (01:14:41)
I’ve got to clear a couple things up here, though. I’ve got to clear a couple things up here, if I may.
Stephen Castor: (01:14:43)
First of all, Morrison didn’t think-
Barry Berke: (01:14:47)
Sir, there’s no question.
Jerry Nadler: (01:14:48)
The gentleman has the time not the witness.
Stephen Castor: (01:14:49)
Barry Berke: (01:14:49)
Sir, let me-
Stephen Castor: (01:14:50)
The question was concerned about leaks.
Barry Berke: (01:14:51)
Sir, let me ask you, sir. Sir, you said-
Stephen Castor: (01:14:54)
And by the way Volker never meant-
Jerry Nadler: (01:14:57)
The gentleman has the time. The clock will stop if he’s interrupted.
Stephen Castor: (01:15:00)
Barry Berke: (01:15:00)
Louie Gohmert: (01:15:00)
Will this witness be able to cross examine Mr. Berke like he’s being able to cross examine the opposing witness?
Jerry Nadler: (01:15:06)
Gentleman is not recognized.
Louie Gohmert: (01:15:07)
That a point of inquiry.
Jerry Nadler: (01:15:08)
You will not shout out in the middle of testimony.
Doug Collins: (01:15:11)
You need to call balls and strikes the right way. You don’t interrupt either one of them, Mr. Chairman. You’re the questioner or the witness. Bang it harder. It still doesn’t make it to the point that you’re not doing it right.
Jerry Nadler: (01:15:20)
The gentleman will continue.
Barry Berke: (01:15:21)
Sir, I believe it was your testimony, because I wrote it down, that Democrats are about blocking info when they should be seeking information.
Stephen Castor: (01:15:28)
Oh my goodness. That is absolutely right.
Barry Berke: (01:15:30)
Okay. And then you said that the Trump administration has, in fact, cooperated and facilitated congressional oversight investigations. Is that correct, sir?
Barry Berke: (01:15:38)
Am I, just yes or no. Is that correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:15:40)
Absolutely the Trump administration has participated in oversight during the entire Congress until it got to this impeachment inquiry.
Barry Berke: (01:15:46)
So let me ask you about this call, sir. Robert Blair-
Stephen Castor: (01:15:49)
Because the terms are just not fair.
Barry Berke: (01:15:50)
Robert Blair who was on this call, the Trump administration, the President, himself, directed him not to appear and give testimony, correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:15:56)
Robert Blair… I’m glad you-
Barry Berke: (01:15:58)
No, I’m asking. Did the President direct him not to appear and give testimony? Yes or no.
Stephen Castor: (01:16:01)
I think he was allowed to come if agency counsel-
Barry Berke: (01:16:04)
He was not allowed to come under the terms set by the House Intelligence Committee, correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:16:08)
I think he would have come with agency counsel.
Barry Berke: (01:16:10)
The Trump administration directed him not to come, correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:16:14)
He would have provided testimony, I think, if agency counsel could have come. I mean, it’s really expensive to hire these outside lawyers.
Barry Berke: (01:16:20)
John Eisenberg was directed not to come, correct? The lawyer-
Stephen Castor: (01:16:24)
Eisenberg presents another set of-
Barry Berke: (01:16:25)
But he was directed not to come, the lawyer who Lt. Col. Vindman went to, correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:16:30)
Okay. Eisenberg is… He may have been able to come with agency counsel, but he presents some complexities. I mean, he’s the chief legal advisor for Ambassador Bolton.
Barry Berke: (01:16:39)
So he was directed not to come, correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:16:43)
He may have been able to come with agency counsel, but his testimony does present complexities.
Barry Berke: (01:16:48)
Sir, let me ask you this. Was is US policy of July 26 to request that Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden?
Stephen Castor: (01:17:01)
I think you’re reading a little too much into some of the eight lines. I don’t think the President was requesting an investigation into Joe Biden. He just mentions an offhand comment-
Barry Berke: (01:17:13)
Sir, is that a no? It was not US policy to look into Joe Biden?
Stephen Castor: (01:17:18)
Yeah, but you’re presuming that then at some point it became US policy to investigate Joe Biden and I don’t think that’s the case.
Barry Berke: (01:17:25)
Sir, let me show you what slide 10, testimony of, again, Lt. Col. Vindman.
Barry Berke: (01:17:38)
And he was asked, “Are you aware of any written product from the National Security Council suggesting that investigations into the 2020 elections, the Bidens, or Burisma are part of the official policy of the United States?”
Barry Berke: (01:17:49)
“No, I’m not.”
Barry Berke: (01:17:50)
Now let me go also to Tim Morrison, who you invoked. If we could go to slide 11. Mr. Morrison was asked by our own Congressman Swalwell, who is also on the Intelligence Committee and said, I’m going to pick up in the middle of that long question. It said, “The one call that you listened to between the President of the United States and the President of Ukraine, the President of the United States priorities were to investigate the Bidens and I’m asking you, sir, why didn’t you follow up on the President’s priorities when you talked to the Ukrainians?”
Barry Berke: (01:18:26)
Mr. Morrison said, “Sir, I did not understand it as a policy objective.”
Barry Berke: (01:18:32)
Mr. Goldman, let me ask you. There was a package prepared before that call of what President Trump was supposed to talk about with President Zelensky, correct?
Daniel Goldman: (01:18:42)
Barry Berke: (01:18:43)
And am I correct, sir, that one of the things that he was supposed to talk about that was in his prepared remarks was the anti-corruption platform of President Zelensky that he ran and won on, correct?
Daniel Goldman: (01:18:54)
Yes. The witnesses testified that that is a consistent and persistent policy objective for the United States.
Barry Berke: (01:19:02)
Did President Trump mention corruption once in his call with Mr. Zelensky?
Daniel Goldman: (01:19:06)
No, he did not.
Barry Berke: (01:19:07)
Did he mention looking into anything other than the two investigations that were politically helpful to him, the 2016 election investigation and the investigation of his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Daniel Goldman: (01:19:18)
No, he did not.
Stephen Castor: (01:19:19)
May I add something there?
Daniel Goldman: (01:19:20)
Mr. Castor… No, you can’t. Mr. Castor let me ask you a question.
Stephen Castor: (01:19:23)
President Trump did mention-
Speaker 2: (01:19:24)
Are you going to let him answer?
Barry Berke: (01:19:25)
Stephen Castor: (01:19:26)
There’s some very bad people there.
Jerry Nadler: (01:19:28)
The gentleman will suspend. The time is the questioner’s and he can ask the questions of whoever he wants. When you question you’ll have the same rules.
Barry Berke: (01:19:36)
And Mr. Castor, in fairness, you’ll be able to answer questions asked by minority counsel when it’s their turn. I have 45 minutes so let me ask you-
Stephen Castor: (01:19:45)
Come on, Barry, in fairness here, President Trump talks about very bad people.
Barry Berke: (01:19:49)
Mr. Castor, if I can finish… Let me finish, sir. Let me ask you this, sir. Sir, there were two lawyers mentioned on the call. We’ve heard testimony already, President Trump said to President Zelensky that he should speak to two people, his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani and the Attorney General Barr, correct.
Stephen Castor: (01:20:18)
Barry Berke: (01:20:18)
Okay. Immediately after this call memorandum was released, isn’t it the case that Attorney General Barr and the Department of Justice issued a statement about his role in all this?
Stephen Castor: (01:20:31)
Barry Berke: (01:20:31)
Let’s put up the statement, slide 13 please. From the Department of Justice, the President has not spoken with the Attorney General about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son. The President has not asked the Attorney General to contact Ukraine on this or any other matter. The Attorney General has not communicated with Ukraine on this or any other subject. So, Mr. Goldman, is it fair to say that the Attorney General didn’t want anything to do with these investigations that President Trump had raised with President Zelensky on the call?
Daniel Goldman: (01:21:10)
I think it goes actually even a little further. I think, whether the Attorney General wanted anything to do or not is in addition to the fact that the Attorney General said he had nothing to do with Ukraine and, in fact, that there were no ongoing investigations at the time of this call or in August. And that became an issue in the investigation.
Daniel Goldman: (01:21:33)
There is a formal channel that the Department of Justice has and the United States government has to obtain evidence related to an ongoing investigation and that is generally the proper way to engage a foreign country through treaties to get information. But several of the witnesses testified that they looked into that at the urging of the Ukrainians and they determined that there was no formal ongoing investigation, nor any formal request on these topics.
Barry Berke: (01:22:02)
Now, the other lawyer on the call, Rudy Giuliani, he, however, he was more than happy to continue to be involved in trying to get Ukraine to investigate President Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden, correct?
Daniel Goldman: (01:22:16)
Mr. Giuliani was very active and involved in pushing for these investigations for several months before the July 25th call and then for several months after, including, apparently, three days ago.
Barry Berke: (01:22:30)
And sir, Mr. Castro, you would agree… You wrote in your report that Rudy Giuliani, that the Ukrainians themselves, knew that Rudy Giuliani, the President’s personal lawyer was a conduit to convince President Trump that President Zelensky was a serious reformer, correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:22:48)
Well, Ukrainians knew that-
Barry Berke: (01:22:52)
Sir, wasn’t that what you said in your report?
Stephen Castor: (01:22:54)
Rudy had the President’s ear.
Barry Berke: (01:22:57)
And he was a conduit… Let me put a slide, 14, if I may and we actually have your report here. And it says, the Ukrainians knew that he, meaning Rudy Giuliani, was a conduit to convince President Trump that President Zelensky was serious about reform. Is that what you wrote in your report, sir?
Stephen Castor: (01:23:14)
Barry Berke: (01:23:14)
Okay. And, in fact, during the call, President Trump asked President Zelensky to speak directly to his personal lawyer about Ukrainian matters that President Trump was interested in, correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:23:28)
He referred them to Rudy, yeah.
Barry Berke: (01:23:29)
Yes. And, in fact, President Zelensky said, oh we already knew that and he’s been in touch with my aides, correct?
Stephen Castor: (01:23:38)
That’s right. In fact, I mean the Ukrainians are the ones that first… President Zelensky is the one who first brings up Mr. Giuliani on the call.
Barry Berke: (01:23:44)
Right, because they knew that Mr. Giuliani was a conduit to the President and if they made Mr. Giuliani happy, they’d make President Trump happy.
Stephen Castor: (01:23:51)
Ambassador Volker testified though that Mr. Giuliani had a negative impression of Ukraine and that he was possibly fueling the President’s views, and so there was some discussions about hey, if you can convince Rudy that President Zelensky is a true reformer, the real deal, that that would be a beneficial link.
Barry Berke: (01:24:12)
Well, sir, you agree that President Giuliani, before the July 25th call and after was pushing for the Ukrainians to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, isn’t that correct. Yes or no.
Stephen Castor: (01:24:27)
Yeah, I mean, the record is somewhat spotty with Giuliani. I know that the New York Times reported in May but Ambassador Volker gave a pretty detailed account of his meeting in July 19th.
Barry Berke: (01:24:36)
Well, let’s take a look. If we could put up slide 16, the New York Times article you referred to.
Stephen Castor: (01:24:41)
Barry Berke: (01:24:51)
All right and the article says, I’ll read it. “Mr. Giuliani” and this is dated May 9, 2019, before the call, “Mr. Giuliani said he plans to travel to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, in the coming days and wants to meet with the nation’s president-elect to urge him to pursue inquiries…” and then it continues “that allies of the White House contend could yield new information about two matters of intense interest to Mr. Trump. One is the origin of the Special Counsel’s investigation.” It goes on to describe it.
Barry Berke: (01:25:19)
New sentence. “The other is the involvement of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son.”
Barry Berke: (01:25:24)
Okay. And now that was in the New York Times article. And-
Stephen Castor: (01:25:28)
Are we going to talk about the breakfast with Volker?
Barry Berke: (01:25:31)
If we… Not yet. If we could continue the rest of the article, to the next slide, which is slide 17. This is the same article.
Barry Berke: (01:25:40)
And Mr. Giuliani was very explicit when he was interviewed. He said, “And this isn’t foreign policy” I’m now quoting the words that are highlighted. He says, “It will be very, very helpful to my client. My only client is the President of the United States. He’s the one I have an obligation to report to him what happened regarding the Ukraine.” Now, sir, were you aware on that same day, Mr. Giuliani gave an interview about what he intended to do? And let’s go to slide 18.
Barry Berke: (01:26:08)
This is from RealClear Politics. And it should be on the screen in front of you as well. And what Mr. Giuliani said about the Ukraine, he said, “It’s a big story. It’s a dramatic story. And I guarantee you, Joe Biden will not get to election day without this being investigated. Not because I want to see him investigated. The collateral to what I was doing.”
Barry Berke: (01:26:31)
So, sir, and you agree, election day refers to the 2020 election where President Trump will be running for reelection.
Stephen Castor: (01:26:39)
I don’t know what Giuliani was talking about but I guess you’re right. The-
Barry Berke: (01:26:42)
Okay, so that was my only question to you. You’ll have a chance to answer questions to minority counsel.
Barry Berke: (01:26:47)
Now, and President Trump, let me show you slide-
Stephen Castor: (01:26:50)
So we’re going to sidestep the Volker meeting on July 19th?
Barry Berke: (01:26:53)
Sir you’ll have an opportunity to talk about that when minority counsel questions you.
Barry Berke: (01:26:56)
Let me go to slide 19, please. And the President says, he’s being interviewed now the same-
Speaker 3: (01:27:03)
And, the president says, he’s being interviewed now the same day in a Politico, and he’s asked about Mr. Giuliani. “He’s leaving soon, I think in the next couple of days.” Mr. Trump says, “I see, well, I will speak to him about it before he leaves.” Now, let me go to slide 20 because president, excuse me, Mr. Giuliani continued his pressure on president Zelensky. And, this one, it’s actually a tweet that he put out on June 21st, 2019. Roughly a month before the call, he says, “New president of Ukraine still silent on investigation of Ukrainian interference in 2016 election and allege Biden bribery of the prior president.” And again, sir, as you said, the Ukrainians knew that Mr. Giuliani had the ear of his client, president Trump. Isn’t that correct, sir? Is that correct, sir? Yes or no.
Stephen Castor: (01:27:59)
Giuliani was doing some things in… out here. And, then, he became involved with the official channel. With Volker, with Sondland. And, at that meeting on July 19th, Volker counseled against the perspective Giuliani was taking.
Barry Berke: (01:28:16)
So, my question to you, sir, is this tweet… what they’re talking about? Well, let me ask you, Mr. Goldman, you haven’t had a chance in a while. This tweet. Is that referring to a personal political issue of president Trump or official US policy?
Daniel Goldman: (01:28:31)
That’s a personal political issue. If you don’t mind, I’ll just take a moment to respond to Mr. Caster because-
Barry Berke: (01:28:36)
Daniel Goldman: (01:28:37)
On that July 19th meeting between ambassador Volker and Rudy Giuliani, ambassador Volker told Mr. Giuliani that the allegations about Joe Biden were completely bogus and wrong. And, Mr. Giuliani actually told, according to ambassador Volker’s testimony, Mr. Giuliani said that he knew that. And, yet, for the next two months he continued to push for that same investigation at the direction of president Trump. Who had also directed presidents Zelensky to contact Mr. Giuliani. So, that July 19th meeting that Mr. Caster brought up is actually quite important to this investigation.
Barry Berke: (01:29:14)
And, sir, you already explained that on May 23rd, when the official folks who went to the inauguration of president Zelensky came back to tell the president how impressed they were. The only thing he had to say to them was “Talk to Rudy.” He was taking his official government people responsible for Ukraine and handing them over to Rudy Giuliani so that they could work with him for the issues that he was focused on for the president as evidenced in the tweet. Is that fair?
Daniel Goldman: (01:29:40)
I agree with Mr. Caster. I think that’s what the evidence shows. That at that May 23rd meeting, president Trump directed and delegated authority over Ukraine matters to ambassador Sondland, Volker, and secretary Perry, and told them to work with Rudy. And, then, over the next three months, that’s exactly what happened. At the president’s direction.
Barry Berke: (01:29:58)
Okay. In fact, let me show you what is slide 22, if I may? That you understood the Ukrainians recognized how important Rudy Giuliani was. And, satisfying him in order to stay on good terms with president Trump?
Daniel Goldman: (01:30:12)
Yes. They quickly realized it, I think, from their own internal conversations. Because, Mr. Giuliani had back channels to getting to the Ukrainian officials. And, ambassador Volker told to the Ukrainians as well that there was this, quote, Giuliani factor that presidents Zelensky… he actually told it to president Zelensky, that there was this Giuliani factor that they needed to deal with with the president.
Barry Berke: (01:30:40)
And, in fact, this is the senior aide to president Zelensky saying to ambassador Volker on August 13th, which, is obviously after the July 25th call, “Thank you for meeting and your clear and very logical position. Will be great meet with you before my departure and discuss. I feel that the key for many things is Rudy and I am ready to talk to him with him at any point. Please. Let me know when you can meet. Audrey.” And again, that’s rooted… am I right? That’s the Ukrainians recognize that Rudy Giuliani, who’s demanding the investigation of Mr. Trump’s political rival, was key. To getting anything done. Correct?
Daniel Goldman: (01:31:15)
I don’t mean to be a stickler, but I believe this text was actually July 10th. And, this was a critical text because what it is saying is Mr. Yermak, after having spoken to Mr. Volker a week before and learning about the importance of Giuliani, requested to ambassador Volker to meet… to set up a meeting with Mr. Giuliani. That, then, proceeded to this July 19th breakfast that Mr. Caster said. And, then, a July 22nd phone call. And, then, ultimately they met in Madrid on August 2nd.
Barry Berke: (01:31:46)
Thank you Mr. Goldman. Further evidence of the meticulous investigation that chairman Schiff and his staff with you directed. We will stand corrected. Thank you. And, I will take that and ask that the record reflect that, that that is the correct date. In either case, Rudy was key whenever it was said, correct?
Daniel Goldman: (01:32:01)
Barry Berke: (01:32:02)
And, now let me ask, sir. Let me put up slide 24. And, Mr. Goldman, am I correct that there came a point in time when president Trump through his chief of staff, Mr. Mick Mulvaney, ordered that the approved military aid to Ukraine be withheld. As you previously indicated? Correct?
Daniel Goldman: (01:32:27)
Barry Berke: (01:32:28)
And, this is the testimony of the people who were involved. Mr Kent said, when this happened, “There was great confusion among the rest of us. Because, we didn’t understand why that had happened. Since there was unanimity that this aid was in our national interest. It just surprised us all.” Mr. Holmes. “And, then, you had the additional hold of the security assistance with no explanation whatsoever. And, we still have an explanation… and, we still don’t have an explanation for why that happened or in the way that happened.” Ms. Croft, “The only reason given was that the order came at the direction of the president.” So sir, let me ask a question. Did all the agencies involved believe that the aid should be given?
Daniel Goldman: (01:33:09)
Yes. It was the unanimous view of all of the agencies, secretary of state, department of state, department of defense, national security council, literally every one of the inner agencies that believed that the aid was vital and had already been approved and should be released immediately.
Barry Berke: (01:33:31)
And, in the minority staff report. And, in Mr. Caster’s testimony earlier, he said the US government did not convey the pause to the Ukrainians. Well, that wasn’t correct, was it? Didn’t Mr. Sondland convey that? According to Mr. Sondland’s affidavit and testimony.
Daniel Goldman: (01:33:49)
Mr. Sondland ultimately conveyed that the release of the aid was conditioned on the public announcement of the investigations. And, if we could put up slide 26 from the affidavit-
Speaker 4: (01:34:01)
He presumed that, though. Is what he said.
Daniel Goldman: (01:34:03)
Well, if I may just in response to this-
Barry Berke: (01:34:05)
We’ll put up the slide.
Daniel Goldman: (01:34:06)
Barry Berke: (01:34:06)
We can put up the actual affidavit that mister… ambassador Sondland, the president Trump’s ambassador to the European union, that he swore to under penalties of perjury. And he says, if we go read the highlighted, which, is also in front of you, “I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak where I said that… where I said, to Mr. Yermak, the Ukrainian aid, that we’re…” I’m going back to the quote “That resumption of US aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.” Is that correct, sir?
Daniel Goldman: (01:34:38)
Yes. He said that at a meeting on September 1st with Mr. Yermak In Warsaw.
Barry Berke: (01:34:44)
And, the statement that they had been talking about, let me put up a slide that we put together, slide 27.
Barry Berke: (01:34:52)
And, do you recall, sir, that, in the draft statement that the Ukrainians were going to have president Zelensky gifts so they could… was that statement on their minds so they could get a white house meeting and satisfying president Trump and have the aid released?
Daniel Goldman: (01:35:05)
Yes. Ambassador Sondland testified to that. And, ambassador Volker also testified to that.
Barry Berke: (01:35:09)
And, am I correct that Mr. Yermak gave a statement where he did not make any reference to vice president Biden, correct?
Daniel Goldman: (01:35:15)
Barry Berke: (01:35:16)
And, then, was that Rudy Giuliani who said, in the second one, that it had to include a reference that they were going to investigate Burisma in the 2016 election?
Daniel Goldman: (01:35:25)
Barry Berke: (01:35:26)
And, what did Burisma stand for? Did all your witnesses say they had an understanding of what that meant? Or, did the witnesses say that?
Daniel Goldman: (01:35:32)
So, every single witness said, after reading the phone call on July 25th, that it was clear Burisma equaled Biden, that they were one-in-the-same. There were only two witnesses who said that they did not know that until that time. And, there was ample testimony… there was a lot of testimony from people involved in all aspects of Ukraine policy, who indicated that it was completely unrealistic and unlikely that anyone who had anything to do with Ukraine would not know that the Burisma investigation related to the Bidens.
Barry Berke: (01:36:04)
And, is that why, that’s how Mr. Giuliani publicly referred to it often as Burisma and vice president Biden, correct?
Daniel Goldman: (01:36:10)
Barry Berke: (01:36:11)
And, did the Ukrainians complain repeatedly? We talked a little bit about it. That they didn’t want to be a pawn and US democratic politics by helping president Trump’s reelection campaign by making such a statement.
Daniel Goldman: (01:36:21)
They said that in July. And, in August, ultimately, they didn’t give the statement in large part because they had reservations given the president Zelensky was an anti-corruption reformer. They had reservations about engaging in US domestic politics. That’s right.
Barry Berke: (01:36:36)
I want to go back to you, Mr. Caster. You said that when president Trump said to ambassador Sondland on September 17th, that he had no quid pro quo. You said he had no reason-
Stephen Castor: (01:36:50)
September 9th. September 9th.
Barry Berke: (01:36:50)
September 9th. You said he had no reason to be any less than candid. That’s what you said. No reason to be any less than candidate. Let me show you, sir, what happened though on September 5th. Let me show you slide 52.
Barry Berke: (01:37:13)
Days before he made that statement, The Washington Post printed an article that says Trump tries to force Ukraine to meddle in the 2020 elections. And, goes on to describe some of those efforts. And, sir, let me show you whether president Trump was aware of that article before he volunteered no quid pro quo as a defense. Let me show you a tweet by president Trump on slide 53.
Barry Berke: (01:37:41)
Now, and, again, this is, he is putting out a tweet that is essentially saying the Democrats… following up the article that they’re pursuing impeachment. Again, showing awareness that this has now been reported on. So, Mr. Goldman, is it fair to say what Mr. Caster said, that Mr. Trump… president Trump, had no reason to be any less than candid about saying no quid pro quo?
Daniel Goldman: (01:38:09)
No, I think president Trump had every reason to try to put out that message at that point. As ambassador Sondland said, even when he… even if you credit ambassador Sondland’s version of the testimony, which, is contradicted by other witnesses who took contemporaneous notes. And, were far more credible than Mr. Sondland, who had to amend his testimony a couple times. He said, even in that comment, he said, no quid pro quo out of the blue without risk… without any question about whether or not there was a quid pro quo.
Mr. Nadler: (01:38:40)
Gentleman’s time has expired. Chair now recognizes the ranking members for his first round of questions. Pursuant to house resolution 660, the ranking member or his counsel have 45 minutes to question the witnesses.
Thank you Mr. Chairman. Well, it’s become very evident why this hearing is here. And, while the craziness of this hearing, especially not having Mr. Schiff here, but, please put back up the last slide. I have no idea what number it is. Not as good a councilor as Harping. 53.
Speaker 5: (01:39:10)
Did we cut it off after they got through?
Speaker 5: (01:39:16)
There’s 11 seconds.
Okay, well, while we’re doing this, I mean, I think it’s just the most amazing statement came out that we’re proofing the tweet that said that he thought that he was getting… the Democrats were concerned about impeachment. There’s nothing the Democrats have not been concerned about for two and a half years. Since August… since November, 2016. The president is saying nothing new in that tweet, that’s now back up.
He’s known that they had been after impeachment. That’s why Mr. Goldman is here. That’s why Mr. Burke is here. That’s why we’re going through this charade of staff having to answer staff questions. And, basically, when we don’t like how it’s going, we start asking staff on staff and getting into a staff argument. Where’s Adam? Where’s Adam? It’s his report. His name. Mr. Goldman, you’re a great attorney, but you’re not Adam Schiff and you don’t wear a pin.
Daniel Goldman: (01:40:06)
We got a problem here. And, the problem that’s developing is this. You said you were an attorney. You’re a very good prosecutor. I believe it. I’ve read your bio. You’re a good attorney. You understand what quid pro quo is, correct?
Daniel Goldman: (01:40:17)
You understand what asking for something in exchange for something actually means, correct?
Daniel Goldman: (01:40:22)
You know about the conversation of Mr. Bidden when he asked, and he said, “I’m not going to give you the billion dollars.” You know about that conversation, correct?
Daniel Goldman: (01:40:29)
Do you want me to read it to you or do you know it?
Daniel Goldman: (01:40:34)
Are you talking about in 2015?
No, I’m talking about the one from the national, where you did the… I’ll read it to you, since you were having trouble. As I remember going over to the Ukraine, convincing our team, our leaders, convincing them that we should provide for loan guarantees. I went over, I guess the 12th or 13th time to Kiev. I was supposed to announce that there was a billion dollar long guarantee. And, I’d gotten a commitment from Poroshenko, and they’re saying that I would take action against… that they would take action against the state prosecutor. They didn’t. So, they said they had, they were walking out to the press conference. I said, nah, I’m not going to, or we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said… I said call him. Laughter. I said, I’m telling you, you’re getting… you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said, you’re not getting the being dollars I’m getting. I’m getting ready to be leaving here in, I think, about six hours. I looked at them and said, I’m leaving here in six hours. If the prosecutor’s not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. He got fired.
Did he ask for something, request something, and hold something of value?
Daniel Goldman: (01:41:36)
He did. George Kent testified that that was-
George Kent testified this. I’m asking about not George Kent. I’m asking about this question.
Daniel Goldman: (01:41:42)
But, it’s important context.
It’s not. Answer this question. Did he or did he not? Either Joe Biden’s a liar telling a story to make people impressed. Or, he actually did this. Which is it?
Daniel Goldman: (01:41:54)
He did it pursuant to US official policy.
So, he did it in holding… withholding actual dollars… actual thing, holding this out there. So, Joe Biden, of everybody that we discussed, is the only one that’s done a quid pro quo. He’s the only one that’s used taxpayer dollars to actually threaten a foreign government. And, yet, we’re sitting here pretending that this is not happening? We’re sitting here pretending that a president of the United States now would not be concerned?
Look, you look at it this way, Joe Biden’s a terrible candidate. He can destroy himself on the campaign trail, but he can’t get by this. And, it doesn’t matter who brings it up. It doesn’t matter who does it. Because, this is what happened. And, you can why wash it all you want. You can go over whatever you want. But, that’s what he did. He’s either a liar, or he did it. And, he did it.
I want to continue on. Question is, a question that you had earlier. You rely on… approximately, how many times do you rely on Gordon Sondland’s testimony? In your report.
Daniel Goldman: (01:42:49)
Oh, it’s nearly a 300 page report. I can’t possibly count.
Would you be amazed if it was 600 times or better? I wouldn’t have any idea or not?
Daniel Goldman: (01:42:58)
I have no idea.
Okay. You did. It’s over 600 times. Would you also understand if you do a simple check of your report that over 158 times Mr. Sondland said not knowing something to the best of my knowledge or I don’t know. Would that surprise you?
Daniel Goldman: (01:43:14)
Are you talking about the report or his deposition?
The deposition and the closed door testimony.
Daniel Goldman: (01:43:20)
Yes, and over time he remembered a lot more as he was refreshed by other people’s testimony.
Yes. It is. The question we’re having here though is Mr. Sondland also said, and many times he said he presumed what actually happened.
Let’s go back to something else. We’ll go and continue this in just a moment. According to your report, hipsy, and, we’ll classify that and, we’ll determine that to be the intelligence committee, and the other investigation with the other two committees, we okay with that?
Daniel Goldman: (01:43:44)
Issued dozens of subpoenas. Is that right?
Daniel Goldman: (01:43:48)
I’m not… certainly over a dozen, yes.
Some of the subpoenas were not publicly reported until the hipsy issued its majority report, correct?
Daniel Goldman: (01:43:58)
Most of the subpoenas were not publicly-
Answer the question. Mr. Burke had so much free reign, let’s go at it. Either answer the question or elaborate. One or the other.
Daniel Goldman: (01:44:06)
Sir, I’m trying to answer the question.
Did you or didn’t you? Did it come out or not?
Daniel Goldman: (01:44:11)
Did what? Come out.
I’ll read it again. Some of the subpoenas were not publicly reported until the hipsy issued it’s majority report, correct?
Daniel Goldman: (01:44:18)
Yes. They were given to the minority, but not the public. Yes.
Putting aside the witnesses who have publicly been identified, did you issue any other subpoenas for testimony other than the ones publicly identified?
Daniel Goldman: (01:44:32)
I don’t… I’m not sure. I don’t think so.
Okay. Thank you.
Daniel Goldman: (01:44:35)
But, I’m not sure.
How many subpoenas were issued for records?
Daniel Goldman: (01:44:40)
Well, we issued a number of subpoenas for records. We did issue six subpoenas to executive branch agencies, and, they all defied our subpoenas.
Moving on to other issues here. The Wall Street Journal reported that the committee issued at least four subpoenas to Verizon and AT&T for call records. Is that correct?
Daniel Goldman: (01:45:05)
Are we wondering?
Daniel Goldman: (01:45:07)
Yes, we are. Because, there are multiple numbers. We only issued subpoenas for call records for people who were involved in the investigation and who had already been subpoenaed by the committee for documents and testimony of their own.
Absolutely. Wonderful. But, answer my question. For?
Daniel Goldman: (01:45:30)
Well, I am trying to answer your question, sir.
Was it at least four?
Daniel Goldman: (01:45:33)
Thank you. Could have saved us a lot of time there. How many of these subpoenas were issued to AT&T?
Daniel Goldman: (01:45:39)
I don’t know off the top of my-
Can you check your records? This is an important… because, we just found out about this over the weekend. We got a massive document dump over the weekend preparing for this hearing in which the chairman admitted, and, the staff admitted they’re not going to be able to read it all anyway. So, for all of you writing reports about this, all that massive document dump, we’re just simply going on a Schiff report. Which, Schiff refuses to come testify about, but sends his staff. So, this is important stuff. We just found out about this. So, how many subpoenas were issued to AT&T?
Daniel Goldman: (01:46:06)
I don’t know. If you’d like me to find out during the break, I’d be happy to.
That’s fine. If you don’t know, then, again, maybe your chairman could be here to actually answer this. Was it targeted at a single telephone number or numbers?
Daniel Goldman: (01:46:16)
We subpoenaed for call records. Multiple numbers.
Daniel Goldman: (01:46:21)
I don’t know. None of-
Okay, let’s just stop here.
Daniel Goldman: (01:46:23)
This is very important though. None of members of Congress. None of staff of Congress.
Oh, we’re getting to that. We’re getting to that.
Daniel Goldman: (01:46:28)
None of journalists. We only did it to the subjects who were involved in the investigation. Which, is a very routine and standard investigative practice, sir.
And, you’re not going to hear anything from me about a subpoena. And, the legality of a subpoena. My problem is this. Who on the committee asked that those numbers that you actually did put into for subpoena and get those numbers back. Who was it that asked that they be crosschecked for members of the media and members of Congress? Who ordered that?
Daniel Goldman: (01:46:53)
I don’t think that’s how we did it, sir.
No. Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. You came out with a report that actually showed these people, such as Mr. Chairman Nunez and others, were actually on these calls.
Daniel Goldman: (01:47:03)
Now, someone… and, you and I, we’re not going to play cute here. Somebody took the four records that you asked for, the at least four. Took those numbers and then said, hey, let’s play match game. Who ordered the match game for members of Congress and the press? Was it you?
Daniel Goldman: (01:47:21)
I don’t think anyone did, sir.
Then how did you get… okay, come on, that’s the most ridiculous item I’ve ever heard. You don’t just all of a sudden pick up numbers in which you have to match those numbers to actually show where they are and you don’t come up with them. Who ordered them to actually match for members of Congress and the press?
Daniel Goldman: (01:47:36)
That’s actually… what you just described is exactly how it happens.
Who ordered to find out if Nuñez’ number was on those calls?
Daniel Goldman: (01:47:42)
If I could just explain, sir. You pick an event of significance in the investigation and you look for sequencing and patterns surrounding that event. You look then at the numbers and you try to identify what those numbers are. And, then, you start to build the circumstantial case.
At this point. That’s a wonderful explanation, but not an answer to my question. Those are you looking for the four numbers you asked for and to see how they’re connected. I understand the subpoena that you issued. My question directly, was it you or was it chairman Schiff that said, “While we’re doing this, let’s see if this matches chairman Nunez’ number. Let’s see if this matches a member of the press’ number.” Somebody along the way just didn’t all of a sudden having an epiphany, unless you’re getting ready to throw a low level staffer under the bus, that these numbers might match. So, who did it? Was it chairman Schiff or was it you. Be careful. You’re under oath.
Daniel Goldman: (01:48:29)
I know I’m under oath, sir. It doesn’t matter.
Then answer the question.
Daniel Goldman: (01:48:32)
And, I will answer the question if you’ll give me a second here. It’s not a simple answer.
The same second that was not afforded in my witness, by the way.
Daniel Goldman: (01:48:39)
Well, I think he was allowed to answer the question.
Who decided to leak it, by the way? If you’re not going to tell me the other story. While you’re thinking about how you’re going to answer that question, who decided to leak it? The information. Why did you include it in the report.
Daniel Goldman: (01:48:48)
That’s not a leak, sir.
How did you include it in the report? After not saying anything else about this, not publicly known. So, two questions are hanging out that everybody’s looking for an answer for, including me. Who ordered it? Was it you or was it chairman Schiff? And, then, why was it decided, except for nothing but smear purposes, to be included in the Schiff report?
Daniel Goldman: (01:49:06)
Well, I’m not going to get into the deliberations of our investigation with you. And, I will tell you the reason it was included in the report is because the calls were a surrounding important evidence to our investigation. And, I think that your question is, frankly, not better directed… not at me, but at the people who were having conversations.
Oh no, no, no. We’re not going to play that game.
Daniel Goldman: (01:49:26)
The people involved in the president’s scheme.
We’re not going to play that game. You’re as good as Mr. Burke. You’re not going to play that game. You’re not answering a question. And, every member of the media, everybody here, when you start going into the decorum of this house, when you start looking at members’ telephone numbers, you start looking in reporters telephone numbers, which, they ought to be scared about. You took a subpoena for four. And, then, you decided to play match game. You found numbers that you thought were… some of them actually didn’t exist. Because, they claimed that they were for the white house budget office, and, they were not. So, we’re throwing stories out there because nobody was-
Daniel Goldman: (01:49:55)
That’s not true.
Nobody was out there action. So, I go back to my question. Are you going to go on record, in front of everybody here today, and say that you will not tell who ordered this? You, or, Mr. Gold… Mr. Goldwin, you, or, Mr. Schiff?
Daniel Goldman: (01:50:05)
I am going to go on record and tell you that I’m not going to reveal how we conducted this investigation.
And, that’s the problem we have with this entire thing. Mr. Schiff said behind closed doors the entire time.
Daniel Goldman: (01:50:13)
I can tell you what the importance is-
I’m done with you for right now. We’re done. You’re not answering the question. You’re not being honest about this answer because you know who it is. You’re just not answering. Ms. Castor.
Stephen Castor: (01:50:29)
I have some information on the subpoenas.
Stephen Castor: (01:50:34)
We did receive copies of the subpoenas. And, we tracked this. There were six, as I understand it. And, let me just say at the outset. Our members have concerns about this exercise for three reasons.
Stephen Castor: (01:50:52)
The subpoenas yielded information about members of Congress. Whether they were subpoenaed, the members phone records or not. It’s a concern when the information yields member of Congress’ phone records. And, then, the information is publicized.
Stephen Castor: (01:51:07)
Second is with journalists. It’s just generally a very tricky area to start investigating journalists’ call records. And, the third is with regard to Mr. Giuliani who was serving as the president’s personal attorney. But, there’s six subpoenas, as we understand it. The first went to AT&T for the Giuliani numbers. The second was in regard to Igor Fruman. To a company, CSC Holdings. The third related to Mr. Sondland. That was off to Verizon. The fourth was back to AT&T. Seeking information on a certain number. The fifth was back to AT&T. And, the sixth was seeking subscriber information. Which, impacted the veteran journalist John Solomon. And, also, involved with these are some of the attorneys involved such as-
Mr. Castor, can I ask you a question?
Stephen Castor: (01:52:07)
It’s Tunsing and just diGenova.
Mr. Castor, you’ve been a veteran of a hill investigation for 15 years. And, this is crazy. I’ve never seen anything like this. You never have either. Would it be interesting to note, because, Mr. Goldman chooses not to answer because he doesn’t want to incriminate, I believe, either himself or the chairman, or, somebody else. Would it be interesting to you to find, as you’ve dealt with committee staff for a long time, somebody to just have an epiphany, just to do those match records on their own? Or, were they under direction by somebody to do that?
Stephen Castor: (01:52:35)
Well, it’s obvious they were trying to figure something out.
That’s it. All right. One last… I’m getting ready to try… wait. I have one thing for Mr. Goldman. Mr. Goldman, we’re used to committees and people and witnesses coming, taking gratuitous shots at people they don’t like. And, earlier today in your testimony, you made a comment that really goes… but, an interesting thing, and, I’ll even go back to the chairman questioning motive.
When your testimony, you said, as you were discussing Mr. Sondland, you made a very snide comment, your actually… your facial expression showed that he was $1 million donor to the president. The implication being he either got his job because he bought it or his implication was he was loyal to the president and didn’t say anything about it. Be very careful about how you throw around dollars in giving. Because, you and Mr. Burke are real heavy donors to the Democratic Party. And, I’m not going to say it questions your motive or your position here today. But, we need to make sure that this thing is already blown out of proportion. We’re already not answering questions. And, you are here without a pin because your chairman will not testify. That says all we need to hear. He don’t even stand behind his own report and he sends you, I hope it works out for you.
I’m done at this point. I turned it over to Ashley.
Daniel Goldman: (01:53:42)
Can I respond? Are you, are you trying to say that I… what are you trying to say? What is the implication here? But, by the way, I didn’t give anything close to a million dollars, remotely.
Speaker 6: (01:53:52)
The implication is we want Schiff in that chair, not you. The implication is the person that wrote the report is the person that should come and present it. And, you weren’t elected by anybody and you’re here giving this testimony in place of the chairman. I hope that clears up the implication.
Mr. Nadler: (01:54:04)
Gentlemen does not have the time and the gentleman has been warned before. You cannot simply yell out and disrupt the committee. The gentleman, Mr. Collins, has the time.
Speaker 7: (01:54:13)
I think you understand exactly what you did. And, I called it out for just the way you did. You thought you’re going to get by with it and you didn’t. That’s all I’m saying. Just ask Ms. Cowan.
Daniel Goldman: (01:54:25)
Well, I would like to just say one other thing.
I am done.
Daniel Goldman: (01:54:27)
I mean, you’re casting aspersions about me, personally.
As you did, Mr. Goldman.
Speaker 8: (01:54:33)
Point of order.
As you did to Mr. Sondland. Now, according to the chairman’s own ruling just a few minutes ago, I’m done asking questions and I’m not asking you to elaborate. Because, I’m not asking you any more questions. I’ve asked all… you won’t answer the question on who told the committee to actually check these numbers. You won’t say if it’s you or if it’s Mr. Schiff. You won’t answer my questions. So, we’re done. We’re going to Ms. Cowan. As Mr. Burke said, you’ll have plenty of time with healthful majority counsel [inaudible 01:54:59].
Mr. Nadler: (01:54:59)
Does the gentleman yield his time to Ms. Cowan.
Mr. Nadler: (01:55:04)
The gen-lady’s recognized.
Thank you, Mr. Collins.
Stephen Castor: (01:55:06)
Ms. Cowan, if I may. I’m so sorry.
Yes, certainly. Mr. Castor.
Stephen Castor: (01:55:06)
I have a number of things I think I need to clear up. If I may.
Stephen Castor: (01:55:08)
And, you have to bear with me. Because, I have a number of them here. First of all, on the call. Tim Morrison, general Kellogg, have a totally different view of the call than Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and Jennifer Williams.going to the point that the call is ambiguous. So, that’s the first thing. Tim Morrison testified that he went to the national security council lawyers for a very different reason. He did not say he went to the NSC lawyers because he was concerned about the call. He went to the national security council lawyers for two reasons. Number one, they weren’t on the call. So, we wanted to update them about it. But number two, he was concerned about.
Stephen Castor: (01:56:03)
… we wanted to update them about it, but number two, he was concerned about leaks, and he was concerned that if his call leaked out how it would play in Washington’s polarized environment, which is exactly what we have here. He was also concerned that if the call leaked that it might affect bipartisan support in Congress. You know, the issues of Ukraine have traditionally been one of the few issues where Republicans and Democrats share interests. And the third reason was that he didn’t want the Ukrainians to get a distorted perception of what actually happened on the call. Because on the call, and we’re talking about eight lines of concern and a lot of ambiguity.
Stephen Castor: (01:56:55)
This oval office meeting on May 23rd there’s this question, I guess it’s ambiguous, I didn’t think it was ambiguous, but there’s a question about whether when the president referred the delegation goes to the inauguration May 20th. They come back, it’s silent, it’s Volker and it’s secretary Perry and it’s Senator Johnson and they’re briefing the president and the president is having none of it. He says Ukraine is concerned, or corrupt and he doesn’t want to invite Zelensky to the white house. And the president, and Volker testifies to this pretty definitively, the president, essentially, he doesn’t order anybody to do anything. The president says talk to Verde and Volker testified both at his deposition and at the public hearing that he didn’t take it as a direction. It’s just like, look, if you, if you guys think this is important and you want to work it, just go talk to Rudy. It’s very different than a direction. It’s very different than the president ordering a scheme and it’s very different from the president sort of collecting up a bunch of agents to go do something because he simply, according to ambassador Volker said, go talk to Rudy.
Stephen Castor: (01:58:22)
Now, whether the Ukrainians knew of the aid pause, or the aid was paused for 55 days,
Speaker 9: (01:58:30)
Stephen Castor: (01:58:30)
Whether the Ukrainians knew about it or not, has been, Laura Cooper from DOD and some state department witnesses testified about light queries that they had perceived. There was an article on November 22nd in Bloomberg, and the Zelensky administration said they never knew about the hold in the aid until August 28th political article. And they said in the article, and Yermak is the principle person they’re relying on here, Yermak says that they believe the embassy was keeping information from them. Another interesting thing Mr, Yermak says in that November 22nd Bloomberg article, is that he recounts the whole aside meeting with Sondland, which has become very significant apparently. And the pull aside meeting, he says he doesn’t recall it the way ambassador Sondland recalled it. Now keep in mind, Mr. Yermak speaks English, but it’s not his first language. And so he does not recall the pull aside meeting, which by the way happened on the way to an escalator after the meeting with the vice president. So he recalls it very differently. So the question and the facts of what happened between ambassador Sondland and Mr. Yermak on the way to the escalator remain in dispute.
Speaker 9: (01:59:56)
Stephen Castor: (02:00:06)
Now turning attention to the Ron Johnson letter, if I may?
Speaker 9: (02:00:11)
Stephen Castor: (02:00:12)
On August 31st… Senator Johnson is getting ready to travel to Ukraine on September 5th with Senator Murphy, and Johnson wanted the aid released, so he calls the president. He actually sought permission to be the bearer of good news.
Speaker 9: (02:00:30)
Stephen Castor: (02:00:32)
President said, I’m not ready to lift the aid, and they had this, Senator Johnson, I mean he writes a 10 page letter, very detailed, and he gives them some remarkable detail and I’d like to read it. It’s on page six. This is Senator Johnson speaking. He said, “I asked him whether there was some kind of arrangement where Ukraine would take some action and the hold would be lifted. Without hesitation,” senator Johnson says, “President Trump immediately denied such an arrangement existed, and he started cursing and he said, no way. President Trump said, no way. I would never do that. Who told you that?” And Senator Johnson goes on to say that president Trump’s reaction here was adamant, vehement and angry. Senator Johnson goes on to say that as of August 31st the president told them, but you’re going to like my decision in the end. So I think that’s very important context on what the president’s state of mind was at least as of August 31st.
Speaker 9: (02:01:45)
Right. He fully expected, do you agree, that the aid would eventually be released after the 55 day pause?
Stephen Castor: (02:01:54)
Speaker 9: (02:01:55)
Stephen Castor: (02:01:55)
Speaker 9: (02:01:55)
Yes. I to thank you all for your presentations. Mr. Castor, I believe you’ve been talking for approximately 75 minutes today, and I want to thank you for that.
Stephen Castor: (02:02:08)
My wife thanks you as well. She likes it when I do the talking when she’s not around.
Speaker 9: (02:02:14)
Time permitting today, I’d like to cover four or five areas, distinct areas. There’s a lot of facts that the American people have not heard and there’s a lot of contradictions in certain people’s testimony. Is that fair to say, Mr. Castor? And I’d like to talk about some of the people in this story that have firsthand knowledge of the facts. We have ambassador Volker, ambassadors Sondland, and secretary Perry. You had the opportunity to talk to two of those three people, is that correct?
Stephen Castor: (02:02:58)
Speaker 9: (02:02:59)
And the Democrats report would like us to believe that these three individuals were engaged in some sort of cabal or some sort of nefarious venture. But that’s not true, is it?
Stephen Castor: (02:03:18)
Speaker 9: (02:03:19)
In fact, these three people were at all relevant times and even today, acting in the best interest of the American people. Is that true?
Stephen Castor: (02:03:28)
That’s right. And with the highest integrity.
Speaker 9: (02:03:30)
That’s right. I think everyone testified that ambassador Volker is one of the most experienced diplomats in our foreign service
Stephen Castor: (02:03:43)
Across the board, all the witnesses, including ambassador Evanovich, talked about integrity that ambassador Volker brings to the table.
Speaker 9: (02:03:49)
But there’s a lot of people with firsthand knowledge that we didn’t talk to. Is that correct? Now I want to talk about the president’s skepticism of foreign aid. The president is very skeptical of foreign aid. Is that correct?
Stephen Castor: (02:04:12)
He is deeply skeptical of sending US tax payer dollars into an environment that is corrupt because it’s as good as kissing it goodbye.
Speaker 10: (02:04:23)
And is that something new that he believes or is that something he ran on?
Stephen Castor: (02:04:27)
This is something that he has ran on. It’s something that he has implemented policies as soon as he became president. And ambassador Hale, the third ranking state department official told us about the overall review of all foreign aid programs and he described it as almost a zero based evaluation.
Speaker 9: (02:04:45)
Right. And you had the opportunity to take the deposition of Mark Sandy who is a career official at OMB, is that right?
Stephen Castor: (02:04:54)
Speaker 9: (02:04:56)
And he had some information about the reason for the pause. Is that true? I think that he had a conversation with an individual named Rob Blair, and Mr. Blair provided some insight into the reason for the pause.
Stephen Castor: (02:05:14)
Sandy was one of the few witnesses that we had that was able to give us firsthand account inside of OMB the reason for the pause related to the president’s concern about European burden, urban sharing in the region.
Speaker 9: (02:05:32)
And in fact, in his conversations, the president’s conversations with Senator Johnson, he mentions his concern about burden sharing, and I believe he referenced a conversation that he had with the chancellor of Germany. In fact, the whole first part of the July 24th transcript, he’s talking about burden sharing and wanting the Europeans to do more. But-
Stephen Castor: (02:06:06)
Yeah, I mean, Senator Johnson was, and president Trump were pretty candid, and they believe that allies like Germany were laughing at us because we were so willing to spend the aid.
Speaker 9: (02:06:20)
Right. Now, I’d like, there’s been a lot of allegations that president Zelensky is not being candid about feeling pressure from president Trump. And isn’t it true that he’s stated over and over publicly that he felt no pressure from president Trump? Is that true?
Stephen Castor: (02:06:50)
Yeah, he’s said it consistently. He said it in the United nations September 25th, he said it in three more news availabilities over the course of the period, including last week.
Speaker 9: (02:07:05)
I want to change subjects, and talk about something that professor Turley raised last week and that is the partisan nature of this investigation. And you’re an experienced congressional investigator.
Stephen Castor: (02:07:22)
And professor Turley, by the way, he’s no Trump supporter.
Speaker 9: (02:07:25)
That’s right. He is a Democrat. That’s right. But professor truly cautioned that a partisan inquiry is not what the founders envisioned. Is that correct?
Stephen Castor: (02:07:39)
Speaker 9: (02:07:42)
Stephen Castor: (02:07:42)
The worst thing you can have with an impeachment is partisan rank Corps, because nobody’s going to accept the result on the other side.
Speaker 9: (02:07:48)
And our Democrat friends have all of a sudden become originalist and her citing the founders and their intent routinely as part of this impeachment process.
Stephen Castor: (02:07:59)
I think that goes to whether this constitutes bribery. There’s case law on bribery, and I’m no Supreme court scholar, lawyer, advocate, but you know, there’s new case law with the McDonald case about what constitutes an official act. And that certainly hasn’t been addressed in this space. And I think professor Turley mentioned that.
Speaker 9: (02:08:29)
Right. And I think professor Turley said that a meeting certainly does not constitute an official act.
Stephen Castor: (02:08:35)
I think it’s the McDonald case goes to that.
Speaker 9: (02:08:36)
Right. And professor Turley pointed that out for us last week. Yes. Since this inquiries unofficial and unsanctioned start in September, the process has been partisan, biased, unfair. Republican’s questioning has been curtailed routinely. I think we saw that in Lieutenant Colonel Vindman’s deposition. There was some, you know-
Stephen Castor: (02:09:11)
Yeah, we were barred from asking him questions about who he communicated his concerns to.
Speaker 9: (02:09:17)
Right. Very basic things like who, what, when, where, and instead-
Stephen Castor: (02:09:24)
And I would say, too, this rapid, we’re in day 76 and it’s almost impossible to do a sophisticated congressional investigation that quickly, especially when the stakes are this high. Because any congressional investigation of any consequence it does take a little bit of time for the two sides to stake out their interests and how they’re going to respond to them.
Speaker 9: (02:09:53)
Stephen Castor: (02:09:54)
We learned with the [inaudible 02:09:55] Gowdy probe. The first letter I think went in October of 2017, and in December we finally got a witness and it was the following spring with getting the [inaudible 02:10:09] Gowdy probe, after a lot of pushing and pulling and a lot of tug of war, we reached a deal with DOJ where we went down to DOJ and they gave us access to documents and they gave us access to, I think, north of 800,000 pages. But they made us come down there, they made us go into a skiff and these documents weren’t classified and it wasn’t until May and June of that year that we started this process when the investigation had been ongoing and that is disappointing. Obviously we all wish there was an easy button, but congressional investigations of consequence take time.
Speaker 9: (02:10:54)
Right. And it took I think six months before the first document was even produced. And like you said, you had to go down there and review it on camera, and then going back even further to fast and furious. The investigation of the death of a border patrol agent.
Stephen Castor: (02:11:13)
Yeah, I mean fast and furious, we issued subpoenas. Mr. Issa sent some subpoenas I think in February of 2011, and we had a hearing in June with experts about proceedings and contempt, what does it take to go to contempt, and that that was the first time in June when we got any production and the production was largely publicly available information. And we spent most of the year trying to get information out of the justice department. At the time we were also working with whistle blowers who were providing us documents and chairman Issa at the time, then in October, issued another subpoena that was to the justice department and so the investigation had been ongoing most of the year we were talking to whistle blowers. We’re doing interviews and we’re doing our best to get documents out of the justice department through that channel. But these things take time.
Speaker 9: (02:12:16)
Right? And if you-
Stephen Castor: (02:12:18)
Certainly not 76 days.
Speaker 9: (02:12:19)
Yes. And if you truly want to uncover every fact, as you should in an impeachment, do you agree? You have to go to court sometimes and enforce your subpoenas. And here, my understanding is, we have a lot of requests for information, voluntary information, will you please provide us with documents on X, Y, Z. And I think that’s great, but you have to back it up with something, isn’t that correct?
Stephen Castor: (02:12:46)
There’s a number of ways to enforce the request. I mean, the fundamental rule of any congressional investigation is you rarely get what you’re asking for unless, and until the alternative is less palatable for the respondent. So you issue a subpoena, and you’re trying to get documents, one technique you can use to try to talk to a document custodian or somebody in the ledge affairs function about what documents exist. Chairman Chaffetz, during his era, used to have these document production status hearings where you bring in ledge affairs officials and try to get the lay of the land because alleged affairs officials at least nominally are supposed to be directly responsible serving the interest. You can saber rattle, legal to saber rattle about holding somebody in contempt. Oftentimes witnesses who are reluctant to cooperate and come forward when you attach a contempt, proceeding or a prospective contempt proceeding to their name, a lot of times that changes the outcome and with a contempt proceeding you’ve got a couple of different steps along the way.
Stephen Castor: (02:14:03)
You could raise the prospect of a contempt proceeding, you could schedule a contempt proceeding. After you schedule a contempt proceeding, you could hold the door open for documents or interviews and then you could push it off. You could go through at the committee level and these are all sort of milestone events which historically are unpalatable or less palatable for the administration that sometimes starts to move the needle. And with these types of disputes, once you get the ball rolling, you know it’s a [good luck 00:18:36] Gowdy probe.,We didn’t get a witness and it was deputy director Andrew McCabe for, it was a couple of months. But once we got deputy director McCabe in, a couple of weeks later we got a director Colome’s chief of staff, a couple of weeks later… I mean the witnesses start, once you get the ball rolling you… Again, you don’t always like 100% of the terms. Sometimes you got to deal with agency counsel, sometimes you got to go look in camera. But once you get the ball rolling, usually it leads to positive results, and historically has allowed the Congress to do its work.
Speaker 9: (02:15:13)
And were any of those things done here?
Stephen Castor: (02:15:16)
Speaker 9: (02:15:18)
In fact, they decided we’re not going to subpoena certain people that are important. Is that fair to say? And we’re not going to go to court and enforce them. So these folks that are caught in an inter-branch struggle.
Stephen Castor: (02:15:32)
Speaker 9: (02:15:34)
And that’s an unfortunate position for any employee-
Stephen Castor: (02:15:36)
Well one of the concerning things is Dr. Kupperman, who has been described by Dr. Fiona Hill and a number of witnesses as a solid citizen, a good witness. He filed a lawsuit in the face of a subpoena and a judge was assigned to a judge Leon and the issues, the [Coverman raise 00:20:01] were slightly different than the Don McGahn issues. Because you know, Don McGahn is the personal, or the white house counsel. Kupperman of course is a national security official. Kupperman filed the lawsuit seeking guidance, Kupperman wasn’t asking the court to tell him not to come testify. To the contrary, Kupperman was seeking the court’s guidance to facilitate his cooperation and, ultimately the committee with withdrew the subpoena, which raises questions about whether the committee’s really interested in getting to the bottom of some of these issues.
Speaker 9: (02:16:41)
Right. Instead, the committee’s chosen, the intelligence committee has chosen to rely on Ambassador Sondland and his testimony. I think they rely 600 times in their report.
Stephen Castor: (02:16:55)
Tell you what I did on this point I, yesterday, I opened the Democrat report and I did a control F.
Speaker 9: (02:17:09)
Stephen Castor: (02:17:09)
You know, control F?
Speaker 9: (02:17:11)
Stephen Castor: (02:17:11)
And Sondland’s name shows up I think 611 times. And in fairness, it’s going to be double counted because if it’s in a sentence and then it’s in a footnote that’s two. But in relative comparison to the other witnesses, Sondland’s relied on big time.
Speaker 9: (02:17:35)
Yes. And I think Dr. Hill testified that she at some point confronted him about his actions and-
Stephen Castor: (02:17:45)
The record is mixed on this front. Dr. Hill talks about raising concerns with Sondland, and Sondland in his deposition at least doesn’t, he didn’t share the same view.
Speaker 9: (02:18:00)
And there’s a lot of instances of that where ambassador Sondland recalls one thing and other witnesses recall another, is that correct?
Stephen Castor: (02:18:07)
Sondland as a witness, he’s a bit of an enigma, let’s just say it that way. He was pretty certain in his deposition that the security assistance wasn’t linked to anything, and then he submitted an addendum.
Speaker 9: (02:18:27)
I call that the pretzel sentence. It’s-
Stephen Castor: (02:18:34)
And even in that addendum or supplement or whatever it’s called, it’s talk to him and her and anyway, Sondland ends with, “I presumed.” So it wasn’t really any firsthand information.
Speaker 9: (02:18:54)
Right. We don’t have a lot of firsthand information here. Is that correct?
Stephen Castor: (02:18:59)
On certain facts we don’t. We have firsthand information on the May 23rd meeting in the oval office. We’ve got a lot of firsthand information, although all conflicting, on the July 10th meeting. There are episodes, I think, during the course of this investigation, that we have been able to at least get everyone’s account. But the investigation hasn’t been able to reveal firsthand evidence relating to the president other than the call transcript.
Speaker 9: (02:19:34)
I think we’ve already talked about this, that ambassador Sondland would presume things, assume things and form opinions based on what other people told him. And then he would use those as firsthand, is that correct?
Stephen Castor: (02:19:56)
You know, it started with his role with the Ukraine portfolio. A lot of people at the state department were wondering why the ambassador to the EU was so engaged in issues relating to the Ukraine. And there are answers for that. Ukraine is an aspirant to join the EU, and there’s a lot of other reasons. And Mr. Turner I think explored this really well at the open hearing, but we asked Ambassador Sondland, and he said he did a TV interview in Kiev on the 26th of July where he said, the president’s given me a lot of assignments and he’s the president to assign me Ukraine and so forth. But then when we asked him in his deposition, he conceded that he was in fact spinning, that the president never assigned him to Ukraine, that he was just, he said he was exaggerating.
Speaker 9: (02:20:51)
And I think at the public hearings you pointed out that in contrast to other witnesses, ambassador Sondland isn’t a note taker. He, in fact, he said, I do not recall dozens of times in his deposition.
Stephen Castor: (02:21:13)
Let’s say it this way. You know, ambassador Taylor walked us through his standard operating procedure for taking notes. He told us about having a notebook on his desk and a notebook in his coat pocket of his suit and he brought it with us and he showed us. So consequently when ambassador Taylor recounts to us what happened, it’s backed up by these contemporaneous notes. Ambassador Sondland on the other hand, was very clear that… Firsthand, he said that he did not have access to state department records. While he said that at the public hearing, simultaneously the state department issued a tweet I think, or a statement at least saying that wasn’t true, that nobody is keeping ambassador Sondland from his emails. You know, he’s still a state department employee, he can go, he does have access to his records, but he stated he didn’t, and he stated that he doesn’t have any notes because he doesn’t take notes. And he conceded that he doesn’t have recollections on a lot of these issues. And we made a list of them and I think at the hearing I called it the trifecta of unreliability.
Speaker 9: (02:22:30)
Yes. And you’re not the only person that has concerns about ambassador Sondland’s testimony, conduct. I think other witnesses took issue with his conduct, is that correct?
Stephen Castor: (02:22:45)
Yeah. Tim Morrison talked about instances where ambassador Sondland was sort of showing up on invited. Marson didn’t understand why Sondland was trying to get into the Warsaw meeting September 1st and Dr. Hill, Fiona Hill told us about issues of that sort and a number of witnesses, you’re correct.
Speaker 9: (02:23:09)
Ambassador Reeker and ambassador Sondland, too, correct?
Stephen Castor: (02:23:12)
I believe ambassador Reeker-
Speaker 9: (02:23:14)
said he was a problem.
Stephen Castor: (02:23:15)
Said he was a problem, yeah.
Speaker 9: (02:23:17)
Yeah. And Dr. Hill raised concerns about his behavior and said that he might be an intelligence risk. Is that correct?
Stephen Castor: (02:23:28)
She did. She had issues with his tendency to pull out his mobile device and make telephone calls, which obviously can be monitored by the bad guys.
Speaker 9: (02:23:47)
And we talked about how he was spinning that certain things, and he admitted that, how he was spinning.
Stephen Castor: (02:23:58)
He admitted he exaggerated.
Speaker 9: (02:23:59)
Stephen Castor: (02:24:00)
He also, when it comes to his communications with the president, we tried to get him to list all the communications with the president, I think he gave us six. And then when he was back at it, he walked us through each communication with the president. And by the way, it was about a Christmas party. It was about when the president of Finland was here. And then Congresswoman Spear asked him the same question in the open hearing, and he said that he had talked to the president 20 times. So the record is mixed.
Speaker 9: (02:24:32)
I think my time’s up. Thank you both.
Mr. Armstrong: (00:00)
Consent requests before we start.
Jerry Nadler: (00:01)
The gentleman will state his unanimous consent request.