REP. JACKIE SPEIER, D-CALIF.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL, D-CALIF.
REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, D-TEXAS
REP. DENNY HECK, D-WASH.
REP. VAL B. DEMINGS, D-FLA.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI, D-ILL.
REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY, D-N.Y.
REP. PETER WELCH, D-VT.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-CALIF., EX OFFICIO
REP. DEVIN NUNES, R-CALIF., RANKING MEMBER
REP. K. MICHAEL CONAWAY, R-TEXAS
REP. CHRIS STEWART, R-UTAH
REP. MICHAEL R. TURNER, R-OHIO
REP. BRAD WENSTRUP, R-OHIO
REP. JIM JORDAN, R-OHIO
REP. WILL HURD, R-TEXAS
REP. ELISE STEFANIK, R-N.Y.
REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE, R-TEXAS
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, R-CALIF., EX OFFICIO
DANIEL GOLDMAN, MAJORITY DIRECTOR OF INVESTIGATIONS, HOUSE
STEVE CASTOR, MINORITY CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL, HOUSE
AMBASSADOR GORDON SONDLAND, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE EUROPEAN
SCHIFF: The committee will come to order. Good morning, everyone.
This is the fifth in a series of public hearings the committee will be holding as part of the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry.
Without objection, the chair is authorized to declare a recess at any time. There is a quorum present.
We will proceed today in the same fashion as our other hearings. I'll make an opening statement and then Ranking Member Nunes will have the opportunity to make a statement. Then we will turn to our witness for an opening statement, and then to questions.
For audience members, we welcome you and respect your interest in being here. In turn, we ask for your respect as we proceed with today's hearing. It is the intention of the committee to proceed without disruptions. As chairman, I'll make all necessary and appropriate steps to maintain order and to ensure the committee is run in accordance with House rules and House Resolution 660.
With that, I now recognize myself to give an opening statement in the impeachment inquiry into Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States.
This morning, we will hear from Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union.
We are here today as part of the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry because President Donald Trump sought to condition military aid to Ukraine in an Oval Office meeting with the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, in exchange for politically motivated investigations that Trump believed would help his re-election campaign.
The first investigation was of a discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, was responsible for interfering in the 2016 election.
The second investigation that Trump demanded into -- was into a political rival that he apparently feared most, Joe Biden. Trump sought to weaken Biden and to refute the fact that his own election campaign in 2016 had been helped by a Russian hacking and dumping operation and Russian social media campaign directed by Vladimir Putin to help Trump.
Trump's scheme undermined military and diplomatic support for a key ally and undercut U.S. anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine. Trump put his personal and political interests above those of the United States. As Ambassador Sondland would later tell career Foreign Service officer David Holmes immediately after speaking to the president, "Trump did not give a expletive about Ukraine. He cares about big stuff that benefits him like the Biden investigations that Rudy Giuliani was pushing."
Ambassador Sondland was a skilled dealmaker, but in trying to satisfy a directive from the president found himself increasingly embroiled in an effort to press the new Ukrainian president that deviated sharply from the norm in both terms of policy and process.
SCHIFF: In February, Ambassador Sondland traveled to Ukraine on his first official trip to that country. While in Kyiv, he met with then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and found her to be an excellent diplomat with a deep command of Ukrainian internal dynamics.
On April 21st Zelensky was elected president of Ukraine and spoke to President Trump, who congratulated him and said he would look into attending Zelensky's inauguration, but pledged to send someone at a very, very high level.
Between the time of that call and the inaugural on May 20, Trump's attitoward towards -- attitude towards Ukraine hardened. On May 13th, the president ordered Vice President Mike Pence not to attend Zelensky's inauguration, opting instead to dispatch the self-dubbed Three Amigos, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Ambassador Sondland and Ambassador Kurt Volker, the special representative for Ukraine negotiations.
After returning from the inauguration, members of the U.S. delegation briefed President Trump on their encouraging first interactions with the new Ukrainian administration. They urged the president to meet with Zelensky, but the president's reaction was decidedly hostile. The president's order was clear, however: Talk with Rudy.
During this meeting, Ambassador Sondland first became aware of what Giuliani and the president were really interested in. "This whole thing was sort of a continuum," he testified at his deposition, "starting at May -- at the May 23rd meeting, ending up at the end of the line when the transcript of the call came out." It was a continuum he would explain that became more insidious over time.
The Three Amigos were disappointed with Trump's directive to engage Giuliani, but vowed to press ahead. Ambassador Sondland testified, "We could abandon the goal of a White House meeting for President Zelensky," which the group deemed crucial for U.S.-Ukrainian relations, "or we could do as President Trump directed and talk to Mr. Giuliani to address the president's concerns. We chose the latter path."
In the coming weeks, Ambassador Sondland got more clearly involved in Ukraine policymaking, starting with the June 4 U.S. mission to the E.U. Independence Day event in Brussels one month early. Secretary Perry, Ulrich Brechbuhl and the State Department counselor -- the State Department counselor and Sondland met with President Zelensky, whom Sondland had invited personally on the margins of the event.
On June 10, 2019, Secretary Perry organized a conference call with Sondland, then-National Security Advisor John Bolton, Volker and others. They reviewed Ukraine's strategy with Bolton and decided that Perry, Sondland and Volker would assist Ambassador Bill Taylor, the new acting ambassador in Kyiv, on Ukraine and discuss Trump's desire for Rudy Giuliani to be somehow involved. At the end of the call, according to Sondland, "We all felt very comfortable with the strategy moving forward."
Two weeks later on June 27th, Ambassador Sondland called Taylor to say that, quote, "Zelensky needed to make clear to President Trump that he was not standing in the way of investigations."
On July 10th, Ambassador Sondland and other U.S. officials met at the White House with a group of U.S. and Ukrainian officials. Participants in the meeting have told us that Ambassador Sondland invoked acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and said that the White House meeting sought by the Ukrainian president with Trump would happen only if Ukraine undertook certain investigations. National Security Advisor Bolton abruptly ended the meeting upon hearing this. Undeterred, Sondland brought the Ukrainian delegation downstairs to another part of the White House and was more explicit. According to witnesses, Ukraine needed to investigate the Bidens or Burisma and the 2016 election interference if they wanted to get a meeting at all.
SCHIFF: Following this meeting in July, Bolton said that he would not be "part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this."
Sondland continued to press for a meeting, but he and others were willing to settle for a phone call as an intermediate step. On July 21, Taylor texted Sondland that, quote, "President Zelensky is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely as an instrument of Washington domestic re-election politics."
Sondland responded, "Absolutely, but we need to get the conversation started and the relationship built irrespective of the pretext," so that Zelensky and Trump could meet and "all of this will be fixed."
On July 25, the day of the Trump-Zelensky call, Volker has lunch in Kyiv with a senior aide to Ukrainian President Zelensky and later texted the aide to say that he'd "heard from the White House; assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate, get to the bottom of what happened in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington. Good luck."
Ambassador Sondland spoke to President Trump a few minutes before the call was placed, but was not on the call. During that now-infamous phone call with Zelensky, Trump responded to the Ukrainian expression of appreciation for U.S. defense support and request to buy more Javelin anti-tank missiles by saying, "I would like you to do us a favor, though."
Trump asked Zelensky to investigate the discredited 2016 conspiracy theory and, even more ominously, look into the Bidens. Neither had been part of the official preparatory material for the call, but they were in Donald Trump's personal interest and the interests of his re-election campaign, and the Ukrainian president knew about both in advance in part because of Ambassador Volker and Ambassador Sondland's efforts to make him aware of what the president was demanding.
Around this time, Ambassador Sondland became aware of the suspension of security assistance to Ukraine, which had been announced on a secure interagency video conference on July 18th, telling us that it was extremely odd that nobody involved in making and implementing policy towards Ukraine knew why the aid had been put on hold.
During August, Sondland participated in conference calls and text messages with Volker and Giuliani and said that "the gist of every call was what was going to go in the press statement."
In an August 9 text message with Volker, Sondland stated, "I think POTUS really wants the deliverable," which was, according to Sondland, "a deliverable public statement that President Trump wanted to see or hear before a White House meeting could happen."
On September 1, Ambassador Sondland participated in Vice President Pence's bilateral meeting with Zelensky in Warsaw, during which Zelensky raised the suspended security assistance. Following that meeting, Sondland approached the senior Ukraine official to tell him that he believed "what could help them move the aid was if the Ukrainian prosecutor general would go to the mike and announce that he was opening the Burisma investigation."
Sondland told Taylor that he had made a mistake by telling the Ukrainians that an Oval Office meeting "was dependent on a public announcement of investigations. In fact, everything was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance."
But even the announcement by the prosecutor general would not satisfy the president. On September 7, Sondland spoke to the president and told Tim Morrison and Bill Taylor about the call shortly thereafter. The president said that although this was not a quid pro quo, if President Zelensky did not clear things up in public we would be at a stalemate. Moreover, an announcement by the prosecutor general would not be enough. President Zelensky must personally -- must announce personally that he would open the investigations.
SCHIFF: Sondland told Taylor that "President Trump is a businessman. When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something," he said, "the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check." The check referred to here was the U.S. military assistance to Ukraine and Ukraine had to pay up with investigations.
Throughout early September, Volker and Sondland sought to close the deal on the agreement that Zelensky would announce investigations. After Taylor texted Sondland on September 9, 2019, that "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."
Sixteen days later, the transcript of the July 25th call was made public and the American people learned the truth of how our president tried to take advantage of a vulnerable ally. Now it is up to Congress, as the people's representatives, to determine what response is appropriate.
If the president abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, if he sought to condition, coerce, extort or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his re-election campaign, and did so by withholding official acts, a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid, it will be up to us to decide whether those acts are compatible with the Office of the Presidency.
Finally, I want to say a word about the president and Secretary Pompeo's obstruction of this investigation.
We have not received a single document from the State Department and, as Ambassador Sondland's opening statement today will make clear, those documents bear directly on this investigation and this impeachment inquiry.
I think we know now, based on a sample of the documents attached to Ambassador Sondland's statement, that the knowledge of this scheme was far and wide and included, among others, Secretary of State Pompeo as well as the vice president. We can see why Secretary Pompeo and President Trump have made such a concerted and across-the-board effort to obstruct this investigation and this impeachment inquiry; and I will just say this: They do so at their own peril. I remind the president that Article 3 of the impeachment articles drafted against President Nixon was his refusal to obey the subpoenas of Congress.
And with that, I recognize Ranking Member Nunes for any remarks that he would wish to make.
NUNES: Thank the gentleman.
As we learned last night, storytime last night, we get storytime first thing this morning.
Ambassador Sondland, welcome. Glad you're here. I'm really not glad you're here, but welcome to the fifth day of this circus.
As I noticed -- noted before, the Democrats on this committee spent three years accusing President Trump of being a Russian agent. In March 2018, after a year-long investigation, Intelligence Committee Republicans issued a 240-page report describing in detail how the Russians meddled in the 2016 election and making specific recommendations to improve our election security. Denouncing the report as a whitewash and accusing Republicans of subverting the investigation, the Democrats issued their own report focusing on their now debunked conspiracy theory that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to hack the elections.
Notably, the Democrats vowed at the time to present a further, quote, "comprehensive report," unquote, after they finished their investigation into Trump's treasonous collusion with Russia.
For some completely inexplicable reason, after the implosion of their Russia hoax, the Democrats failed to issue that comprehensive report. We're still waiting.
NUNES: This episode shows how the Democrats have exploited the Intelligence Committee for political purposes for three years, culminating in these impeachment hearings in their mania to attack the president. No conspiracy theory is too outlandish for the Democrats.
Time and time again, they floated the possibility of some far-fetched malfeasance by Trump, declared the dire need to investigate it and then suddenly dropped the issue and moved on to their next asinine theory.
A sampling of their accusations and insinuations includes these.
"Trump is a longtime Russian agent," as described in the Steele dossier.
"The Russians gave Trump advance access to e-mails stolen by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign."
"The Trump campaign based some of its activities on these stolen documents."
"Trump received nefarious materials from the Russians through a Trump campaign aide."
"Trump laundered Russian money through real estate deals."
"Trump was blackmailed by Russia through his financial exposure with Deutsche Bank."
"Trump had a diabolical plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow."
"Trump changed the Republican National Committee platform to hurt Ukraine and benefit Russia."
"The Russians laundered money through the NRA for the Trump campaign."
"Trump's son-in-law lied about his Russian contacts while obtaining his security clearance."
It's a long list of charges, all false. And I could go on and on and on, but I'll spare you for these moments.
Clearly, these ludicrous accusations don't reflect committee members who are honestly searching for the truth. They are the actions of partisan extremists who hijacked the Intelligence Committee, transformed it into the Impeachment Committee, abandoned its core oversight functions and turned it into a beachhead for ousting an elected president from office. You have to keep that history in mind as you consider the Democrats' latest catalog of supposed Trump outrages.
Granted, a friendly call with the Ukrainian president wouldn't seem to rise to the same level as being a Russian agent. But the Democrats were running out of time. If they waited any longer, their impeachment circus would intervene with their own candidates' 2020 campaigns. So you have to give them points for creativity in selling this absurdity as an impeachable offense.
All this explains why the Democrats have gathered zero Republicans' support in the House of Representatives for their impeachment crusade. In fact, the vote we held was a bipartisan vote against this impeachment inquiry.
Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Schiff and Chairman Nadler, the key figures behind this impeachment crusade, all proclaimed that impeachment is so damaging to the country that it can only proceed with bipartisan support. Are those declarations suddenly no longer true? Did impeachment become less divisive? Of course not. They know exactly what kind of damage they're inflicting on this nation but they've passed the point of no return.
After three years of preparation work, much of it spearheaded by the Democrats on this committee using all the tools of Congress to accuse, investigate, indict and smear the president, they stoked a frenzy amongst their most fanatical supporters that they can no longer control.
Ambassador Sondland, you are here today to be smeared. But you'll make it through it and I appreciate your service to this country and I am sorry that you've had to go through this.
In closing, the Democrats have zeroed in on an anonymous whistleblower complaint that was cooked up in cooperation with the Democrats on this very committee. They lied to the American people about that cooperation and refused to let us question the whistleblower to discover the truth.
Meanwhile, the Democrats lash out against anyone who questions to casts doubt on this spectacle. When Ukrainian President Zelensky denies anything improper happened on the phone call, the Democrats say that he's a liar. When journalists report on Ukraine election meddling and Hunter Biden's position on the board of corrupt Ukrainian companies, the Democrats label them conspiracy theorists.
When the Democrats can't get any traction for their allegations of quid pro quo, they move the goal posts and accuse the president of extortion, then bribery and, at last resort, obstruction of justice.
The American people sent us to Washington to solve problems, not to wage scorched-earth political warfare against the other party. This impeachment is not helping the American people, it's not a legitimate use of taxpayer dollars and it's definitely not improving our national security.
Finally, the Democrats' fake outrage that President Trump used his own channel to communicate with Ukraine. Remind my friends on the other side of the aisle that our first president, George Washington, directed his own diplomatic channels to secure a treaty with Great Britain. If my Democratic colleagues were around in 1794, they'd probably want to impeach him too.
Mr. Chairman, this morning, we have transmitted to you a letter exercising our rights under H.Res. 660 to subpoena documents and witnesses. We take this step because you have failed to ensure fairness and objectivity in this inquiry. As such, we need to subpoena Hunter Biden and the whistleblower for closed-door depositions as well as relevant documents from the DNC, Hunter Biden's firm, Rosemont Seneca, and the whistleblower.
In the interest of some basic level of fairness, we expect you to concur with these subpoenas. And I'll submit that letter for the record and yield back the balance of my time.
SCHIFF: I thank the gentleman.
We are joined this afternoon by Ambassador Gordon Sondland -- I'm sorry, this morning. It was a long day yesterday. Gordon Sondland is the U.S. representative to the European Union with the rank of ambassador. Before joining the State Department, Ambassador Sondland was the founder and CEO of Provenance Hotels, a national owner and operator of full-service hotels. Also prior to his government service, Ambassador Sondland was engaged in charitable enterprises.
Two final points before our witness is sworn.
First, witness depositions as part of this inquiry were in unclassified -- were unclassified in nature, and all open hearings will also be held at the unclassified level. Any information that may touch on classified information will be addressed separately.
SCHIFF: Second, Congress will not tolerate any reprisal, threat of reprisal or attempt to retaliate against any U.S. government official for testifying before Congress, including you or any of your colleagues.
If you would please rise and raise your right hand, I will begin by swearing you in. Do you swear or affirm that the testimony you're about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?
SCHIFF: Let the record show the witness has answered in the affirmative. Thank you and please be seated.
The microphone is sensitive, so please speak directly into it. Without objection, your written statement will be made part of the record. And with that, Ambassador Sondland, you are now recognized for your opening statement.
SONDLAND: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Ranking Member Nunes. I appreciate the opportunity to speak again to the members of this Committee.
First, let me offer my thanks to the men and women of the U.S. Department of State, who have committed their professional lives to support the foreign policy work of the United States. In particular, I want to thank my staff at the U.S. Mission to the European Union. Your integrity, dedication, and hard work -- often performed without public acclaim or recognition -- serve as a shining example of true public service, and I am personally grateful to work beside you each and every day.
It is my honor to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. The U.S. Mission to the E.U. is the direct link between the United States and the European Union and its members, America's longest-standing allies and one of the largest economic blocks in the world. Every day, I work to support a strong, united, and peaceful Europe. Strengthening our ties with Europe serves both American and European goals, as we together promote political stability and economic prosperity around the world.
I expect that few Americans have heard my name before these events. So before I begin my substantive testimony, please let me share some of my personal background.
My parents fled Europe during the Holocaust. Escaping the atrocities of that time, my parents left Germany for Uruguay, and then in 1953 immigrated to Seattle, Washington, where I was born and raised. Like so many immigrants, my family was eager for freedom and hungry for opportunity. They raised my sister and me to be humble, hardworking, and patriotic, and I am forever grateful for the sacrifices they made on our behalf.
Public service has always been important to me. As a lifelong Republican, I have contributed to initiatives of both Republican and Democratic administrations. In 2003, I served as a member of the transition team for Oregon Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski. Governor Kulongoski also appointed me to serve on various statewide boards.
In 2007, President George W. Bush appointed me as a member of the Commission on White House Fellows. I worked with President Bush on charitable events for his foundation's Military Service Initiative. And I also worked briefly with former Vice President Joe Biden's office in connection with the vice president's nationwide anti-cancer initiative at a local Northwest Hospital.
And of course, the highest honor in my public life came when President Trump asked me to serve as the United States ambassador to the European Union. The Senate confirmed me as an ambassador on a bipartisan voice vote and I assumed the role in Brussels on July 9th, 2018.
Although today is my first public testimony on the Ukraine matters, this is not my first time cooperating with this committee. As you know, I've already provided 10 hours of deposition testimony. And I did so despite directives from the White House and the State Department that I refuse to appear, as many others have done. I agreed to testify because I respect the gravity of the moment and I believe I have an obligation to account fully for my role in these events.
But I also must acknowledge that this process has been challenging and, in many respects, less than fair. I have not had access to all of my phone records, State Department e-mails and many, many other State Department documents. And I was told I could not work with my E.U. staff to pull together the relevant files and information. Having access to the State Department materials would have been very helpful to me in trying to reconstruct with whom I spoke and met, and when and what was said.
As ambassador, I've had hundreds of meetings and calls with individuals. But I am not a note-taker or a memo-writer. Never have been. My job requires that I speak with heads of state, senior government officials, members of the cabinet, the president almost each and every day. Talking with foreign leaders might be memorable to some people. But this is my job. I do it all the time.
My lawyers and I have made multiple requests to the State Department and the White House for these materials; yet, these materials were not provided to me. And they have also refused to share these materials with this committee. These documents are not classified and, in fairness -- and, in fairness, should have been made available.
In the absence of these materials, my memory admittedly has not been perfect. And I have no doubt that a more fair, open, and orderly process of allowing me to read the State Department records and other materials would have made this process far more transparent.
I don't intend to repeat my prior opening statement or attempt to summarize 10 hours of previous deposition testimony. However, a few critical points have been obscured by noise over the last few days and weeks, and I'm worried that the bigger picture is being ignored. So let me make a few key points.
First, Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the expressed direction of the president of the United States. We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we were playing the hand we were dealt. We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose a very important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the president's orders.
SONDLAND: Second, although we disagreed with the need to involve Mr. Giuliani, at the time we did not believe that his role was improper. As I previously testified, if I had known of all of Mr. Giuliani's dealings or his associations with individuals, some of whom are now under criminal indictment, I personally would not have acquiesced his participation. Still, given what we knew at the time, what we were asked to do did not appear to be wrong.
Third, let me say, precisely because we did not think that we were engaging in improper behavior, we made every effort to ensure that the relevant decision-makers at the National Security Council and the State Department knew the important details of our efforts. The suggestion that we were engaged in some irregular or rogue diplomacy is absolutely false.
I have now identified certain State Department e-mails and messages that provide contemporaneous support for my view. These e-mails show that the leadership of the State Department, the National Security Council and the White House were all informed about the Ukraine efforts from May 23rd, 2019 until the security aid was released on September 11th, 2019. I will quote from some of those messages with you shortly.
Fourth, as I testified previously -- as I testified previously, Mr. Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew these investigations were important to the president.
Fifth, in July and August of 2019, we learned that the White House had also suspended security aid to Ukraine. I was adamantly opposed to any suspension of aid. I was adamantly -- adamantly opposed to any suspension of aid, as Ukrainians needed those funds to fight against Russian aggression. I tried diligently to ask why the aid was suspended, but I never received a clear answer; still haven't to this day.
In the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 elections and Burisma, as Mr. Giuliani had demanded. I shared concerns of the potential quid pro quo regarding the security aid with Senator Ron Johnson. And I also shared my concerns with the Ukrainians.
Finally, at all times, I was acting in good faith. I was acting in good faith. As a presidential appointee, I followed the directions of the president. We worked with Mr. Giuliani because the president directed us to do so. We had no desire to set any conditions -- we had no desire to set any conditions on the Ukrainians.
Indeed, my own personal view -- which I shared repeatedly with others -- was that the White House and security assistance should have proceeded without pre-conditions of any kind. We were working to overcome the problems, given the facts as they existed. Our only interest, and my only interest, was to advance long-standing U.S. policy and to support Ukraine's fragile democracy.
Now, let me provide additional details specifically about Ukraine and my involvement.
First, my very first days as ambassador to the E.U., which was starting back in July of 2018, Ukraine has featured prominently in my broader portfolio. Ukraine's political and economic development are critical to the long-standing and long-lasting stability of Europe. Moreover, the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea remains one of the most significant security crises for Europe and the United States. Our efforts to counterbalance an aggressive Russia depend in substantial part on a strong Ukraine.
On April 21st, 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky was elected president of Ukraine in a -- in an historic election. With the expressed support of Secretary Pompeo, I attended President Zelensky's inauguration on May 20th, as part of the U.S. delegation which was led by Energy Secretary Rick Perry. The U.S. delegation also included Senator Johnson, Ukraine Special Envoy Volker and Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman of the National Security Council.
My attendance at President Zelensky's inauguration was not my first involvement with Ukraine. As I testified previously, just four days after assuming my post as ambassador in July of 2018, I received an official delegation from the government of then-Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko. The meeting took place at the U.S. Mission in Brussels and was pre-arranged by my career E.U. Mission Staff. And I've had several meetings since then in Brussels.
Later, in February of 2019, I worked well with U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in making my first official visit to Ukraine for a U.S. Navy visit to the strategic Black Sea Port of Odessa.
The reason I raise these prior Ukraine activities -- the meetings in Brussels, my visit to Odessa -- is to emphasize that Ukraine has been a part of my portfolio from my very first days as the U.S. ambassador. Any claim that I somehow muscled my way into the Ukraine relationship is simply false.
SONDLAND: During the Zelensky inauguration on May 20th, the U.S. delegation developed a very positive view of the Ukraine government. We were impressed by President Zelensky's desire to promote a stronger relationship with the United States. We admired his commitment to reform and we were excited about the possibility of Ukraine making the changes necessary to support a greater Western economic investment. And we were excited that Ukraine might, after years and years of lip service, finally get serious about addressing its own well-known corruption problems.
With that enthusiasm, we returned to the White House on May 23rd to brief President Trump. We advised the president of the strategic importance of Ukraine and the value of strengthening the relationship with President Zelensky.
To support this reformer, we asked the White House for two things: first, a working phone call between Presidents Trump and Zelensky; and, second, a working Oval Office visit. In our view, both were vital to cementing the U.S.-Ukraine relationship, demonstrating support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, and advancing broader U.S. foreign policy interests.
Unfortunately, President Trump was skeptical. He expressed concerns that the Ukrainian government was not serious about reform and he even mentioned that Ukraine tried to take him down in the last election.
In response to our persistent efforts in that meeting to change his views, President Trump directed us to, quote, "Talk with Rudy." We understood that, "Talk with Rudy," meant talk with Mr. Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer.
Let me say again, we weren't happy with the president's directive to talk with Rudy. We did not want to involve Mr. Giuliani. I believe then, as I do now, that the men and women of the State Department, not the president's personal lawyer, should take responsibility for Ukraine matters.
Nonetheless, based on the president's direction, we were faced with a choice. We could abandon the efforts to schedule the White House phone call and a White House visit between Presidents Trump and Zelensky, which was unquestionably in our foreign policy interests. Or we could do as President Trump had directed and, "Talk with Rudy." We chose the latter course, not because we liked it, but because it was the only constructive path open to us.
Over the course of the next several months, Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker, and I were in communication with Mr. Giuliani. Secretary Perry volunteered to make the initial calls with Mr. Giuliani, given their prior relationship. Ambassador Volker made several of the early calls and generally informed us of what was discussed.
I first communicated with Mr. Giuliani in early August, several months later. Mr. Giuliani emphasized that the president wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing Ukraine to look into the corruption issues. Mr. Giuliani specifically mentioned the 2016 election, including the DNC server and Burisma as two topics of importance to the president.
We kept the leadership of the State Department and the NSC informed of our activities. And that included communications with Secretary of State Pompeo, his Counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl, his Executive Secretary Lisa Kenna, and also communications with Ambassador Bolton, Dr. Hill, Mr. Morrison, and their staff at the NSC. They knew what we were doing and why.
On July 10th, 2019, senior Ukrainian national security officials met with Ambassador Bolton, Ambassador Volker, Dr. Hill, Secretary Perry, myself, and several others in Washington, D.C. During that meeting, we all discussed the importance of the two action items I identified earlier: one, a working phone call; and, two, a White House meeting between Presidents Trump and Zelensky.
From my perspective, the July 10th meeting was a positive step toward accomplishing our shared goals. While I'm now aware of accounts of the meeting from Dr. Hill and Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, their recollections of those events simply don't square with my own or with those of Ambassador Volker or Secretary Perry.
I recall mentioning the prerequisite of investigations before any White House call or meeting. But I do not recall any yelling or screaming or abrupt terminations, as others have said. Instead, after the meeting, Ambassador Bolton walked outside with our group and we all took some great pictures together outside on the White House lawn.
More important, those recollections of protest do not square with the documentary record of our interactions with the NSC in the days and weeks that followed. We kept the NSC apprised of our efforts, including, specifically, our efforts to secure a public statement from the Ukrainians that would satisfy President Trump's concerns.
For example, on July 13th, and this is three days after that July 10th meeting, I e-mailed Tim Morrison. He had just taken over Dr. Hill's post as the NSC Eurasia director and I met him that day for the first time.
I wrote to Mr. Morrison with these words.
The call between Zelensky and POTUS -- the President of the United States -- should happen before 7/21, which is the parliamentary elections in Ukraine. Sole purpose is for Zelensky to give POTUS assurances of new sheriff in town. Corruption ending, unbundling moving forward, and -- and I emphasize -- any hampered investigations will be allowed to move forward transparently. Goal is for POTUS to invite him to Oval. Volker, Perry, Bolton and I strongly recommend.
Mr. Morrison acknowledged and said, thank you and specifically noted that he was tracking these issues.
Again, there was no secret regarding moving forward and the discussion of investigations.
Moreover, I have reviewed other State Department documents -- some of which are not currently in the public domain -- detailing Mr. Giuliani's efforts. For example, on July 10th -- the very same day that Ambassador Volker, Secretary Perry, and I were meeting with the Ukraine officials in Washington -- Ambassador Taylor received a communication that Mr. Giuliani was still talking with Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko.
SONDLAND: In WhatsApp messages with Ambassador Volker, and I, Ambassador Taylor wrote to us as follows. Just had a meeting with Andriy and Vadym -- referring to Ukraine Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko.
Taylor said the Ukrainians were, quote, "Very concerned about what Lutsenko told them -- that, according to R.G.," meaning Rudy Giuliani, "the Zelensky-POTUS meeting will not happen."
Volker responded, good grief. Please tell the Vadym to let the official U.S. government representatives speak for the U.S. Lutsenko has his own self-interest here.
Taylor confirmed that he had communicated that message to the Ukrainians. And he added, I briefed Ulrich this afternoon on this -- referring to State Department Counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl.
Again, everyone's in the loop.
Three things are critical about this WhatsApp exchange. First, while the Ukrainians were in Washington at the White House, Mr. Giuliani was communicating with the Ukrainians without our knowledge. Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Volker, and I were all surprised by this.
Second, Mr. Giuliani was communicating with the reportedly corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor Lutsenko and discussing whether a Zelensky-Trump meeting was going to happen, again, without our knowledge.
And third, with this alarming news, Ambassador Taylor briefed Ulrich Brechbuhl, who is the counselor to Secretary of State Pompeo. And even as late September 24th of this year, Secretary Pompeo was directing Kurt Volker to speak with Mr. Giuliani.
In a WhatsApp message, Kurt Volker told me, in part, spoke with Rudy per guidance from S -- S is the State Department's official designator for the secretary -- Spoke with Rudy per guidance from S.
Look, we tried our best to fix the problem, while keeping the State Department and the NSC closely appraised of the challenges we faced.
On July 25th, Presidents Trump and Zelensky had their official call. I was not on the call, and I don't think I was invited to be on the call. In fact, I first read the transcript on September 25th, the day it was publicly released. All I had heard at that time was that the call had gone well.
Looking back, I find it very odd -- very odd that neither I, nor Ambassador Taylor, nor Ambassador Volker ever received a detailed read-out of that call with the Biden references. Now, there are people who say they had concerns about the call. But no one shared any concerns about the call with me at the time, which, frankly, would have been very helpful to know.
On July 26th, Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Volker, and I were all in Kyiv to meet with President Zelensky. The timing of that trip immediately after the call between presidents Trump and Zelensky was entirely, entirely coincidental. The Kyiv meetings had been scheduled well-before the date that that White House finally fixed the call.
During our Kyiv meeting, I do not recall President Zelensky discussing the substance of his July 25th call with President Trump. Nor did he discuss any requests to investigate Vice President Biden, which we all later learned was discussed on the July 25th call. And this is consistent with the reported comments from Ambassadors Volker and Taylor.
After the Zelensky meeting, I also met with Zelensky's senior aide, Andriy Yermak. I don't recall the specifics of our conversation but I believe the issue of investigations was probably a part of that agenda or meeting.
Also on July 26th, shortly after our Kyiv meetings, I spoke by phone with President Trump. The White House, which has finally -- finally shared certain call dates and times with my attorneys, confirms this. The call lasted five minutes. I remember I was at a restaurant in Kyiv, and I have no reason to doubt that this conversation included the subject of investigations.
Again, given Mr. Giuliani's demand that President Zelensky make a public statement about investigations, I knew investigations were important to President Trump. We did not discuss any classified information.
Other witnesses have recently shared their recollection of overhearing this call. For the most part, I have no reason to doubt their accounts. It's true that the president speaks loudly at times. And it's also true, I think, we primarily discussed A$AP Rocky.
It's true that the president likes to use colorful language. Anyone who has met with him at any reasonable amount of time knows this. While I cannot remember the precise details -- again, the White House has not allowed me to see any read-outs of that call -- and the July 26th call did not strike me as significant at the time.
Actually -- actually, I would have been more surprised if President Trump had not mentioned investigations, particularly give what we were hearing from Mr. Giuliani about the president's concerns. However, I have no recollection of discussing Vice President Biden or his son on that call or after the call ended.
I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question. Was there a quid pro quo?
As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.
Mr. Giuliani conveyed to Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker, and others that President Trump wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election. Mr. Giuliani expressed those requests directly to the Ukrainians and Mr. Giuliani also expressed those requests directly to us. We all understood that these prerequisites for the White House call and the right -- White House meeting reflected President Trump's desires and requirements.
Within my State Department e-mails, there is a July 19th e-mail. This e-mail was sent -- this e-mail was sent to Secretary Pompeo; Secretary Perry; Brian McCormack, who was Secretary Perry's chief of staff at the time; Ms. Kenna, who is the acting -- pardon me -- who is the executive secretary for Secretary Pompeo; Chief of Staff Mulvaney; and, Mr. Mulvaney's Senior Advisor Rob Blair. A lot of senior officials. A lot of senior officials.
SONDLAND: Here is my exact quote from that e-mail: "I talked to Zelensky just now. He is prepared to receive POTUS' call. Will assure him that he intends to run a fully transparent investigation and will 'turn over every stone.' He would greatly appreciate a call prior to Sunday so that he can put out some media about a 'friendly and productive call' (no details) prior to Ukraine election on Sunday."
Chief of Staff Mulvaney responded, I asked the NSC to set it up for tomorrow.
Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret. Everyone was informed via e-mail on July 19th, days before the presidential call. As I communicated to the team, I told President Zelensky in advance that assurances to "run a fully transparent investigation" and "turn over every stone" were necessary in this call with President Trump.
On July 19th in a WhatsApp message between Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Volker, and me, Ambassador Volker stated, had breakfast with Rudy this morning -- that's Ambassador Volker and Rudy Giuliani -- teeing up call with Yermak Monday -- that's senior advisor Andriy Yermak -- must have helped. Most important is for Zelensky to say that he will help investigation and address any specific personnel issues, if there are any.
On August 10th, the next day, Mr. Yermak texted me. Once we have a date -- which is a date for the White House meeting -- we will call for a press briefing announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of the U.S.-Ukraine relationship, including among other things Burisma and election meddling in investigations.
This is from Mr. Yermak to me.
The following day, August 11th -- and this is critical -- I sent an e-mail to Counsel Brechbuhl and Lisa Kenna. Lisa Kenna was frequently used as the pathway to Secretary Pompeo, as sometimes he preferred to receive his e-mails through her. She would print them out and put them in front of him.
With the subject Ukraine, I wrote, Mike -- referring to Mike Pompeo -- Kurt and I negotiated a statement from Zelensky to be delivered for our review in a day or two. The contents will hopefully make the boss happy enough -- the boss being the president -- to authorize an invitation. Zelensky plans to have a big presser -- press conference -- on the openness subject, including specifics, next week.
All of which referred to the 2016 and the Burisma.
Ms. Kenna replied, Gordon, I'll pass to the secretary, thank you.
Again, everyone was in the loop.
Curiously, and this was very interesting to me -- on August 26th, shortly before his visit to Kyiv, Ambassador Bolton's office requested Mr. Giuliani's contact information from me. I sent Ambassador Bolton the information directly. They requested Mr. Giuliani's contact information on August 26th.
I was first informed that the White House was withholding security aid to Ukraine during conversations with Ambassador Taylor on July 18th, 2019. However, as I testified before, I was never able to obtain a clear answer regarding the specific reason for the hold, whether it was bureaucratic in nature -- which often happens -- or reflected some other concern in the interagency process.
I never participated in any of the subsequent DOD or DOS review meetings that others have described, so I can't speak to what was discussed in those meetings.
Nonetheless, before the September 1st Warsaw meeting, the Ukrainians had become aware that security funds had yet to be dispersed. In the absence of any credible explanation for the hold, I came to the conclusion that the aid, like the White House visit, was jeopardized. In preparation for the September 1 Warsaw meeting, I asked Secretary Pompeo whether a face-to-face conversation between Trump and Zelensky would help to break the logjam. And this was when President Trump was still intending to travel to Warsaw.
Specifically, on August 22nd, I e-mailed Secretary Pompeo directly, copying Secretariat Kenna.
I wrote -- and this is my e-mail to Secretary Pompeo. 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 in mid-September, that Zelensky -- he, Zelensky, should be able to move forward publicly and with confidence on those issues of importance to POTUS and the U.S. Hopefully, that will help break the logjam.
The secretary replied, yes.
I followed up the next day asking to get 10 to 15 minutes on the Warsaw schedule for this. I said we'd like to know when it's locked so that I can tell Zelensky and brief him.
Executive Secretary Kenna replied, I will try for sure.
Moreover, given my concerns about the security aid, I have no reason to dispute that portion of Senator Johnson's recent letter, in which he recalls conversations he and I had on August 30th. By the end of August, my belief was that if Ukraine did something to demonstrate a serious intention to fight corruption and specifically addressing Burisma and the 2016, then the hold on military hold would be lifted.
There was a September 1st meeting with President Zelensky in Warsaw. Unfortunately, President Trump's attendance at the Warsaw meeting was canceled due to Hurricane Dorian. Vice President Pence attended instead. 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. I recall mentioning that before the Zelensky meeting.
During the actual meeting, President Zelensky raised the issue of security assistance directly with Vice President Pence. And the vice president said that he would speak to President Trump about it.
Based on my previous communication with Secretary Pompeo, I felt comfortable sharing my concerns with Mr. Yermak. It was a very, very brief pull-aside conversation that happened within a few seconds.
SONDLAND: I told Mr. Yermak that I believed that the resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine took some kind of action on the public statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.
As my other State Department colleagues have testified, this security aid was critical to Ukraine's defense and should not have been delayed. I expressed this view many during this period. But my goal, at the time, was to do what was necessary to get the aid released, to break the logjam. I believed that the public statement we had been discussing for weeks was essential to advancing that goal. You know, I really regret that the Ukrainians were placed in that predicament, but I do not regret doing what I could to try to break the logjam and to solve the problem.
I mentioned at the outset that throughout these events we kept State Department leadership and others apprised of what we were doing. State Department was fully supportive of our engagement in Ukraine efforts, and was aware that a commitment to investigations was among the issues we were pursuing.
To provide just two examples, on June 5th the day after the U.S. E.U. Mission hosted our Independence Day -- we did it a month early -- Acting Assistant Secretary Phil Reeker sent an e-mail to me, to Secretary Perry, and to others forwarding some positive media coverage of President Zelensky's attendance at our event.
Mr. Reeker wrote, and I quote, "This headline underscores the importance and timeliness of Zelensky's visit to Brussels, and the critical -- and the critical, perhaps historic -- role of the dinner and engagement Gordon coordinated. Thank you for your participation and dedication to this effort."
Months later, on September 3rd, I sent Secretary Pompeo an e-mail to express my appreciation for his joining a series of meetings in Brussels following the Warsaw trip.
I wrote, Mike, thanks for schlepping to Europe, I think it was really important and the chemistry seems promising. Really appreciate it.
Secretary Pompeo replied the next day, on Wednesday, September 4th, quote, "All good. You're doing great work; keep banging away."
State Department leadership expressed total support for effort to engage the new Ukrainian Administration.
Look, I've never doubted the strategic value of strengthening our alliance with Ukraine. And at all times -- at all times -- our efforts were in good faith and fully transparent to those tasked with overseeing them. Our efforts were reported and approved. And not once do I recall encountering an objection.
It remains an honor to serve the people of the United States as their United States ambassador to the European Union. I look forward to answering the committee's questions. Thank you.
SCHIFF: We will now proceed to the first round of questions.
As detailed in the memo provided to committee members, there'll be 45 minutes of questions conducted by the chairman or majority counsel, followed by 45 minutes for the ranking member or minority counsel. Following that, unless I specify additional equal time for extended questioning, we'll proceed under the five-minute rule and every member will have the chance to ask questions.
I recognize myself or majority counsel for the first round of questions.
Mr. Sondland, there's a lot of new material in your opening statement for us to get through. But I want to start with a few top-line questions before passing it over to Mr. Goldman.
In your deposition, you testified that you found yourself on a continuum that became more insidious over time. Can you describe what you mean by this continuum of insidiousness?
SONDLAND: Well, Mr. Chairman, when we left the Oval Office, I believe on May 23rd, the request was very generic for an investigation of corruption in a very vanilla sense and dealing with some of the oligarch problems in Ukraine, which were long-standing problems.
And then as time went on, more specific items got added to the menu, including the Burisma and 2016 election meddling, specifically -- the DNC server, specifically. And over this -- over this continuum, it became more and more difficult to secure the White House meeting because more conditions were being placed on the White House meeting.
SCHIFF: And then, of course, on July 25th -- although you were not privy to the call -- another condition was added and that being the investigation of the Bidens?
SONDLAND: I was not privy to the call. And I did not know that the condition of -- of investing the Bidens was a condition. Correct.
SCHIFF: You saw that on the call record, correct?
SONDLAND: It was not in any record I received.
SCHIFF: But when you did see?
SONDLAND: Yes. I saw that in September, correct.
SCHIFF: So under -- on this continuum, the beginning of the continuum begins on May 23rd when the president instructs you to "Talk to Rudy"?
SCHIFF: And you understood that as a direction by the president that you needed to satisfy the concerns that Rudy Giuliani would express to you about what the president wanted in Ukraine?
SONDLAND: Not to me, to the entire group; Volker, Perry, and myself. Correct.
SCHIFF: Now, in your opening statement, you confirm that there was a quid pro quo between the White House meeting and the investigations into Burisma and the 2016 election that Giuliani was publicly promoting. Is that right?
SCHIFF: And in fact, you say that other senior officials in the State Department and chief of staff's office -- including Mick Mulvaney, Secretary Pompeo -- were aware of this quid pro quo that, in order to get the White House meeting, there were going to have to be these investigations the president wanted?
SCHIFF: And those, again, are investigations into 2016 and Burisma/the Bidens?
SONDLAND: 2016/Burisma. The Bidens did not come up.
SCHIFF: But you would ultimately learn that Burisma meant the Bidens when you saw the call record, correct?
SONDLAND: Of course. Today, I know exactly what it means. I didn't know at the time.
SCHIFF: And then on July 26th, you confirmed you did indeed have the conversation with President Trump from a restaurant in Kyiv that David Holmes testified about last week. Is that right?
SCHIFF: And you have no doubts -- no reason to doubt Mr. Holmes' recounting of your conversation with the President?
SONDLAND: The only part of Mr. Holmes' recounting that I take exception with is I do not recall mentioning the Bidens. That did not enter my mind. It was Burisma and 2016 elections.
SCHIFF: You have no reason to believe that Mr. Holmes would make that up? If that's what he recalls you saying, you have no reason to question that, do you?
SONDLAND: I don't recall saying Biden. I never recall saying Biden.
SCHIFF: But the rest of Mr. Holmes' recollection is consistent with your own?
SONDLAND: Well, I can't testify to Mr. Holmes might or might not have heard through the phone. I don't know how he heard the conversation.
SCHIFF: But are you familiar with his testimony?
SONDLAND: Vaguely, yes.
SCHIFF: And the only exception you take is to the mention of the name Biden?
SCHIFF: And I think you said in your testimony this morning that, not only is it correct that the president brought up with you investigations on the phone the day after the July 25th call, but that you would have been surprised had he not brought that up. Is that right?
SONDLAND: Right, because we had been hearing about it from Rudy and we presumed Rudy was getting it from the president. So it seemed like a logical conclusion.
SCHIFF: Mr. Holmes also testified that you told him President Trump doesn't care about Ukraine. He only cares about big stuff that relates to him personally. I take it from your comment you don't dispute that part of the conversation?
SONDLAND: Well, he made that clear in the May 23rd meeting that he was not particularly fond of Ukraine. And we had a lot of heavy lifting to do to get him to engage.
SCHIFF: So you don't dispute that part of Mr. Holmes' recollection?
SCHIFF: In August, when you worked with Rudy Giuliani and a top Ukrainian aide to draft a public statement for President Zelensky to issue that includes the announcement of investigations into Burisma, you understood that was required by President Trump before he would grant the White House meeting to President Zelensky?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
SCHIFF: And the Ukrainians understood that as well?
SONDLAND: I believe they did.
SCHIFF: And you informed Secretary Pompeo about that statement as well?
SONDLAND: I did.
SCHIFF: Later, in August, you told Secretary Pompeo that President Zelensky would be prepared to tell President Trump that his new justice officials would be able to announce matters of interest to the president, which could break the logjam.
When you say matters of interest to the president, you mean the investigations that President Trump wanted. Is that right?
SCHIFF: And that involved 2016 and Burisma or the Bidens?
SONDLAND: 2016 and Burisma.
SCHIFF: And when you're talking here about breaking the logjam, you're talking about the logjam over the security assistance. Correct?
SONDLAND: I was talking logjam generically because nothing was moving.
SCHIFF: But that included the security assistance, did it not?
SCHIFF: And based on the context of that e-mail, this was not the first time you had discussed these investigations with Secretary Pompeo, was it?
SCHIFF: He was aware of the connections that you were making between the investigations, and the White House meeting and security assistance?
SCHIFF: Did he ever take issue with you and say, no, that connection is not there or you're wrong?
SONDLAND: Not that I recall.
SCHIFF: You mentioned that you also had a conversation with Vice President Pence before his meeting with President Zelensky in Warsaw. And that you raised the concern you had, as well, that the security assistance was being withheld because of the president's desire to get a commitment from Zelensky to pursue these political investigations.
What did you say to the Vice President?
SONDLAND: I was in a briefing with several people. And I just spoke up and I said it appears that everything is stalled until this statement gets made, something that -- words to that effect. And that's what I believe to be the case, based on, you know, the work that the three of us had been doing, Volker, Perry, and myself.
And the Vice President nodded, like, you know, he heard what I said. And that was pretty much it, as I recall.
SCHIFF: And you understood that the Ukrainians were going to raise the security assistance with the vice president at this meeting?
SONDLAND: I didn't know what they were going to raise. But they -- they, in fact, did raise it, Mr. Chairman.
SCHIFF: Well, it was public by that point that there was a hold on the security assistance, correct?
SONDLAND: Yes, but I didn't know what they were going to raise. I didn't get a pre-brief from the Ukrainians.
SCHIFF: Well, you knew, certainly, they were concerned about the hold on the security assistance, right?
SONDLAND: They were concerned, obviously.
SCHIFF: And you wanted to help prepare the vice president for the meeting by letting him know what you thought was responsible for the hold on the security assistance.
SONDLAND: That's fair.
SCHIFF: Do you recall anything else the president -- the vice president said, other than nodding his head, when you made him aware of this fact?
SONDLAND: No. I -- I don't have a read out of that meeting. So I can't remember anything else.
SCHIFF: And it was immediately after this meeting between the vice president and Zelensky that you went to speak with Yermak. And you told him, similarly, that in order to release the military assistance they were going to have to publicly announce these investigations?
SONDLAND: Yes. Much has been made of that meeting, and it really wasn't a meeting. What happened was, everyone got up after the bilateral meeting between President Zelensky and Vice President Pence, and people do what they normally do. They get up. They mill around. They shake hands.
And I don't know if I came over to Yermak or he came over to me. But he said, you know, what's going on here?
And I said, I don't know. It might all be tied together now. I have -- you know, I have no idea. I was presuming that it was, but it was a very short conversation.
SCHIFF: Well, in that short conversation -- as you would later relay to Mr. Morrison and Ambassador Taylor -- you informed Mr. Yermak that they would need to announce these investigations in order to get the aid. Did you not?
SONDLAND: Well, Mr. Yermak was already working on those investigation -- or on the statement about the investigations.
SCHIFF: And you confirmed for him that he needed to get it done if they were going to get the military aid?
SONDLAND: I likely did.
SCHIFF: Mr. Morrison and Ambassador Taylor have also related (ph) a conversation you had with the president following the Warsaw meeting, in which the president relayed to you that there was no quid pro quo but, nevertheless, unless Zelensky went to the mic and announced these investigations, there would be a stalemate over the aid. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
SCHIFF: And that was an accurate reflection of your discussion with the president?
SONDLAND: Well, that e-mail was not artfully written. I'm the first to admit. What I was trying to convey to Ambassador Taylor, after his frantic e-mails to me and to others, about the security assistance -- which, by the way, I agreed with him. I thought it was a very bad idea to hold that money.
I finally called the president. I believe it was on the 9th of September. I can't find the records and they won't provide them to me.
But I believe I just asked him and open-ended question, Mr. Chairman. What do you want from Ukraine? I keep hearing all these different ideas, and theories, and this and that. What do you want?
And it was a very short, abrupt conversation. He was not in a good mood. And he just said I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing.
Something to that effect.
So I typed out a text to Ambassador Taylor. And my reason for telling him this was not to defend what the president was saying, not to opine on whether the president was being truthful or untruthful, but simply to relay I've gone as far as I can go. This is the final word that I heard from the president of the United States.
If you're still concerned -- you, Ambassador Taylor, are still concerned -- please get a hold of the secretary. Maybe he can help (ph)...
SCHIFF: (inaudible) I'm not asking about your text message. I'm asking your -- about your conversations with Mr. Morrison and Ambassador Taylor after you spoke with the president, either on that call or in a different call.
SONDLAND: I'm confused, Mr. Chairman. Which conversations with Mr. Morrison and Mr. Taylor?
SCHIFF: Well, Mr. Morrison testified that you related a conversation you had with the president, in which the president told you no quid pro quo, but President Zelensky must go to a microphone and announce these investigations and that he should want to.
Similarly, you told Ambassador Taylor that, while the president said no quid pro quo, unless Zelensky announced these investigations they would be at a stalemate -- presumably, a stalemate over the military assistance.
Do you have any reason to question those conversations that Mr. Morrison and Ambassador Taylor took notes about?
SONDLAND: Well, I think it's tied to my text, Mr. Chairman. Because, in my text, I think I said something to the effect that he wants Zelensky to do what he ran on, I believe -- his transparency, et cetera, et cetera -- which was my clumsy way of saying he wanted -- he wanted these announcements to be made.
SCHIFF: Again, ambassador, I'm not asking about your text message. I'm asking what you relayed to Ambassador Taylor and Mr. Morrison about your conversation with the president. Do you have any reason to question their recollection of what you told them?
SONDLAND: All I can say is that I expressed what I told -- or what the president told me in that text. And if I had relayed anything other than what was in that text, I don't recall.
SCHIFF: You don't recall?
SONDLAND: I don't recall.
SCHIFF: But you have no reason to question Ambassador Taylor or Mr. Morrison of what they wrote in their notes about your conversation with them.
SONDLAND: Could you kindly repeat what they wrote?
SCHIFF: I'll have Mr. Goldman go through that with you.
SONDLAND: That'd be great.
SCHIFF: But let me get to the very -- the top line here, Ambassador Sondland.
SCHIFF: You've testified that the White House meeting that President Zelensky desperately wanted -- and that was very important to President Zelensky, was it not?
SCHIFF: You testified that that meeting was conditioned -- was a quid pro quo -- for what the president wanted, these two investigations. Isn't that right?
SCHIFF: And that everybody knew it.
SCHIFF: Now that White House meeting was going to be an official meeting between the two presidents, correct?
SCHIFF: It would be an Oval Office meeting, hopefully?
SONDLAND: A working meeting, yes.
SCHIFF: A working meeting. So an official act, correct?
SCHIFF: And in order to perform that official act, Donald Trump wanted these two investigations that would help his reelection campaign. Correct?
SONDLAND: I can't characterize why he wanted them. All I can tell you is this is what we heard from Mr. Giuliani.
SCHIFF: But he had -- he had to get those two investigations, if that official act was going to take place, correct?
SONDLAND: He had to announce the investigations. He didn't actually have to do them, as I understood it.
SCHIFF: OK. President Zelensky had to announce the two investigations the president wanted. Make a public announcement. Correct?
SCHIFF: And those were of great value to the president, he was quite insistent upon them and his attorney was insistent on them?
SONDLAND: I don't what to characterize whether they are of value or not value. Again, through Mr. Giuliani, we were led to believe that that's what he wanted.
SCHIFF: Well, and you said that Mr. Giuliani was acting at the president's demand. Correct?
SONDLAND: Right. When the president says talk to my personal lawyer, Mr. Giuliani, we followed his direction.
SCHIFF: And so that official act of that meeting was being conditioned on the performance of these things the president wanted, as expressed both directly and through his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, correct?
SONDLAND: As expressed through Rudy Giuliani, correct.
SCHIFF: And you've also testified that your understanding -- it became your clear understanding that the military assistance was also being withheld, pending Zelensky announcing these investigations. Correct?
SONDLAND: That was my presumption, my personal presumption, based on the facts at the time. Nothing was moving.
SCHIFF: And in fact you had a discussion, a communication with the secretary of State, in which you said that logjam over aid could be lifted if Zelensky announced these investigations, right?
SONDLAND: I did not -- I don't recall saying the logjam over aid. I recall saying the logjam. I don't know that...
SCHIFF: That's what you -- that's what you meant, right, ambassador?
SONDLAND: I meant that whatever was holding up the meeting -- whatever was holding up our deal with Ukraine, I was trying to break. Again, I was presuming...
SCHIFF: Well, here is what you said in your testimony a moment ago...
SCHIFF: ... Page 18, "But my goal, at the time, was to do what was necessary to get the aid released, to break the logjam." OK, and that's still your testimony, right?
SCHIFF: So the military aid is also an official act. Am I right?
SCHIFF: This is not President Trump's personal bank account he's writing a check from. This is $400 million of U.S. taxpayer money. Is it not?
SCHIFF: And there was a logjam, in which the president would not write that U.S. check -- you believed -- until Ukraine announced these two investigations the president wanted. Correct?
SONDLAND: That was my belief.
SCHIFF: Mr. Goldman?
GOLDMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. In your opening statement, Ambassador Sondland, you -- you detailed the benefits that you have gained from obtaining some additional documents over the past few weeks. Is that right?
SONDLAND: In terms of refreshing my recollection, that's...
GOLDMAN: Right. Because reviewing these documents has helped you to remember the events that we're asking about. Is that correct?
GOLDMAN: Because you acknowledge, of course, that when you can place a document, and a date, and a context it helps to jog your memory.
SONDLAND: That's correct.
GOLDMAN: And so, you would agree that for people unlike yourself who take notes, that that is very helpful to their own recollection of events, right?
SONDLAND: I -- I think you asked your question backwards. Are you saying people that take notes, it's helpful to have those documents? Or people that don't take notes, it's helpful to have those documents?
GOLDMAN: No, no. You are not a note-taker, right?
SONDLAND: I'm not a note-taker, never have been.
GOLDMAN: But you would agree that people who take contemporaneous notes generally can -- are -- are more able to remember things than people who don't.
SONDLAND: Some, yes.
GOLDMAN: And there are additional documents that you've been unable to obtain. Is that right?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
GOLDMAN: And I think you even said in your opening statement that the State Department prevented you and your staff from trying to gather more documents. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: Certain documents, yes.
GOLDMAN: Which documents?
SONDLAND: Documents that I didn't have immediate access to.
GOLDMAN: And who at the State Department prevented you from doing that?
SONDLAND: You'll have to ask my counsel. He was dealing with them.
GOLDMAN: But certainly, based on the additional memory that you have gained over the past few weeks from reading the testimony of others, based on their notes and reviewing your own documents, you have remembered a lot more than you did when you were deposed. Is that right?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
GOLDMAN: And one of the things that you now remember is the discussion that you had with President Trump on July 26th in that restaurant in Kyiv, right?
SONDLAND: Yes, what triggered my memory was someone's reference to A$AP Rocky which was, I believe, the primary focus of the phone call.
GOLDMAN: Certainly. So that's one way memory works, isn't it? And you were sitting in a restaurant with David Holmes in Kyiv, right, having lunch?
SONDLAND: I think I took the whole team out to lunch after the meeting, yes.
GOLDMAN: And it was a meeting -- a one-on-one meeting you had with Andriy Yermak?
SONDLAND: Again, trying to reconstruct a very busy day without the benefit -- but if someone said I had a meeting and I went to the meeting, then I'm not going to dispute that.
GOLDMAN: And particularly if that person took notes at that meeting?
GOLDMAN: Or sat outside the door when you didn't let them in?
SONDLAND: I -- I have no control over who goes into a meeting in Ukraine. That was the Ukrainians that didn't let him in.
GOLDMAN: And you had also met with President Zelensky, among others, that day. Is that right?
SONDLAND: That's -- that's correct.
GOLDMAN: And you called President Trump from your cell phone from the restaurant. Is that right?
SONDLAND: That's right.
GOLDMAN: And this was not a secure line, was it?
SONDLAND: No, it was an open line.
GOLDMAN: Did you worry that a foreign government may be listening to your phone call with the president of United States?
SONDLAND: Well, I have unclassified conversations all the time from landlines that are unsecured and cell phones.
If the topic is not classified -- and it's up to the president to decide what's classified and what's not classified. And we were having -- he -- he was aware that it was an open line, as well.
GOLDMAN: And you don't recall the specifics of holding your phone outside -- far aware from your ear, as Mr. Holmes testified.
But you have no reason to question his recollection of that, do you?
SONDLAND: I mean, it seems a little strange. I would hold my phone here. I probably had my phone close to my ear.
And he claims to have overheard part of the conversation. And I'm not going to dispute what he did or didn't hear.
GOLDMAN: Well, he also testified that you confirmed to President Trump that you were in Ukraine at the time and that President Zelensky, quote, "loves your ass," unquote. Do you recall saying that?
SONDLAND: Yes, it sounds like something I would say.
That's how President Trump and I communicate, a lot of four-letter words. In this case, three-letter.
GOLDMAN: Holmes then said that he heard President Trump ask, quote, "Is he (ph)," meaning Zelensky, "going to do the investigation?"
To which, you replied, "He's going to do it." And then you added that President Zelensky will do "anything that you," meaning President Trump, "ask him to." Do you recall that?
SONDLAND: I probably said something to that affect because I remember the meeting the president -- or President Zelensky was very -- solicitous is not a good word. He was just very willing to work with the United States and was being very amicable.
And so, putting it in Trump-speak by saying he loves your ass, he'll do whatever you want meant that he would really work with us on a whole host of issues.
GOLDMAN: He was not only willing. He was very eager, right?
SONDLAND: That's fair.
GOLDMAN: Because Ukraine depends on the United States as its most significant ally. Isn't that correct?
SONDLAND: One of its most, absolutely.
GOLDMAN: So just so we understand, you -- you were in Kyiv the day after President Trump spoke to President Zelensky on the phone. And you now know from reading the call record that, in that phone call, he requested a favor for President Zelensky to do investigations related to the Bidens and the 2016 election, right?
SONDLAND: I do now know that, yes.
GOLDMAN: And you met with President Zelensky and his aides on the day after that phone call.
And then you had a conversation with President Trump from your cell phone from a restaurant terrace. And he asked you whether President Zelensky will do the investigations.
And you responded that he's going to do them -- or it, and that President Zelensky will do anything you ask him to do.
Is that an accurate recitation of what happened there?
SONDLAND: It could have been words to that effect. I don't remember my exact response.
GOLDMAN: But you don't have any reason to dispute Mr. Holmes' recollection, correct?
SONDLAND: I won't dispute it. But again, I don't recall.
GOLDMAN: After you hung up with the president, Mr. Holmes testified about a conversation that you and he had, where he says that you told Mr. Holmes that the president does not care about Ukraine. But the president used the more colorful language, including a four-letter word that you just referenced to -- or just referenced.
Do you recall saying that to Mr. Holmes?
SONDLAND: Again, I don't recall my exact words. But clearly, the president -- beginning on May 23rd when we met with him in the Oval Office -- was not a big fan.
GOLDMAN: But he was a big fan of the investigations?
SONDLAND: Apparently so.
GOLDMAN: And in fact, Mr. Holmes said that you -- that you said that President Trump only cares about the, quote, "big stuff" that benefits himself. Is that something that you would have said at the time?
SONDLAND: I don't think I would have said that. I would have -- I would have honestly said that he was not a big fan of Ukraine, and he wants the investigations that we had been talking about for quite some time to move forward. That's what I would have said because that's that fact.
GOLDMAN: Mr. Holmes also remembers that you told him, in giving an example of the "big stuff," the Biden investigation that Rudy Giuliani was pushing. Do you recall that?
SONDLAND: I don't. I recall Burisma, not Biden.
GOLDMAN: And -- but do you recall saying -- at least referring to an investigation that Rudy Giuliani was pushing? Is that something that you likely would have said?
SONDLAND: I would have, yes.
GOLDMAN: Now, even if you don't recall specifically mentioning the Biden investigation to David Holmes, we know that it was certainly on President Trump's mind because just the day before, in his call with President Zelensky, he mentions specifically the Biden investigation.
And I want to show you that exhibit or that excerpt from the call on July 25th, where President Trump says, "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."
President Zelensky then responds with a reference to "the company" that he's referring to. And two witnesses yesterday said that, when President Zelensky actually said "the company," he said Burisma.
So you would agree that, regardless of whether you knew about the connection to the Bidens, at the very least that you now know that that's what President Trump wanted at the time through the Burisma investigation?
SONDLAND: I now know it all, of course.
GOLDMAN: And at this time, you were aware of the president's desire, along with Rudy Giuliani, to do these investigations, including the 2016 election interference investigation. Is that right?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
GOLDMAN: And you said President Trump had directed you to talk -- you and the others to talk to Rudy Giuliani at the Oval Office on May 23rd. Is that right?
SONDLAND: If we wanted to get anything done with Ukraine, it was apparent to us we needed to talk to Rudy.
GOLDMAN: Right. You understood that Mr. Giuliani spoke for the president, correct?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
GOLDMAN: And in fact, President Trump also made that clear to President Zelensky in that same July 25th phone call. He said, "Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the attorney general. Rudy very much knows what's happening and he is a very capable guy."
GOLDMAN: And after this, President Trump then mentions Mr. Giuliani twice more in that call.
Now, from Mr. Giuliani, by this point, you understood that in order to get that White House meeting, that you wanted President Zelensky to have and that President Zelensky desperately wanted to have, that Ukraine would have to initiate these two investigations. Is that right?
SONDLAND: Well, they would have to announce that they were going to do it.
GOLDMAN: Right, because they -- because Giuliani and President Trump didn't actually care if they did them, right?
SONDLAND: I never heard, Mr. Goldman, anyone say that the investigations had to start or had to be completed. The only thing I heard, from Mr. Giuliani or otherwise, was that they had to be announced in some form. And that form kept changing.
GOLDMAN: Announced publicly?
SONDLAND: Announced publicly, correct (ph)...
GOLDMAN: And you, of course, recognized that there would be political benefits to a public announcement as opposed to a private confirmation, right?
SONDLAND: Well, the way it was expressed to me was that the Ukrainians had a long history of committing to things privately and then never following through.
So President Trump, presumably -- again, communicated through Mr. Giuliani -- wanted the Ukrainians on record publicly that they were going to do these investigations. That's the reason that was given to me.
GOLDMAN: But you never heard anyone say that they really wanted them to do the investigations. Just that they wanted to announce them.
SONDLAND: I didn't hear -- I didn't hear either way. I didn't hear either way.
GOLDMAN: Now, your July 26th call with the president was not the only time that you spoke to the president surrounding that Ukraine trip, was it?
SONDLAND: I believe I spoke to him before his call.
GOLDMAN: And that's -- so that would be on July 25th, the day before?
SONDLAND: Yes, I think I was flying to Ukraine and I spoke with him, if I recall correctly, just before I got on the plane.
GOLDMAN: So that's two private telephone calls with President Trump in the span of two days. Is that right?
GOLDMAN: You had direct access, then, to President Trump. Correct?
SONDLAND: I had occasional access when he chose to take my calls. Sometimes he would, sometimes he wouldn't.
GOLDMAN: Well, he certainly took your call twice, as it related to Ukraine, on these two days. Is that right?
SONDLAND: He did.
GOLDMAN: Now the morning of July 25th, you texted Ambassador Volker -- and we can bring up the next text exchange -- at 7:54 a.m., and you said call ASAP.
Ambassador Volker did not respond to you for another hour and a half. And he said "Hi Gordon, got your message, had a great lunch with Yermak and then passed your message to him. He will see you tomorrow, think everything in place."
Volker, though, an hour before that and about half an hour before the phone call, had texted Andriy Yermak, a top aide for President Zelensky. And he wrote, "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 date for visit to Washington. Good luck. See you tomorrow."
Ambassador Sondland, was this message that Kurt Volker passed to Andriy Yermak the message you left for Kurt Volker on that voicemail that he referenced?
SONDLAND: You know, I don't remember, Mr. Goldman, but it very well could have been.
GOLDMAN: You don't have any reason to think it wasn't, right?
SONDLAND: Again, I honestly, honestly don't remember. But seems logical to me.
GOLDMAN: And if Ambassador Volker testified that he did get that message from you, you have no reason to doubt that, right?
SONDLAND: No, if he testified that he got that message from me, then I would concur with that.
GOLDMAN: So is it fair to say that this message is what you received from President Trump in that phone call that morning?
SONDLAND: Again, if he testified to that -- to refresh my own memory -- then, yes, likely I would have received that from President Trump.
GOLDMAN: But the sequence certainly makes sense, right?
SONDLAND: Yes, it does.
GOLDMAN: You talked to President Trump.
GOLDMAN: You told Kurt Volker to call you. You left a message for Kurt Volker. Kurt Volker sent this text message to Andriy Yermak to prepare President Zelensky. And then, President Trump had a phone call, where President Zelensky spoke very similar to what was in this text message, right?
GOLDMAN: And you would agree that the message in this -- that is expressed here is that President Zelensky needs to convince Trump that he will do the investigations in order to nail down the date for a visit to Washington, D.C. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
GOLDMAN: Now, I'm going to move ahead in time to the end of August and early September, when you came to believe -- I believe, as you testified -- that it wasn't just the White House meeting that was contingent on the announcement of these investigations that the president wanted, but security assistance as well.
You testified that in the absence of any credible explanation for the hold on security assistance, you came to the conclusion that, like the White House visit, the aid was conditioned on the investigations that President Trump wanted. Is that what you said in your opening statement?
SONDLAND: It is.
GOLDMAN: So let me break this down with you. By this time, you and many top officials knew that that coveted White House meeting for President Zelensky was conditioned on these investigations, right?
SONDLAND: The announcement of the investigations, correct.
GOLDMAN: Thank you. And that includes Secretary Pompeo, right?
SONDLAND: Many, many people.
GOLDMAN: And -- well, Secretary Pompeo?
GOLDMAN: And Acting Chief of Staff Mulvaney?
GOLDMAN: And you testified that this was a quid pro quo. Is that right?
SONDLAND: I did.
GOLDMAN: And you, at this point by the end of August, knew that the aid had been held up for at least six weeks. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: I believe I found out through Ambassador Taylor that the aid had been held up around July 18th is when I -- when I heard originally.
GOLDMAN: And even though you searched for reasons, you were never given a credible explanation. Is that right?
SONDLAND: That's right.
GOLDMAN: And no one you spoke to thought that the aid should be held, to your knowledge. Is that right?
SONDLAND: I never heard anyone advocate for holding the aid.
GOLDMAN: And now, by this point at the end of August it went public and the Ukrainians knew about it, right?
SONDLAND: I believe there was some press reports -- you know, presuming or who knows. But I think at that point, it became sort of common knowledge that everything might be tied together.
GOLDMAN: And in fact, President Zelensky brought it up at that September 1st meeting with Vice President Pence that you were at, right?
SONDLAND: I don't know if he brought it up specifically, but asked where the aid was I think was more -- I think he -- he sort of asked. Again, very vague recollection because I don't have a readout of the -- of the bilateral meeting but, why don't I have my check, essentially.
GOLDMAN: And you -- you understood the Ukrainians received no credible explanation, is that right?
SONDLAND: I certainly didn't -- couldn't give them one.
GOLDMAN: So is this kind of a two plus two equals four conclusion that you reached?
SONDLAND: Pretty much.
GOLDMAN: Was the only logical conclusion to you that, given all of these factors, that the aid was also a part of this quid pro quo?
GOLDMAN: Now, I want to go back to that conversation that you had with Vice President Pence, right before that meeting in Warsaw.
And you indicated that you said to him that you were concerned that the delay in the aid was tied to the issue of (ph) investigations. Is that right?
SONDLAND: I don't know exactly what I said to him. This was a briefing attended by many people and I was invited at the very last minute. I wasn't scheduled to be there.
But I think I spoke up at some point late in the meeting and said it looks like everything is being held up until these statements get made. And that's my, you know, personal belief.
GOLDMAN: And Vice President Pence just nodded his head?
SONDLAND: I -- again, I don't recall any exchange or where he asked me any questions. I think he -- it was sort of a duly noted response.
GOLDMAN: Well, he didn't say, Gordon, what are you talking about?
SONDLAND: No, he did not.
GOLDMAN: He didn't say, what investigations?
SONDLAND: He did not.
GOLDMAN: Now, after this meeting you discussed this pull-aside you had with Mr. Yermak where you relayed your belief that they needed to announce these investigations prior to the aid being released. Is that right?
SONDLAND: I said I didn't know exactly why but this could be a reason.
GOLDMAN: And obviously, you had been speaking with Mr. Yermak for quite a while about a public announcement of these investigations, right?
SONDLAND: We had all been working on -- toward that end, yes.
GOLDMAN: And so you indicated to him that, in addition to the White House meeting, security aid was now also involved in that?
SONDLAND: As I said, I said it could have been involved, yes.
GOLDMAN: Now, I'm going to show you another text exchange you had on September 1st, where Ambassador Taylor says to you, "Are we now saying that security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on investigations?"
And you respond, "Call me."
Ambassador Taylor recalls that he did call you and you did have a conversation. And in that conversation, you told Ambassador Taylor that he announcement of these investigations by President Zelensky needed to be public and that that announcement was conditioned on -- that announcement would ultimately release the -- the aid.
Do you recall that conversation with Ambassador Taylor?
SONDLAND: Again, my conversation with Ambassador Taylor, my conversation with Senator Johnson were all my personal belief, just based on -- as you put it -- two plus two equals four.
GOLDMAN: Well, in that -- in his testimony, Ambassador Taylor says that you said that President Trump had told you that he wanted President Zelensky to state publicly, as of September 1st.
Do you have any reason to doubt Ambassador Taylor's testimony, which he said was based on his meticulous, contemporaneous notes?
SONDLAND: President Trump never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on the meetings. The only thing we got directly from Giuliani was that the Burisma and 2016 elections were conditioned on the White House meeting.
The aid was my own personal, you know, guess, based -- again, on your analogy, two plus two equals four.
GOLDMAN: So you didn't talk to President Trump, when Ambassador Taylor says that that's what you told him? Is that your testimony here?
SONDLAND: My testimony is I never heard from President Trump that aid was conditioned on an announcement of elections.
GOLDMAN: So you never heard those specific words.
GOLDMAN: Right, but...
SONDLAND: I never heard those words.
GOLDMAN: ... and -- well, let's move ahead. Because you have another conversation in -- in a little bit later, that both Tim Morrison and Ambassador Taylor recount.
But in this September 1st conversation, Ambassador Taylor also says that -- testified under oath that you said that President Trump wanted Zelensky "in a public box." Do you recall using that expression?
SONDLAND: Yes, it goes back to my earlier comment that, again, coming from the Giuliani source because we didn't discuss this specifically with President Trump, that they wanted whatever commitments Ukraine made to be made publicly. So that they would be on the record and be held more accountable, whatever those commitments were.
GOLDMAN: You also testified -- or Ambassador Taylor, rather, testified that you told him that you had made a mistake in telling the Ukrainians that only the White House meeting was conditioned on the announcement of the investigations and that, in fact, everything was, including the security assistance. Do you remember saying that?
SONDLAND: When I referenced a mistake, I -- what I recall was I thought that a statement made by the new Ukrainian prosecutor, that these investigations would be started up again or commenced, would be sufficient to satisfy Mr. Giuliani/President Trump.
As I recall, my mistake was someone came back, through Volker or otherwise, and said, no, it's not going to do if the prosecutor makes these statements. The president wants to hear it from Zelensky directly. That's the mistake I think I made.
GOLDMAN: Do you have any reason to question Ambassador Taylor's testimony based on his meticulous and careful contemporaneous notes?
SONDLAND: I'm not going to question or not question. I'm just telling you what I believe I -- I was -- was referring to.
GOLDMAN: Let me fast-forward a week and show you another text exchange, which may help refresh your recollection.
On September 8th, you had a -- you sent a text to Ambassador Taylor and Ambassador Volker. Can you read what you wrote there?
SONDLAND: "Guys, multiple convos with Zelensky, POTUS. Let's talk."
GOLDMAN: And so this was September 8th at 11:20 in the morning.
And Ambassador Taylor responds immediately, "Now, is fine with me."
And if we could, go to the next exchange. Ambassador Taylor then, 15 minutes later, says, "Gordon and I just spoke," or 20 minutes later rather, "I can brief you if you and Gordon don't connect," speaking to Ambassador Volker.
Then Ambassador Taylor, an hour later, says, "The nightmare is they give the interview and don't get the security assistance. The Russians love it. (And I quit.)"
You would agree that, in this text message after you had spoken earlier -- an hour earlier with Ambassador Taylor, that he is linking the security assistance to this interview, this public announcement by President Zelensky. Is that right?
GOLDMAN: And in fact, Ambassador Taylor testified that you did have a conversation with him at that point. And he did -- and that you told him that, just as your text message indicates, you did have a conversation with President Trump prior to that text message.
Does that help to refresh your recollection that you, in fact, spoke to President Trump at that time?
SONDLAND: Again, I don't recall President Trump ever talking to me about any security assistance, ever.
What this tells me, refreshing my memory, is that by the 8th of September it was -- it was abundantly clear to everyone that there was a link. And that we were discussing the chicken-and-egg issue of should the Ukrainians go out on a ledge and make the statement that President Trump wanted them to make, and then they still don't get their White House visit and their aid. That would be really bad for our credibility. I think that's what he was referring to.
GOLDMAN: So you do acknowledge you spoke to President Trump, as you indicated in that text, right?
SONDLAND: If I said I did, I did.
GOLDMAN: And that after that conversation, you were still under the impression that the aid was contingent on these public announcements?
SONDLAND: I did not get that from President Trump, but I was under the impression that, absolutely, it was contingent.
GOLDMAN: Well, you weren't dissuaded then, right? Because you still thought that the aid was conditioned on the public announcement of the investigations after speaking to President Trump?
SONDLAND: By September 8th, I was absolutely convinced it was.
GOLDMAN: And President Trump did not dissuade you of that in the conversation that you acknowledge you had with him?
SONDLAND: I don't ever recall -- because that would have changed my entire calculus. If President Trump had told me directly I'm not...
GOLDMAN: That's not what I'm asking, Ambassador Sondland. I'm just saying you still believed that the security assistance was conditioned on the investigation after you spoke to President Trump. Yes or no?
SONDLAND: From a timeframe standpoint, yes.
GOLDMAN: Now, Ambassador Taylor also testified that -- and Mr. Morrison, both of them testified that you told them that President Trump said there was no quid pro quo, which you also included in that text message you referred.
But then you went on -- and they had slight variations as to what you told them. But then you said that -- to Ambassador Taylor that President Zelensky himself, not the prosecutor general, needed to clear things up in public or there would be a stalemate. And Mr. Morrison recounted something similar.
You don't have any reason to doubt that -- both of their very similar recollections of the conversations they had with you. Do you, Ambassador Sondland?
SONDLAND: Let me break that down, Mr. Goldman. The text, as I said, about the no quid pro quo was my effort to respond to Ambassador Taylor's concerns to go to President Trump.
Apparently, Ambassador Taylor had access to Secretary Pompeo. He did not have access to President Trump. So I made the phone call.
I said, "What do you want?" President Trump responded with what I put in the text.
And then I strongly encouraged Ambassador Taylor to take it up with the secretary. And he responded, "I agree," when I said that.
As far as the other part of your question, relating to whether or not the prosecutor could make the statement or Zelensky could make the statement, I don't recall who told me -- whether it was Volker, whether it was Giuliani, or whether it was President Trump -- it's got to be Zelensky, it can't be the prosecutor. But that's what I relayed.
Whoever I got that information from, I relayed to I believe both Mr. -- or, excuse me, Ambassador Taylor and to Mr. Morrison.
GOLDMAN: But as of September 9th, you understood, did you not, that President Trump -- either himself or through his agents -- required that President Zelensky make a public announcement of the two investigations that President Trump cared about in order to get both the White House meeting and to release the security assistance. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: I believe -- I believe that is correct.
GOLDMAN: Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
SCHIFF: That concludes our 45 minutes.
I now recognize Mr. Nunes.
Oh, OK. Why don't we take a 5- or 10-minute break?
SONDLAND: Thank you.
SCHIFF: The meeting will come to order. I now recognize Ranking Member Nunes and minority counsel for 45 minutes of questions.
NUNES: I thank the gentleman. For those of you watching at home. That was not a bathroom break, that was actually a chance for the democrats to go out and hold a press conference. Ambassador for all the supposed bombshells that were in your opening testimony.
I want to get back to the facts of the matter here and the thing that the democrats have been unwilling to accept is that their operatives got campaign dirt from Ukrainians in the 2016 election. Now they know it. They know it's true because we have financial records that show it so they were - the democrats were heavily involved working with Ukrainians to dirty up the Trump campaign in 2016.
So Ambassador, I want to go through just a few of the incidents that we know. I know you may not know all about them. You may know about them now but I want to walk through some of those examples of why the president may be very upset with Ukraine and think that they're a country that's out to get him as I think both you've said that and Ambassador Volker have said that from that May 23rd meeting.
The first question I have is was you aware of the anti-Trump efforts by DNC operative Alexandra Chalupa?
SONDLAND: I'm not aware of it.
NUNES: So in 2000 - there's a 2017 article that also quotes Ukrainian parliamentarian (inaudible) saying quote, it was clear that they were supporting, meaning Ukraine, supporting Hillary Clinton's candidacy and they did everything from organizing meetings with the Clinton team to publicly supporting her to criticizing Trump. I think that they simply didn't meet with the Trump campaign because they thought Hillary would win. Do you know that Ukrainian official by any chance that stated that?
SONDLAND: I don't.
NUNES: Were you aware that then Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Chaly wrote an op-ed in "The Hill" during the 2016 presidential campaign criticizing then candidate Trump.
SONDLAND: Not aware.
NUNES: But you know that now after the last few months.
NUNES: So probably one of the more disturbing ones is the Ukraine internal affairs minister, Avakov, mocked and disparaged then candidate Trump on Facebook and Twitter.
Were you aware that Serhiy Leshchenko, a Ukrainian parliamentarian admitted that part of his motivation in spreading the information about the so-called black ledger, a disputed document purported to reveal corruption by a former Trump campaign official was to undermine the Trump candidacy.
SONDLAND: I wasn't aware.
NUNES: So you may be familiar, the black ledger was used in the 2016 election to dirty up a campaign associate and later Mueller didn't use that as evidence in his report on election meddling. So knowing all of these facts from high-ranking Ukrainian officials Ambassador, It probably makes a little more sense now as to why the president may think that there's problems with Ukraine and that Ukraine was out to - out to get him. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: I understand your - I understand your point, yes Chairman, or Ranking Member.
NUNES: You said - you said in your deposition, and I'm just going to make sure this was your - just read it back to you. On page 279 for your legal team, quote, they're all corrupt. This is your - this is what you said about your conversation with the president. So this is your words about what the president told you.
SONDLAND: This is the May 23rd meeting?
NUNES: That's correct. They're all corrupt. They're all terrible people and you know I don't want to spend any time with that. And he also said, they tried to take me down.
SONDLAND: That's correct.
NUNES: They tried to take him down. I think any logical person that wants to do two plus two equal four games would say that that was in the 2016 election wasn't it?
SONDLAND: I believe that's what he was referring to, yes Ranking Member.
NUNES: So during all of this time, and remember in the spring the democrats Russia hoax witch hunt is still ongoing. They're still claiming that President Trump is a Russian agent. They're out to get President Trump at the time. His personal attorney is then interested in trying to figure out, hey who are these Ukrainians that are trying to get to my candidate? As those of us, the republicans on this committee who are also trying to get to the bottom of who are the sources of the Steel dossier that the democrats have paid for, the House Republicans wanted to know that all through the spring and even the summer of - and even as of today we'd still like to know. That's why we've subpoenaed the DNC operatives that they refuse to subpoena. We sent a letter this morning. I doubt we'll see those subpoenas. We want to know exactly, get to the bottom of exactly who are these democratic operatives that were dirtying up the Trump campaign in 2016 and they just can't get over that the president would send his personal attorney over there to try to get to the bottom of that.
And Ambassador, you had very few dealings with Rudy Giuliani and a few text messages.
SONDLAND: A few text messages and a few phone calls.
NUNES: Right. So the whistleblower, trying to put together here with their timeline - they seem to have a timeline problem because the whistleblower that only they know, who they won't subpoena, who clearly Mr. Vindman knows who they blocked testimony yesterday -would not allow Mr. Vindman to answer our questions, that whistleblower says on July 25th that there were all these promises being made yet the - I forget what they call it the drug deal that the three amigos were cooking up. It seems to be their latest. You're part of the three amigos in the drug deal, Ambassador. Were you aware of any drug deal on July 25th when the phone call actually occurred?
SONDLAND: I don't know about any drug deal.
NUNES: Right. And did you know you're part of the three amigos?
SONDLAND: I am. I'm a proud part of the three amigos.
NUNES: And that's the same thing Ambassador Volker said yesterday because by the time that the phone call that supposedly the whistleblower claims was the reason - was the original quid pro quo, has now got down to we're now a month later where you're involved and their quid pro quo has gotten down to the low level of well, they want a statement and you didn't even know about anything to do with - on July 25th, you knew nothing about military aid being withheld?
SONDLAND: I knew military aid was withheld beginning, I believe, on July 18 when Ambassador Taylor told both of us that that was the case.
NUNES: But on July - but you don't know about - you were not on the July 25 call?
SONDLAND: I was not.
NUNES: Where the aid doesn't come up at all?
SONDLAND: Again, I just read the readout when everyone else did.
NUNES: Well, we've had - everybody's testified that it was on the July 25 call that there was no aid discussed on the July 25 call. So then you're in the process. You have no idea that his is tied to Burisma or anybody else. You say you don't realize that until the end of August?
SONDLAND: I didn't realize that aid was tied. The Burisma and 2016 piece was much earlier Mister - or Ranking Member.
NUNES: I'm glad you've - you bring up Burisma because this is another issue that the Democrats don't want to go into. They refuse to call in Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden could get to the bottom of all of this. He could come in and talk about whether or not it was appropriate for him to receive over $50,000 a moth while his dad was vice president. And when they actually were able to stop and get an investigator fired. They could call in Hunter Biden, but they don't want to do it.
But let's talk about Burisma, Ambassador. I know you're the Ambassador to the E.U. I think some of the members later will get into whether or not it was appropriate for you to be in Ukraine or not. I believe it was. I think you have a clear mandate to do it, but you wouldn't be the first ambassador to actually be interested in Burisma. Did you know that in September 2015 then Ambassador to Ukraine Jeffrey Piatt publicly called for an investigation into Zlochevsky, the President of Burisma? This was the Ukrainian Ambassador appointed by President Obama in Ukraine.
SONDLAND: I wasn't aware of that, no.
NUNES: You were not aware of it.
NUNES: So you would not be the first one to be mentioning that investigations should be done on Burisma because it happened during the Obama administration. Did you know that financial records show Burisma routed more than $3 million to the American accounts tied to Hunter Biden?
SONDLAND: I did not know that.
NUNES: Did you know that Burisma's American lawyers tried to secure a meeting with the new state prosecutor the same day his predecessor, Viktor Shokin, who the vice president wanted fired, was announced?
SONDLAND: I did not know that.
NUNES: Well, we're not going to get to the answer to many of these questions because the witnesses that need to come in and clarify exactly what the Democrats were doing in 2016, you're not - we're not going to be able to visit with those witnesses.
And so, it's an inconvenient truth that the Democrats don't want to admit their operatives that were dirtying up the Trump campaign, using Ukrainian sources in 2016, and they do not want us to get to the bottom of it, they don't want you, Ambassador to get to the bottom of it, they don't want the president's personal attorney even through he's under a special counsel investigation that they fed into the FBI that we've dealt with for over three years, they don't want to get to the bottom of that, Ambassador. I think Mr. Castor has some questions for you.
CASTOR: Thank you, Mr. Nunes. Good morning, Ambassador. How are you?
SONDLAND: Good morning, Mr. Castor.
CASTOR: Welcome back. You were here all day on the 17th late into the night, so thank you for your cooperation with the investigation. Did the president ever tell you personally about any preconditions for anything?
CASTOR: OK, so the president never told you about any preconditions for the aid to be released?
CASTOR: The president never told you about any preconditions for a White House meeting?
SONDLAND: Personally, no.
CASTOR: The - you said you didn't have your records or your documents from the State Department, but if you did, there wouldn't be any document or record that ties President Trump personally to any of this, correct?
SONDLAND: Boy, I don't want to speculate what would be on...
CASTOR: Your documents or records?
SONDLAND: I don't recall anything like that, no.
CASTOR: OK. It happens. OK. You testified Mr. Giuliani's requests for a quid pro quo for the White House meeting, and you indicated that you believe that was - he was evincing President Trump's interests, correct?
SONDLAND: My contact with Mr. Giuliani began, as I said, very late in the process after August 1 when I was first introduced to him via text from Ambassador Volker. So we had already begun those discussions, I believe, with the Ukrainians prior to August 1, so everything was being funneled through others, including Mr. Volker.
CASTOR: OK, but you testified that Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president, correct?
SONDLAND: That's our understand, yes.
CASTOR: But how did you know that? Who told you?
SONDLAND: Well, when the president says talk to my personal attorney and then Mr. Giuliani as his personal attorney makes certain requests or demands, we assume it's coming from the president. I don't - I don't - I'm not testifying that I heard the president tell Mr. Giuliani to tell us, so if that's your question.
CASTOR: Right, but in your deposition you said the question was at the May 23 meeting when the president said go talk to Rudy, you responded he didn't even say go talk. He said talk to Rudy. You subsequently said it was sort of like I don't want to talk about this. So it wasn't an order or a direction to go talk with Mr. Giuliani, correct?
SONDLAND: Our conclusion and the conclusion of the three of us was that if we did not talk to Rudy, nothing would move forward on Ukraine.
CASTOR: OK, and then that was May 23. And then you never had any personal communications with Giuliani until August, right?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
CASTOR: And Volker was handling - Ambassador Volker was - was he a primary...
SONDLAND: Volker, Perry - Volker, Perry, and others.
CASTOR: OK. Ambassador Volker, you testified he's a professional diplomat, correct?
SONDLAND: Yes, he is.
CASTOR: And you said you had a great relationship with him?
SONDLAND: I do, yes.
CASTOR: You said he was a very smart guy?
CASTOR: Ambassador Yovanovitch said he's a brilliant diplomat in fact. Do you agree with that?
SONDLAND: He's pretty smart.
CASTOR: You stated that he's one of those people I'd hand my wallet to?
SONDLAND: I would.
CASTOR: And so, did you hear his testimony yesterday?
SONDLAND: I did not.
CASTOR: OK, because he was...
SONDLAND: I was busy getting ready for you.
CASTOR: He didn't have any - he didn't have any evidence of any of these preconditions, and he was the one most engaged with the Ukrainians, wasn't he?
CASTOR: OK. I mean, you testified, you know, this was his full-time job although he was doing it for free.
SONDLAND: He was the special envoy.
CASTOR: And you testified you came in and out of the events, correct?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
CASTOR: OK. Your deposition, we asked you about your communications with the president and we asked you whether there were so many that it would be impossible to chronicle. And you said, no, it wasn't that many. And we went down the path of building a list of communications you remember with the president, right?
CASTOR: And we talked about May 23 in the Oval Office.
CASTOR: You mentioned on July 25 before you went to Ukraine, you called the president, but there was no material information on the 25th call, correct?
SONDLAND: Not that I recall.
CASTOR: OK, then the last Friday, Mr. Holmes came in and I guess his testimony refreshed your recollection?
SONDLAND: Yeah, what refreshed my recollection was when he - when he mentioned A$AP Rocky, then all of a sudden it came back to me.
CASTOR: Yeah, in talking about the - President Zelensky loving the President and so forth?
SONDLAND: Well, the whole thing sort of came back to me after he mentioned A$AP Rocky.
CASTOR: And then the - the next time, you know, we tried to unpack this, the - the next time you talked with the President was on the telephone - was September 9th, according to your deposition, right?
SONDLAND: I may have even spoken to him on September 6th but again I just don't have all the records. I wish I could get them, then I could answer your questions very easily.
CASTOR: OK. But on September 9th, at least at your deposition, you were extremely clear. You called the President, you said he was feeling cranky that day, right?
SONDLAND: He seemed very cranky to me.
CASTOR: And you said in no uncertain terms - and this is on the heel of - heels of the Bill Taylor text, right?
CASTOR: And why don't you tell us what - what did the President say to you on September 9th that you remember?
SONDLAND: Well words to the effect - I - I decided to ask the President the question in an open-ended fashion because there were so many different scenarios floating around as to what was going on with Ukraine.
So rather than ask the President nine different questions - is it this, is it this, is that - I just said what do you want from Ukraine? I may have even used a four letter word. And he said I want nothing, I want no quid pro quo, I just want Zelensky to do the right thing, to do what he ran on or - or words to that effect.
And that gave me the impetus to respond to Ambassador Taylor with the text that I sent. As I said to Mr. Goldman, it was not an artfully written text, I should have been more specific, put it in quotes, something like that.
But basically I wanted Mr. Taylor - Ambassador Taylor to pick up the ball and take it from there. I - I had gone as far as I could go.
CASTOR: And you believed the President, correct?
SONDLAND: You know what, I'm not going to characterize whether I believed or didn't believe. I was just trying to convey what he said on the phone.
CASTOR: OK and at that point in time the - the - the pause in the aid - the aid was paused for 55 days, there was a news article in Politico on August 28th talking about it. So by that point in time, the President had been receiving calls from senators, he had been getting pressure to lift the aid, correct?
SONDLAND: That's what I understand, yes.
CASTOR: I want to turn back to your - your opener on Page 5, under - when - when you talk about in the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations. Correct?
CASTOR: And you acknowledged that this is speculation, right?
SONDLAND: It was a presumption.
CASTOR: OK but you - you - it was a guess, in fact, I think you even said this morning?
SONDLAND: Well I - I want to say that it - it goes back to Mr. Goldman's point - or - or Chairman Schiff's, 2+2=4 in my mind, at that point.
CASTOR: OK but you didn't have any evidence of that, correct?
SONDLAND: Other than the aid wasn't being released and we weren't getting anywhere with the Ukrainians.
CASTOR: OK but did Ambassador Volker clue you in that that was the - the issue? I mean, this is a pretty high - I mean, this is a pretty serious conclusion you've reached without precise evidence.
SONDLAND: Well I sent that e-mail to Secretary Pompeo to set up a potential meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky in Warsaw and when I referred to the log jam, I referred to the log jam in a very inclusive way.
Everything was jammed up at that point and Secretary Pompeo essentially gave me the green light to brief President Zelensky about making those - those announcements.
CASTOR: OK, we can - you know, we - we can turn to that. And then that was your e-mail dated - what - what date?
SONDLAND: Do you have the page there?
CASTOR: Well your e-mail to Secretary Pompeo.
SONDLAND: Is it ...
CASTOR: Was that August 11th? 16th.
SONDLAND: August 22nd.
CASTOR: OK so you're asking Secretary Pompeo whether we should block time in - I mean, is there any discussion of specific investigations, is there any discussion of Biden or Burisma or anything linking to aid in this - in this e-mail that you sent to Pompeo?
SONDLAND: No, this - this was a proposed briefing that I was going to give President Zelensky. And I was going to call President Zelensky and ask him to say what is in this e-mail and I was asking essentially President Pompeo's permission to do that.
SONDLAND: Which he said yes.
CASTOR: But - but - but at that - at that point in time, we're talking about investigations into - into the origins of the 2016 election. We're not talking about anything to do with Joe Biden.
SONDLAND: Joe Biden did not come up.
CASTOR: OK. Stepping back a page to your - your e-mail to the State Department on August 11th, you e-mail Secretary Pompeo and you say Kurt and I negotiated a statement from Zelensky to be delivered for our review in a day or two.
The question I have here is that - I mean, that statement never was issued and in fact Ambassador Volker has testified that he didn't think it was a good idea and ultimately the Ukrainians didn't think it was a good idea and so the - the statement never reached a finalized state.
SONDLAND: That's correct.
CASTOR: But even if it had, it - it - it doesn't talk about Bidens or Burisma or anything insidious. Correct?
SONDLAND: Well the statement, as - as I recall, would have mentioned the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma.
SONDLAND: It would not have mentioned the Bidens.
CASTOR: And have you heard Ambassador Volker, how he talks about what might be an investigation into Burisma?
CASTOR: OK. I mean, he has said that if there were Ukrainians engaged in violations of Ukrainian law, then the Prosecutor General with the new administration ought to investigate that. Did Ambassador Volker ever relate that to you?
SONDLAND: No, we just talked in generic terms about quote "investigating Burisma."
CASTOR: OK but it had nothing to do with Vice President Biden.
SONDLAND: I had never heard Vice President Biden come up until very late in the game.
SONDLAND: I don't recall the exact date but when it all sort of came together, maybe after the transcript of the July 25th call. I don't know - I don't know the exact date when I made the connection.
SONDLAND: Apparently a lot of people did not make the connection.
CASTOR: OK. I want to turn to the - the letter from Senator Johnson. He - when he heard about some of these issues and the hold of the aid, he - he wanted - he called the President - he called the President on August 31st, at the Page 6 of his letter.
Senator Johnson states or he writes "I asked him, the President, whether there was some kind of arrangement where Ukraine would take some action and the hold would be lifted. Without hesitation, President Trump immediately denied such an arrangement existed."
Senator Johnson quotes the President as saying, "No," and he prefaced it with a different word. "No way, I would never do that. Who told you that?" I have - Senator Johnson says, "I have accurately characterized the president's reaction is adamant, vehement, and angry."
Senator Johnson's telephone call with the president wasn't a public event. It was capturing a genuine, you know, moment with the president. And he had at this point in time on August 31, he was adamant, vehement, and angry that there was no connections to aid, there were no preconditions.
SONDLAND: Yes, I had my meeting with Senator Johnson where, again, I had made the presumption that I had made to both Mr. Yermak and the email I had sent to Secretary Pompeo, and we were sort of ruminating about what was going on, and Senator Johnson I believe said I'm going to call President Trump, you know, and find out. And then he obviously had that phone call. I wasn't involved in that phone call.
CASTOR: OK, but you've no reason to disbelieve that wasn't the way it went down, right?
SONDLAND: No. No reason to disbelieve Senator Johnson.
CASTOR: OK. And now that you've had some time since you're deposition and you've submitted an addendum relating to the Warsaw get together with Mr. Yermak, as you sit here today, are we missing a lot of your communications with the president?
SONDLAND: I haven't had that many communications with the president, and in fact, a bunch of the call records that I have had access to just the short period of time on the call indicates I never got through. In other words I was put on hold for one or two minutes and the call never connected. So I really can't give you an accurate count of how many conversations. Plus, Mr. Castor, I've had a lot of conversations with the president about completely unrelated matters that have nothing to do with Ukraine.
CASTOR: So but you don't think we're missing any material conversations that you had with the president?
SONDLAND: I don't recall any material conversations today as I'm sitting here.
CASTOR: Or with Rudy Giuliani?
SONDLAND: Yes. My memory about the conversations with Rudy Giuliani whether they were direct, whether they were conference calls with Ambassador Volker or Secretary Perry is really vague without seeing the, you know, the call logs.
CASTOR: Are there any other key fact witnesses that would help us get to the bottom of whether there was any link to the aid and the...
SONDLAND: Maybe Brian McCormack, the Chief of Staff for Secretary Perry who was involved in and out as well.
CASTOR: OK. Now the aid was ultimately lifted in September 11, correct?
SONDLAND: I believe that's correct.
SONDLAND: And Senator Johnson in his letter on Page 6 quotes the president on August 31, "Ron, I understand your position. We're reviewing it now, and you'll probably like my final decision." So even on August 31 - and this is before any congressional investigation started - the president was signaling to Senator Johnson that he was going to lift the aid. Lift the clause (ph).
SONDLAND: Sounds like it, yes.
CASTOR: OK. And most of the other witnesses we talked to whether it's from the Department of Defense or OMB or, you know, have told us that all along during this 55-day period they genuinely believed the hold would be lifted. Was that you're feeling, too, at the time?
SONDLAND: I didn't know because every time I asked about the hold, I was never given a straight answer as to why it had been put in place to begin with.
CASTOR: Now, what do you know about the Ukrainians' knowledge of the hold?
SONDLAND: Oh, that's very vague. I don't know if the Politico article triggered it. I don't know if they were told by Mr. Giuliani. It would be pure, you know, guess work on my part, speculation. I don't - I don't know.
CASTOR: OK. I mean, during your deposition, you testified that you did not believe the Ukrainians believed the - were aware of the hold until the Politico article.
SONDLAND: Yes. Again, I think I testified that I was not clear on the exact dates of when these things - when the light went on. There were a lot of conversations going on with the Ukrainians by a lot of people, so I don't know who communicated what to them.
CASTOR: We have testimony from several witnesses that the president was concerned about foreign aid generally. And so, he was - he had an appetite to put holds on aid because he was trying to be a good steward of U.S. taxpayer dollars. Do you - do you agree with that?
SONDLAND: I'm aware that that's been his position on aid and other matters, yes.
CASTOR: And are you aware that he was also interested in better understanding the contributions of our European allies?
SONDLAND: That I'm definitely aware of.
CASTOR: And there was some back and forth between the State Department officials trying to better understand the information for the president?
SONDLAND: Yes, that's correct.
CASTOR: And how do you know that wasn't the reason for the hold?
SONDLAND: I don't.
CASTOR: But yet you speculate that there was, you know, a link to this announcement.
SONDLAND: I presumed it, yes.
CASTOR: OK. I want to turn quickly to the July 10 meeting. The July 10 meeting at Ambassador Bolton's office involving Ambassador Volker, Mr. Danyliuk, Mr. Yermak has been the subject of some controversy. Ambassador Volker yesterday testified that it wasn't until the end of the meeting Mr. Danyliuk he said was going through some real detailed - some real detailed information about some of the plans he had, but it wasn't until the end of the meeting Ambassador Volker recollects that you mentioned something general about investigations. What do you remember from that meeting?
SONDLAND: Well again, I'm not going to dispute Ambassador Volker's recollection if he - particularly if he had notes. I know that the desire to have the 2016 election DNC server in Burisma were already being discussed by them. Again, I had no direct contact with Mr. Giuliani on July 10 but through Ambassador Volker.
And I probably mentioned that this needs to happen in order to move the process forward. That seemed to be the conventional wisdom at the time. I don't recall any abrupt ending of the meeting or people storming out or anything like that. That would have been very memorable if someone would have stormed out of a meeting based on something I said.
CASTOR: OK. Nobody accused you at that point in time of being involved with some sort of drug deal?
CASTOR: Did Dr. Hill ever relate to you her concerns about you being involved in a drug deal?
CASTOR: OK. So you were surprised when testimony emerged that she through there was a drug deal going on?
SONDLAND: I was shocked.
CASTOR: OK. And in fact, after the meeting you went you - you took a picture, right?
SONDLAND: Yes. We - Ambassador Bolton or his assistant indicated that he was out of time, that he needed - he had another meeting to attend, and we all walked out of the White House. Everyone was smiling. Everyone was happy, and we took a picture on the lawn on a nice, sunny day.
CASTOR: Then did you retire to the wardroom?
SONDLAND: I think Secretary Perry asked to use the wardroom to continue the conversation, and the real subject that was under debate and it wasn't an angry debate; it was a debate. Just should the call from President Trump to President Zelensky be made prior to the parliamentary election in Ukraine or after the parliamentary elections? And there was good reason for both. We felt, Ambassador Perry, Ambassador Volker and I thought it would help President Zelensky to have President Trump speak to him prior to the parliamentary elections because it would give President Zelensky more credibility and ultimately he would do better with his people in the parliamentary elections. Others, I believe, pushed back and said no, it's not appropriate to do it before it should be done after and ultimately it was done after.
CASTOR: There's no mention of Vice President in the Ward Room?
SONDLAND: Not that I remember, no.
CASTOR: For any specific investigation?
SONDLAND: Just the generic investigations.
CASTOR: OK. Got it. When again did the Vice President Biden Nexus come to your attention?
SONDLAND: Very late. Again, I don't - I can't recall the exact date the light bulb went on. It could have been as late as once the transcript was out but it was always Burisma to me and I didn't know about the connection between Burisma and Biden.
CASTOR: And to the best of your knowledge, you never understood that anyone was asking Ukrainians to investigate U.S. persons, correct?
SONDLAND: Ukrainians to investigate U.S. persons?
CASTOR: And just to sort of be clear here, ultimately the aid was lifted...
CASTOR: ... on September 11th. There was never any announcement by the Ukranians about any investigations they were going to do. Correct?
CASTOR: The Ukrainians never, to your knowledge, started any of these investigations, correct?
SONDLAND: Not to my knowledge.
CASTOR: And consequently these allegations that there was a quid pro quo that had to be enforced before the aid was released and it never came to fruition. Right?
SONDLAND: I don't believe so.
CASTOR: I want to just step back a little bit and just verify with you that the president had some genuinely deep-rooted concerns about corruption in the Ukraine, correct?
SONDLAND: That's what he expressed to us, yes.
CASTOR: And you believed him, right, given his business dealings in the region?
SONDLAND: When we had the conversation I did.
CASTOR: And when you first started discussing the concerns the president had with corruption, Burisma wasn't the only company that was mentioned, right?
SONDLAND: It was a generic - as I think I testified to Chairman Schiff, it was a generic corruption, oligarchs, just bad stuff going on in Ukraine.
CASTOR: But other companies came up didn't they?
SONDLAND: I don't know if they were mentioned specifically. It might have been NAFTA gas because we were working on another issue with NAFTA gas so that might have been one of them.
CASTOR: And at one point in your deposition, I believe you had NAFTA gas comes up at every conversation. Is that fair?
CASTOR: You had - I guess Dr. Hill at one point attributed to you the terminology that the president has given you a large remit. Are you familiar with her assertion of that?
SONDLAND: I didn't understand what she was talking about.
CASTOR: OK. But you - you - you have and we got into this a little bit in your deposition, you know, you said that the president gave you a special assignment with regard to Ukraine, correct?
SONDLAND: Well when the president appointed me as the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Ukraine was part of my portfolio. What made my assignment larger than just being part of my portfolio were the unique circumstances where there was no current sitting ambassador in Ukraine and there was a new president in Ukraine and the discussions that we had, the three amigos, Perry, Volker and I, was that Ukraine needed extraordinary, as high-level support as it could get from the United States during this period which we cleared with both Ambassador Bolton and with Chief of Staff Mulvaney to continue working on it.
So by extension, yes. If the National Security Advisor and the Chief of Staff approve your remit, it really is coming from the president.
CASTOR: OK. When we asked you that at the deposition, you said I was spinning a little bit.
SONDLAND: I was spinning about something else I think in the interview in Kiev.
CASTOR: OK. And you further testified, so when I said the president gave me an assignment, it wasn't really the president, it was the secretary through the president and that's where I receive my direction. Correct?
CASTOR: Did Ambassador Taylor ever bring any concerns to your attention to the so-called the channel he dubbed irregular?
SONDLAND: No, in fact the opposite. When he came to post, I think - I know I called him or he called me. I think he spoke with Secretary Perry and Ambassador Volker separately and in the course of the first few weeks he was highly appreciative that a new ambassador coming to post like himself was getting the kind of support he was getting from all three of us, having a cabinet member, a special envoy and a fellow ambassador all helping to raise the profile of Ukraine. He was highly appreciative and highly complementary.
CASTOR: And you maintained an open - open line with him, correct?
SONDLAND: Correct. I think there are number of texts; some of which I have and some of which I don't where he is reaching out constantly to me and to the others for advice and help.
CASTOR: OK. I think tried to count them up. I think 215 or something text messages between you, Volker and Ambassador Taylor during the early August timeframe. Does that make sense to you? Does that...
SONDLAND: I think Taylor started in late June or early July was when he first took post and I think we began communicating fairly shortly thereafter.
CASTOR: And he never communicated any concerns to you during this timeframe that he had issues with what was going on?
SONDLAND: What do you mean by what was going on?
CASTOR: This request for some sort of investigation?
SONDLAND: Not in the early stages. He - you know as his - as time went on his emails began to be a little more pointed and frantic and that's when we had very little visibility as to what was going on either. I think it had to do more with the aid and as to why the aid was suspended.
CASTOR: Right. And ultimately you put a period on that issue by having the September 9th communication with the president, correct?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
CASTOR: And when you share that feedback with Ambassador Taylor, was he satisfied that this issue was now behind them?
SONDLAND: I don't really know because he responded when I said get a hold of the secretary. He said, I agree and I never knew - knew whether he reached out to the Secretary or not. That was sort of the end of that.
CASTOR: In one point in your text, you said let's get on the phone, right, and you said you're a - an individual that doesn't like to walk through these issues on text when you can talk about it on the telephone. Correct?
SONDLAND: I say that to everybody when something becomes more substantive than just a few lines of text, I say let's talk.
CASTOR: OK and did you talk with Ambassador Taylor?
SONDLAND: I - I don't recall.
SONDLAND: I mean, I don't recall whether we spoke right after that, whether he called the Secretary. I - I basically, Mr. Castor, wanted to get the notion across that I've gone as far as I can go with this, you need to pick up the - you're the Ambassador, you need to pick up the ball and run with it at this point.
CASTOR: OK. And just getting back to the irregular channel, did anyone else express any concerns to you about this - the so-called irregular channel?
SONDLAND: I'm not sure how someone could characterize something as an irregular channel when you're talking to the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor, the Chief of Staff of the White House, the Secretary of Energy. I don't know how that's irregular.
If a bunch of folks that are not in that channel are aggrieved for some reason for not being included, I don't know how they can consider us to be the irregular channel and they to be the regular channel when it's the leadership that makes the decisions.
CASTOR: And so the - the concerns, you know, raised were never brought to - were never brought to a head?
SONDLAND: Well they were never raised.
SONDLAND: They were never raised. No one said back off of Ukraine, this is dangerous, you're doing something that's untoward, we have concerns, there was a bad phone call on July 25th, there's talk about a drug cocktail or something. No one ever said that to me by phone, by text, by e-mail. I don't remember anybody sounding any alarm bell because of course had someone mentioned it, I would have sat up and taken notice.
Everyone's hair was on fire but no one decided to talk to us.
CASTOR: You - you know, when you - when you talk in your statement about in the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I - I later came to believe it was your speculation, it was your guess that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of 2016.
And I - I believe you said that at this point, you believed everyone - everyone knew - knew this. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: I think once that Politico article broke, it started making the rounds that, you know, if you can't get a White House meeting without this statement, what makes you think you're going to get a, you know, $400 million check? Again, that was my presumption.
CASTOR: OK but - but you had no evidence to prove that. Correct?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
CASTOR: You know, you - you stated that you haven't been able to access your - your records. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: Not all of them and there are lots of notes, records, readouts of calls. Can't get to them.
CASTOR: And - but you've also stated that you don't take notes. Right?
SONDLAND: I don't take notes but there are a lot of others out there.
CASTOR: And you - you freely admit that you - you - you know, when - last thing I asked in your deposition, we - we put together a list of all of the times you said you don't recall, it's like two pages long. So ...
SONDLAND: Is that all?
CASTOR: So, you know, you don't - on a lot of these questions, it - I mean, there's nuance, there's ambiguities and we don't have records, we don't have notes and we don't have recollections. Correct?
SONDLAND: Right. I mean, it's - it's situational things that sort of trigger memory, especially when I'm - you know, I'm dealing with the European Union, I'm dealing with the 28 member countries, I'm dealing with other countries that are not in the European Union that are part of my mandate, I'm dealing with the White House leadership, there's a lot of stuff to juggle.
And as I said in my - in my opening statement, a phone call for me with the President of the United States or the President of fill in the blank country - while people who get a call like that may be once in a lifetime, a call like that might be very memorable, they might remember every single thing about it, I'm doing that all day long.
And I'm not saying it in a - in a way of being braggadocio or anything like that but it's part of my routine day. So all of these calls, these meetings with very important people tend to sort of blend together until I have someone that can show me what we discussed, what the subject was, then all of a sudden it comes back.
CASTOR: I mean, we're - we're trying to get to the facts here, we're trying to find out what actually happened, what's reliable, what's accurate. Bill Taylor kept notes, he - he brought a little notebook in his pocket at his deposition and he held it up and he says when I'm not at my desk, I'm on the phone, I use this notebook. When I'm at my desk, I use a notebook.
George Kent said he wrote just innumerable memos to the file. Catherine Croft, she testified that she didn't believe George Kent's notes would be accurate. And so, you know, we have all of this, you know, back and forth but, you know, as it - as we get to the end here, you don't have records, you don't have your notes cause you didn't take notes, you don't have a lot of recollections. I mean, this is the - the - the - like, the trifecta of unreliability. Isn't - isn't that true?
SONDLAND: Well what I'm trying to do today is to use the limited information I have to be as forthcoming as possible with you and the rest of the committee and as these recollections have been refreshed by subsequent testimony, by some texts and e-mails that I've now had access to, I think I've filled in a lot of blanks.
CASTOR: But a lot of it's speculation, a lot of it is your guess and we're talking about - and, you know, an impeachment of a President of the United States, so the - the evidence here ought to be pretty darn good.
SONDLAND: I've been very clear as to when I was presuming and I was presuming on the aid. On the other things, Mr. Castor, I did have some texts that I - I read from. So when it comes to those, I'll rely on those texts because I don't have any reason to believe that those texts were, you know, falsely sent or that there's some subterfuge there. They are what they are, they say what they say.
CASTOR: OK, thank you, sir.
SONDLAND: Thank you.
SCHIFF: The time of the gentleman has expired. We'll now move to a second staff lead round of 30 minutes. Mr. Volker, I just have a few questions before I turn it back to Mr. Goldman. You testified in response to my colleagues in the minority something along the lines of a lot of people did not make the connection between Burisma and Biden.
I think a lot of people have real difficulty understanding that. Tim Morrison testified that I think it took him all of doing a Google search to find out oh, this is the significance of Burisma, it involves the Bidens. Are you saying during all of this time up until the call you never made the connection between Burisma and the Bidens? You just thought that the President and Rudy Giuliani were interested in this one particular Ukrainian company?
SONDLAND: Again, my role, Mr. Chairman, was just to get the meeting.
SCHIFF: Well I understand that but my question is are you saying that for months and months, notwithstanding everything Rudy Giuliani was saying on TV and all of the discussions with Rudy Giuliani that you never put Burisma together with the Bidens?
SONDLAND: I didn't and I wasn't paying attention to what Mr. Giuliani was saying on TV. We were talking to him directly.
SCHIFF: Let me ask -- let me ask you this, Ambassador Volker testified yesterday to a similar epiphany for lack of a better word. This is what he said. In hindsight I now understand that others saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involved in the Ukrainian company Burisma as equivalent to investigating former Vice President Biden.
I saw them very different -- as very different. The former of being appropriate and unremarkable. The latter being unacceptable. In retrospect I should have seen that connection differently and had I done so I would have raised my own objections. Does that sum up your views as well?
SONDLAND: It does.
SCHIFF: Now, I think you were asked a question with a -- with a bit of a incorrect premise by colleagues in the minority about Fiona Hill saying that -- referring to a drug deal between you and Mr. Mulvaney. It was Mr. Bolton who made the comment that he didn't want to be part of any drug deal that Ambassador Sondland and Mulvaney were cooking up.
No one thinks they're talking about a literal drug deal here or a drug cocktail. The import, I think, of the ambassador's comments is quite clear that he believed that this bargain -- this quid pro quo as you've described it over a meeting -- the investigations to get the meeting was not something he wanted to be a part of.
What I want to ask you about is he makes reference in that drug deal to a drug deal cooked up by you and Mulvaney. It's the reference to Mulvaney that I want to ask you about. You've testified that Mulvaney was aware of this quid pro quo of this condition that the Ukrainians had to meet that is announcing this public investigations to get the White House meeting. Is that right?
SONDLAND: Yes, a lot of people were aware of it and ...
SCHIFF: Including -- including Mr. Mulvaney?
SCHIFF: And including the secretary of state?
SCHIFF: Now, have you seen the acting chief of staff's press conference in which he acknowledged that the military aid was withheld in part because of a desire to get that 2016 investigation you talked about?
SONDLAND: I don't think I saw it live, I saw it later. Yes.
SCHIFF: So you saw him acknowledge publicly what you have confirmed too that Mr. Mulvaney understood that two plus two equals four. Is that right?
SONDLAND: Well again, I didn't know that the aid was conclusively tied. I was presuming he was in a position to say yes it was or no it wasn't because ...
SCHIFF: And he said yes, it was; did he not?
SONDLAND: He said yes, it was.
SCHIFF: Mr. Goldman.
GOLDMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you again, Ambassador Sondland. We do appreciate your efforts to refresh a recollection through the documents and we understand -- we share your frustration in not having the documents to help guide this investigation. So we do appreciate those efforts.
One of the documents that you provided to us goes back to the conversation you and -- and the Chairman were having about Mr. Mulvaney. And you had been trying for sometime before the July 25th call to set up that call, is that right?
SONDLAND: To set up the call between President Trump and President Zelensky, yes.
GOLDMAN: Correct, yes. And I want to show you the -- an email that you reference in your opening statement that is a -- a July 19th email. And who -- who is this from?
SONDLAND: It looks it's -- is it from me? I don't know.
GOLDMAN: It's from you, I believe.
SONDLAND: Yes, it's from me to -- to the group.
GOLDMAN: Now, who is the group?
SONDLAND: People mentioned on the email. Blair, Kenna, McCormack, Mulvaney, Perry, Pompeo.
GOLDMAN: And -- and who's Robert Blair?
SONDLAND: I believe he's a deputy chief of staff or a advisor to the chief of staff.
GOLDMAN: And you've already told us that Lisa Kenna is the executive secretary for Secretary Pompeo. Who's Brian McCormack?
SONDLAND: The chief of staff for -- he was the chief of staff for Secretary Perry.
GOLDMAN: And then we have -- we see Mr. Mulvaney, Secretary Perry, and Secretary Pompeo. Can you read what you wrote on July 19th to this group, please?
SONDLAND: He is prepared to receive (inaudible) call. We'll assure him that he intends to run a fully transparent investigation. We'll turn over every stone. He would greatly appreciate a call prior to Sunday so he can put out some media about a friendly and productive call, no details, prior to Ukraine election in Sunday.
GOLDMAN: So Sunday was the 21st, which was the date of the parliamentary elections in Ukraine. Is that right?
SONDLAND: That's right.
GOLDMAN: When you we'll assure him that he intends to run a fully transparent investigation and will, quote, turn over every stone, unquote, what do you mean there?
SONDLAND: I'm referring to the Burisma and the 2016, slash, DNC server investigations.
GOLDMAN: Later that evening Secretary Perry responds just to you and Brian McCormack saying Mick just confirmed the call being setup for tomorrow by NSC RP (ph). And then a little later, Mr. Mulvaney replies to all saying I asked NSC to set it up for tomorrow. Were these the only responses that you received to this email?
SONDLAND: I -- I don't know. If I -- if I had them I would show them. I don't -- I don't know.
GOLDMAN: No one wrote back to you and said what are you talking about in terms of these investigations and turning over every stone.
SONDLAND: No, there was a chain and I don't know if it's part of this email or a subsequent email where I believe Ambassador Bolton pushed back and said he did not want a call to President Zelensky made by President Trump until after the parliamentary elections.
GOLDMAN: So that would explain why it was moved from the next day, July 20th, to the 25th, right?
SONDLAND: That's right.
GOLDMAN: But Ambassador Bolton is not on this email, is he?
SONDLAND: I don't think he is, no.
GOLDMAN: Now, you were asked by Mr. Castor if there are any other key witnesses who might be able to help with our investigation and you mentioned Brian McCormack, right, the chief of staff for Secretary Perry.
SONDLAND: I did.
GOLDMAN: You are aware that the committee subpoenaed him, are you not?
SONDLAND: I wasn't aware of that.
GOLDMAN: And that he refused to come testify. Are you also aware that Mr. Mulvaney was subpoenaed by the committee and refused to come testify?
SONDLAND: I did read that in the newspaper, yes.
GOLDMAN: Are you also aware that Robert Blair was subpoenaed and refused to come testify.
SONDLAND: I think I'm aware of that.
GOLDMAN: And that Secretary Perry was asked to come testify and refused.
SONDLAND: I am aware of that as well.
GOLDMAN: So would you include them as well as Secretary Pompeo as key witnesses that -- that would be able to provide some additional information on this -- on this inquiry?
SONDLAND: I think they would.
GOLDMAN: Now, the -- this was not the first time, as you indicated, that Mr. Mulvaney heard about these investigations into Burisma and the 2016 election. Is that right?
SONDLAND: I don't know what Mr. Mulvaney heard, or didn't hear. I think there's been a huge amount of exaggeration over my contact with Mr. Mulvaney. It was actually quite limited.
GOLDMAN: Well he certainly didn't indicate -- he certainly indicated a familiarity with what you were talking about in this July 19 e-mail, is that right?
SONDLAND: Right, because I think Mr. Mulvaney was in the May 23 briefing with President Trump. I don't remember because there were people sitting behind us that were coming and going when we were sitting in front of President Trump's desk.
GOLDMAN: OK, now you've said that you don't have a recollection of saying -- referencing Mulvaney in the July 10 meeting at Ambassador Bolton's office, is that right? Or --
SONDLAND: I don't recall.
GOLDMAN: So when both Fiona Hill and Colonel Vindman testified that in response to a question from Ukrainian officials at that July 10 meeting about scheduling a White House visit that you said, well I spoke with Mr. Mulvaney and it will be scheduled after they announce these investigations. Do you have any reason to dispute that characterization?
SONDLAND: I don't have any reason to agree or dispute, I just don't remember.
GOLDMAN: So if they both remembered it, and they both then went and spoke to the NSC legal advisor about it, you would trust that whatever they relay to the NSC legal advisor would likely be an accurate reflection?
SONDLAND: Again, I trust that they related to the NSC legal advisor I don't know whether I said it, and I don't know which conversation -- again, I've had very, very limited conversations with Mr. Mulvaney.
GOLDMAN: This e-mail indicates that you spoke to President Zelensky and were relaying what he said to very senior officials, is that right?
SONDLAND: Which e-mail again?
GOLDMAN: Sorry, the July 19 e-mail. Where you say, the subject is I talked to Zelensky just now --
SONDLAND: Yes, I've got it.
GOLDMAN: Was there some sort of assurance that President Zelensky needed to provide about what he would say to President Trump in order, just to get the phone call?
SONDLAND: I think that part was verbal and then there were a lot of communications going around back and forth with the Ukrainians, and that's when someone -- and I don't remember who came up with the idea of a draft statement so there would be no misunderstanding about what in fact the Ukrainians would say, and would be willing to say that we could rely on and negotiate something on a piece of paper.
GOLDMAN: So just to place you in time we're going to get to that draft statement which was in August, this was is July 19 before the July 25 call. Do you remember whether there was a need from any of the White House officials or other national security officials for President Zelensky to provide some assurance of what he would say to President Trump before a phone call -- not the meeting, but a phone call was scheduled?
SONDLAND: There was initially, apparently a condition but that condition was obviously dropped because the phone call took place and there was no such statement made. The phone call took place, as you said on the 25th of July.
GOLDMAN: When you say there was no such statement that took place, what do you mean?
SONDLAND: Well the Ukrainians never made their public statement prior to the phone call on the 25th of July.
GOLDMAN: Right, but we're not talking about a public statement, what I was asking is whether President Zelensky needed to relay to you or the other American officials that he would assure President Trump that he would do these investigations in a phone call? That is --
SONDLAND: Well, in my e-mail I obviously had just spoken with him and he -- he being Zelensky, and he said that he was prepared to receive the call and he would make those assurances to President Trump on that call, and then presumably that would then lead to the White House meeting.
GOLDMAN: And you had been discussing this phone call for quite, for several weeks now, is that right?
SONDLAND: Yes, with I think -- I think with Volker, with Perry, with Giuliani through Volker and Perry.
GOLDMAN: And then right after you sent this e-mail assuring the others that he will discuss the investigations and will turn over every stone, the Burisma and 2016 election investigations, Mr. Mulvaney responded that he asked to set up the call for the next day, is that right?
SONDLAND: That's what it says.
GOLDMAN: Now let's go to that press statement that you were discussing in August and you testified, I believe that you understood that Rudy Giuliani was representing the president's interests with regard to Ukraine, is that right?
SONDLAND: That's what we all understood.
GOLDMAN: And when, you all (ph) -- who do you mean, "we all"?
SONDLAND: Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker, myself.
GOLDMAN: In August you and Ambassador Volker were coordinating with Andriy Yermak the Zelensky aid about a press statement. And I want to pull up some of the text exchanges that you are referring to. Which, as you acknowledge helps you refresh your recollection, is that right?
SONDLAND: And I think Taylor was involved in those initial discussions as well.
GOLDMAN: Well he's not on any of these text messages, so perhaps he was -- he does not remember that. But let's go to the first one -- is it working? On August 9, there's an exchange between Ambassador Volker and you where you are discussing setting up -- we'll try to bring it up in a second.
But I'll just summarize for you. You're discussing trying to set up a White House meeting -- here it is. And you say, "Morrison ready to get dates as soon as Yermak confirms." Mr. Volker, Ambassador Volker says, "Excellent!! How did you sway him?"
You said, "Not sure I did. I think POTUS really wants the deliverable," what did you mean there?
SONDLAND: The commitment to do the investigations.
GOLDMAN: And how did you know that the president wanted the deliverable?
SONDLAND: I don't recall, I may have had a conversation or I may have heard it from someone else. But I don't recall, again without all these records.
GOLDMAN: Going to the next exhibit, exhibit 10 where -- or August 10 rather. This is between you and Andriy Yermak, what did you say initially in this exchange?
SONDLAND: "Hello. Good. My proposal," oh no that's Yermak. "How was your conversation?"
GOLDMAN: And Mr. Yermak responds, "Hello. Good. My proposal, we receive date and then we make general statement with discussed things. Once we have a date, we will call for a press briefing announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of U.S.-Ukraine relationship, including among other things Burisma and election meddling in investigations." And you respond, "got it."
That was your understanding of what this statement had to say to satisfy Mr. Giuliani, is that right?
GOLDMAN: And then ultimately to satisfy the POTUS deliverable?
GOLDMAN: Now, the next day you write an e-mail to Ulrich Brechbuhl and Lisa Kenna. Are you able to see that on your screen?
SONDLAND: Yes, I can see it on the screen, yes.
GOLDMAN: OK. What is the subject of the e-mail?
GOLDMAN: And can you read what you wrote there?
SONDLAND: Mike, and I'm referring to Secretary Pompeo, Kurt and I negotiated a statement from Zelensky to be delivered for our review in a day or two. The contents will hopefully make the boss happy enough to authorize an invitation. Zelensky plans to have a big presser on the openness subject, including specifics next week.
GOLDMAN: And in your opening statement you said that the specifics -- what did the specifics represent?
SONDLAND: The -- the 2016 and the Burisma.
GOLDMAN: And when you say the boss, who do you mean by that?
SONDLAND: President Trump.
GOLDMAN: And the invitation is what?
SONDLAND: To the White House meeting.
GOLDMAN: And Lisa Kenna responds, Gordon, I'll pass to S. And S is Secretary Pompeo?
GOLDMAN: Thank you, Lisa. Now, two days later you have a text exchange with Ambassador Volker again, and this is at the end of it. But it -- the earlier text, which we don't have here, you may recall, includes the press statement, the revised press statement that includes Burisma and the 2016 election, is that -- do you recall that?
SONDLAND: Yes. If I could see it, that would be helpful, but yes.
GOLDMAN: So, but you ultimately remembered that after your conversation with Mr. Giuliani, you did pass along a statement to the Ukrainians that included Burisma and the 2016 election, is that right?
SONDLAND: I think there were statements being passed back and forth between Volker, the Ukrainians and others to try and negotiate acceptable language.
GOLDMAN: And ultimately that statement was not issued, was it?
GOLDMAN: And the White House meeting did not --
SONDLAND: Still hasn't occurred.
GOLDMAN: -- still hasn't occurred. But, you certainly understood, at that time, did you not, that it was the president's direction and instruction that a White House meeting with President Zelensky would not occur until President Zelensky announced publicly the investigations that the president wanted. Is that right?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
GOLDMAN: And you now know that the investigations the president wanted was an investigation into the Bidens and an investigation into the 2016 election?
SONDLAND: I know that now, yes.
GOLDMAN: I'm going to move ahead to August 22, and you wrote an e-mail to Secretary Pompeo, directly to Secretary Pompeo, CCing Lisa Kenna, with the subject of Zelensky. And could you please read what you wrote to Secretary Pompeo?
SONDLAND: 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 mid-September, Zelensky should be able to move forward publicly and with confidence on those issues of importance to POTUS and to the U.S. Hopefully that will break the log jam.
GOLDMAN: And Secretary Pompeo responds to you, three minutes later, yes. Now, I want to unpack this a little bit. You said that in the middle, once Ukraine's new justice folks are in place, what did you mean by that?
SONDLAND: The new prosecutor that was going to be working for President Zelensky, the old prosecutor, I believe, his term was up or he was being let go. He was the Poroshenko prosecutor and Zelensky wanted to wait until his person was in place.
GOLDMAN: So, once that new prosecutor was in place, then Z, President Zelensky, should be able to move forward publicly and with confidence on those issues of importance to POTUS. What did you mean by those issues of importance to POTUS?
SONDLAND: Again, the 2016 election and Burisma investigation.
GOLDMAN: Were you aware at this time that Secretary Pompeo had listened in to the July 25 phone call?
SONDLAND: I was not.
GOLDMAN: If he had, do you believe that he would fully understand what the issues of importance to POTUS related to Ukraine would be?
SONDLAND: I mean, I can't characterize his state of mind, he listened in on the phone call and he concluded what he concluded.
GOLDMAN: But now that you've read the phone call, it's quite clear what the issues of importance to POTUS are?
GOLDMAN: Biden investigation --
GOLDMAN: -- and the 2016 investigation election, is that right?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
GOLDMAN: Then it says, hopefully that will break the log jam. Now, by this point you were aware that security assistance had been on hold for about five weeks, is that right?
SONDLAND: I became aware on the 18th of July.
GOLDMAN: And you understood that there was a lot of activity within the State Department and elsewhere to try to get that hold lifted, is that right?
SONDLAND: That's right.
GOLDMAN: Just about everybody in the Interagency, meaning the National Security Apparatus wanted to lift the hold and wanted the aide to go to Ukraine?
GOLDMAN: So, what did you mean here when you said log jam?
SONDLAND: Well, as I said to Chairman Schiff, I meant inclusively anything that was holding up moving forward on the meeting and -- and the Ukraine-U.S. relationship.
GOLDMAN: And what was holding that up?
SONDLAND: At that point it was the statements about Burisma and the 2016 elections.
GOLDMAN: But what was being held up?
SONDLAND: Well, the aide was being held up, obviously.
GOLDMAN: Four days later you said in your opening statement, that you sent Rudy Giuliani's contact information to John Bolton, is that right?
SONDLAND: I did.
GOLDMAN: Did you know why ha asked for that?
SONDLAND: No idea.
GOLDMAN: Did you know that he was going to Ukraine the next day?
SONDLAND: I knew he was about to go to Ukraine. I didn't know exactly when his trip was, but I thought it was kind of an odd request, given that the White House can pretty much get anyone's phone number they want.
GOLDMAN: Now in this e-mail to Secretary Pompeo, you reference a trip to Warsaw. Ultimately, the vice president went on that trip?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
GOLDMAN: And that was the conversation that you talked about, who you -- you testified earlier to that where you said that we really need to get these investigations from Ukraine in order to release the aide in the pre-meeting?
SONDLAND: That's right.
GOLDMAN: And Vice President Pence just nodded?
SONDLAND: He -- he heard what I said.
GOLDMAN: And didn't respond in any way?
SONDLAND: I don't recall any substantive response.
GOLDMAN: But you -- you never specifically referenced the Bidens or Burisma in that meeting, did you?
SONDLAND: I don't remember ever mentioning the Bidens. I may have mentioned Burisma.
GOLDMAN: And that meeting was with a group? You were not alone with Vice President Pence, is that right?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
GOLDMAN: And you know that at that bilateral meeting with President Zelensky, I believe, that you testified earlier that Vice President Pence did not mention these investigations at all, right?
SONDLAND: I don't recall him mentioning the investigations.
GOLDMAN: So, that -- your testimony is just simply in a pre-meeting with a group of Americans before the bilateral meeting. You referenced the fact that Ukraine needed to do these investigations in order to lift the aide. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: I think I referenced -- I didn't say that Ukraine had to do the investigations, I think I said that we heard from Mr. Giuliani that that was the case.
GOLDMAN: So, that helped inform your presumption, correct?
GOLDMAN: So, it wasn't really a presumption, you heard from Mr. Giuliani.
SONDLAND: Well, I didn't hear from Mr. Giuliani about the aid. I heard about the Burisma and 2016.
GOLDMAN: And you understood at that point as we've discussed two plus two equals four that...
SONDLAND: That's right.
GOLDMAN: ... the aid was there as well.
SONDLAND: That was the problem, Mr. Goldman. No one told me directly that the aid was tied to anything. I was presuming it was.
GOLDMAN: Right. Well, I want to go ahead to - I'm going to go back on September 1 or I'm going to jump actually ahead to September 7, OK, when we discussed those text messages where you said there were multiple convos with President Zelensky and POTUS. Do you recall that?
SONDLAND: Do you have the email by any chance?
GOLDMAN: We could try to pull it up in a second, but you don't remember I showed it to you earlier this morning?
SONDLAND: Yes. Go ahead with your question.
GOLDMAN: And you confirmed that that likely meant, as you said it did, that you spoke with President Trump. Is that right?
SONDLAND: Again, if my email said I spoke with President Trump, presumably I did.
GOLDMAN: You are relying pretty heavily in your testimony on the texts and emails that you were able to review. Is that right?
SONDLAND: That's right.
GOLDMAN: So certainly is someone else had contemporaneous texts, emails, or notes, you would presume that what they were saying was accurate. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: Well, if they had texts or emails I would. If they had notes, I don't know. Some people's notes are great. Some peoples aren't. I don't know.
GOLDMAN: But certainly it would be a helpful refresher to anyone's memory.
SONDLAND: Including my own.
GOLDMAN: Now, you had a conversation on September 7 according to both Ambassador Taylor and Tim Morrison with Tim Morrison where you told Mr. Morrison that President Trump told you that he was not asking for a quid pro quo but that he did insist that President Zelensky go to a microphone and say that he is opening investigations of Biden and 2016 election interference, and that President Zelensky should want to do this himself. You don't have any reason to dispute both Ambassador Taylor's and Mr. Morrison's testimony about that conversation, do you?
GOLDMAN: On September 8, you then had a conversation directly with Ambassador Taylor about this same phone call where Ambassador Taylor said that you confirmed that you spoke to President Trump as he had suggested earlier to you and that President Trump was adamant that President Zelensky himself, meaning not the prosecutor general, had to, quote, "clear things up and do it in public," unquote. Do you recall - you don't have any reason to think that Ambassador Taylor's testimony based on his contemporaneous notes was correct?
SONDLAND: I don't know if I got that from President Trump or if I got it from Giuliani. That's the part I'm not clear on.
GOLDMAN: Well, Ambassador Taylor's quite clear that you said President Trump. Mr. Morrison is also quite clear that you said President Trump. You don't have any reason to dispute their very specific recollections, do you?
SONDLAND: No. If they have notes and they recall that, I don't have any reason to dispute it. I just personally can't remember where I got it from.
GOLDMAN: And then you also told Ambassador Taylor in that same conversation that if President Zelensky - rather you told President Zelensky and Andrei Yermak that although this was not a quid pro quo as the president had very clearly told you, it was, however, required for President Zelensky to clear things up in public or there would be a stalemate. You don't have any reason to dispute Ambassador Taylor's recollection of that conversation you had with President Zelensky, do you?
GOLDMAN: And that you understood the stalemate referenced the aid, is that correct?
SONDLAND: At that point, yes.
GOLDMAN: Ambassador Taylor also described a comment that you made where you were trying to explain what President Trump's view of this was, and you said that President Trump is a businessman. When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, the businessman asks the person to pay up before signing the check. Do your recall saying that to Ambassador Taylor?
SONDLAND: I don't recall it specifically, but I may have.
GOLDMAN: And Ambassador Volker also said that you did.
GOLDMAN: So just to summarize here, by the end of the first week of September, before the aid had been released, you had expressed twice to the Ukrainians that you understood that the aid - that the investigations needed to be publically announced on CNN in order for the aid to be released. Do you recall that?
SONDLAND: I didn't say that they had to be announced on CNN. The Ukrainians said to me or to Ambassador Volker or both of us that they had planned to do an interview anyway on CNN and they would use that occasion to mention these items.
GOLDMAN: And that even though at some point you had calculated two plus two to equal four, and therefore you believed that the aid was conditioned on the investigations that you had a phone call with President Trump that you relayed to both Tim Morrison and Ambassador Taylor whose accounts of that conversation you do not dispute where President Trump confirmed that President Zelensky needed to publically announce the investigations or otherwise the obvious implication of the stalemate would be that the aid would not be released. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: Again, the implication. I did not hear directly from President Trump that the aid would be held up until the statement was made. I did not hear those words.
GOLDMAN: Though you agree that with whatever Mr. Morrison and Ambassador Taylor testified to about the conversation you had with President Trump. Is that right?
SONDLAND: Remind me again. I don't want to misspeak.
GOLDMAN: Well, you just said you have no reason to dispute their accounts based on their detailed notes.
SONDLAND: Were they saying that I told them that President Trump said that the aid would not be released until the statements were made? Because I said repeatedly I don't recall President Trump ever saying that to me.
GOLDMAN: OK. I think what they said, if I could just finish this line of questioning...
SONDLAND: Yes, yes.
GOLDMAN: Was that President Trump was adamant that President Zelensky himself had to clear things up. Quote, "clear things up and do it in public, unquote." So what they related was although President Trump claimed to you there was no quid pro quo, he also made it clear to you in that call that President Zelensky had to, quote, "clear things up and do it in public." You don't have any reason to dispute that speech (ph)...
SONDLAND: I don't have any reason to dispute the clear things up and do it in public. What I'm trying to be very clear about was President Trump never told me directly that the aid was tied to that statement.
GOLDMAN: But in that same conversation you had with him about the aid, about the quid pro quo, he told you that President Zelensky had to, quote, "clear things up and do it in public," correct?
SONDLAND: I did not have a conversation with him about the aid. I had a conversation with him as referenced in my text about quid pro quo.
GOLDMAN: Well, the quid pro quo you were discussing was over the aid, correct?
SONDLAND: No. President Trump when I asked him the open ended question as I testified previously, what do you want from Ukraine? His answer was, I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing. That's all I got from President Trump.
GOLDMAN: Did you also get from President Trump, as reflected by Ambassador Taylor, that he said he was adamant that President Zelensky had to, quote, "clear things up and do it in public"?
SONDLAND: That part I can agree to, yes.
SCHIFF: Time is with the minority for 20 minutes.
SCHIFF: I'm sorry, 33 minutes.
NUNES: 33 minutes. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ambassador, you've been in business for a long time.
SONDLAND: I have.
NUNES: So if you want to get to the bottom of something, somebody that's running a department or one of your buildings or something, who do you go to?
SONDLAND: The boss.
NUNES: The manager of whatever company ...
NUNES: So if you want to get to the bottom of foreign aid, you probably go to the people that are in charge of foreign aid in this town, wouldn't you? Cause you're not in charge of foreign aid.
SONDLAND: I'm not in charge of foreign aid.
NUNES: And you've had to testify that you've presumed foreign aid was this or that and you're guessing that this was tied to foreign aid but there are people in this town who are in charge of the foreign aid. And in fact, I don't think it's very fair to you at all or to us or to the American people, you might be surprised that we had that person here in the Capitol in a secret deposition in the basement last Saturday.
Now that testimony might be pretty important to you before you were here to testify, if you could have read that, if your lawyers could have went through that because it may have clarified some more things for you about the - about your recollection about the foreign aid.
So, you know, we've heard - earlier, we heard about the - we had the Chair looking at the cameras, telling the American people - talking about Watergate, what their Watergate fantasies that they continue to - I guess they fantasize about this at night and then they come here and talk about obstruction of justice because they're not giving you documents that you think you should - you should have.
So now they've laid out their clear Watergate argument or articles of impeachment. So I just have to remind the gentlemen we're - we're - I know we're not in a court of law cause you wrote the - the rules, the Chair here did, but I would think it's obstruction of justice to not give the American people and not give the Ambassador the right to look at the transcript of the man who's in charge of the foreign aid in this town.
Now I could get into what he said but - the Chair could release what he said and we're not even allowed to call that witness here today. So let's talk about things that we do now are facts, OK, as best as, I think, you and I and most people know them.
President Trump does not like foreign aid, to start with. Is that correct, Ambassador?
SONDLAND: I've heard that, yes.
NUNES: And you've testified that watching over the E.U., you have 28 countries, you have neighboring countries that you work with. One of his biggest complaints is the lack of participation that those countries participate in programs around the world. Isn't that correct?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
NUNES: Especially NATO.
NUNES: Right? That's one of your - when you start - when you go down the list of the jobs that - that - as - when you get directions from the White House, when you first became Ambassador, probably one of the number one things - I don't want to put words in your mouth but on that - the top of the list was making sure countries pay their fare share, especially with NATO.
SONDLAND: Yeah and we have a very capable Ambassador to NATO so I'm not going to take her - her lane.
NUNES: But it's one of the - but you work with those countries, it's one of the issues that you bring up in your meetings, correct?
SONDLAND: It is.
NUNES: So, you know, I know you weren't on the July 25th phone call but one of the first things that the President of the United States brings up is Germany's lack of participation - and he names the President of Germany directly - that they're not participating in helping out Ukraine, who's one of their neighbors. Is that what you read in the - in the transcript?
SONDLAND: I've heard that, yes.
NUNES: So the whole idea that the President start - starting out with, he doesn't like foreign aid, he doesn't think countries pay their fair share, that's looking out for the taxpayer, but there's more and we talked about this in your deposition. We talked about it - about how we have requirements - the Congress writes requirements into the law that require you and all of the diplomats to carry out the foreign policy of this country for the President of the United States. Before the President can certify foreign aid and send foreign aid, there has to be certification that there's - that there's no corruption. You're aware of that now?
SONDLAND: I am now, yes.
NUNES: So - so being that - that you learned about that in your deposition, now looking back at clearly the challenges and concerns the President had with the involvement of - of high level Ukrainian government officials, including the Ambassador here in the United States that attacked him during his presidential campaign, the concerns of leaks that were leaks or just made up stories and conspiracy theories that were spun in the Steele dossier that the Democrats on this committee own, they paid for it, other DNC operatives that were working with the Ukrainian Ambassador here in - here in Washington D.C. to dirty up your boss, the President of the United States.
We're not going to hear from those witnesses, just like we're not going to hear from the person we deposed on Saturday. We're not going to hear about what the real reason the person who's in charge of - of making sure that foreign aid is delivered, we're not going to hear about what actually happened with the foreign aid.
Wouldn't that have made it a lot easier for you to testify instead of guessing and doing little funny math problems up here, 2+2=4? It's great for all of the viewers to hear that. Wouldn't it be easier if you just knew exactly why the foreign aid wasn't given?
SONDLAND: It would have been easier to testify if I had a totality of the record.
NUNES: And would you trust the person who's in charge of cutting the checks for foreign aid, the top career diplomat or the - the top career official?
SONDLAND: I'd have no reason not to.
NUNES: Well Ambassador, I don't know if we'll get to speak again, if we have some more magical minutes but I - I'm done with the questions with you. I know the rest of our members have more questions and let me turn to - I know Mr. Castor has some more questions.
CASTOR: Hello again, Ambassador.
CASTOR: I'll try not to use all of this time as a courtesy to you. Just want to go through some distinctions between your - your opener and your deposition and some other witnesses. In your opening statement today, you said President Trump directed us to talk with Rudy. Correct?
CASTOR: But then you and I had a little bit of a back and forth about the President just said talk to Rudy and - and I believe, and correct me if I'm wrong, you - you took that to mean if we wanted to move forward with these types of things, Rudy was the - the - the place to go?
SONDLAND: Rudy was the guy.
CASTOR: OK but President Trump didn't direct you to talk to Rudy. Correct?
SONDLAND: It wasn't an order. It - it was if you want to work on this, this is the guy you've got to talk to.
CASTOR: Ambassador Volker, in his deposition, said I didn't take it as an instruction but just as a comment. Talk to Rudy. You know, he knows these things and you've got some bad people around him. I mean, that - referring to the Ukrainian. So Ambassador Volker hasn't testified that there's any sort of order or direction talk to Rudy.
SONDLAND: I don't know what he testified. It became very clear to all three of us that if we wanted to move the relationship forward President Trump was not really interested in engaging he wanted Rudy to handle it. And as I said in my opening statements Secretary Perry took the lead and made the initial contact with Rudy and that's when we began working with him.
CASTOR: And as to the question of whether Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires specifically of The President of The United States in deposition you said I don't know. I don't know if this was coming out of Rudy Giuliani you're (ph) respective of The President, correct?
SONDLAND: Yes, I'm not going to dispute what I said in my deposition.
SONDLAND: It's true.
CASTOR: And we walked through all your communications with Rudy Giuliani and there not a lot, right?
CASTOR: Ambassador Volker in his deposition on the same question said I did not have that impression. I believe Mr. Giuliani was doing his own communications. And granted Mr. Giuliani had business interest in Ukraine, correct?
SONDLAND: No I understand he did, I didn't know that at the time.
CASTOR: With Messrs, Parnas and Fruman, correct?
SONDLAND: A lot of new names I've learned.
CASTOR: Okay, and you had never met with those folks?
CASTOR: Okay. And then in your September 9th communication with The President during your deposition that was a striking moment when you walked us through your telephone call with President Trump on September 9th.
SONDLAND: By the way I still cannot find a record of that call because the State Department or The White House cannot locate it. But I'm pretty sure I had the call on that day.
CASTOR: Whether it was the 9th or the 8th you had this call and it was extremely memorable, right?
SONDLAND: It was.
CASTOR: And you've been very honest and we're not trying to give you a hard time on all the times you don't recall. We're just trying to say that a lot of important events that have happened that the committees asked you about and you've honestly said I don't recall. But the call with President Trump on September 9th or the 8th you recall it vividly, right?
SONDLAND: I recall it vividly because if was keyed by the frantic emails from Ambassador Taylor, I had again prior to that call had all kinds of theories as to why things weren't moving? Why there was no White House meeting? Why there was no aid? Why there was no this? Why there was no that? And I was getting tired of going around in circles, frankly. So I made the call and I asked as I said the open ended question what do you want from Ukraine? And that's when I got the answer
CASTOR: He was unequivocal?
SONDLAND: Nothing. What I said in the text is what I heard.
CASTOR: I'm curious did was that vignette in your opener today?
SONDLAND: I don't think so.
CASTOR: How come? It's so memorable. So striking.
SONDLAND: I don't know. It was in my previous testimony and I assumed if people had questions they would bring it up.
CASTOR: Okay. This is an example, a lot of witnesses during the course of this investigation have dealt with ambiguities in different ways. And some have resolved them in the light least favorable to The President over and over again. This is an exculpatory fact shedding some light on the President's state of mind about the situation about the -
SONDLAND: And I'm happy to discuss it.
CASTOR: So I'm just wondering why you didn't mention it in your opener.
SONDLAND: There were so many things I wanted to include in my opening and my opening was already I think 45 minutes or something. It would have been an hour and a half. There are a lot of things that I'd like to have mentioned.
CASTOR: Yes, but you only had a couple conversations with The President? We're trying to evaluated whether the -
SONDLAND: There was not, it was not purposeful, trust me.
CASTOR: Okay. Talking about striking conversations, Mr. Holmes when he came here last Friday in the basement, he, I'll tell you, he thought your conversation that you had with The President was like the most memorable thing he's ever experienced. He -
SONDLAND: How many conversations has he had with The President?
CASTOR: He probably hasn't had any. But he was energized, enthusiastic about telling us about this conversation.
SONDLAND: So not only did I buy him lunch but I also provided entertainment.
CASTOR: And he, he conferred with us that you regaled anyone that he came across with this story. That's I guess a discussion for Thursday. But other than the colorful language he was definitely moved by the color. But he was unequivocal that you brought up the Bidens in the post call discussion. And he said something to the effect The President's only interested in big things and Mr. Holmes said there's a lot of big thing going on in the Ukraine, like there are. There's a war, Ukraine's under attack from the east by Russia. And he puts words in your mouth to the effect of no The President only cares about investigations like Rudy is pitching about the Bidens.
And what's important about this, this is the day after the 7/25 call. And what's reported by Mr. Holmes and you, you've since (ph) confirmed it. Isn't anything different that happened on the 7/25 call, agreed? From the President's standpoint?
SONDLAND: With 20/20 hindsight now that we've had the transcript of the call. The Bidens were clearly mentioned on the call. But I don't, I wasn't making the connection with the Bidens.
CASTOR: Right, but with regard to The President it was just mentioning investigations.
SONDLAND: That's all he said on the phone was investigations, I think.
CASTOR: But you told us time and again that you never realized the Bidens were part of any of this. The Burisma, you talked about a continuum and never came to understand that until maybe as late as September 25th, correct?
SONDLAND: I don't know the exact date but it was pretty late.
CASTOR: Okay. And Ambassador Volker said the Bidens never came up after his one breakfast meeting with Mayor Giuliani where he testified that he tried to disabuse the Mayor of anything relating to the Bidens. And I think Secretary Perry publically stated that he never heard Biden either until the end.
CASTOR: So, when you testify here today that you have recollection of mentioning the Bidens to Mr. Holmes, that's not just a recollection that's based on your state of mind at that point and time. And you're state of mind up to September 25th, correct?
SONDLAND: I wasn't into investigating the Bidens.
CASTOR: So it's very surprising to you that he would mention that, right?
SONDLAND: Yes, it was very surprising to me.
CASTOR: I want to go back to a couple things in your statement. This July 26th meeting with President Zelensky earlier in the day from this lunch time event we've been talking about. During the course of the meeting with President Zelensky did any of the parties discuss what came up on the telephone call?
SONDLAND: I don't believe so.
CASTOR: Okay. So President Zelensky didn't express any concerns about the content of the call, right?
SONDLAND: I mean all I heard about that call was that it was a good call. It was friendly, everyone was happy I was delighted to hear that so that we could now move to the next...
SONDLAND: ... phase which was the meeting.
CASTOR: So you can tell us with certainty that nobody talked about demands in that meetings or fulfilling the president's demands.
SONDLAND: I don't remember exactly. Again, this is a - this is a great example, Mr. Castor, where I would have loved to have seen the notes from the meeting. I didn't take any notes, but I know there were notes taken, but I don't remember any heated conversation in the meeting. I remember it being a really, really friendly, good meeting. And that's why I said what I did to the president the next day, which was, you know, Zelensky will do whatever you want. He's very happy.
CASTOR: And you don't remember any discussion of the - by President Zelensky of lamenting how he had to navigate this difficult situation, right?
SONDLAND: I don't - I don't know. I know that that was in the whistleblower complaint, something about navigating something.
CASTOR: It was.
SONDLAND: I didn't remember anything like that.
CASTOR: I want to get back to your...
NUNES: Gentlemen yield a second?
CASTOR: Of course.
NUNES: Which would be another helpful thing also, Ambassador, is if we actually had heard from the whistleblower and we had testimony of the whistleblower. Then you wouldn't have to be up here speculating as much and guessing because you would have a source that would have been interviewed. We have his complaint.
We could have matched it up with your testimony along with the people from OMB that would have made it very easy for you to testify so you wouldn't have to just try to remember all the stuff and chase conspiracy theories around that the Democrats have continued to lay out for the last six weeks moving from quid pro quo to extortion to bribery to - where are we at today - obstruction of justice and now back to quid pro quo. We wouldn't have had to do all that if the whistleblower would have testified. You wouldn't have to speculate about the whistleblower only had in his or her complaint that nobody seems to know. I yield back to Mr. Castor.
CASTOR: Thank you, Mr. Nunes. I want to turn to your - a couple of times in your opener you said everyone was in the loop, and I just want - you know, these televised proceedings, sometimes we lose track of things and, you know, everyone was not in the loop with your speculation or your guess that in the absence of any credible information for the suspension of aid, I later came to believe that the presumption of security aid would not occur without public statement from the Ukraine. Everyone wasn't in the loop with that, right?
SONDLAND: Well, the secretary was because that's why I sent my email.
CASTOR: But your emails - let's look at your emails. There's two emails that you sent to the secretary, right? Better here?
SONDLAND: August 22.
CASTOR: Right, and August 11?
UNKNOWN: August 11.
CASTOR: So the August 11 email, we went through this before. I'm sorry to go through it again. You said to the Secretary, "Kurt and I negotiated a statement from Z to be delivered for our review in a day or two. The contents will hopefully make the boss happy enough to authorize and invitation. Z plans to have a big pressure on the openness subject next week."
Couple things here. This is only relating to the White House meeting, correct?
CASTOR: Yes, I believe so.
CASTOR: OK. And this is only - this is just investigations generally making a public statement of openness generally, right?
SONDLAND: Well, I think by August 11, Mr. Castor, I think we were talking about 2016 in Burisma. The investigations generally was really early in the...
CASTOR: OK, but we know that Secretary Pompeo knows that?
SONDLAND: I think so. I think...
SONDLAND: Well, only because I think Ambassador - or I'm sorry, Counselor Brechbuhl was briefed...
SONDLAND: ... on all of these things and...
CASTOR: By who? By you?
SONDLAND: By I believe Ambassador Volker, by myself?
CASTOR: That's not what he testified to. I mean, did you - did you...
SONDLAND: Ambassador - or Counselor Brechbuhl testified? I didn't know he had testified.
CASTOR: No, no. Ambassador Volker.
SONDLAND: Oh, OK.
CASTOR: He didn't testify that he briefed Mr. Brechbuhl. I mean, this email to the secretary is talking about this statement, which by the way, I mean, you said, "Kurt and I negotiated a statement and the statement never went..."
SONDLAND: It didn't go anywhere.
CASTOR: Yes. Ambassador Volker said it wasn't a good idea. Mr. Yermak said it wasn't a good idea. And - but what you're writing to the secretary here is just a - you know, it relates to a generic openness subject, right?
SONDLAND: Yes, but I think the Secretary, though, was on the July 25 call, which obviously I wasn't on and I didn't know about.
CASTOR: Yes, but you used this email to suggest that everyone was in the loop that security secretary assistance was tied to some sort of act by the Ukrainians.
SONDLAND: No, no. I don't think I said that - I don't think I said that the assistance wasn't involved here. I think I was...
CASTOR: So what was everyone in the loop about then?
SONDLAND: Well, the secretary was in the loop that we had negotiated a statement.
SONDLAND: I am fairly comfortable that the secretary knows that where the statement was at that point, in other words the 2016 and Burisma, and that Lisa passed that along to him...
SONDLAND: ... and kept him informed.
CASTOR: OK, so we can agree that at this point in time the secretary wasn't in the loop, that there was a conditionality on the security secretary assistance?
SONDLAND: Hold on a second. Are you asking about July 19, exhibit 4?
CASTOR: I was asking about your email to the secretary on August 11.
SONDLAND: Oh, OK. Well, on July 19, which the secretary was on, I talked about full transparent investigation and turn over every stone, and the secretary was on that, so...
CASTOR: OK, but you testified in your deposition that on July 19 in this continuum you talked about...
CASTOR: ... that point in the continuum it was just a generic investigation. It wasn't anything involving...
SONDLAND: I think it went - again, I'm not trying to put words in anywhere. I think it went from the original generic from, you know, May 23 when we left the Oval Office. We're talking about corruption and oligarchs until Mr. Giuliani started to become involved, and then it - then it transitioned in the Burisma and...
CASTOR: But you hadn't even talked to Giuliani by that time. This is July 19. Sorry, use the mike.
(UNKNOWN): Will you allow him to finish his answer, please?
CASTOR: Of course. I apologize.
SONDLAND: We were communicating with Mr. Giuliani through Secretary Perry and through Ambassador Volker. I wasn't talking to Mr. Giuliani directly...
SONDLAND: ... until after August 1.
CASTOR: Good. But as of July 19, weren't we still on the generic part of the continuum?
SONDLAND: I don't know. I believe we were - I believe by then we were talking about Burisma in 2016 to be candid.
CASTOR: But not Biden?
SONDLAND: No, no. Not Biden.
CASTOR: And then turning to your email of August 11...
SONDLAND: Yes, got it.
CASTOR: I'm sorry. We - we just dealt with that. August 22nd.
SONDLAND: The 22nd?
CASTOR: Yes, it's page 23 of your opener.
SONDLAND: Yes, I got it.
CASTOR: And this is where you were requesting a pull aside for the president and this is when the president was ...
SONDLAND: He was still going to go.
CASTOR: He was still going to go; it was before the hurricane. That bumped that off his schedule. I would ask Zelensky to look him in the eye and tell him that once Ukraine's new justice folks are in place, Zelensky should be able to move forward publically and with confidence on those issues of importance to the president and the United States. Hopefully that will break the logjam. And at this point in time the issues of importance to the President of the United States were what?
SONDLAND: The two investigations.
CASTOR: OK, but nothing to do with Vice President Biden, right?
SONDLAND: Again, I didn't make the connection there.
CASTOR: I want to just pivot briefly to the president's concerns about foreign assistance.
CASTOR: Undersecretary Hale who will be with us later today testified that during this relevant timeframe, there was a real focus to reexamine all federal aid programs. Are you aware of that interest of the president?
SONDLAND: I'm generally aware of the president's skepticism toward foreign aid and you know conditioning foreign aid on certain things. I'm generally aware of that, yes.
CASTOR: And Ambassador Hale testified and his testimony has been public, almost a zero-based concept that each assistance program and each country that receives the program be evaluated. The program made sense that we avoid nation building and that we now provide assistance to countries that are lost to us in terms of policy whether it's because of corruption or another reason. Is that something that you were aware of at the time?
SONDLAND: Generally, yes.
CASTOR: OK. And you're certainly aware that the president was concerned about the European allies' contributions to the region.
SONDLAND: Exactly why I was involved.
CASTOR: OK. So, you know as we get right down to September 11th right before - you're advocating that the pause be lifted, correct?
SONDLAND: I didn't think the - I personally didn't think the pause should have ever been put in place.
CASTOR: OK. But as we get down to September 11th and you're talking with Senator Johnson and so forth, you don't know with certainty that the genuine reason the president was implementing the pause. It wasn't because of his concerns about his allies or his concerns about foreign assistance generally or that he wasn't just trying to hold the aid as long as he could to see what he could - what type of information he could get about those two subjects?
SONDLAND: Fair enough.
CASTOR: OK. I'm really trying to finish up before my - so I can yield some time back. Do you have anything else...
NUNES: I have nothing else.
CASTOR: Thank you. I yield back.
SCHIFF: The gentleman yields back.
NUNES: We yield back the balance of our time.
SCHIFF: Let's take a 30 minute recess to allow Ambassador Sondland to get a bit to eat. I think the members of the committee might like to get a bite to eat and then we will resume with the member rounds of questioning of five minutes. If we could allow the witnesses to have the opportunity to leave the room first...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ambassador Sondland had intended to fly back to Brussels to resume his duties at the end of the day and so it would be a great convenience to us if we could have a shorter break now and resume with the members' questions and try and wrap up in time that he might be able to make his flight.
SCHIFF: I appreciate that counsel. We all have a busy schedule these days. The member round of questions should take I think slightly less than two hours so I think you should be good depending on the time of your flight but we will endeavor to make the break as short as possible. If you would like to excuse yourself from the room before the rest of the crowd. We stand in recess.
SCHIFF: The committee will come to order. We'll now proceed to the five minute member questioning. First, I wanted to - recognize myself for five minutes.
First, I wanted to clarify something for the record with respect to the witness who testified on Saturday, that is Mr. Sandy. He is a career official with the Office of Management and Budget. He is today reviewing his transcript, an opportunity we give all of the witnesses before their transcript is released to make sure that it's accurate and correct.
As his deposition was only taken on Saturday, this was the soonest we could arrange that. We did inform the minority yesterday that if they wished to use any of the questioning from Mr. Sandy's deposition, they could do so and we would happily take whatever excerpts they needed, even prior to the witnesses having the chance to go through it. They chose not to take advantage of that opportunity.
But I would make this far more significant point, which is he is not the top official at the Office of Management and Budget, responsible for releasing foreign assistance. Those individuals are named Vought and Duffey and both of those political appointees have been subpoenaed to testify and both of those political appointees have refused.
In fact, as the deposition will make clear when the transcript is released, at a certain point Mr. Sandy was taken out of at least one significant part of the process. But that transcript will made - be made available as soon as he finishes the review and we can redact any personal information from it.
I want to ask you just a few questions and our - our staff, because of the expanded round, had - had time to get through much of what I wanted to ask you, Ambassador. But with respect to the statement, you were going back - and I mean by you and others, Ambassador Volker and others - were going back and forth with the Ukrainians to figure out what statement they would have to make to get the meeting. Correct?
SCHIFF: And they understood they were going to have to make this statement publicly in order to get the meeting?
SCHIFF: Similarly, you testified that pretty much everyone could put two and two together and make four and understood that the military assistance was also conditioned on the public announcement of these two investigations. Correct?
SONDLAND: That was my presumption, yeah.
SCHIFF: You put two and two together and you got four, is that right?
SCHIFF: Now, you're capable of putting two and two together and so are the Ukrainians. They could put two and two together, as well. They understood there was a hold on security assistance, there's testimony that they understood that in July or August but it was without a doubt understood when it was made public in the newspaper, they understood that the security assistance was being held up, right?
SONDLAND: I don't know when they understood it but presumably they did.
SCHIFF: Well certainly when it was public they understood the security assistance was withheld, right?
SONDLAND: Once it was public, I assume so, yes.
SCHIFF: And indeed that was one of the issues that was brought up in that meeting between Zelensky and Pence in Warsaw.
SONDLAND: I think - as I testified previously, Chairman, I think Zelensky, if I recall, asked the question more open-ended like when do we get our money?
SCHIFF: Well OK.
So they understood they didn't have the money yet, it had been approved by Congress, there was a hold on it, you couldn't give them any explanation ...
SONDLAND: I couldn't.
SCHIFF: Is that right?
SONDLAND: That's right.
SCHIFF: They asked, you couldn't tell them why it was being withheld, right?
SONDLAND: I could not.
SCHIFF: And if they couldn't put two and two together, you put two and two together for them because you told them in Warsaw they were going to need to make that public statement likely to get that aid released. Is that right?
SONDLAND: I said I presumed that might have to be done in order to get the aid released.
SCHIFF: Cause we've had a lot of - a lot of argumentation here - well, the Ukrainians didn't know the aid was withheld but the Ukrainians found out and then it was made abundantly clear, if they hadn't put two and two together themselves, that if they wanted that aid, they were going to have to make these statements. Correct?
SCHIFF: Mr. Nunes?
NUNES: I yield to Mr. Ratcliffe.
RATCLIFFE: Ambassador Sondland, I'm going to try and quickly move to summarize all of your direct communications with President Trump as it relates to this inquiry - and of course you can correct me if I get it wrong.
On May 23rd, you had a group meeting that included what you called a vanilla request about ending corruption involving Ukrainian oligarchs. Correct?
RATCLIFFE: On July 25th, you called President Trump to say you were on your way to Ukraine but nothing of substance occurred on that call. Correct?
RATCLIFFE: On July 26th, you had a five minute call at a restaurant that you didn't originally remember because it, according to your statement this morning, quote "did not strike me as significant at the time," end quote, but once refreshed, recalled that it - the primary purpose was a - a rapper named A$AP Rocky. Correct?
RATCLIFFE: And on September 9th, and most importantly, reading from your deposition, you called President Trump to ask him what do you want from Ukraine. He responded I want nothing, I want no quid pro quo, I want Zelensky to do the right thing, I want him to do what he ran on and what he ran on was fighting corruption. Correct?
RATCLIFFE: And then lastly, on October 2nd, in a random in person meeting that you had - an event for the Finnish President, you ran into President Trump and advised him that you'd been called to testify before Congress and he said to you good, go tell the truth.
SONDLAND: That's correct.
RATCLIFFE: All right. And that is the entirety of your recollection of your direct communications with President Trump about these matters.
SONDLAND: I may have had another call or meeting or two. I - again, I wish, Mr. Ratcliffe, I had the record ...
RATCLIFFE: I understand but this is what you recall?
SONDLAND: This is what I recall.
RATCLIFFE: OK so stop me if there's anything sinister or nefarious in any of this. A vanilla request about corruption, a call to say I'm on my way to Ukraine, a five minute call you didn't remember as significant but its primary purpose was to discuss a rapper, a call that you made where the President said I want nothing, I want no quid pro quo, I want Zelensky to do the right thing, I want him to do what he ran on, and him telling you to go tell Congress the truth. Anything sinister or nefarious about any of that?
SONDLAND: Not the way you present it.
RATCLIFFE: OK and that is the truth, as you've presented it, correct?
RATCLIFFE: All right. Why that's important, Ambassador Sondland, is because none of that is hearsay, none of that is speculation, none of that is opinion. That is direct evidence and ultimately that is what, if this proceeds to the Senate, they're going to care about. Unlike this proceeding, which has been based on largely speculation and presumption and opinion, this is direct testimony and direct evidence. And to that point, none of that included evidence about the Bidens and none of that included evidence about military assistance because President Trump never mentioned either of those to you. Correct?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
RATCLIFFE: All right. So going back to the July 26th call, because it's going to be a spectacle tomorrow, you didn't remember it because it didn't strike you as significant at the time. Is it fair to say that if the President of the United States was asking you to do or say something improper or unlawful, that would have been significant to you?
RATCLIFFE: All right. And if that call was part of a bribery or extortion scheme that you were part of, as Democrats have alleged, you'd remember that as significant, wouldn't you?
SONDLAND: I was not apart, and I would have remembered.
RATCLIFFE: I understand that, and I agree with you. Let's turn to the quid pro quo because it's been reported in the papers that this was blockbuster testimony today about quid pro quo and new evidence. T o be fair to you, Ambassador Sondland, according to your statement today as you say on page 14 as you testified previously, this was your opinion that there was a quid pro quo, correct?
SONDLAND: The 2016 Burisma and the - excuse me, the 2016 election and Burisma in return for the White House meeting. That's correct.
RATCLIFFE: Right. So you've shared that before. To that point, to be clear again on the part of it that relates to military assistance, though, you don't have any direct evidence from President Trump about that part of it, that's your two plus two part of the equation, right, the presumption. Correct?
RATCLIFFE: All right. And you understand also that others disagree. Yesterday we heard from Mr. Morrison, Ambassador Volker. They testified that they didn't see a quid pro quo. Do you understand that?
SONDLAND: I understand that that's what they said.
RATCLIFFE: OK, that reasonable people could look at all of this and come to different conclusions, correct?
RATCLIFFE: I yield back.
SCHIFF: Mr. Himes.
HIMES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ambassador, thank you for testifying. Ambassador, a couple things jump out at me in your testimony. In your opening statement, you said Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election, DNC server, and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States, and we know that these investigations were important to the president.
That last sentence in interesting. No conditionality, no modifiers. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States. Mr. Giuliani communicates in colorful and memorable terms. What did Mr. Giuliani say to you that caused you to say that he is expressing the desires of the President of the United States?
SONDLAND: Mr. Himes, when that was originally communicated, that was before I was in touch with Mr. Giuliani directly, so this all came through Mr. Volker and others.
HIMES: So Mr. Volker told you that he was expressing the desires of the President of the United States?
HIMES: And subsequently when you saw the July - the transcript of the July 25 conversation with President Zelensky, you put it all together and, yes, this is the desire of the President of the United States?
SONDLAND: After I saw the July 25 read out.
HIMES: Right, OK. Other thing that is interesting here, you are - you're - the theme of your testimony today is that everybody knew and signed off, which is a little different from what we've heard, right? We've heard this from others saying that your effort out there was irregular, it was shadow foreign policy, characterized as a drug deal. And by the way, that was not a Democratic characterization despite what Mr. Nunes says. That, of course, was the National Security Advisor of the United States characterizing it as a drug deal.
What confuses me is that you have said and testified, and it's in here, that the Secretary of State was not only aware but that he applauded you. Good work. Keep banging away. The Secretary of State if this had been irregular or a drug deal or shadow foreign policy, he would have been the one to put an end to it, and yet he did not, right?
SONDLAND: Well, the Secretary of State I think was taking into account the totality of what I had been working on, you know, globally and saying, you're doing a great job, including this.
HIMES: Right, OK. So he was aware of what you were doing and you're doing a great job includes this.
HIMES: So in some sense he was validating it rather than saying this was irregular, a shadow, or a drug deal.
SONDLAND: We never thought it was irregular. We thought it was in the center lane.
HIMES: And why do you think the Secretary of State though that?
SONDLAND: Why did he think...
HIMES: Why did he think that this was a worthy thing to do when so many senior people, including the national security advisor, though it was a drug deal?
SONDLAND: I don't know. You'd have to ask him.
HIMES: OK. To your knowledge, did he have communications with the president about this?
SONDLAND: I have no knowledge of his communications with the president
HIMES: OK. Let me take you to the July 26 call that we've talked a little bit about. You basically haven't disputed the - Mr. Holmes's characterization of that report, although perhaps the mention of Biden you don't recall that. I'm actually pretty confident we'll get a transcript of that call. A converseation in public between a high-profile ambassador and the President of the United States will be the top target not for one, but for many foreign intelligence services.
And because it's pretty sensitive stuff to this inquiry and pretty sensitive stuff because this information could be used to embarrass the president or leverage public officials, my guess is we're going to see the transcript. Our people are pretty good, and if other people have it, we're going to see this transcript.
Until then, all we've got is your recollection and the testimony of the other people there. So I'm curious about your frame of mind. This statement, the - Ambassador Sondland agreed that the president did not give a fig -- not the word used - about Ukraine. Is that a statement you might make? Do you believe that the president doesn't give a fig about Ukraine?
SONDLAND: Are you - Congressman, are you referring to the call or are you referring to my conversation...
HIMES: So Mr. Holmes recounts - and I'll read it to you - Ambassador Sondland agreed that the president did not give a fig about Ukraine. Ukraine - fig was not the word used there, and I'm asking you whether it's plausible that he might have heard that because I'm asking you whether you believe that the president does not give a fig about Ukraine.
SONDLAND: I don't - I think that's too strong. I think that based on the May 23 meeting, the president was down on Ukraine for the reasons mentioned and would need a lot of convincing, and that's why we're pushing so hard for the meeting between the president and President Zelensky because we thought once the two of them would meet his impression of Ukraine, his stock about Ukraine would go up.
HIMES: And what about this line, and Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant, quote, unquote, "big stuff that benefits the president." That's what you meant by big stuff. So again, we don't have the transcript. I suspect we will, but is that something you might say? Do you believe that the president really considers big stuff to be that which benefits him?
SONDLAND: I don't recall saying benefits him.
HIMES: No, I understand that. I'm not asking what you recalled. I'm asking whether it's plausible that you might have said that because you believe - I'm asking you what you believe right now - that the president doesn't give a fig about Ukraine and, in fact, cares about the big stuff that benefits the president. Do you believe that now?
SONDLAND: I really can't - I really can't opine.
HIMES: Wait, I'm not asking for your opinion. I'm asking for your beliefs. You...
SONDLAND: I don't understand your question. I want to answer your question. I just don't understand.
HIMES: Let me try one more time.
HIMES: Do you believe what is alleged what you said on this phone call that the president cares primarily about stuff - the big stuff that benefits the president? Is that a believable...
SONDLAND: I don't think the president said that on his - on the phone call. I don think the president said that to me on the phone. I was talking about...
SCHIFF: The time of the gentleman...
SONDLAND: ... A$AP Rocky, and he mentioned investigations. I don't know - I don't know why you're...
SCHIFF: Time of the gentleman has expired. Mr. Conaway.
CONAWAY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield six minutes to Mr. Jordan.
JORDAN: I thank the gentleman for yielding. Ambassador, when did it happen?
SONDLAND: When did what happen?
JORDAN: The announcement. When did President Zelensky announce that the investigation was going to happen? On page 14 you said this, was there a quid pro quo? Today's - your opening statement, as I testified previously with regard to requested White House call, White House meeting, the answer is yes, that there needed to be a public statement from President Zelensky. When the Chairman asked you about the security assistance dollars, you said there needed to be a public announcement from Zelensky. So I'm asking you a simple question, when did that happen?
SONDLAND: It never did.
JORDAN: It never did. They got the call July 25th. They got the meeting, not in the White House but in New York on September 25th, they got the money on September 11th. When did the meeting happen again?
SONDLAND: It never did.
JORDAN: You don't know who was in the meeting?
SONDLAND: Which meeting are you referring to?
JORDAN: The meeting that never happened. Who was in it?
You know the people -
SONDLAND: The people that weren't there.
JORDAN: You know how Zelensky - you know how Zelensky announced it? Did he tweet it? Did he do a press statement? Did he do a press conference? Do you know how that happened? I mean you got all three of them wrong. They get the call. They get the meeting. They get the money. It's not two plus two, it's zero for three. I mean - I've never seen anything like this and you told Mr. Castor that the president never told you that the announcement had to happen to get anything; in fact, he didn't just not tell you that, he explicitly said the opposite.
The gentleman from Texas just read it. You said to the President of the United States, what do you want from Ukraine. The president, I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do the right thing. I want him to do what he ran on. What did he run on, Mr. - or Ambassador Sondland?
JORDAN: And dealing with corruption, right?
SONDLAND: That's right.
JORDAN: Mr. Castor raised another important point. Why didn't you put that statement in your opening statement? I think you said you couldn't fit it in. Is that right? You said we might be here for 46 minutes instead of 45 minutes.
SONDLAND: It wasn't - it wasn't purposeful; trust me.
JORDAN: It wasn't purposeful?
JORDAN: Couldn't fit it in a 23-page opener? The most important statement about the subject matter at hand, the President of the United States in a direct conversation with you about the issue at hand and the president says, let me read it one more time. What do you want from Ukraine Mr. President? I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want this new guy, brand new guy in politics, his party just took over. I want Zelensky to do the right thing. I want him to run on and do what he ran on which is deal with corruption and you can't find time to fit that in a 23-page opening statement. Do you know what a quid pro quo is?
SONDLAND: I do.
JORDAN: This for that. Right? It looks to me like Ukraine got that three times and there was no this. We didn't do anything, or excuse me, they didn't have to do anything. I've never seen anything like this - and this is - this is - when the call came out. You all remember this, when the call came out, everyone said, we're going to quid pro quo. There's going to be - that was what was in the call and of course -of course that didn't happen. That didn't happen.
Remember what the complaint said? Remember what the memo said of the whistleblower? This call was frightening, this call was scary, all of those things? None of that materialized. None of that materialized. I yield back.
SCHIFF: Ms. Sewell.
SEWELL: Thank you Mr. Chairman. I'd like to dig a little deeper, this quid pro quo. Did you not say in your opening statement and in previous testimony in a closed-door hearing that you thought there was a quid pro quo.
SONDLAND: I thought the quid pro quo was the White House visit in return for the 2016 DNC server and Burisma investigation and that was...
SEWELL: When you heard - when you heard Burisma, you did not see that as code for Biden - the Bidens?
SONDLAND: I did not.
SEWELL: When did you even know that? Was it - are you - is your testimony that you only realized that Burisma included the Bidens when the readout came out in September 25th?
SONDLAND: No my testimony wasn't specific as to the date because I really don't recall the date. It was very late in the game though.
SONDLAND: I - I don't recall the date.
SEWELL: So if I told you that the legal definition of bribery was an event of offering, giving, soliciting or receiving of any item of value as a means of influencing an action of an individual holding a public or legal duty. Do you believe that not only was it quid pro quo but it was bribery?
SONDLAND: I'm not a lawyer and I'm not going to characterize what something was or wasn't legally.
SEWELL: You also said in your opening statement that Secretary Perry and yourself as well as Ambassador Volker worked with Giuliani on the Ukraine matter at an express direction of the president. Is that right?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
SEWELL: You also go on to say that we did not want to work with Giuliani simply put, we played the hand that we were dealt. What did you mean by that and more importantly what did you think would happen if you did not play that hand?
SONDLAND: I think what you're asking me is, well you asked it.
SEWELL: I did ask it.
SONDLAND: What would happen if we didn't? I - it was very fragile with Ukraine at the time. There was no new ambassador. The old ambassador had left. There was a new president and we thought it was very, very important to shore up the relationship.
SEWELL: In fact you actually said you go on to say, we all understood that if we refuse to work with Mr. Giuliani we would lose an important opportunity to cement relationships with the United States and Ukraine. So quote, we followed the president's orders. Did you see it as a directive?
SONDLAND: I saw it as the only pathway to moving forward on Ukraine.
SEWELL: So you would say that the efforts that Mr. Giuliani was undertaking became a part of the formal Ukraine-U.S. policy.
SONDLAND: I can't opine on that. All I can tell you is the president wanted us to communicate with Mr. Giuliani ...
SEWELL: But you went on to say that you - in your opening testimony that the suggestion that you engage in some quote, irregular or rogue diplomacy is absolutely false. So if - if in fact, what Giuliani was doing was OK and proper which was actually what you said. Initially you all thought that what he was doing was not improper, right?
SONDLAND: We did not think it was improper and when I referred to the fact that I was not engaging in rogue diplomacy. By definition rogue diplomacy would have meant I would not have involved the leadership of the State Department and the White House.
SEWELL: So are you saying that everyone in the chain of command knew about Giuliani's efforts to try to get the investigations into Burisma and to - and - and - I'm just trying to figure out what you thought you were actually opining to.
SONDLAND: Look the president directed us to work with Mr. Giuliani and the leadership of the State Department were - were knowledgeable as was the NSC that we were working with Mr. Giuliani...
SEWELL: What's interesting is that Ambassador Taylor testified that he knew nothing about it and clearly he would be in the chain of information if he was the Ambassador to Ukraine. At the end of the day sir, with all due respect, you're the Ambassador to the European Union. Why would he not know about it?
SONDLAND: I don't know. You should...
SEWELL: He was the one who said that there was both a regular and irregular channel.
SONDLAND: He should have known about it.
SEWELL: So although we don't want - although you said that you did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani, you in fact did work with him.
SONDLAND: That's correct.
SEWELL: And do you think that the - the essence of what he was trying to achieve was accomplished?
SONDLAND: I don't know what he was trying to achieve.
SEWELL: You clearly had to have known, sir. If you think that this was actually "going down the center lane," is what you said. It was clearly important that we work with Mr. Giuliani to get what the president asked for because it was a directive and an order. Surely you must know whether or not mission was accomplished?
SONDLAND: Well, I know what Mr. Giuliani communicated to us, which is --
SEWELL: And you thought that that was totally fine? Did you really think that it was OK for --
SONDLAND: Can I answer your question?
SONDLAND: You asked what Mr. Giuliani was trying to achieve --
SEWELL: No, I asked whether you thought that it was right for Mr. Giuliani to want to accomplish the efforts that he was involved in which was to get them to investigate Burisma and the 2016 election, as you said.
SONDLAND: All I can testify to is what I know that Mr. Giuliani either told me directly or told Ambassador Volker and others that was relayed to me.
SEWELL: Thank you, I yield back.
SCHIFF: Mr. Turner.
TURNER: Ambassador Sondland, I want to walk through some of the portions of your testimony because sometimes you seem to make direct connections, and sometimes they seem to be dead ends.
I kind of want to clear up one of the dead ends and one of the direct connections. Yesterday Ambassador Volker, who I consider to be very talented, and a man of integrity. And I believe you think he's a man of integrity, correct?
SONDLAND: I do.
TURNER: He testified that the president of the United States did not tie (ph) either a meeting with the president, a phone call, or any aid to investigations of Burisma, 2016, or the Bidens -- that the president did not do that.
And you've testified that the president did not tell you that he tied them either, correct?
SONDLAND: I did testify to that, although when Ambassador Volker and I were working on the statement and negotiating with the Ukrainians it was clear to Ambassador Volker that a meeting would not happen without the Burisma and 2016. That was very clear to Ambassador Volker.
TURNER: And how do you know that? What did he say to you? Because he says that was not clear to him. In fact, he says that's not the case -- he was working on that, he knows that that's what the president wanted. But he didn't have it as a this was a requirement.
SONDLAND: Oh, I strongly disagree with that portion of his testimony. It was absolutely a requirement, or we would have just had the meeting and been done with it.
TURNER: What about the aid? He says that they weren't tied -- that the aid was not tied --
SONDLAND: And I didn't say they were conclusively tied either, I said I was presuming it.
TURNER: OK then, so the president never told you they were tied.
SONDLAND: That's correct.
TURNER: So your testimony and his testimony is consistent in the president did not tie aid to investigations?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
TURNER: OK. He also testified that he spoke to Giuliani, and that Giuliani did not relate that the -- that he was tying on behalf of the president, or on the president's behalf aid. And then in fact Giuliani never said to him that aid was tied to investigations.
Now the question I have for you is, did you ever have a conversation with Giuliani did not involve Volker, because your testimony is a lot of "we" and "us." So did you -- do you and Giuliani have a separate conference, a separate phone call where Giuliani told you that the aid was tied?
Because Volker says, and if he was on all your phone calls -- Volker says that never happened.
SONDLAND: No, I did have a few conversations, I don't recall how many because I don't have the records -- with Mr. Giuliani directly, when Mr. Volker wasn't available. And I don't believe --
TURNER: And -- did Giuliani say to you --
SONDLAND: (Inaudible) --
TURNER: Go ahead, what were you going to say?
SONDLAND: I don't believe I testified that Mr. Giuliani told me that aid was tied.
TURNER: Well, I think -- see, this is part of the problem, Ambassador Sondland, and I just want to walk you through this is you've said to us every one was in the loop, and everyone knew. Now hold on a second -- hold on a second.
I have listened to you today, as a lot of people -- and not only are your answers somewhat circular, frequently you've contradicted yourself in your own answer. Now the text messages and e-mails that you put up there. Kurt Volker walked us through and he has a completely different understanding of what you were saying than what you're saying you were saying.
So I'm a little confused as to how everyone's in the loop because they're -- if Giuliani didn't give you any express statement then it can't be that you believed this from Giuliani. Now let me tell you right now, because -- is Donald Trump your friend?
SONDLAND: No, we're not friends. I -- we have a --
TURNER: Do you like the president?
TURNER: OK. Well, you know, after you testified Chairman Schiff ran out and gave a press conference and said, he gets to impeach the president of the United States because of your testimony. And if you pull up CNN today right now their banner says "Sondland ties Trump to withholding aid," is that your testimony today, Mr. -- Ambassador Sondland, that you have evidence that Donald Trump tied the investigations to the aid? Because I don't think you're saying that.
SONDLAND: I've said repeatedly, Congressman, I was presuming. I also said that President Trump --
TURNER: So no one told you. Not just the president -- Giuliani didn't tell you, Mulvaney didn't tell you -- nobody -- Pompeo didn't tell you? Nobody else on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying aid to these investigations, is that correct?
SONDLAND: I think I already testified to that --
TURNER: No, answer the question. Is it correct, no one on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying this aid to the investigations? Because if your answer is yes, then the Chairman's wrong and the headline on CNN is wrong. No one on this planet told you that President Trump was tying aid to investigations, yes or no?
TURNER: So, you really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations?
SONDLAND: Other than my own presumption.
TURNER: Which is nothing. I mean, that's what I don't understand. So you know what hearsay evidence is, Ambassador? Hearsay is when I testify what someone else told me. Do you know what made up testimony is? Made up testimony is when I just presume it.
I mean, you're just assuming all of these things and then you're giving them the evidence that they're running out and doing press conferences and CNN's headline is saying that you're saying the president of the United States should be impeached because he tied to investigations and you don't know that, correct?
SONDLAND: I never said the president of the United States should be impeached.
TURNER: Nope, but you did -- you have left people with the confusing impression that you were giving testimony that you did not. You do not have any evidence that the president of the United States was tied to withholding aid from Ukraine in exchange for investigations. I yield back.
SCHIFF: Mr. Carson.
CARSON: Thank you, Chairman. Ambassador Sondland, I really want to better understand Mr. Giuliani's role in carrying out the president's demand for investigations. So on May 23, sir, during a meeting in the Oval Office to discuss the future of U.S.-Ukraine relations, President Trump told you and others to "talk to Rudy." Do I have that right, sir?
CARSON: Mr. Ambassador, did you listen to the president and talk to Rudy, sir?
SONDLAND: Did I talk to Rudy?
CARSON: Yes, sir.
CARSON: What did you understand to be Mr. Giuliani's relationship with President Trump?
SONDLAND: I understood he was the president's personal lawyer.
CARSON: What did you believe to be Mr. Giuliani -- what did you believe Mr. Giuliani was doing in Ukraine for President Trump, sir?
SONDLAND: I don't know.
CARSON: Ambassador Sondland in August of this year, you and Ambassador Volker spoke with Mr. Giuliani about a draft statement to be issued by President Zelensky. During those discussions it was Mr. Giuliani who suggested, in fact insisted that the statement include specific language about Burisma, correct sir?
CARSON: And he insisted that the statement include the mention of the 2016 elections. And Mr. Volker transmitted this message to a top Ukrainian official, right sir?
CARSON: Mr. Ambassador and this statement was part of the deliverable that President Trump wanted, correct sir?
CARSON: Do you acknowledge sir was pushing the Ukrainian to investigate Burisma 2016 or the Bidens part of some official State Department Policies, sir?
SONDLAND: I never testified that we were pushing anyone to investigate the Bidens, I said Burisma.
CARSON: You were involved in Ukrainian Policy, right sir?
SONDLAND: I told you what my role was, which was quite limited and focused.
CARSON: Was it you understanding Mr. Ambassador that Ukraine Policy should involve investigations into Americans or debunk conspiracy theories about the 2016 Election , sir?
SONDLAND: What I testified was that in order to get President Zelensky a White House visit Mr. Giuliani conveyed the notion that President Trump wanted these announcements to happen.
CARSON; Of course it was not. It was part of the President's political agenda and it done to benefit the President personally and politically. We're you following the President's orders Mr. Ambassador?
SONDLAND: I was following the President's direction to speak with Mr. Giuliani.
CARSON: Thank you, sir. Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
SCHIFF: I thank the gentleman for yielding. Just wanted to point out a couple of things Ambassador in response to my colleagues. My colleagues seem to be under the impression that unless the President spoke the words Ambassador Sondland I am bribing Ukrainian President that there's no evidence of bribery. If he didn't say Ambassador Sondland I'm telling you I'm not going to give the aid unless they do this, that there's no evidence of a quid pro quo on military aid. But nonetheless (ph) Ambassador you've given us a lot of evidence of precisely that conditionality of both The White House meeting and the Military Assistance.
You've told us Ambassador have you not that you emailed the Secretary of State and said that if these investigations were announced the new Justice Person was put in place that the Ukrainians were prepared give The President what he wants. And that would break the log jam. You testified and showed us documents about this, have you not Ambassador?
SONDLAND: I have.
SCHIFF: And in your written statement you say that the log jam you're referring to includes the log jam on security assistance, correct?
SONDLAND: Correct, as my presumption.
SCHIFF: Yes. And we also have seen and you testified that you have also seen Ambassador or rather Acting Chief of Staff Mulvaney, himself acknowledge that the military aid was withheld in part over the investigation into 2016 that you talked about. Do you reference that as well, correct?
SCHIFF: Now they also seem to say that well they got the money, the money may have been conditioned but they got the money. Yes, they got caught. They got caught. Now they still don't have The White House meeting, they made no statement, they got no meeting. The statement on the investigations was the condition to get the meeting. They didn't make the statement they got no meeting. But they got caught. You're aware aren't you Ambassador that two days before the aid was lifted, this inexplicable (ph) was lifted, Congress announced it was investigating this scheme. You're aware of that aren't you Ambassador?
SONDLAND: I am now, yes.
SCHIFF: Dr. Wenstrup.
BRAD WENSTRUP: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman I'd like to address something. A claim that you made this morning. Claiming that Republicans deny Russian attempts to influence our elections. That is false and you know it. And this committee the Intel Committee not the Impeachment Committee but in this committee time and time again we all agree that Russia has tried to influence American elections as far back as the Soviet Union. So I wish you would quit, stop, would quit making that comment.
Yesterday we established with Mr. Volker something quite obvious. More than on country can try to influence our elections. See, Mr. Schiff, we didn't agree with you Russian collusion narrative, your DNC Clinton Campaign coup attempt. That incurred in conjunction with members of the FBI and DOJ and foreign sources. Something that you have conveniently ignored as Chairman of the Intelligence Committee. As you became the Chairman of the Impeachment Committee. But in this process today I'm interested in facts, I'm not a prosecutor or a defense attorney. I'm not an attorney like Mr. Turner.
Ambassador Sondland you honestly have used the words presumed, presumption, presuming some form of the verb to presume repeatedly today. And today you said that was the problem Mr. Goldman no one every told me the aid was tied to anything. I was presuming it was. You see a mathematic fact two plus two does equal four. But in reality two presumptions plus two presumptions does not equal even one fact. And the fact is The President did tell you Ambassador Sondland no quid pro quo. That's a fact. And another fact no quid pro quo occurred. At this time I'd like to yield to Mr. Conway.
MICHAEL CONWAY: Thank you, gentleman. Mr. Chairman I'd like to unanimously consent to enter into the record Washington Post article from today that's headlined "Schiff's claim that the whistleblower has a statutory right to anonymity" received three pinocchios. Pinocchios meaning that well we all know what pinocchios mean. The interpretation of that would that two interpretations, one that my colleagues on the other side would (ph) argue as they were trying to protect the whistleblower. And equally valid and creditable interpretation is that there's something to hide. And that this unlevel playing field that been created by the Chairman insistence that there is a statutory right to anonymity maintains that unlevel playing field and the advantages that give them.
Now, Mr. Chairman, also announces at every hearing that he will not tolerate and I agree with him, any witness intimidation, any threats or any issues of trying to bully a witness. Ambassador Sondland have you, your family or your businesses received any threats or reprisals or attempts to harm you in any way.
CONWAY: Could you give us an example or two.
SONDLAND: We have countless emails apparently to my wife our properties are being picketed and boycotted.
CONWAY: Let's explore that one. Our own colleague, Congressman Earl Blumenauer from Oregon has in fact called for a boycott of your hotel chains or your hotels in Oregon. I assuming he believes that that will harm you to the point that you will then be bullied into doing whatever he wants done. No my colleagues and I know that using the bullying, Earl Blumenauer in the same sentence is a bit over the top. But nevertheless he intended to harm you and your businesses. Is that what you would surmise?
SONDLAND: That's my understanding.
CONWAY: And that the boycotts, his call for boycott gave rise to demonstrations in front of your hotels, it made your customers have to weave in and out of the demonstrators to try to actually get into the hotels.
SONDLAND: As I understand, they're going on as we speak.
CONWAY: Well the words are better put by a couple other Oregonians. It says Congressman Blumenauer you're responsible (ph) attempt to hurt a homegrown business that supports hundreds of jobs in our local economy is just shameful and ought to be an outrage to all Oregonians. Some fellow named McDermott (ph). And then a lady named Ellen Carmichael (ph) who I believe works for you. Said, we are saddened to have our Congressman Earl Blumenauer call for a boycott that would put the livelihoods of thousands of his constituents in peril, the attack on our employees is unwarranted. And I couldn't agree more, Mr. - Mr. Ambassador.
Mr. Blumenauer should not be using the vast influences that we, as members of Congress, has to bully you and your businesses and to harm the hundreds or thousands of employees that - that - that operate in your business by trying to take business away from you to force you into doing something that - that - that they wanted you to do, which you actually testified and you've actually done that.
But that's a shame for that and I'm hopeful that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will join me in saying Mr. Blumenauer, you really shouldn't be using your congressional influence to try to bully and threaten a witness before these proceedings and that it's just wrong, and will look forward to my colleagues response and I yield back.
SONDLAND: Yeah, thank you, Congressman.
SCHIFF: Ms. Speier?
SPEIER: I - I was somewhat humored by your request that Mr. Blumenauer not bully to get something done when all we're talking about is the President bullying to get something he wants done. But having said that, I'd like to clarify one point about the whistleblower protection from the article that Mr. Conaway just provided.
The law reads expressly restricts the Inspector General's Office from disclosing whistleblowers identities. It says, quote, "the Inspector General shall not disclose the identity of the employee without the consent of the employee, unless the Inspector General determines that such disclosure is unavoidable during the course of the investigation or the disclosure is made to an official of the Department of Justice responsible for determining whether a prosecution should be undertaken," unquote.
That appears to be the lone statutory restriction on disclosing a whistleblower's identity, applicable only to the Inspector General's Office. We found no court rulings on whether whistleblowers have a right to anonymity under the ICWPA or related statutes.
(Inaudible) said it is nonetheless a best practice to avoid disclosure of the Ukraine whistleblower's identity, given the concerns about retaliation. McCullough said we've stepped into bizarro-land when senior policymakers are trying to yank a CIA employee into the public spotlight in retaliation for making a whistleblowering (sic) - blowing complaint, especially when they are credible threats to that employee's personal safety.
And I don't know why our colleagues on the other side of the aisle ...
(UNKNOWN): Will the gentlelady yield - will the gentlelady yield?
SPEIER: No, I'm afraid I only have three minutes and I have some other issues, but thank you ...
(UNKNOWN): Well the end of the article does go through that and it also says three Pinocchios in spite of that conversation.
SPEIER: Well Mr. - the President of the United States has five Pinocchios on a daily basis, so let's not go there.
Ambassador Sondland, in your deposition, you lamented, quote "I was truly disappointed that the State Department prevented me at the last minute from testifying earlier on October 8th, 2019, but your issuance of a subpoena has supported my appearance here today and I'm pleased to provide the following testimony."
So it is clear that the White House, the State Department did not want you to testify at that deposition. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
SPEIER: And since then, you have on numerous occasions during your opening statement today, indicated that you have not been able to access documents in the State Department. Is that correct?
SPEIER: So you have been hampered in your ability to provide testimony to this committee. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: I've been hampered to provide completely accurate testimony without the benefit of those documents.
SPEIER: In terms of your conversations with the President of the United States, what percentage of your conversations were about Ukraine as compared to your other duties?
SONDLAND: I don't recall.
SPEIER: Well in - you've only had six conversations or seven conversations with the President, you said. So ...
SONDLAND: About Ukraine, I think.
SPEIER: So you've had many other conversations?
SONDLAND: Oh yeah, about unrelated - completely unrelated matters.
SPEIER: So how many conversations with the President of the United States have you had?
SONDLAND: Again, I don't want to give you a number because it's going to be wrong if I don't have the records.
SPEIER: Is it less than 20?
SONDLAND: It's probably in that range.
SPEIER: All right. Would you say that delay in military aid and the lack of a meeting in the White House works to the benefit of Russia?
SONDLAND: Repeat the question, please?
SPEIER: Would you say that the delayed - delay in - in military aid to Ukraine and the reluctance to have a White House meeting has a benefit to Russia?
SONDLAND: I think it could be looked that way, yes - looked at that way.
SPEIER: All right. I want to just speak very briefly about code. When the - when Michael Cohen was before the Oversight Committee, he was asked - he suggests the President's sometimes communicates his wishes indirectly. For example, you say quote "Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress, that's not how he operates." It would be different, he said - the nice - he doesn't give you questions, he doesn't give you orders, he speaks in code and I understand the code because I've been around him for a decade.
So do you think that the President was speaking in code when he would talk about wanting investigations?
SONDLAND: I don't - I can't characterize how the President was speaking. Every conversation I've had with the President has been fairly direct and straightforward.
SPEIER: All right. With that, I yield back.
SCHIFF: Mr. Stewart?
STEWART: Mr. Chairman, I have a unanimous consent request.
SCHIFF: You may state your request.
STEWART: The DOE response to Ambassador Sondland's comments before the House Intelligence Committee, attributable to the DOE Secretary of - of - the Press Secretary, "Ambassador Sondland's testimony today misrepresented both Secretary Perry's interaction and with Rudy Giuliani and direction the Secretary received from President Trump. As previously stated, Secretary Perry spoke to Rudy Giuliani only once at the President's request. No one else was on that call. At no point before, during or after the phone call did the words 'Biden' or 'Burisma' ever come up in the presence of the - of Secretary Perry."
Again, I ask that that be entered into the record.
SCHIFF: I - without objection, although I would note that they've also refused to come and testify under oath.
STEWART: The American people expect a lot of things out of politics. Arguments, protests, we certainly see that, clash of principles and ideas, I think sometimes eventually they would actually like to see some compromise but I think something they expect above everything else, fundamental, they expect there is a sense of fairness about it.
And I want to read part of a text I received from someone that I have tremendous respect for. Just a few hours ago, she wrote "crafting a story to hurt another human being can never be right. The means of destroying and hurting another individual just does not justify the end and politics does not give anyone a free pass to destroy other people."
Now you can say a lot about the treatment of President Trump over the last few years but I think one thing you cannot argue is that it has been fair. There were those calling for his impeachment literally before he was inaugurated.
For two and a half years, we were told every single day he has betrayed our country, he is a Russian asset, he has committed treason, accusations that we know now are not true and for which we never had any evidence to support that.
He was accused of obstruction and now here we are actually impeaching the President over -- well first, quid pro quo, until we found out that didn't poll very well with focus groups. And then it was bribery, until virtually every witness before us who was asked a question said they had no evidence of bribery, and now it's extortion.
And again, the American people expect some sense of fairness. And when Nancy Pelosi goes before she has seen a shred of evidence, that she announces the president has betrayed his oath of office, he has betrayed the American people, he (inaudible) national security without seeing any evidence.
Again, the American people say, well what is fair about that. So, the question before us now is again extortion, that's the -- that's the latest version of the charges against the president. And I'm not an attorney, extortion sounds pretty scary, it's kind of serious, I had to look it up what it means. It means obtaining money or property by threat to a victim's property or loved ones. Mr. Ambassador, I'm going to read you a couple quotes from President Zelensky and then ask you a question.
First, from a Ukrainian press release, Donald Trump is convinced that the new Ukrainian government will be able to quickly improve the image of Ukraine, complete investigation of corruption, which inhibited the interaction with Ukraine and the USA. Does that sound like President Zelensky is being bribed or extorted in that comment?
SONDLAND: As I testified previously, I'm not a lawyer either, and I don't want to characterize any --
STEWART: Well, OK --
SONDLAND: -- legal terms. I really don't.
STEWART: -- that's fine, I think most people would read that and say, that doesn't sound like he's under severe pressure. He makes it very clear in his own words then, Ukrainian President Zelensky told reporters during a joint press conference with Donald Trump that he was not pressured by the U.S. president. Again, I was not pressured. He used another time. There was no blackmail. I would ask you, do you think he felt like he was being extorted by the president based on these comments?
SONDLAND: I really think that's for the Committee and the Congress to --
STEWART: Well, you know what, Mr. Ambassador, it's really for the American people.
SONDLAND: I agree.
STEWART: And the American people aren't stupid. And the American people can hear that, and they can say, I don't think he was under duress, I don't think he was being extorted, I don't think there was an exchange of a bribe.
And I would conclude with this last observation, it is common for our national policy to withhold aide for various reasons. You know that's true as an Ambassador. Is that not true?
SONDLAND: That's true.
STEWART: It's frequent, isn't it? That we will withhold aide for various reasons.
SONDLAND: That's correct.
STEWART: It is a policy. I mean, for example, President Bush did it. He suspended military aide to 35 countries over their lack of support for the international criminal court. I bet that helped his political standing back home, but I don't remember anyone suggesting we should impeach him for it.
President Trump did it last year with Afghanistan over corruption. We did it with Pakistan over much the same thing, and no one suggested that we impeach them for it. This is a common occurrence in international relations. It is hardly an impeachable offense.
SCHIFF: The time of the gentleman has expired. Mr. Quigley.
QUIGLEY: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Thank you, sir, for being here today. There are things we can agree with our colleagues on, things we can disagree. I can agree that with my colleague that we should turn over all the -- the documents should be turned over.
Mr. Ambassador, I think you agree that it would have helped your testimony, helped you understood that the State Department, the White House hasn't turned over a single document. The White House want (ph) this -- the president's April phone conversation, but millions more out there. So on that we can agree.
On others we can disagree as to particularly as it relates to the whistleblower. It distresses me because I begin to wonder about the motivations. In the final analysis, the way I look at this is, if we were investigating an arson, you all would indict the person who pulled the fire alarm. That person's job is done, and we've seen the smoke and we've seen the fire.
Whatever the whistleblower did doesn't change the president's actions, doesn't change the president's own words, which are in our testimony or in our body of evidence. It doesn't change Mr. Mulvaney's own words. It doesn't change the body of evidence here. All it does is put this person at risk.
Back to the documents and what you know, and clearly Mr. Ambassador, you seem to have your memory jogged by documents. Let's talk about May 23, and see if this one helps you.
Senator Johnson, in referencing the May 23 meeting in his letter, sir, says, I have no recollection the press -- and -- president saying that during the meeting. It is entirely possible he did. Because I do not work for the president, if made the comment, it simply did not register with me.
He also says, I also remember Sondland staying behind to talk to the president as the rest of the delegation left the Oval Office. Sir, do you recall this later conversation and what you and the president discussed?
SONDLAND: I do.
QUIGLEY: And what was that?
SONDLAND: Just, again, recapping what -- it was sort of a free-for-all conversation and I wanted to tie down exactly what -- what we agreed to do and what we didn't.
QUIGLEY: And in -- in that subsequent he reinforced, talk to Rudy and --
SONDLAND: Talk to Rudy. You guys should work on this.
QUIGLEY: Did he -- did he go into any more detail about what that meant?
QUIGLEY: Just said, talk to Rudy?
SONDLAND: It was a very short conversation.
QUIGLEY: And the second part, you said there was something besides just, talk to Rudy?
SONDLAND: Yes, that -- to reconfirm that the three of us would be working on the Ukraine file and so on.
QUIGLEY: And back to Rudy in this seemingly contradictory passage -- messages here, you now recall the prerequisite mentioned in the July 10 meeting, right? That when you were having this discussion, the first meeting in John Bolton's office, sir --
QUIGLEY: -- that you referenced that there was a condition? Correct?
SONDLAND: I believe someone else testified that I raised that, and I didn't dispute that testimony, that I said, it's my understanding that in order to get this visit done there needs to be an announcement about -- I don't know if I said investigations or said specifically Burisma and 2016.
QUIGLEY: Sure. But in your opening you mentioned, at the very same time that apparently there was a meeting with Rudy Giuliani and the message you got was underscored, very concerned about what Lutsenko told them, that according to R.G., Rudy Giuliani, the Z-POTUS meeting will not happen, which is not a condition. It's just not going to happen. Your understanding of the difference here?
SONDLAND: I think what you're -- what you're saying is, this meeting I was talking about in my opening statement was apparently a meeting that Rudy Giuliani was having --
QUIGLEY: At the same time?
SONDLAND: -- at the same time in Ukraine.
SONDLAND: Unbeknownst to us.
QUIGLEY: Right. But, he's saying something different. He's saying, it's not going to happen, there's notice in here that it's conditioned in any way.
SONDLAND: Well, that was Ambassador Volker's point. This was really an exchange with Ambassador Taylor and Ambassador Volker.
SONDLAND: Ambassador Volker is saying, don't let other people speak for the U.S. government, that was his point.
QUIGLEY: But if Rudy is following the directions and it's -- and he's saying what he's saying here, and you're also following directions, right, and you're saying it's a condition, who's giving you the instructions to say what you're saying?
SONDLAND: That's why we thought it was problematic to work with Mr. Giuliani.
QUIGLEY: Exactly. But who did you work with to say the things that you said? Did you have conversations with the chief of staff, with Secretary Pompeo to say what you were saying? You didn't just say this on your own.
SONDLAND: Are you -- are you -- are you talking about in the July 10th meeting?
QUIGLEY: That's correct.
SONDLAND: Yes, with -- and with Ambassador Volker because at that point Ambassador Volker was the one in touch with Mr. Giuliani, not me.
QUIGLEY: But you had no direct conversations with Mr. Mulvaney about this or Secretary Pompeo to make this condition statement?
SONDLAND: Only the text and emails that I've already reviewed.
QUIGLEY: Thank you. My time is up.
SCHIFF: Ms. Stefanik.
STEFANIK: Thank you, Ambassador Sondland, for your service and I also want to thank you for your recognition in your opening statement of your hardworking staff at the U.S. mission to the E.U.
Mr. Sondland, you testified that you never received any direct confirmation or specific information as to why there was a hold on aid.
SONDLAND: That's correct.
STEFANIK: And in fact, you testified, quote, President Trump never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on the investigations, end quote.
SONDLAND: That's correct.
STEFANIK: You said quote, never heard those words from the president, correct?
STEFANIK: Instead you testified that in your September 9th call with President Trump, the president said quote, no quid pro quo. I want nothing. I want nothing. I want President Zelensky to do the right thing. Do what he ran on. End quote. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
STEFANIK: And the fact is the aid was given to you Ukraine without any announcement of new investigations.
SONDLAND: That's correct.
STEFANIK: And President Trump did in fact meet with President Zelensky in September at the United Nations, correct?
SONDLAND: He did.
STEFANIK: And there was no announcement investigations before this meeting?
STEFANIK: And there was no announcement of investigations after this meeting.
SONDLAND: That's right.
STEFANIK: And you've been very clear when Chairman Schiff has asked you broadly about investigations, you've corrected that to say specifically your understanding of investigations are investigation into the 2016 elections and investigations into Burisma, is that correct?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
STEFANIK: And are you aware that during the Obama administration, the U.S. partnered with the U.K. and Ukraine on an investigation into the owner of Burisma as part of Ukraine's anti-corruption efforts?
SONDLAND: I became aware of it today during the hearing.
STEFANIK: Other witnesses have testified but yes. And in fact, the Obama administration State Department was concerned about the potential appearance of conflict of interest with Hunter Biden serving on the board of Burisma because they raised this as they were preparing Ambassador Yovanovitch for her Senate confirmation. Are you aware of that?
SONDLAND: I'm not aware of it.
STEFANIK: She testified and I -- when I asked her that question both in the open hearing and the closed deposition, and I've asked most of our witnesses this and every witness I've asked has said yes. And I want to ask you this today. Do you believe that Hunter Biden having a position on the board of Burisma has the potential appearance of a conflict of interest?
SONDLAND: I don't want to characterize Hunter Biden's service on the board one way or another. I just don't know enough.
STEFANIK: So you disagree with every other witness that has answered yes, there is a potential appearance of a conflict of interest.
SONDLAND: Well, you asked if there was a conflict or an appearance ...
STEFANIK: A potential -- my quote was the potential appearance of a conflict of interest.
SONDLAND: I didn't hear the word appearance. Well, clearly it's an appearance of a conflict.
STEFANIK: Correct. Clearly it is an appearance of conflict of interest. Again, this is something that every witness has answered yes to or agreed with it could have a potential appearance and yet we are not allowed to call Hunter Biden to answer questions in front of this committee. Thank you again for your truthful testimony today. And I yield back.
SONDLAND: Thank you.
SCHIFF: Mr. Swalwell.
SWALWELL: Ambassador Sondland, you were told by the president and others to not show up. You showed up, I think that says a lot about you and I think history will look kindly on you doing that. But there are consequences to that.
And just a couple hours ago President Trump was asked about you. And he said I don't know him well. I have not spoken to him much. This is not a man I know well. Is that true?
SONDLAND: It really depends on what you mean by know well. We are not close friends, no. We have a professional, cordial working relationship.
SWALWELL: And in that working relationship he knows who you are?
SWALWELL: And he has spoken to you often.
SONDLAND: What's often?
SWALWELL: Well, you said at least 20 times.
SONDLAND: OK. If that's often, then it's often.
SWALWELL: And you donated a million dollars to his inaugural committee, is that right?
SONDLAND: I bought a VVIP ticket to the inauguration.
SWALWELL: That's a lot of money, isn't it.
SONDLAND: It's a lot of money.
SWALWELL: And after that, the president makes you ambassador to the European Union. Eventually the ambassador to Ukraine is removed. And as you told us in your deposition, you become a central figure as it relates to Ukraine. That's a pretty big responsibility, right.
SONDLAND: Well, I don't know that I said I was a central figure. I was one of several people who were tasked to work on the Ukraine file.
SWALWELL: And would you ever, in that big responsibility, take any actions that were not authorized by President Trump?
SONDLAND: Well, by President Trump or the leadership of the State Department.
SWALWELL: Were you ever hauled into the leadership of the State Department for any actions you were taken -- you had taken around your work on Ukraine?
SWALWELL: As to Rudy Giuliani, on May 23rd the president told you, talk to Rudy. You talked to him a couple times. You -- as you told us in September, talk to the president a couple times. Did the president ever say to you stop talking to Rudy?
SWALWELL: Did he (ph) ever say don't any longer talk to Rudy?
SWALWELL: On Ukraine you said that you were playing the hand you were dealt. President Trump was the dealer, wasn't he?
SONDLAND: President Trump was what?
SWALWELL: The dealer. In your metaphor you were playing the hand you were dealt, the dealer is President Trump. Is that right?
SONDLAND: I'll -- I'll recharacterize you question by saying we followed the direction of the president because that was the only pathway to working with Ukraine.
SWALWELL: On page four of your testimony you said given what we know -- given what we knew at the time, what we were asked to do did not appear to be wrong. And you would agree now, Ambassador; knowing what you know now, what you did not know at the time, there are some things around Ukraine that were wrong.
SONDLAND: I agree.
SWALWELL: So let's take out any leveraging of security assistance of the Ukrainians and a White House visit; would you agree that it is wrong for the president of the United States to ask the leader of a foreign government to investigate that president of the United States' political opponent.
SWALWELL: Would you agree that in addition to making that request for an investigation, leveraging a visit at the White House that a foreign government leader desperately needs, is also wrong?
SONDLAND: Leveraging in what respect?
SWALWELL: A meeting at the White House. If someone really needs a meeting at the White House to show their legitimacy to their people that leveraging that meeting and asking for an investigation would be wrong?
SONDLAND: Well, to be candid, Congressman; every meeting at the White House has conditions placed on it. I've never worked on a meeting at the White House that doesn't have a host of conditions placed.
SWALWELL: But if one of those conditions is to investigate a political opponent, you would agree that would be wrong?
SONDLAND: The political opponent, yes. But making announcements or investigations, per se, no.
SWALWELL: And if you asked a foreign government leader to investigate your political opponent and leveraged a White House meeting and leveraged security assistance. Im this hypothetical, you would agree all three of those are wrong?
SONDLAND: In the hypothetical, yes, I would agree.
SWALWELL: Now, you before becoming and ambassador worked as a businessman, and I presume you worked on a lot of deals. Is that right?
SWALWELL: Involving millions of dollars?
SWALWELL: You work for a guy now who wrote a book called "Art of the Deal". Is that right?
SONDLAND: I do.
SWALWELL: And State Department employees have told us that they don't want to make legal definitions around what occurred with the White House meeting being leveraged against the investigations, but you plainly call it a quid pro quo. Is that right?
SONDLAND: I did.
SWALWELL: And finally, one final hypothetical. If someone walks through those two doors wearing rain boots, a rain coat, and holding an umbrella with raindrops falling off of them, do you have to see outside that it's raining to presume to conclude that it might be raining outside?
SONDLAND: I understand your hypothetical.
SWALWELL: I yield back.
SONDLAND: Thank you.
SCHIFF: Mr. Hurd.
HURD: Thank you. Mr. Ambassador, good to see you.
SONDLAND: Good to see you.
HURD: My colleague from California basically implied that you've been supportive of President Trump's campaign. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: I'm having a very hard time hearing you, sir.
HURD: My colleague from California indicated that you were supportive of the President's campaign. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: I actually donated to the inaugural committee in order to secure tickets.
HURD: So let me ask this question. Did you participate in or overhear any conversations about the potential information collected by Ukraine on the Bidens - collected by Ukrainians on the Bidens would be used for political gain?
SONDLAND: Did I personally hear that? No.
HURD: Did you participate in any conversations when this was being discussed?
SONDLAND: Not that I recall.
HURD: In your statement on page 5, you said Mr. Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky, and you also recounted your conversation with President Trump where he says, I want nothing, no quid pro quo. How do you reconcile these two statements?
SONDLAND: They're hard to reconcile. I - we were working along Mr. Giuliani's direction for a period of time. We still didn't have a White House meeting. Aid was now held up. There were lots of reasons being given by various people as to why those weren't moving forward, and I finally got exasperated by receiving Ambassador Taylor's latest text, and I just picked up the phone. I got through to the president and I said, what do you want?
HURD: Sure. Are you aware of any specific conversations Mayor Giuliani had with the president between your May 23 conversation and September 11, 2019?
SONDLAND: I don't recall if Mayor Giuliani when I was directly talking to him either through a conference call or on a direct call whether he quoted from the president or said I just talked to the president. Most of the communications, as I said, went through Ambassador Volker initially. So I don't want to opine on what may or may not have been said.
HURD: On page 11 of your testimony, you said Mr. Giuliani had been communicating with Ukrainians without our knowledge. I'm assuming you're believing you, Mr. Volker, and Ambassador Taylor. Which Ukrainians was Rudy Giuliani communicating with?
SONDLAND: Well, I was specifically referring to this text that I received from Ambassador Volker where Mr. Giuliani was apparently telling the Ukrainians something that frustrated Ambassador Volker.
HURD: Sure. So who specifically? All right, we know that...
SONDLAND: Mr. Lutsenko, the old prosecutor.
HURD: And do you think Mr. Lutsenko has any gravitas within the Zelensky regime?
SONDLAND: I don't know. He was the old attorney general and...
HURD: And ultimately got fired in August when the new - when the new...
SONDLAND: I think so, yes.
HURD: ... group came in. OK. So we know Rudy Giuliani has met with Mr. Yermak on the fringes of (ph) meetings, and I think it was Spain. Do you know any other Ukrainian official within the Zelensky regime that Mayor Giuliani was meeting with?
SONDLAND: I don't know what - who Mr. Giuliani was meeting.
HURD: Had you had an conversations with Ukrainian officials within the Zelensky regime that came to you and said, hey, I just got the phone with Giuliani. What the hell is he talking about?
SONDLAND: I don't recall.
HURD: Would that be normal? In all your interactions with ambassadors and heads of states and governments, if there is some element of the U.S. government that they have spoken to, isn't it usually a step that they come in, talk to the ambassador, try to clarify what that statement was. Is that - is that a true characterization of how elements of diplomacy work?
SONDLAND: I think that's a reasonable possibility. Things - things work all kinds of different ways these days.
HURD: When you met with President Zelensky after the July 25 phone call - so you met him on July 26 - did the investigations where Joe Biden come up in that meeting?
SONDLAND: I don't recall Joe Biden coming up.
HURD: There was any frustration expressed to you by the phone call that happened the day before?
SONDLAND: No. As I testified, everyone said it was a good call.
HURD: Is, in your opinion, your interactions with President Zelensky, is he a straight shooter? Is he a liar - or is he a liar?
SONDLAND: He impressed me greatly, and that's why I wanted to get he and President Trump together as soon as possible.
HURD: And so, when he makes expressed statements, you tend to believe them?
SONDLAND: Yes. With my limited interaction with him, he seems very honorable.
HURD: Thank you, Mr. Ambassador. I hope you make it to your plane (ph).
SONDLAND: Thank you, Mr. Hurd.
HURD: I yield back.
SCHIFF: Mr. Castro.
CASTRO: Thank you, Chairman. Good afternoon, Ambassador. Welcome.
CASTRO: Others close to President Trump have made it clear that investigations were, in fact, part of the conditions for U.S. assistance to Ukraine, including Rudy Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, the Acting Chief of Staff.
So Ambassador Sondland, at a press conference on October 17, Acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, discussed his belief that it's entirely appropriate to politicize U.S. foreign policy. Ambassador, how often did you speak or meet with Mr. Mulvaney?
SONDLAND: Again, based on my lack of records, I'm going by a bad memory.
CASTRO: Just based on your memory.
SONDLAND: I only think I had one formal meeting with Mr. Mulvaney, and it had nothing to do with Ukraine. It had to do with a completely unrelated matter.
CASTRO: So did you have a chance to talk with Mr. Mulvaney about your efforts in the Ukraine?
SONDLAND: I think most of our communication were through the stream of emails which others were on generally, and I may have seen him at the White House casually and said hello and, you know, kept in touch, but we didn't have a back and forth.
CASTRO: Sure. Well let me ask you this. Was it your sense that Mr. Mulvaney had a direct line to President Trump? He must have as Acting Chief of Staff, is that right?
SONDLAND: Of course.
CASTRO: Let us look at what Mr. Mulvaney said, during his October 17 press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MULVANEY: That was - those were the driving factors. Did he also mention to me in past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that, but that's it. That's why we held up the money. Now, there was a report...
UNKNOWN: So -- so the demand for an investigation in to the Democrats was part of the reason that he -- to withhold funding to Ukraine?
MULVANEY: The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that was worried about in corruption with that nation -- and that is absolutely appropriate.
CASTRO: He said -- he said that President Trump, in that clip had an interest in the investigations, did he not?
SONDLAND: Apparently, yes.
CASTRO: He's the Chief of Staff, he's somebody that sees the president, has conversations with the president every single day -- wouldn't you expect that?
UNKNOWN: It is described as a quid pro quo --
SONDLAND: I would expect he has a direct line to the president.
CASTRO: Ambassador Sondland, when did you first learn from Mr. Mulvaney that the investigations were holding up the security assistance, if at any time?
SONDLAND: I don't know that I heard it from Mr. Mulvaney.
CASTRO: OK, and -- Ambassador Sondland, I know that you're not a career foreign service officer, is it your understanding that the U.S. government conditions security assistance on an investigation in to a political rival all the time?
SONDLAND: I've already testified, I didn't think that would be proper.
CASTRO: All right. Well let us also see what Mr. Mulvaney had to say about that at the same press conference.
MULVANEY: That was -- those were the driving factors. That he also mentioned to me in past (ph) that 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 --
UNKNOWN: So -- so --
CASTRO: I'll just go ahead and read it for you, because this thing -- I'll read it. He says, "And I have news for everybody, get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy."
Knowing what you know now about what was intended with Ukraine, do you agree with Mr. Mulvaney that there's just going to be political influence in foreign policy, or that we should all just get over it and allow a president now or later to investigate a political rival and ask a foreign government to do that? Do you agree with Mr. Mulvaney?
SONDLAND: I think there's a big difference between political influence and investigating a rival. Because politics enters in to everything relating to foreign policy.
CASTRO: So -- but you disagree that the president -- you agree that the president should not be allowed to ask for the investigation of a political rival?
SONDLAND: In the context of what was going on in Ukraine, I believe that the president should not investigate a political rival in return for a quid pro quo.
CASTRO: And part of the way that you figured out that all of the stuff that was going on -- that you were part of something that was basically wrong, is because in the July 25 phone call the president himself -- he didn't tell you, we don't know if he told Rudy Giuliani or not, because Rudy Giuliani won't come in here.
He said directly to the president of Ukraine that he wanted the Bidens investigated, wasn't that your reading of the call?
SONDLAND: First of all, I don't believe that I was a part of something that was wrong. Because based on what I knew, I thought we were operating well within the center lane of proper U.S. diplomacy.
SCHIFF: Mr. Ratcliffe.
RATCLIFFE: Chairman, thank you. I ask unanimous consent to enter in to the record a statement issued this morning from the Office of the Vice President by Chief of Staff Mark Short?
SCHIFF: Without objection.
RATCLIFFE: Ambassador Sondland, I'll be brief. In the anticipation of Mr. Holmes' testimony tomorrow, about this July 26 phone call that he overheard at a cafe in Kiev that you had with President Trump -- he overheard that even though the call was not on speakerphone, correct?
SONDLAND: I don't believe so.
RATCLIFFE: All right. Was it an open air cafe?
SONDLAND: It was outdoors.
RATCLIFFE: One of the points that my Democratic colleagues keep making is that David Holmes' prior testimony which he'll (ph) apparently confirm tomorrow, is that President Trump said that he doesn't give a blank about Ukraine, you heard that earlier?
SONDLAND: That was not on the phone call, I don't think he testified that was on the phone call. I think he was testifying that I summarized the phone call, and I don't recall saying that.
RATCLIFFE: You have no recollection of that?
SONDLAND: I don't.
RATCLIFFE: Even if it was true, there's nothing wrong with that -- to have an opinion about --
SONDLAND: He can have whatever opinion he wants about Ukraine.
RATCLIFFE: It's all part of the narrative that President Trump is a bad guy, that he doesn't care about the Ukrainians. But it seems to me, Ambassador Sondland, that nothing says you care more about the Ukrainians than sending Javelin anti-tank missiles, do you agree with me?
SONDLAND: I agree that sending Javelin anti-tank missiles is something the Ukraine wanted and needed.
RATCLIFFE: Certainly those work a lot better in stopping Russian tanks than the blankets that were sent by the Obama administration?
SONDLAND: Your point is taken.
RATCLIFFE: I yield back.
SONDLAND: Thank you.
SCHIFF: Mr. Heck.
HECK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And Ambassador, thank you for your stamina, sir. I have a few quick, fairly easy questions. You would agree, would you not, sir that foreign interference in our elections is or can be a threat to our democracy?
SONDLAND: Under certain conditions, yes.
HECK: Do you -- there are conditions under which their interference is not a threat?
SONDLAND: I'm sorry, did you say foreign interference?
SONDLAND: Always -- sorry.
HECK: And do you also agree that identifying and preventing that interference should be a priority of the federal government?
SONDLAND: It should be one of its priorities.
HECK: And when you were assisting President Trump in his effort to obtain those investigations, did you at all realize that those investigations could in fact impact the 2020 election?
HECK: Do you believe, sir, that it is appropriate -- ever appropriate to invite, press, bribe, or coerce for an interference in our elections?
HECK: Thank you. I want to refer to something that you said in your opening statement. "As I previously testified, had I known of all of Mr. Giuliani's dealings or of his associations with individuals now under criminal indictment I would not have acquiesced to his participation."
It's hard to read that without believing that you thought that what he was doing was either wrong, or that he was not reputable. Fair?
SONDLAND: Well with 20/20 hindsight, that's fair.
HECK: Yes. You've testified here today that you also came to believe that the request for investigations under Burisma was in fact a request to investigate the Bidens, both former Vice President and Hunter. And indeed, the transcript of the July 25 call makes specific reference to that, including Hunter Biden.
And today even the Ranking Member said we could clear all this up if we could have Hunter Biden, and I have a simple question -- what Ukrainian law did Hunter Biden violate?
SONDLAND: I'm not aware.
HECK: What evidence is there that he may have violated any Ukrainian law?
SONDLAND: I'm not aware.
HECK: That's because there is none, sir. Finally, also from your opening statement you said, "as you know I have already provided 10 hours of deposition testimony. I did so despite directives from the White House and the State Department, that I refuse to appear as many others have done. I agreed to testify because I respect the gravity of the moment, and I believe I have an obligation to account fully for my role in these events. Did by obligation you mean simply your legal obligation or did you mean something bigger?
SONDLAND: Well both my legal obligation and my moral obligation.
HECK: Your moral obligation. I actually want to present an alternative theory. Your family came here escaping the Holocaust via Uruguay and your parents moved - Lucy (ph) and later you here where frankly, you've been an American success story. Through dent(ph) of hard work and innovation, good idea, a knack to hire the right people and some luck, you've built a considerable successful business; one that I know for a fact that would make your parents proud.
They came here because they knew that it was here that they could have freedom that they had not enjoyed, security that they had not enjoyed and opportunity that they had not enjoyed. And no doubt on some level you're grateful and it's created a sense of patriotism in you. Is that fair to say?
SONDLAND: Very fair.
HECK: Why then, sir, with your courage to come before us, does that same standard not apply to Mr. Mulvaney, Mr. Duffy, Mr. Pompeo, Mr. Bolton, Mr. Vogue(ph), Mr. Giuliani. Why shouldn't those same sentiments beat within their hearts to do their patriotic duty and do what you have done, sir. Indeed, why doesn't that same standard apply to the President of the United States?
SONDLAND: I wish I could answer.
HECK: I suspect you can't because there is no good answer but I do appreciate your willingness to come here today. With that, I yield back Mr. Chairman.
SONDLAND: Thank you Congressman.
SCHIFF: Mr. Jordan.
JORDAN: Thank you Mr. Chairman. I ask unanimous consent to enter into the record a statement from Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
SCHIFF: Without objection. We haven't seen all these statements but I presume they are accurate and no objection.
JORDAN: Thank you. Ambassador, President Trump is not a big fan of foreign aid. Is that right?
SONDLAND: I don't if that's a fair characterization. I think he's careful.
JORDAN: He's expressed concerns about foreign aid ...
SONDLAND: Right. Yes.
JORDAN: ... going to certain countries.
JORDAN: OK. Fair enough. And he knew Ukraine was corrupt. Is that right?
SONDLAND: He believed Ukraine was corrupt.
JORDAN: Yes and he wanted Europe to do more?
JORDAN: Definitely wanted Europe to do more and the president had a belief that Ukrainian government officials, some senior Ukrainian government officials support his opponent in 2016. I won't go into all the details but I think of the one member of parliament who said the majority of Ukrainian politicians want Hillary Clinton to win. So he had that belief as well and obviously he understood what was happening. We've got a brand new guy in Ukraine, this Zelensky guy wins, right?
JORDAN: And his party takes over and President Trump wants to see with all these other things that are a concern to him, he wants to see if this new guy is actually as I like to say, the real deal, a real reformer and actually going to deal with the corruption problem. So aid gets held up for 55 days, gets held up on June 18th - excuse me July 18th and then is released on September 11th. But it seems to me more important than the 55 day pause, is the 14 days when Ukraine realized aid was held up on the 29th.
We've now had you testify to that. The two witnesses yesterday testified that, the Politico article. So aid gets held up on August - excuse me - Ukraine learns aid is held on August 29th and then of course released on - released on September 11th. In those 14 days there are 3 important meetings with senior government officials and President Zelensky. There's the August 29th meeting between Ambassador Bolton and President Zelensky. There's the meeting September 1st that you're a part of, Vice President Pence meets with President Zelensky and then there's the meeting on September 5th where U.S. Senators Murphy and Johnson meet with President Zelensky. None of those meetings - none of those meetings did any linkage to security assistance dollars and an announcement or a start of any investigation ever came up. None of them.
But it seems to me the one that's the most important is probably the one we've talked least about and that's the September 5th meeting because that's actually a meeting where there is no one - well it's much more Congressional focused than White House focused. This is the meeting where Senators Murphy - Senators Murphy and Johnson, bipartisan meet with President Zelensky. And what's interesting is what both Senators in the last two days have given us letters recounting what happened in that meeting.
Senator Murphy said I broached the topic of pressure on Zelensky from Rudy Giuliani and the president's other embassaries to launch investigation into Trump's political rival. Murphy brought it up. He brought - you got two senators who both strong supporters of money going to Ukraine, these guys are all for it and Senator Murphy, the Democrat, even brings up the issue everyone has been talking about.
It seems to me if ever there was going to be a time where the President of Ukraine says, guys, you don't know what I'm dealing with. I'm getting pressure from the President of the United States. He wants me to do this. I got to make - it seems if ever there was a time that the President of Ukraine, the new guy who now knows the aid has been on hold, if ever there was a time to bring it up, that would have been the time. But guess what, at no time Senator Johnson tells us, at no time during this meeting or on any other meeting on this trip was there any mention by Zelensky or any other Ukrainian that they were feeling pressure to do anything in return for military aid, not even Senator Johnson says, not even after Murphy warned them about getting involved in the election.
So Murphy gave this big deal on Giuliani and nothing. Nothing. And guess what Murphy also said? I do not dispute any of Senator Johnson's factual - factual representations regarding the meeting. If ever it was going to happen, September 5th was the day. That was - no one from the White House there - not Ambassador Bolton, not vice president - no one there. But even then it didn't happen and we got all kinds of other meetings when it didn't happen and of course as you testified earlier, there was never an announcement. You said there were three quid pro quos but there weren't because there was never an announcement.
I mean this is as clear as it gets that these guys want to keep stirring it up based on no direct evidence once or ever and the best direct evidence we have is actually what the president told you, I want nothing. There is no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do exactly what he campaigned on and when that became clear to us, guess what? They got the money. They got the money. God Bless America, it all worked out, right? This is crazy what we're going through because the facts are so darn clear. I yield back.
SCHIFF: Mr. Welch.
WELCH: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Ambassador, I'm impressed with your career; you've been very successful in business. I'm impressed with your commitment to public service and I was very impressed with your forthright statements so thank you for that.
You said it was the highest honor for you to have this opportunity to have this appointment to serve as Ambassador to the E.U. Correct?
WELCH: And you quickly became very involved in the Ukraine policy and that policy has been described by you and others was really very clear. Help Ukraine fight internal corruption and resist external aggression, correct?
WELCH: And this Congress, I think, with the support of everybody up here, Republicans and Democrats, and in fact, with a significant amount of Republican leadership, authorized the release of military aide, right?
WELCH: And you and others, who were working with you, believed it was very important to the new government, President Zelensky, to have that White House meeting to show our support and send a signal to Russia, correct?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
WELCH: And from hearing you and from hearing our other witnesses, Ambassador Yovanovitch, Ambassador Volker, Ambassador Taylor, there was a concerted team effort on your part to get that meeting and release that aide, correct?
SONDLAND: Well, there was always a concerted effort on my part to get the meeting. That was my -- that was my singular narrow focus was to get the meeting.
WELCH: Right. And that was shared by all of the colleagues I just mentioned, correct?
WELCH: All right. And incredibly urgent, Ambassador Taylor described going to the front, where Ukrainians were dying at the Donbass, 14,000 had died and it was an existential issue for them that they get the aide. And you were well aware of that, and shared, I'm sure, Ambassador Taylor's concern. Is that correct?
SONDLAND: I did.
WELCH: And in your forthright testimony, you had a -- you've -- you've testified, and it's really with the benefit of hindsight, because you couldn't piece it all together, Giuliani knew in real time what you were trying to figure out as you went along, is that a fair statement?
SONDLAND: I think so.
WELCH: One, you testified that you acted on the orders of the president. That was you acting out his orders, correct?
WELCH: And you said, quite explicitly, there was a quid pro quo?
SONDLAND: Relating to the meeting and the Burisma DNC.
WELCH: That's exactly right. No meeting -- no meeting unless there's an investigation, right?
SONDLAND: That's what we were told by Mr. Giuliani.
WELCH: And Mr. Giuliani, you absolutely --
SONDLAND: Wait, no meeting unless there was announcement of investigation.
WELCH: OK. Thank you. And I asked -- by the way, did the efforts of Mr. Giuliani authorized by the president impede the efforts that you and others were making to try to advance what you thought was the Ukraine policy?
SONDLAND: Not initially. We were just working for --
SONDLAND: Well, ultimately nothing happened.
WELCH: Right. And Giuliani was the one who was absolutely insistent on the meeting, correct?
SONDLAND: Giuliani was insistent on the --
WELCH: On the investigation.
SONDLAND: -- the investigation.
WELCH: Right. Now, I asked this of Ambassador Taylor -- or Ambassador Volker. If the Mayor of Portland said to the police chief, I'm not going to authorize your budget unless you agree to do an investigation into my political opponent, would that be wrong?
SONDLAND: Of course.
WELCH: And likewise if were the Governor of the state of Oregon doing the same thing, correct?
WELCH: And would that same rule apply to the President of the United States?
SONDLAND: To investigate a political opponent?
WELCH: That's correct.
WELCH: All right, so that's the question here. The president, in his phone call, he asked President Zelensky, who desperately needed the release of that aide, who desperately needed the White House meeting, to do an investigation, and it was focused on the Bidens, and Hunter Biden, and Burisma and crowd strike. I mean, you don't have to answer that. The president's words speak for themselves.
Do you feel, as a person who went into public service to serve, who had a team of people that shared your desire to help Ukraine, do you feel in any way betrayed by the double dealing of the president? This is a real question.
SONDLAND: I don't want to characterize --
WELCH: Don't -- you don't have to characterize him, I'm just -- you know, we all -- if we get a chance to do something useful, we like to do it. And there's no better joy than when you're doing it with other people.
SONDLAND: Mr. Welch, let me answer you question this way. I would have preferred that, and I'm sure everyone would have preferred that that president simply met with Mr. Zelensky right away. Our assessment of Mr. Zelensky was that he and the president would get on famously.
He was smart, he as funny, he was charming, he was the kind of person the president would like, and once the two of them would got together, we thought the chemistry would take over and good things would happen between the U.S. and Ukraine relationship. That's why we were pushing for a quick, unconditional meeting.
WELCH: So, it's unfortunate that he was unwilling --
SONDLAND: And it didn't happen.
WELCH: -- to meet without the commitment on the investigation. Thank you Ambassador.
SONDLAND: Thank you.
SCHIFF: Mr. Maloney.
MALONEY: Mr. Ambassador, let's pick up right there. You would have preferred if they just had the meeting with the President of Ukraine without these conditions. Is that what you're saying?
MALONEY: But, there were these conditions and it involved an investigation, right? And you've --
SONDLAND: Well, remember, the first -- the initial invitation that the president sent to President Zelensky --
MALONEY: I understand.
SONDLAND: -- had no conditions.
MALONEY: But that -- that didn't last very long, did it? And then there were conditions. We -- this is not controversial at this point, I don't believe, sir. There were conditions that the president wanted investigations, right?
SONDLAND: Yes. Right.
MALONEY: And you thought they were of Burisma and the 2016 election.
MALONEY: We now know, of course, that Burisma means Bidens, right?
SONDLAND: Today we do.
MALONEY: And we can probably, from today until the end of time, set aside any confusion that when somebody's asking for an investigation of Burisma over the summer, what they really meant was Bidens, right?
SONDLAND: With 2020 hindsight, yes.
MALONEY: Right, with hindsight. And of course, on the day after the president's famous call, you're having lunch with David Holmes, we've covered this, and he overhears your conversation, and I said -- I know you have no reason to dispute what Mr. Holmes said. And I think you said, you wouldn't have any reason to believe -- to think he didn't speak about investigations with the president. The president raised investigations with you, right?
MALONEY: On the 26th?
MALONEY: And we now know, of course, that was about the Bidens, and Burisma and 2016, right? I mean, I know you didn't know that at the time, that's your testimony, but we now know that, right?
SONDLAND: I understood it meant to mean Burisma.
MALONEY: Mr. Holmes says you said Bidens right after that, but I know you don't recall that, right?
SONDLAND: That's correct.
MALONEY: Do you dispute it?
SONDLAND: I do.
MALONEY: OK. But you don't recall it. But we know that that's what the president meant, right? And you do -- you do confirm that he wanted to talk about investigations with you?
SONDLAND: Well, now with the complete picture --
MALONEY: I understand.
SONDLAND: -- what he said 24 hours before, yes, it makes sense.
MALONEY: And you said it's wrong to investigate political opponents. We've agreed on that today, haven't we, sir?
MALONEY: And yet, of course, that's what we know the president was asking for. Let me ask you something, who would have benefited from an investigation of the president's political opponents?
SONDLAND: I don't want to characterize who would've and who would not have.
MALONEY: I know you don't want to, sir. That's my question. Would you -- would you answer it for me?
SONDLAND: Restate your question.
MALONEY: Who would benefit from an investigation of the president's political opponent?
SONDLAND: Well, presumably that -- the person who asked for the investigation.
MALONEY: Who's that?
SONDLAND: If the president asked for the investigation, it would be he.
MALONEY: Well, it's not a hypothetical, is it, sir? We just went around this track, didn't we? The president asked you about investigations, he was talking about the Bidens. When he -- when he asked you about the Biden investigation, who was he seeking to benefit?
SONDLAND: He did not ask me about the Biden investigation.
MALONEY: When he asked you about investigations.
SONDLAND: I said that about 19 times Mr. Maloney.
MALONEY: Sir, sir, we just went through this. When he asked you about investigations, which we all agree, now, means the Bidens, we did this about 30 seconds ago, it's a pretty simple question isn't it? I guess - I guess I'm having trouble why you can't just say...
SONDLAND: When he asked about investigations, I assumed he meant the company.
MALONEY: I know what you assume.
MALONEY: But who would benefit from an investigation of the Bidens?
SONDLAND: They're two different questions.
MALONEY: I'm just asking you one. Who would benefit from an investigation of the Bidens?
SONDLAND: I assume President Trump would benefit.
MALONEY: There we have it. See?
Didn't hurt a bit, did it? Didn't hurt a bit. Let me ask you something.
SONDLAND: Mr. Maloney?
MALONEY: Hold on, sir.
SONDLAND: Excuse me. I've been very forthright, and I really resent what you're trying to do.
MALONEY: Fair enough. You've been very forthright. This is your third try to do so, sir. Didn't work so well the first time, did it? We had a little declaration come in after you. Remember that? And now we're here a third time, and we've got a doozy (ph) of statement from you this morning. There's a whole bunch of stuff you don't recall, so all due respect, sir, we appreciate your candor, but let's be really clear on what it took to get it out of you.
So my question is when the president's putting pressure on the Ukrainians, withholding a meeting to get this investigation that you and I agree would benefit him politically, what kind of - what kind of position does that put the Ukrainians in, sir?
SONDLAND: A terrible position.
MALONEY: A terrible position. Why?
SONDLAND: Why does it put them in a terrible position?
SONDLAND: Well, obviously they're not receiving ultimately what they thought was coming to them, and they're put in a position that jeopardizes their security.
MALONEY: A position that jeopardizes their security, and they're being asked to do and investigation to help their security essentially that would benefit the president politically. In other words, you might say they're being asked to give him a personal benefit in exchange for an official act. Is that a fair summary?
SONDLAND: In your hypothetical, that's correct.
MALONEY: It's not a hypothetical, sir. This is real life. Were they asked to give him a personal benefit in exchange for an official act?
SONDLAND: Sir, I am not going to go around in circles with you. Please be clear about what you're asking me.
MALONEY: My time's expired, sir. Thank you for your appearance.
SCHIFF: Ms. Demings.
DEMINGS: Good afternoon, Ambassador. It's good to see you again.
SONDLAND: Thank you.
DEMINGS: Do you have knowledge of a possible meeting on or around May 7 involving then President Elect Zelensky and several of his aides to discuss how to handle pressure fro President Trump and Mr. Giuliani about investigating the Bidens?
SONDLAND: I don't recall such a meeting.
DEMINGS: You don't recall such a meeting? You don't recall hearing anything about such a meeting?
DEMINGS: If you don't have firsthand knowledge...
SONDLAND: Well if I don't have - if I don't have records, schedules, I don't - right now, I don't recall anything about such a meeting.
DEMINGS: Ambassador, in the May...
SONDLAND: Is this a meeting among the Ukrainians?
DEMINGS: It's a meeting among the Ukrainians involving then President Elect Zelensky, so this would have been early on in his presidency with several aides to discuss how to handle pressure from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani about investigating the Bidens.
SONDLAND: Yes, I don't recall such a meeting.
DEMINGS: You don't remember that. Ambassador, in the May - I believe it was the May 23 meeting, you talked about how the president categorized Ukraine, what he thought about Ukraine. I believe that meeting was on May 23. Did you ever hear President Zelensky relay any concerns about you, about how he felt, about how the United States viewed him, whether he was being taken seriously or any concerns about being used as a tool for political reasons?
SONDLAND: Well, I saw that in an email from Ambassador Taylor, we obviously tried to relay to President Zelensky the glass half full version of how the United States felt about Ukraine, not the glass half empty version which is we're here for you, we support you, and we're trying very hard to get you the meeting with President Trump.
DEMINGS: So after hearing that from Ambassador Taylor, you relayed - you tired to reassure President Zelensky that America was truly on their side. Is that what you said?
SONDLAND: I think we've been trying to assure President Zelensky throughout his entire - his entire term as a president.
DEMINGS: Ambassador, I know you said you don't quite remember exactly when you came to the realization that Burisma actually meant Bidens, but back on May 6 when asked about a news report about the role of former vice president's son on Burisma, President Trump told Fox News that it was, and I quote, "a major scandal, major problem."
On May 9, The New York Times reported that Rudy Giuliani planned to travel to Ukraine and, quote, "shortly to meet with President Zelensky to urge him to pursue the 2016 election and the involvement of Hunter Biden in Burisma," unquote. Are you saying that you did not realize at that time - we're talking about on May 9 of this year - that Mr. Giuliani wanted to urge President Zelensky to pursue the 2016 election and the involvement of Hunter Biden of Burisma?
SONDLAND: I do now, but I did not then.
DEMINGS: You did not know that, and I believe you said earlier that you did not pay any attention or much attention at all to any of the numerous news reports of the person you were directed by the president to work with when he was on television over and over and over again talking about Hunter Biden and Burisma?
SONDLAND: No, I did not.
DEMINGS: On September 9, in a text from Ambassador Taylor, he said something to the effect or are we now saying that aid is tied to investigations, and I believe you texted back, "Call me." Then you had a conversation with President Trump, and President Trump said something to the effect that there is no quid pro quo. Do you know what prompted him to say that? You asked him what do you want, and he goes directly to there is no quid pro quo as opposed to going directly to the list of things that he wanted. What prompted him to use that term?
SONDLAND: I have no clue.
DEMINGS: Did you discuss your - or your texts from Ambassador Taylor with President Trump before he made that statement?
SONDLAND: I did not. I asked a very open ended question. What do you what from Ukraine?
DEMINGS: And you remember that directly although there are several other conversations that you cannot recall because you don't have your notes or your documents or your emails or other information, but you remember that call specifically, exactly what the president said to you in response to your question about what do you want. Why is that?
SONDLAND: I remember the first girl I kissed. I mean, I remember...
DEMINGS: You kissed the - well, I won't say that, but anyway.
SONDLAND: I remembered that conversation because, as I said, it was a pretty intense, short conversation.
DEMINGS: And tell me again about the conversation you had at the restaurant that was overheard by Mr. Holmes, because that was a conversation with the president. Tell me about that conversation with the president. What was said on the phone?
SONDLAND: Again, I don't remember the specifics. I'm being guided by what Mr. Holmes testified to. I said I didn't dispute the basic, you know, subject of the conversation. As I said, we were talking primarily about A$AP Rocky. That was a completely unrelated matter. And I think the president may have brought up, you know, how'd it go with Zelensky or is he going to do the investigations, which we'd been talking about for weeks. And then as I said I dispute the, Mr. is it Mr. Holmes, characterization of what I said afterwards.
DEMINGS: Thank you, Ambassador. Mr. Chair, I yield back,
SCHIFF: Mr. Krishnamoorthi.
RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: Good afternoon, Ambassador. I'm just going to pick up on that September 9th conversation which the President allegedly said I want nothing, I don't want a quid pro quo. I presume that on this September 9th conversation the President did not mention that that was the same day that we launched a Congressional Investigation into whether there was a quid pro quo. Did he say that to you?
SONDLAND: Again, I know all of that today but he did not, we didn't have a time to talk about things like that.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And I presume he also didn't mention the whistleblower complaint that also alleged there's a quid pro quo that day?
SONDLAND: He did not.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Okay. So you can't rule out the possibility that the reason why he started talking that way on that day is because the Congressional Investigation?
SONDLAND: I can't rule that out.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: You know the inauguration of President Zelensky was on May 20th, correct?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: As you stated you attended this inauguration with Senator Johnson, Secretary Perry, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman and others, right?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: But Vice President Pence was suppose to originally attend that, correct?
SONDLAND: I believe so.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: W learned from Jennifer Williams, a witness who testified that it was at the President's reaction on May 13th that the Vice President not attend. She said "that according to the Vice President's Chief of Staff the President determined that the Vice President would not go" Do you know why the Vice President did not attend the inauguration?
SONDLAND: No clue.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: I want to point to a New York Time article from last week that says that Lev Parnas' attorney. You've heard of this gentleman Lev Parnas and associate of Rudy Giuliani.
SONDLAND: Only what I've read very recently.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: He's recently indicted.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Mr. Parnas told a representative of the incoming government, the Zelensky government, that it had to announce an investigation into Trump's political rival Joseph R. Biden and his son or else Vice President Mike Pence would not attend the swearing in of the new President and The United States would freeze aid. Did the Vice President not attend possibly because this investigation had not yet been initiated by the Zelensky Government?
SONDLAND: I have no idea.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: You cant's rule it out, right?
SONDLAND: Again, I have no idea.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: You have no basis for ruling it out however, correct?
SONDLAND: All I know is that the leader of the delegation was Secretary Perry who invited me along.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Interestingly Ambassador Sondland since you came forward in these proceedings other in the administration have tried to distance themselves from you. You know on October 14th Rudy Giuliani told "The Washington Post" that Sondland "seemed to be in charge" of the effort to get the Ukrainian officials to publish or to publicly announce investigations. Of course that's false, correct?
SONDLAND: If I had been in charge I would have asked President Trump to have the meeting without preconditions and the meeting would have occurred a long time ago.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: That's exactly right. The President is the one that wanted these investigations as we learn later on in reading the July 25th call transcript, isn't that right?
SONDLAND: The President through Mr. Giuliani, as conveyed through Mr. Giuliani wanted the investigations.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Mr. Tim Morrison came in yesterday and in his deposition testimony as well as yesterday disparaged you too. He called you "The Gordon Problem".
SONDLAND: That's what my wife calls me. Maybe they're talking.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: He -
SONDLAND: Should I be worried?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: Maybe. You know on October 8th of this year The President Tweeted that you were a really good man and a great American. And of course on November 8th one month later he said let me just tell you I hardly know the gentleman.
SONDLAND: Easy come, easy go.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: You know what I'm concerned about, you were part of the three amigos, but what I'm really concerned about, Ambassador Sondland, is that The President and good folks over here, my Republican colleagues, are now casting you as the one amigo. The one lonely amigo they're going to throw under the bus. But the truth is that as you said in your opening statement the suggestion that you were engaged in some rogue diplomacy or irregular channel of diplomacy is "absolutely false", isn't that right
SONDLAND: That's correct.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: The presumption that military aid was conditioned on investigations was based on Mulvaney's statement that we saw on the view, isn't that right?
SONDLAND: Well I didn't have the benefit at that time of Mulvaney's statement.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: But you would stand by the presumption that you had based on what you know now, correct?
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And on September 1 when you told Andriy Yermak your presumption, which you've told us about military aid being conditioned on the investigations. You done (ph) told Mr. Morrison what you told Yermak and Morrison did not try dispute your presumption, correct:
SONDLAND: I don't recall him disputing it. I think I went right over to him and just repeated the conversation.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And when you told Vice President Pence your concerns he did not dispute that as well?
SONDLAND: He didn't respond, he just listened.
SCHIFF: Time gentleman.
KRISHNAMOORTHI: And when you told Secretary Pompeo that wasn't disputed as well?
SONDLAND: I don't recall.
SCHIFF: That concludes the member questioning. Mr. Nunes, do you have any closing remarks?
NUNES: Just briefly, Ambassador, I know you want to get on a plane. I want to thank you for your indulgence today. Once again the American people have seen another failure of their preposterous conspiracy theory which that's if their conspiracy theory doesn't change between now and our next hearing, which is in a few hours from now or another hour or so. And it keeps changing everyday. They claim Ambassador that you had an irregular, you were accused of having an irregular channel, drug deals now supposedly you're one amigo nobody on this side of the aisle claimed that you were one amigo.
SONDLAND: I lost my amigos?
NUNES: Yes, not from us. Not from us. No bribes given to, that you made any bribes to the Ukrainian people or to the Ukrainian President. Your co-conspirator, Kurt Volker, I find it remarkable and troubling how the Democrats and their collaborators and the press have been able to vilify Ambassador Volker. Who was supposed to work on these matters in Ukraine like you. Ambassador it was a very regular channel and no amount of story telling by the left and the Democrats on this dias (ph) will change that.
It was the regular channel. Testimony received today was far from compelling, conclusive and provides zero evidence of any of the crimes that have been alleged. In fact, Ambassador Sondland, testified that he presumed the temporary pause in military aid was conditioned on Ukraine carrying out the investigations that Democrats are desperate to portray as nefarious. The Democrats have, as their custom, seized on this presumption as proof they can use it against the president.
However, Ambassador Sondland testified in his deposition that when he asked President Trump what do you want from Ukraine, President Trump replied I want nothing. There is no quid pro quo. Let me repeat, President Trump said I want nothing, there is no quid pro quo.
This comes (ph) on the heels (ph) of the testimony by Ambassador Volker that he saw no evidence of bribery, extortion, quid pro quo, or treasonous actions. We didn't get to ask him about obstruction of justice because we didn't know that was on the table until today.
Like the president's call with President Zelensky, Democrats want the American people to believe, as one Democrat on this committee put it, that hearsay is much better than direct evidence. And I think Mr. Ratcliffe from Texas laid out the direct evidence that we have from your testimony today.
Nothing we have heard establishes a claim that the president acted improperly in his dealings with Ukraine and certainly nothing has been presented to support anything near impeachment.
In the meantime, Mr. Chair, we continue to have no answers to the questions that only you know. Starting with who is the whistleblower who gave birth to this hoax and what was the nature of his coordination with the Democrats on this committee.
Second, what is the full extent of Ukraine's election meddling against the Trump campaign in 2016. And finally, why did Burisma hire Hunter Biden. What did he do for them and did his position impact any U.S. government actions under the Obama administration.
Another hearing in the books and no answers to basic three material actual questions that we need answers to. I yield back and thank you, Ambassador, for being here.
SONDLAND: Thank you.
SCHIFF: I thank the Ranking Member for his remarks. Mr. Sondland, thank you for your testimony today. This is a sentimental (ph) moment in our investigation and the evidence you have brought forward is deeply significant and troubling.
It's been a long hearing and I know Americans watching throughout the country may not have had the opportunity to watch all of it. So I'm going to go through a few of the highlights and I'm not going to try to paraphrase what you said. I'm going to refer to your opening statement.
We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani we would lose an important opportunity to summand (ph) relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the president's orders.
Mr. Giuliani's request were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election, DNC server and Burisma.
Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States. And we knew that these investigations were important to the president. Later you testified, I tried diligently to ask why the aid was suspended but I never received a clear answer.
In the absents of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 election and Burisma as Mr. Giuliani had demanded.
I shared concerns of the potential quid pro quo regarding the security aid with Senator Ron Johnson and I also shared my concern with the Ukrainians. So much for the Ukrainians didn't know.
You can't have a quid pro quo unless the Ukrainians know and you have testified today, Ambassador, the Ukrainians knew. You further testified Mr. Giuliani emphasized that the president wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing Ukraine to look into corruption issues.
Mr. Giuliani specifically mentioned the 2016 election, including the DNC server and Burisma as two topics of importance to the president. In reference to the July 10th meeting at the White House, which you attended with Ambassador Bolton and others and Ukrainian delegation; you said I recall mentioning the prerequisite of investigations before any White House call or meeting.
You further testified, again, Mr. Giuliani's demand that President Zelensky make a public statement about investigations. I knew that the topic of investigations was important to President Trump.
You testified later, I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question. Was there a quid pro quo. As I testified previously with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.
We all understood these prerequisites for the White House call and White House meeting reflected President Trump's desires and requirements. Later on the subject of security aid, you testified in the absents of any credible explanation for the hold, I came to the conclusion that the aid like the White House visit was jeopardized in preparation phrase (ph) the September 1 meeting in Warsaw, I asked Secretary Pompeo whether a face to face conversation between Trump with Zelensky could help break the log jam.
And this is from an email that the State Department refuses to provide to us but you have provided to us, Ambassador. It reads should we block time in Warsaw for a short pull aside for (inaudible) to meet Zelensky.
I would ask Zelensky to look him in the eye, that is the president, and tell him that once Ukraine's new justice folks are in place in mid-September that Z should be able to forward publicly with confidence on those issues of importance to polis (ph) and to the United States, hopefully that will break the log jam.
And Secretary Pompeo's reply, yes. Not what issues importance to the polis (ph), not what are you talking about Ambassador Sondland because Secretary Pompeo was on the July 25th phone call. He knew what issues were important to polis (ph) and there were two of them. The investigation into 2016 and the DNC server and the investigation into the Bidens.
By the end of August you testified my belief was that if Ukraine did something to demonstrate a serious intention to fight corruption, specifically addressing Burisma and the 2016 server, then the hold on military aid would be lifted. I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations. And as you testified he gave you no response -- no, what are you talking about Ambassador, how could that be Ambassador? How do we clear this up Ambassador? He merely nodded his head, or took it in.
And of course the record of that twenty-fifth call between President Trump and Zelensky was in the Vice President's reading book earlier. Then you testified, "my goal, at the time, was to do what was necessary to get the aid released, to break the law, Jim (ph)."
I believe that the public statement we have been discussing for weeks was essential to advancing that goal. Now, my colleagues seem to believe it, and let me add too about this call you had with the president, you have confirmed today in addition to claiming there was no quid pro quo, the president was adamant that President Zelensky had to "clear things up and do it in public."
That's what you have confirmed, that is what you also told Ambassador Taylor. So he would deny there was a quid pro quo, but he was adamant that Zelensky had to "clear things up and do it in public."
Now, I've said a lot of things about President Trump over the years, I have very strong feelings about President Trump which are neither here nor there. But I will say this on the president's behalf, I do not believe that the president would allow himself to be led by the nose by Rudy Giuliani, or Ambassador Sondland, or anybody else.
I think the president was the one who decided whether a meeting would happen, whether aid would be lifted -- not anyone who worked for him. And so, the answer to the question who was refusing the meeting with Zelensky that you believed should take place, that Ambassador Volker believed should take place -- and every body believed should take place, the only question was when. Who was the one standing in the way of that meeting? Who was the one refusing to take that meeting?
There's only one answer to that question, and it's Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States. So who was holding up the military assistance, was it you, Ambassador Sondland? No, it wasn't. Was it Ambassador Volker? No. Was it Ambassador Taylor? No. Was it Deputy Secretary Kent? No. Was it Secretary of State Pompeo? No.
Who had the decision to release the aid, it was one person -- Donald J. Trump, President of the United States. Now my colleagues seem to think unless the president says the magic words that I hereby bribed the Ukrainians, that there's no evidence of bribery -- of other high crimes and misdemeanors.
But let's look to the best evidence of what's in the president's head. What's his intent? What's the reason behind the hold on the meeting, and on the aid? Let's look at what the president has to say, let's look at what's undisputed about what the president has to say.
And you know how we know what the president has to say? Not because what you have represented, or others have represented -- but because we have a record of his conversation and with who? The one who really matters, with the other President, Zelensky, and this is what he says.
He says, "Rudy very much knows what's happening, and he is a very capable guy." This is after he says he wants a favor. And he goes in to CrowdStrike in 2016, he says, "Rudy very much knows what's happening and is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him, that would be great."
The former Ambassador from the United States, the woman was bad news -- and the people she was dealing with in Ukraine were bad news, so I just want to let you know that the other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son.
That Biden stopped the prosecution, and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the attorney general that would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you could look in to it, it sounds horrible to me.
So what's on the president's mind when he has placed this otherwise inexplicable hold on the aid when he refuses to take the meeting -- what's on his mind? Biden. He makes that abundantly clear.
I understand Ambassador, you have said you didn't make the connection between Burisma and Biden -- I will let the American people judge the credibility of that answer. But there's no mistaking what Donald Trump's interest was.
There's no mistaking about what Donald Trump meant when he had that call with you on an unsecure phone as you're sitting there in an outdoor terrace in Ukraine when the president said investigation, he meant Biden. He made that abundantly clear to the president of Ukraine the day before.
The question is not what the president meant, the question is not whether he was responsible for holding up the aid -- he was. The question is not whether everybody knew it -- apparently they did.
The question is what are we prepared to do about it? Is there any accountability, or are we forced to conclude that this is just now the world that we live in? When a president of the United States can withhold vital military aid from an ally at war with the Russians -- an ally fighting our fight too, to defend our country against Russian aggression.
Are we prepared to say, in the words of Mick Mulvaney, "get over it," or get used to it? We are not prepared to say that. We are not prepared to say that, and I appreciate Ambassador Volker -- Ambassador Sondland, I appreciate the fact that you have not opined on whether the president should be impeached or not be impeached, or whether the crime of bribery or the impeachable offense of bribery, or other high-end crimes and misdemeanors has been committed, that is for us to decide in consultation with our constituents and our conscience, that is for us to decide.
And much as my colleagues have said otherwise, this is not an easy decision for any of us. And much as my colleagues may say otherwise, this is not something we relish. For over a year I resisted this whole idea of going down the road to impeachment, but it was made necessary -- and not by the whistleblower, but by the actions of the president.
I'm continually struck how my colleagues would suggest that because the president got caught, we should ignore the fact that he was conditioning official acts in order to get political favors in order to get an investigation against his rival.
Getting caught is no defense, not to a violation of the Constitution or to a violation of his oath of office, and it certainly doesn’t give us reason to ignore our own oath of office. We are adjourned.
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