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Analysis after Gordon Sondland, Laura Cooper and David Hale's impeachment testimony

Ambassador Gordon Sondland, Defense Department official Laura Cooper and State Dept. official David Hale testified Wednesday about Trump and Ukraine.
Image: Day 4 of Impeachment hearings with Laura Cooper and Gordon Sondland
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

The fourth day of public hearings in the House's impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump saw testimony from three Trump administration officials.

Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, and David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs, testified before the House Intelligence Committee at just before 6 p.m. ET Wednesday. Their appearance followed testimony from U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who appeared before the committee for a hearing that began more than eight hours earlier.

Trump impeachment highlights:

Trump impeachment explained.

Trump impeachment timeline.

Who are the attorneys questioning the witnesses?

Transcript of Trump's conversation with Ukrainian president

Download the NBC News mobile app for the latest news on the impeachment inquiry

1104d ago / 2:35 AM UTC
1104d ago / 2:32 AM UTC

Article II: Inside Impeachment — Blockbuster testimony

On the latest episode, Article II host Steve Kornacki talks to NBC White House correspondent Kelly O’Donnell about the bombshell testimony from U.S Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.

They discuss how Sondland's testimony implicated administration officials all the way up to President Donald Trump and the ways in which the ambassador's statements could shape the trajectory of the inquiry. That includes the questioning Thursday of David Holmes, a senior diplomat who overheard the July 26 phone call between Trump and Sondland.

Download the episode.

1104d ago / 2:21 AM UTC
1104d ago / 1:07 AM UTC

Nunes, Schiff wrap up hearing in competing styles

In a scornful closing statement, Nunes compared the inquiry to a game of “three card monte” and the hearings to an “inquisition” — although he noted that he felt that the victims of inquisitions had “more rights” than the witnesses testifying at the hearings.

He then took aim at what he said were the tactics of some House Democrats, suggesting they must have learned them in law schools that teach “if the facts and the law are against you, simply rig the game and hope your audience is too stupid to catch your duplicity.”

Schiff, smiling, replied, “I thank the gentleman, as always, for his remarks,” prompting laughter from the audience.

In his own closing remarks, Schiff delivered an almost professorial lecture on what he said was the difference between “corruption and anti-corruption,” explaining that Republicans have mixed up their definitions when it comes to how they’ve assessed Trump’s calls for Ukraine to launch investigations into the Bidens and a “conspiracy theory” into the 2016 election.

“That,” Schiff said, “is not anti-corruption. That is corruption.”

1104d ago / 12:57 AM UTC
1104d ago / 12:47 AM UTC

Cooper suggests Trump admin didn’t follow legal mechanisms for hold on Ukraine aid

Cooper suggested in testimony that the administration didn't follow what she believes are the legal mechanisms to put a hold on already appropriated aid.

During an exchange with Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, Cooper said that Congress was notified of the aid to Ukraine, through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, and then there was a waiting period before it became available around mid-June. 

But on July 18, the Office of Management and Budget announced that the U.S. would freeze the aid to Ukraine. Cooper said that during a July 26 meeting, her superiors at the Pentagon raised the question of how the president’s guidance could be implemented. These officials, she said, suggested that a reprogramming action might be the best option to execute the decision, but more research would be required. 

After that meeting, Cooper said that there a discussion on July 31 at her level in which she expressed that it was “my understanding” that there were two ways to stop the dissemination of funds to Ukraine. 

Either the president could propose a recission, Cooper said, or a reprogramming request could be done by the Defense Department. Cooper confirmed that both options would require providing notice to Congress. 

“There was no such notice, to my knowledge, or preparation of a notice, to my knowledge,” Cooper said. 

The aid ultimately was released by the administration on Sept. 11.

1104d ago / 12:16 AM UTC

An hour of hearing remains

There are fewer than 10 members left to ask questions of Cooper and Hale, which means this hearing should wrap in about an hour barring any breaks. Nunes and Schiff can make closing remarks after the five-minute member round ends.

1104d ago / 12:12 AM UTC

Quigley notes State and DoD haven't complied with subpoenas to hand over docs

Rep. Quigley pointed out during his questioning that the Defense and State departments have not complied with subpoenas issued by the House Intel, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees for documents as part of the impeachment inquiry, so the committee doesn’t have the emails Cooper referenced tonight.

1104d ago / 11:53 PM UTC

Carolyn Maloney chosen as first woman to lead House Oversight panel

Veteran New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney was elected Wednesday to lead the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee, the first woman to hold the job in the panel’s 92-year history.

Maloney defeated Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly by a 133-86 vote in a secret ballot among the full Democratic caucus. She succeeds Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who died last month.

As Oversight chief, Maloney, 73, will play a key role in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

The committee has a broad portfolio, including oversight of the Trump administration’s handling of the census and immigration matters, as well as investigations into Trump’s business dealings and security clearances granted to White House officials.

Read the story.

1104d ago / 11:36 PM UTC

It happens. Rep. Ratcliffe says aid has been frozen to Lebanon, Pakistan, other countries

Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, argued Wednesday that the U.S. occasionally withholds security assistance from foreign countries for a variety of reasons. 

Ratcliffe said that Hale had characterized in his previous testimony during a closed-door deposition that it’s a "normal" occurrence. 

"It is certainly an occurrence. It does occur," Hale confirmed Wednesday. 

Ratcliffe then listed a number of countries whose aid the U.S. froze over the last year and asked Hale to confirm or elaborate about those cases.

Hale said, for example, that U.S. aid to Pakistan was withheld "because of unhappiness over policies and (the) behavior of the Pakistani government toward certain proxy groups in conflicts with the U.S."

He also said that aid has been withheld over the last year from three countries in northern Central America, including Honduras. Lastly, U.S. aid to Lebanon has been and still is being withheld for reasons that are unknown, Hale said. 

Ratcliffe was attempting to normalize what occurred in Ukraine in which the Office of Management and Budget halted the U.S. assistance on July 18 and released it again on Sept. 11. A number of key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry, however, have testified that the release of the aid was contingent on Ukraine announcing investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 presidential election. 

During further questioning by Schiff, Hale agreed that it would be unusual and inappropriate to withhold aid in exchange for some conditionality.

1104d ago / 11:32 PM UTC

State Department contradicts Sondland, says he has 'full access' to his records

The State Department is disputing Sondland’s sworn testimony from Wednesday morning that he could not access records, such as emails, relevant to the impeachment inquiry. 

“Ambassador Sondland, like every current Department of State employee called before Congress in this matter, retained at all times, and continues to retain, full access to his State Department documentary records and his State Department e-mail account, which he has always been fully free to access and review at will,” a State Department official said Wednesday evening. 

But that is not what Sondland said just a few hours earlier. 

“I have not had access to all of my phone records," Sondland said in his opening statement. "State Department emails, and other State Department documents. And I was told I could not work with my EU Staff to pull together the relevant files. Having access to the State Department materials would have been very helpful to me in trying to reconstruct with whom I spoke and met, when, and what was said.” 

At Wednesday's impeachment second hearing, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, asked Undersecretary of State David Hale to respond to the State Department’s comment, asking if that sounded like standard department policy.

“I hadn't seen it until shortly before entering this hearing room, but it sounds accurate, yes,” Hale said.

1104d ago / 11:28 PM UTC

Timing of Ukraine's knowledge of hold is a key point, journos note

1104d ago / 11:21 PM UTC

Cooper says Ukrainians were aware of hold on July 25, contradicting GOP

Cooper, in a straightforward opening statement that focused almost entirely on procedure, explained how and when she became aware of the hold on the military aid to Ukraine. 

But in an addendum to her prepared statement, she explained that she’s learned of the existence of multiple emails that had been sent to her office (but that she hadn’t received) pertaining to questions she had been asked during her October deposition about whether she knew if the Ukrainians had known about the hold or had asked any questions about it. 

Cooper said that her staff later showed her two unclassified emails from the State Department. Both were sent two hours apart on the afternoon of July 25. The first, Cooper said, showed that the Ukrainian Embassy was “asking about the security assistance,” and the second suggested that “Hill knows about the [aid freeze] situation.”

Cooper said that a third email, on July 3, from the State Department, showed that the “CN [congressional notification] was being blocked from OMB [White House Office of Management and Budget].”

Schiff, a moment later, asked Cooper whether her sharing the existence of those emails meant that the Ukrainians “knew there was something going on with” the aid.

“Yes, sir,” she replied.

This means that Cooper is saying the Ukrainians were, in fact, aware of the aid hold on the same day as the well-documented July 25 call between Trump and Zelenskiy. This contradicts the argument by Republicans, including Trump, that the Ukrainians had no idea of the hold this early — meaning, according to that argument, that there could not have been a quid pro quo.

Hale, unlike all previous public inquiry witnesses, did not deliver an opening statement.

1104d ago / 11:08 PM UTC

Hale and Cooper are sworn in before their testimony

Image: US-POLITICS-CONGRESS-TRUMP-IMPEACHMENT
Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Laura Cooper, right, and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale are sworn in before their testimony before the House Intelligence Committee impeachment inquiry on Capitol Hill on Nov. 20, 2019.Olivier Douliery / AFP - Getty Images
1104d ago / 10:56 PM UTC

Nunes plays the greatest hits

Nunes, in his opening statement, hit on many of the same topics he’s mentioned in his past opening statements in the previous hearings.

He said that Democrats “accused us” of trying to out the whistleblower during the hearings on Tuesday, “even though they claim they don’t even know who it is.”

He also accused Democrats of “sparing” Hunter Biden from under-oath questioning and alleged that they have employed “petty tricks” in the hearings.

“What exactly are the Democrats impeaching the president for?” he said in closing.

“None of us here actually know,” he added.

1104d ago / 10:50 PM UTC

Schiff opens second public hearing of the day

Schiff, in his opening statement of the second of two hearings of the day, summarized the case House Democrats are building in their impeachment inquiry and explained how the testimony of the next two witnesses, Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official overseeing U.S. policy regarding Ukraine, and David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs, plays into it.

“Cooper, along with others, learned about the freeze” in a series of interagency meetings in July, Schiff explained.

Hale, he said, “was witness to the smear campaign against Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and the efforts by some in the State Department to help her.”

1104d ago / 10:48 PM UTC

And Sondland made his flight back to Brussels...he'd been worried about that during his lengthy testimony and the ambassador's lawyer expressed his concern to Schiff about it as the appearance dragged on more than six and a half hours...But here Sondland is at the airport, on his way...

1104d ago / 10:48 PM UTC

Cooper arrives for testimony before House Intel

Image:
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019.Julio Cortez / AP
1104d ago / 10:44 PM UTC

Schiff gavels in second hearing with Cooper, Hale

Chairman Adam Schiff gaveled in the second impeachment inquiry hearing of the day with Hale and Cooper at roughly 5:40 p.m. We expect opening statements from the chair and ranking member followed by the witnesses and then to go right into five-minute member questions. A roughly 2.5 hour hearing is expected. 

1104d ago / 9:59 PM UTC

Format changed for upcoming impeachment witnesses, cutting length of hearing

The hearing format has been revamped for the testimony this evening of Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense, and David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs.

There will be no extended question round for the Intelligence Committee chairman and the ranking Republican members, or their staff lawyers. That means following opening statements, the hearing will move straight to lawmakers' questions.

The hearing is therefore likely to run about 2.5 to 3 hours, not the more than 6.5 hours like the earlier Sondland session.     

1104d ago / 9:14 PM UTC

The Michigan lawmaker left the GOP in July, remaining in Congress as an independent.

Prior to that decision, he was the first congressional Republican to conclude that Trump had engaged in "impeachable conduct" after viewing the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.  

1104d ago / 9:12 PM UTC

Sondland says all the president's men focused on Biden probe

Gordon Sondland flipped on President Donald Trump — and all the president's men — Wednesday.

"We followed the president's orders," he told lawmakers at the House impeachment inquiry hearing.

The U.S. ambassador to the European Union described in detail how Trump and several of his top lieutenants — including personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former National Security Adviser John Bolton, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney — were all "in the loop" on a policy that increasingly focused on securing the announcement of investigations affecting American politics.

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are pushing to gather enough evidence to justify an article of impeachment involving bribery, and they believe Sondland's testimony moved them further in that direction.

But even short of that, he provided a mountain of fresh details about the breadth and depth of the administration's focus on using the powers of the executive branch for what they say are partisan political purposes — justification, perhaps, for articles based on "high crimes and misdemeanors."

Read the full analysis.

1104d ago / 9:05 PM UTC

Pence, Pompeo and Perry say Sondland should refresh his memory again

Sondland doesn’t know what he’s talking about, representatives for Pence, Pompeo and Perry all asserted Wednesday after the ambassador tied each of the three men closer to Trump’s push to have Ukraine investigate the Bidens and a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 election and Democrats.

Sondland testified Wednesday that Pence and Pompeo were “in the loop” on Trump and Giuliani’s efforts regarding the Ukrainian probes. Sondland said he worked with Giuliani "at the express direction of the president," whose demands amounted to a "quid pro quo."

"They knew what we were doing and why," Sondland said. The ambassador testified that he discussed the investigation into Burisma — which he claims he did not at the time connect to the Bidens — with Pence before the vice president met with Zelenskiy on Sept. 1. Sondland said he told Pence "before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations."

Regarding Pompeo, Sondland said that as late as Sept. 24, Pompeo had directed Volker to speak with Giuliani. And he testified that he updated Perry, one of the “three amigos” — along with Sondland and Volker — that a meeting between Zelenskiy and Trump was dependent on the announcement of those investigations. Sondland added that Perry and Volker “did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani,” but were playing “the hand we were dealt.”

Administration responds

All three of their offices pushed back on Sondland's testimony.

Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, said in a statement that Pence “never” had such a conversation with Sondland “about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations” and that the two were never alone during the Sept. 1 trip to Poland.

“This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened,” Short said.

State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said Sondland “never told” Pompeo he believed Trump “was linking aid to investigations of political opponents.”

“Any suggestion to the contrary is flat out false,” she added.

And Energy Department press secretary Shaylyn Hynes said Sondland “misrepresented” Perry’s interactions with Giuliani and the “direction” Perry got from Trump.

“As previously stated, Secretary Perry spoke to Rudy Giuliani only once at the president’s request,” Hynes said. “No one else was on that call. At no point before, during or after that phone call did the words ‘Biden’ or ‘Burisma’ ever come up in the presence of Secretary Perry.”

In Wednesday’s hearing, Turner pressed Sondland on whether anyone explicitly told him that nearly $400 million in military aid was tied to the political investigations. Sondland replied no one had made that  connection explicit.

1104d ago / 9:00 PM UTC
1104d ago / 8:55 PM UTC

Sondland hearing ends after nearly 7 hours

Closing statements from Nunes and Schiff have brought Wednesday's first public hearing to an end — nearly seven hours after it was gaveled in.

Nunes thanked Sondland for “indulging” his committee’s questions and pointed to Sondland’s response in his original deposition that Trump on a September phone call had told him, “I want nothing,” as proof that there was no quid pro quo.

Schiff, in his closing remarks, said Sondland’s testimony was “deeply significant and troubling,” calling it a “seminal moment in our investigation.”

He wrapped up his lengthy remarks by saying he felt that no blame lay with any of the witnesses — and that their testimony all points to only “one person” being responsible.

“Donald J. Trump, president of the United States,” Schiff said.

“The president was the one who decided whether a meeting would happen, whether the aid would be lifted — not anyone who worked for him,” he said.

1104d ago / 8:53 PM UTC

State Dept. denies Sondland told Pompeo that aid was tied to investigations

“Gordon Sondland never told Secretary Pompeo that he believed the president was linking aid to investigations of political opponents," State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said Wednesday. "Any suggestion to the contrary is flat-out false.” 

During Sondland’s opening statement this morning, he testified that Pompeo had direct knowledge of the alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and the 2016 election.

Sondland also gave the House committee emails between him and Pompeo and a top aide to the secretary of state that suggest a quid pro quo might have occurred.

1104d ago / 8:50 PM UTC
1104d ago / 8:48 PM UTC

Sondland said he had only one ‘formal’ meeting with Mulvaney. That doesn’t square with Fiona Hill’s testimony.

Sondland said Wednesday that he had only one “formal” meeting with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who multiple impeachment witnesses testified coordinated an alleged quid pro quo effort that involved the dangling of a White House meeting in exchange for investigations desired by Trump. 

Sondland said that that formal meeting with Mulvaney wasn’t about Ukraine. That claim doesn’t line up, however, with testimony from the former Russia adviser on the National Security Council, Fiona Hill, who answered lawmakers’ questions behind closed doors in the impeachment inquiry in mid-October. 

“Sondland said repeatedly he was meeting with chief of staff Mulvaney,” Hill told lawmakers on the three congressional committees conducting the inquiry. 

Asked how she knew that, Hill said, “because I know that from Mulvaney’s staff.” 

Hill added that people who worked for then-national security adviser John Bolton “could see Gordon Sondland going into Mulvaney’s office. The guards could see Ambassador Sondland going into Mulvaney’s office.” 

Hill testified behind closed doors that she had a “very good relationship” with Sondland in the beginning, but then she “had a blow-up with him” in June of this year when Sondland told Hill that he was in charge of Ukraine policy — adding it was a decision made by Trump.

Mulvaney suggested during a press conference in October that there was a quid pro quo, suggesting to reporters in the White House briefing room that Trump had held up U.S. military assistance to Ukraine in order to get it to investigate a conspiracy theory involving Ukraine influencing the 2016 presidential election.

1104d ago / 8:35 PM UTC

Hayes: The big problem with GOP's focus on Hunter Biden

1104d ago / 8:32 PM UTC

Maloney, Sondland spar as hearing nears end

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., went after Sondland hard in his questioning, criticizing him for how long it took him to be completely forthright.

Maloney pushed Sondland to answer the question of who would benefit from Ukraine investigating the Bidens. After several attempts to avoid answering — and amid constant pushing from Maloney — Sondland finally said the answer was that Trump would benefit.

“Didn’t hurt a bit!” Maloney exclaimed, sarcastically congratulating the witness for his ultimate response.

Sondland, apparently taking offense, said he resented Maloney’s reaction, adding he’d spent hours testifying, both privately and publicly, and had been “forthright” today.

Maloney — referring to the fact that Sondland had to correct his closed-door testimony and that he provided new information today only after several other witnesses contradicted his prior testimonies — hit back with a curt reply.

“Let’s be really clear on what it took to get that out of you,” he said.

1104d ago / 8:16 PM UTC

Watch: Top moments from Sondland testimony at impeachment hearing

1104d ago / 8:13 PM UTC

OPINION: Hearings reveal extent of damage Trump's inflicted on our national security

We are in real danger. There are certainly many conclusions to be drawn from the recent days of detailed testimony by officials on the National Security Council and at the State Department in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. But beyond the political points scored and the possibility of removing a president, there's an even more unsettling feeling that I can’t shake. These hearings have laid bare just how crippled the staff, systems and structures designed to protect our country really are.

This troubling state of insecurity ought to jolt even the most jaded member of Congress into sitting up straight and starting to think about how to straighten it out really fast. But instead of trying to address the damage to our defenses, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, which is conducting the inquiry, opt to exacerbate matters. They are trying to use this broken system to discredit and undermine the witnesses who are testifying to Trump’s bad behavior.

Repeatedly, these members of Congress have asked the public servants testifying — who have information about Trump allegedly pressuring Ukraine into investigating a major political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son in exchange for aid and a White House visit — whether they themselves had ever met the president. The implication they hope will be drawn from their answers that they never once met him is that these individuals lack the stature and direct knowledge to be credible. 

Read the full piece.

1104d ago / 8:06 PM UTC

Twitter compares and contrasts photo of a poised Sondland

This dramatic shot of Sondland giving testimony quickly went viral online, where Twitter users incorporated it into existing memes and contrasted it with similar photos.

Image: Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland during his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 20, 2019.
Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland during his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 20, 2019.Matt McClain / The Washington Post via Getty Images
1104d ago / 7:44 PM UTC

10 members left for questioning

There are 10 House Intel members left to question Sondland during the member round. Nunes and then Schiff can give closing remarks after all members are done. So we are looking at roughly another 50 to 60 minutes of this first hearing of the day. 

1104d ago / 7:37 PM UTC

GOP focuses on Sondland's 'presumption' to discredit his testimony

Republicans are focusing on Sondland's “presumption” as a line of attack against his testimony.

Rep. Mike Turner repeatedly asked Sondland if anyone explicitly told him that Trump “tied the investigation to the aid,” suggesting that if “everyone was in the loop,” as Sondland testified, the directive would have been acknowledged out loud at some point.  

“I have said repeatedly, congressman, that I was presuming,” Sondland responded.

“No one on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying this aid to the investigation? ... Yes or no?” Turner continued, telling Sondland he did not have any actual evidence. 

“Yes,” Sondland acknowledged. 

Republicans on the dais looked visibly pleased with his response; even Nunes had a smile on his face. 

GOP Rep. Brad Wenstrup picked up on this line of argument, saying that presumptions do not “equal” facts. 

Schiff then jumped in and pointed out that a quid pro quo does not need to be explicitly stated for it to occur. It's not like Trump was going to say, “Ambassador Sondland, I am telling you I'm not going to give the aid unless they do this,” Schiff argued.

1104d ago / 7:36 PM UTC

Laughter at the hearing as Trump is rated 'five Pinnochios'

Speier got a round of applause and laughs from the audience after a back-and-forth with Conaway ended with her saying Trump gets "five Pinocchios on a daily basis."

Speier and Conaway had been speaking about a Washington Post fact check that gave three Pinnochios to the Democratic claim that the whistleblower has a statutory right to anonymity. The Post said the "argument that whistleblower-protection laws implicitly provide anonymity is more nuanced, and debatable, than what Schiff said in a nationally televised hearing," although it noted that Trump's director of national intelligence and intelligence community inspector general said the whistleblower followed the law and should stay anonymous.

After Speier read a section detailing why the whistleblower remaining anonymous is good practice, Conaway cut her off, highlighting that The Post said "three Pinocchios."

"The president of the United States has five Pinocchios on a daily basis," Speier responded. "So let's not go there."

Some in the audience began laughing and clapping.

1104d ago / 7:33 PM UTC

Sondland clarifies how many times he and Trump have spoken

1104d ago / 7:19 PM UTC

6 things we learned from Gordon Sondland's impeachment testimony so far

Sondland, a key figure in Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, shared new — and sometimes shocking — pieces of information in testimony Wednesday. After five hours before the House Intelligence Committee, he's not out of the witness chair yet.

Here are six things we learned from his public appearance so far.

1104d ago / 7:16 PM UTC

'Thank God': Putin thrilled U.S. 'political battles' over Ukraine is taking focus off Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he’s pleased that the “political battles” in Washington have put accusations that Russia interfered in U.S. elections on the back burner.

"Thank God,” he told an economic forum in the Russian capital on Wednesday, “no one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore; now they’re accusing Ukraine."

Some Republicans have used the public hearings to tout a discredited conspiracy theory that blames Ukraine, not Russia, for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

1104d ago / 7:12 PM UTC

Jordan goes off on Sondland

Jordan railed against Sondland, yelling at the ambassador for not having included in his lengthy opening statement details from a Sept. 9 phone call with Trump on which Trump said there was “no quid pro quo.”

“Why didn’t you put that statement in your opening statement?” Jordan demanded to know. 

“Couldn’t fit in a 23-page opener?” he added.

“The most important statement about the subject matter at hand? The president of the United States in a direct conversation with you … says… ‘I want nothing, I want no quid pro quo.’”

“You can’t find the time to fit that in a 23-page opening statement?” Jordan yelled.

Sondland looked on, smiling, and then, bemused. He said the omission “wasn’t purposeful.”

1104d ago / 7:11 PM UTC

Trump claims Sondland testimony exonerates him: 'It's all over'

Trump claimed Wednesday that testimony Sondland gave in the House impeachment inquiry, exonerated him, saying that "it's all over."

Addressing reporters as Sondland publicly testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee, Trump recounted a conversation he had with the ambassador and claimed that, "I just noticed one thing and I would say that means it's all over."

"'What do you want from Ukraine,' he asks me," Trump said, holding a notebook and papers, appearing to read from a part of Sondland’s testimony. "'What do you want from Ukraine? I keep hearing all these different ideas and theories.' This is Ambassador Sondland speaking to me, just happened, to which I turned off the television."

"And now here’s my response that he gave. Ready? Do you have the cameras rolling? ‘I want nothing. That’s what I want from Ukraine.'" Trump said, continuing to read from his notes. "I said it twice."

Read the full story.

1104d ago / 7:08 PM UTC

Melber: Thin line between Sondland as witness, co-conspirator

1104d ago / 7:04 PM UTC

Trump, White House scramble to respond to Sondland 'quid pro quo' testimony

President Donald Trump and his allies were left scrambling Wednesday morning after impeachment inquiry testimony by U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland dealt a blow to the argument at the heart of the White House's defense.

Sondland allegedthat a White House visit by Ukraine's president had indeed been linked to the announcement of political investigations into Trump political rival Joe Biden and his son, an apparent contradiction of his assessment in an earlier closed-door deposition the White House has repeatedly cited.

The claim sent the president’s defenders racing to revise talking points that have depended on a “no quid pro quo” defense, said Trump allies outside the White House, delivering a significant setback to Republican pushback.

President Trump himself seized on Sondland's recollection of a September phone conversation between the two men, re-enacting the conversation for reporters on the South Lawn of the White House Wednesday as the hearing continued. "I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelenskiy to do the right thing," the president said he told the ambassador then.

Read the full story.

1104d ago / 7:01 PM UTC

Giuliani criticizes GOP counsel

1104d ago / 6:55 PM UTC

McFaul: Sondland's assertion that he did not connect Burisma, Biden is 'insulting to our intelligence'

1104d ago / 6:53 PM UTC

Pompeo says he has not seen Sondland’s testimony

Secretary of State Mike Pomeo dodged a question about Sondland’s testimony from a reporter at a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday 

“I didn’t see a single thing today, I was working,” Pomepo said when asked for comment on today’s hearing. “I was in meetings all day and haven't had a chance to see any of that testimony.”

During his hearing, Sondland testified that Pompeo was aware of the efforts in Ukraine and was more deeply involved than previously known. 

Pompeo, who usually does not answer shouted questions from reporters, ignored additional questions on Wednesday related to Sondland’s testimony.

1104d ago / 6:49 PM UTC

Johnson: 'This is a slow motion explosion'

1104d ago / 6:48 PM UTC

House Intel members begin question round

The break has concluded. The House Intelligence Committee is now beginning the five-minute member round of questions. The committee has 22 members, so this should take about two hours, barring any other breaks. At this point, the afternoon hearing is going to be delayed from the planned 2:30 p.m. start time. It's unclear when that will start. 

1104d ago / 6:25 PM UTC

Chuck Todd: Sondland testimony 'cements impeachment' for Democrats

1104d ago / 6:22 PM UTC

Photographer captures Trump's handwritten talking points responding to Sondland

The president brought his own talking points, written out by hand, possibly with one of those Sharpies he's known to prefer.

President Donald Trump, departing the White House on his way to Texas to visit an Apple factory, stopped in front of reporters to defend himself amid testimony by the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, by reading from handwritten notes insisting he did not want a "quid pro quo."

Image: President Donald Trump holds notes on Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony as he departs the White House on Nov. 20, 2019.
President Donald Trump holds notes on Ambassador Gordon Sondland's testimony as he departs the White House on Nov. 20, 2019.Erin Scott / Reuters

Trump began reading notes of what he says he spoke about during an early September phone call with Sondland, who was trying to figure out whether roughly $400 million in military aid was being linked to investigations into the Bidens.

At least some of Trump's talking points were captured by a Reuters photographer outside the White House.

"I want nothing/I want nothing/I want no quid pro quo/Tell Zellinsky (sic) to do the right thing," Trump's notes show, apparently referring to testimony from Sondland that that was the president's response when asked what he wanted from Ukraine.

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