EVENT ENDED

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

Image: Day 4 of Impeachment hearings with Laura Cooper and Gordon Sondland
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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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.

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GOP calls Sondland’s testimony unreliable because of lack of documents. They're blocked by State and WH.

Republicans tried to use Sondland’s lack of documents and records to their advantage, suggesting his recollection of events is simply just “speculation.” 

“You don’t have records,” Castor said. “This is the trifecta of unreliability.” 

Sondland made clear in his lengthy opening statement that the State Department and White House have blocked his access to relevant documents and communication logs pertaining to his work on Ukraine. 

“What I’m trying to do today is to use the limited information” I have, said Sondland, who added that his recollections have been “refreshed by subsequent testimony” and text messages to which he does have access. 

“A lot of it is speculation,” Castor shot back. “A lot of it is your guess.” 

Castor said that the evidence for an impeachment inquiry “ought to be pretty darn good” and pointed out that while other impeachment witnesses have taken meticulous notes, Sondland said in his opening statement that he is not a note-taker. 

Sondland, however, defended his testimony, saying that the only presumption he has made was regarding the link between the withheld aid to Ukraine and the demand for Ukraine to announce investigations. He suggested the text messages he has, on the other hand, are definitive and reliable. 

Trump reads his Sondland hearing notes to press, underscores ‘I want no quid pro quo’

Schiff allows second round of staff questions

Schiff announced there will be a second round of staff questions for Sondland. Democrats and Republicans will each get an additional 30 minutes for staff questions, but each side does not have to use the entire allotted time. After this round concludes, we expect to begin the five-minute round for member questions. 

President Donald Trump holds his notes while speaking to the media before departing from the White House on November 20, 2019.Mark Wilson / Getty Images

‘I was shocked,’ Sondland says about claim he was involved in ‘drug deal’ with Ukraine

During an exchange with GOP counsel Stephen Castor, Sondland was asked what his reaction was when he heard about earlier closed-door testimony from another key witness that former national security adviser John Bolton said Sondland was involved in a “drug deal” with Ukraine. 

“I was shocked,” Sondland testified Wednesday. 

Castor was referring to testimony by former Russia adviser on the National Security Council, Fiona Hill, who said after a July 10 meeting with Sondland, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, other U.S. officials and Ukrainians, that Sondland was pushing the investigations. 

Hill then said Bolton told her to report what she had seen and heard to NSC counsel John Eisenberg.

“Go and tell Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this,” Bolton said, according to Hill’s testimony. 

The Nunes moment that has Twitter meming

The moment of the hearing so far — aside from the various bombshells dropped by Sondland — is Nunes’ reaction going into the first break.

As Schiff called the break, Nunes sneaked a look at Stephen Castor, the staff attorney for the GOP at the impeachment hearings. 

It’s already getting remixed.

Pence disputes Sondland testimony that he knew about concerns over delayed aid

Pence's office responded to Sondland's assertion that he told the vice president about concerns that aid to Ukraine had been frozen because of investigations of the Bidens and the 2016 election sought by the Trump administration:

"The Vice President never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens, Burisma or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations," a statement from the VP's chief of staff, Marc Short, said.  

"Ambassador Gordon Sondland was never alone with Vice President Pence on the September 1 trip to Poland.  This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened. Multiple witnesses have testified under oath that Vice President Pence never raised Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden, Crowdstrike, Burisma, or investigations in any conversation with Ukrainians or President Zelensky before, during, or after the September 1 meeting in Poland."

Mike Pence speaks on the future of the US relationship with China at the Wilson Center's inaugural Frederic V. Malek Public Service Leadership lecture, in Washington, on Oct. 24, 2019.Nichola Kamm / AFP - Getty Images

Sondland says he's a ‘proud’ amigo; Volker, not so much

Nunes used part of his questioning to ask Sondland if he was part of the “three amigos” — a nickname for the alleged shadow policy team in Ukraine of Sondland, Perry and Volker.

“I’m a proud member of the three amigos,” Volker replied, smiling.

Nunes responded, “and that’s the same thing Ambassador Volker said yesterday.”

Actually, it’s not.

Volker, in fact, said, “I never used that term — and frankly cringe when I hear it.”

“For me, the ‘three amigos’ will always refer to Sen. John McCain, Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Sen. Lindsey Graham, in reference to their work to support the surge in Iraq,” Volker said Tuesday.

Volker added that he was “never aware” of “any designation by Trump or anyone else” putting himself, Sondland or Perry “or the three of us as a group in charge of Ukraine policy.”