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

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.

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

Live Blog

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.

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

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. 

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.

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.

Sondland clarifies how many times he and Trump have spoken

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.

'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.

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.”

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.

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

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.