After hearing Tuesday from three people who listened in on President Trump's July 25 phone call with the leader of Ukraine, lawmakers will take testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who helped to coordinate efforts in Ukraine with President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Sondland will certainly have to address a phone call he supposedly made from a restaurant in Ukraine - on an unsecured cell phone - where he spoke to President Trump, who made clear he wanted to know if Ukraine was going to announce it had started investigations into the Bidens, and a 2016 conspiracy theory that Ukraine - and not Russia - had hacked Democrats during the elections.
“Ambassador Sondland is a big personality,” said former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, who testified a day earlier.
Follow along with developments here:
8:00 pm. While the hearing is over, there is now an extra session in which Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are voting down a variety of requests from Republicans for subpoenas of Hunter Biden, the whistleblower, and others.
7:25 pm. Here's the headlines from tonight's hearing so far:
+ New emails show Ukraine embassy asked on July 25 what was going on with military aid
+ State Dept official says at a July 26 meeting OMB said the President had directed a delay on that aid.
Trump-Zelensky call was July 25.
7:00 pm. Here is the video of Hale's testimony with respect to the July 26 meeting where an OMB official said the President had authorized a hold on the military aid for Ukraine.
6:55 pm. One of the GOP arguments is that Ukraine did not know the military aid was on hold. But it's clear that the July 25 Trump-Zelensky phone call had the Kyiv government concerned.
6:45 pm. While this is a fairly dry hearing which reminds me of covering a regular Congressional oversight hearing, there have been some kernels of news. Along with Cooper's statement, Hale says at an interagency meeting on July 26, officials were told that military aid was on hold “because the President had so directed through the Acting Chief of Staff."
6:10 pm. Cooper says her Pentagon staff found a series of emails in which there were concerns relayed by Ukraine officials about why military aid was on hold. Two of the emails were sent to State Dept on July 25. That was the same day President Trump spoke with the Ukraine leader.
5:40 pm. After almost a two hour break, the second hearing is underway. Pentagon official Laura Cooper and State Department official David Hale are testifying.
3:45 pm. The hearing has ended. There was prolonged applause for Sondland as he left the room.
3:15 pm. Sondland says it would have been better for a Trump-Zelensky meeting to take place without conditions, saying he thought their chemistry would have been very good, describing the Ukraine leader as smart, funny, and charming.
3:10 pm. The GOP frustration grows with Sondland at this hearing. Rep. Jim Jordan R-OH to Sondland: "You said there were three quid pro quos but there weren't."
2:20 pm. It's now open season on Sondland from the Republican side. Rep. Mike Turner R-OH blasted Sondland, calling his testimony 'confusing' and 'somewhat circular.'
Turner was followed by Rep. Brad Wenstrup R-OH, who rebuked Sondland as well. House Republicans moved quickly to get the Turner Q&A out on social media.
2:00 pm. Rep. Jim Jordan R-OH echoes earlier GOP complaints to Sondland about why he didn't use a quote from the President in today's opening statement where Mr. Trump denied any quid pro quo.
1:50 pm. Giuliani tweeted something about Sondland at 12:29 pm, and then deleted it. Now, about an hour later, he has re-posted the same tweet. Not clear what changed, or what was wrong with the original missive.
1:40 pm. Sondland is back. The White House has just issued a statement on his testimony, pushing back on his 'quid pro quo' assertions.
1:09 pm. The committee is taking a break for lunch. Republicans had so little to offer between Nunes and Castor that they did not use their full 30 minutes.
1:05 pm. Giuliani has already deleted his 12:29 pm tweet about Sondland's testimony.
12:50 pm. Rep. Devin Nunes R-CA has again been making the GOP point today that President Trump clearly had a reason to be mad at Ukraine over what happened in 2016. One of the things which happened was the downfall of his campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
12:35 pm. Democrats clearly feel today's testimony has played in their favor.
12:30 pm. Giuliani joins the President in downplaying the role of Sondland.
12:15 pm. The GOP effort to counter Sondland is to say that he has no evidence to back up his assertions.
12:00 pm. Here are the comments by President Trump about Sondland as he left the White House today.
11:45 am. The GOP response in the hearing (and outside) is that President Trump never directly told Sondland to do anything.
Q: The President never told you about pre-conditions for a White House meeting.
Sondland: "Personally, no."
11:30 am. President Trump is now 45 minutes behind schedule for his departure from the White House. He is headed today to Texas.
11:25 am. Nunes starts the GOP time by focusing not on anything Sondland said in his testimony so far today, focusing on Republican allegations that Ukraine was 'out to get him' during the 2016 elections.
First question from Nunes on this line.
Sondland: "I am not aware of it."
Nunes keeps going with more.
Sondland: "I am not aware of it."
11:20 am. During the break, Democrats went to the TV cameras stationed outside.
11:15 am. Again in this impeachment hearing process, viewers on Fox News are getting some different messages.
11:00 am. A light moment in the hearing, as Sondland says he and President Trump tend to communicate with words that probably aren't for kids.
10:47 am. On the Drudge Report. It's not the greatest of headlines for the President on what's usually a favorable website.
10:45 am. Sondland said the President and Giuliani wanted Ukraine to publicly announce the Burisma / Bidens / Crowdstrike-2016 investigations.
But Sondland says that doesn't mean Ukraine actually had to undertake the investigations.
10:35 am. Critics of the President in Congress say the testimony today from Sondland is a big, big deal.
10:20 am. Sondland says Secretary of State Pompeo was up to date with the Giuliani/Trump efforts all along.
Sondland says he raised the delay in aid with Vice President Pence on September 1.
10:15 am. Sondland has finished with his opening statement. There is a lot of explosive testimony there, especially Sondland saying that 'everyone was in the loop' about the President seeking investigations from Ukraine.
10:05 am. Was there a quid pro quo involving Ukraine? Sondland says, in one sense, the answer is yes.
10:00 am. Sondland says he was surprised to see the rough transcript of the July 25 call the President had with the leader of Ukraine, because he had not been told about the fact that President Trump mentioned investigations related to Biden/Burisma/Crowdstrike in the call.
9:50 am. Sondland repeatedly says that State Department officials wanted no part of Giuliani being involved in diplomatic work. But the President did. So, they had to play the hand they were dealt (Sondland's description).
9:40 am. Democrats immediately seize on the 'quid pro quo' description by Sondland.
9:27 am. Sondland uses the term “quid pro quo” to describe what was going on at three different points in his prepared testimony.
9:25 am. Sondland will also show that Vice President Pence was in that loop as well.
9:20 am. Sondland says multiple times - “Everyone was in the loop.”
9:15 am. Sondland says it has been difficult to come up with answers because the White House and State Department have not helped him get documents and phone records.
9:10 am. The hearing is underway. Sondland's statement is going to provide some interesting moments in questioning from both parties. Here is the Ambassador's recount of the July 26 unsecured cell call to President Trump from a restaurant in Kyiv.
9:00 am - The opening statement of Sondland is now available at the following link.
8:40 am. Someone asked me on Facebook what the advantage is of actually being in the hearing room. In one way, it is being a witness to history. But not seeing the TV feed could put you at a disadvantage, as many others watch every facial twitch, frown, and smile on the faces of the witnesses and lawmakers.
When I got here into the room this morning, I found the still photographers had taken my power plug spot, and a TV crew has taken my audio feed. So, I had to deal with that, and switch things around. If I were back in my booth in either the House or Senate side of the Capitol, everything would be just fine. I could stand, go to the bathroom, have lunch, etc. Here is my “view” of the dais.
8:10 am. The folks at Fox and Friends do not buy the testimony that President Trump talks loud and could be overheard on his cell phone.
8:00 am. A reminder of the testimony so far, is that Sondland called up President Trump from a restaurant in Ukraine, and spoke to him on an unsecured cell phone. In that call, US embassy staffer David Holmes testified that he could easily hear the President's voice, and hear what was being discussed with Sondland - investigations - which Mr. Trump wanted from the Ukraine government.
The Holmes testimony can be found at this link.
7:50 am. The Sondland phone call with President Trump is going to get a lot of attention today - and rightfully so.
7:45 am. Most readers probably know Sondland's name from the impeachment / Ukraine controversy, but don't really know all of the details. There's some interesting stuff which has GOP lawmakers a bit uneasy, because the script today may not be that obvious at first.
7:35 am. It's not just Gordon Sondland testifying today, starting at 9 am. And there is another hearing on Thursday. Like Tuesday, it would be no surprise for me if the hearings are still going at 8 pm - which is when the Democratic debate in Atlanta is set to begin. That would a split screen political Super Bowl.
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