Maloney vows to overhaul a House Democratic campaign machine 'stuck in the past'
Live coverage: Schiff closes with speech highlighting claims of Trump's corruption
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is scheduled to testify Wednesday morning in a highly anticipated appearance before the House Intelligence Committee as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump's dealings with Ukraine.
Sondland originally testified behind closed doors that he did not know precisely why U.S. military aid to Ukraine was held up and said that, in a September phone call, Trump denied using nearly $400 million in U.S. financial aid as leverage to get Kyiv to open two politically motivated investigations.
But the Trump donor and political appointee revised his testimony earlier this month to say that he "presumed" that the delayed military aid was conditioned upon Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announcing investigations into 2016 election interference and Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy company that employed the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading 2020 presidential candidate.
Sondland is viewed as a wild card witness. Neither Democrats nor Republicans know whether he will help or hurt Trump during his day in the hot seat.
Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of Defense, and David Hale, an undersecretary of State, are scheduled to testify on Wednesday afternoon before the Intelligence panel, which is led by Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and ranking member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).
Follow The Hill's complete coverage below.
Republicans force votes for testimony from whistleblower, Hunter Biden
At the end of the marathon day of testimony, Republicans on the Intelligence Committee sought to issue five subpoenas which, among other things, would have compelled the testimony from several witnesses they'd previously requested, including the whistleblower and Hunter Biden.
Behind Schiff, the Democrats on the panel have refused those requests, citing safety concerns surrounding the anonymous whistleblower and an unwillingness, in Schiff's description, to pursue "an improper" probe into the Bidens.
"We will not allow, as I said before, this committee to be used either to out the whistleblower or for purposes of engaging in the same improper investigation that the president sought to force Ukraine to commit," Schiff said.
Republicans also submitted motions for the whistleblower to release certain documents related to his complaint; for a financial firm to release documents pertaining to Hunter Biden's time on the board of Burisma; and for the Democratic National Committee to release communications with Ukrainian officials.
All five motions were shot down by the majority Democrats on the committee.
Schiff closes with speech highlighting claims of Trump's corruption
Schiff in his closing statement sought to undermine the argument that Trump was interested in pursuing anti-corruption measures in Ukraine by highlighting examples he alleged proved the president's own corruption.
His final remarks after roughly 11 hours of testimony did not focus much on the statements of Cooper and Hale, but instead noted some of the most damaging claims made by Sondland earlier in the day.
Schiff said Trump's push for Ukraine to look into the Bidens was not evidence of anti-corruption, but of corruption, and that the same was true of the quid pro quo arrangement Sondland detailed involving a White House meeting for Zelensky.
He credited the men and women of the departments of Defense and State with carrying out an anti-corruption agenda, but warned that Trump was undercutting it with his own actions.
"When they see a president of the United States who is not devoted to the rule of law, who is not devoted to anti-corruption, but instead demonstrates in word and deed corruption, they are forced to ask themselves what does America stand for anymore?" Schiff concluded.
Nunes says impeachment proceedings amount to an 'inquisition' in closing remarks
Nunes compared the impeachment inquiry into President Trump to the inquisition in the Middle Ages during his closing remarks Wednesday night, saying that Trump has fewer rights than victims of the inquisition.
"This is not impeachment inquiry, this is an impeachment inquisition," Nunes said. "Incredibly, or maybe not so much given the Democrats' track record, an inquisition victim had more rights than the Democrats are giving the president. After all, inquisition victims had the right to know their accuser's name."
In invoking the accuser, Nunes was referring to the anonymous whistleblower who brought up concerns about Trump's July phone call with Zelensky.
Nunes ended his closing remarks by yielding to "Mr. Schiff for story-time hour."
Schiff responded that he "thanked the gentleman as always for his remarks," leading to audience laughter.
Hale endorses leadership of Yovanovitch in Ukraine
Hale endorsed the description by Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as "a dedicated and courageous patriot," with Heck encouraging Hale to do so in order to "demonstrate leadership."
Hale said that he was aware that "we had an exceptional officer doing exceptional work at a very critical embassy in Kyiv," and said that he believed State Department officers are "the best group of diplomats anywhere in the world."
Heck pressed Hale to show support for Yovanovitch in the wake of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's refusal to condemn what Heck described as Trump's attempt to "attack" Yovanovitch during her testimony last week.
Trump criticized Yovanovitch on Twitter while she testified, with Yovanovitch saying that she felt the "effect" of that tweet was to "intimidate."
"I think Secretary Pompeo's silence is nothing less than a betrayal of the men and the women whom he swore an oath to lead," Heck said on Wednesday.
Heck then encouraged Hale to show support for Yovanovitch, saying that "I am giving you an opportunity to send a clear and resounding message to the men and women who serve in dangerous foreign posts throughout the globe that what happened to Marie Yovanovitch was wrong."
Hale said simply in response that he "endorsed entirely" Heck's description of Yovanovitch as a "patriot."
Ratcliffe pushes Cooper on what Ukraine knew about aid
Under questioning from Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), Cooper said the emails her staff received on July 25 stating the Ukrainian Embassy was inquiring about the security assistance did not "necessarily" mean they were aware of a hold on the aid at the time.
Ratcliffe was seeking to push back on press reports describing Cooper as testifying that Ukrainians asked about the "hold" on aid.
Cooper reiterated that the emails her staff received from the State Department said that the Ukrainian Embassy and lawmakers in Congress "are asking about security assistance" know about the "FMF situation."
"They don't necessarily mean hold, correct?" Ratcliffe asked of the terms.
"Not necessarily," Cooper said.
She said that her staff believed Ukrainians knew about the hold on aid before it became public the following month but that she had no specific evidence.
"It's the recollection of my staff that they likely knew but, no, I do not have a certain data point to offer you," Cooper said.
Cooper says Moscow would benefit most from hold on aid
Cooper was asked which country would benefit most if U.S. military aid to Ukraine was withheld. She didn't miss a beat.
"Russia," she said.
The response was prompted from questioning from Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), who extracted from Cooper a portrait of Ukraine as a vulnerable ally on the front lines of the fight to repel the march of Russian aggression into Europe.
Cooper said Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2014 would have been more severe without the help of U.S. aid. If that funding and equipment were withheld, she said, it would threaten U.S. national security and "validate Russia's violation of international law."
The reason behind the White House decision to withhold almost $400 million in aid to Kyiv remains a lingering mystery in the Ukraine saga at the center of the House impeachment inquiry.
The aid was ultimately released on Sept. 11, and Cooper emphasized that the delay did not affect the delivery of military equipment over that duration.
"There was no shortfall in equipment deliveries [over that timeline]," she said.
Yet Democrats contend Trump finally released the aid only after a backlash from Congress and rising alarm in the national security community. In their eyes, the hold is just more evidence that Trump has nefarious ties with Moscow.
"All roads lead to Putin," Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said last week.
Trump: "If this were a prizefight, they'd stop it!"
Trump weighed in on the second round of hearings of the day as he traveled back to Washington from Texas aboard Air Force One.
"If this were a prizefight, they'd stop it!" Trump tweeted, clearly pleased with the way the hearings were playing out.
Wednesday's hearings have been difficult for the White House's defense of the president, however.
Sondland testified that there was a quid pro quo tying a White House meeting to a public announcement of investigations that Trump wanted, and Cooper disclosed that Ukraine was aware of an issue with security aid earlier than previously known.
Jordan pushes back at Schiff assertion that minority witnesses were called
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) pushed back against an assertion made by Schiff earlier in the hearing that Democrats had called Republican-requested witnesses to testify.
Jordan told Schiff that "they are all your witnesses," citing the Republicans being unable to subpoena anyone to testify.
"You gave us an opportunity to get a list to you a couple weeks ago, where we made suggestions of who you might allow us to have, so we did put three people of those 17 on that list so that they could provide at least some semblance of context and framework for this entire thing," Jordan said.
Jordan added that "once again, misleading the folks watching this hearing is not helpful."
Jordan made these comments in response to Schiff saying earlier in the hearing that Hale and previous witnesses Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison were witnesses requested by the Republicans.
Schiff says minority was informed ahead of time about hearing procedure change
Schiff pushed back on GOP complaints about a change in process for the second impeachment hearing of the day, saying House Intelligence Committee Republicans were notified Tuesday that the rules governing questioning would be different.
Schiff noted that for the hearing involving Cooper and Hale "we will forgo the first round of questions from committee counsel and immediately proceed to member questions under the five minute rule."
Schiff said that Democrats had told the Republicans of this change ahead of time, and were told by Republicans "OK, got it, thanks for the heads up."
Schiff also responded to accusations by Nunes that Democrats were blocking Republican requests for specific witnesses to testify, pointing to Hale and two previous witnesses - Volker and Morrison - as all being Republican-requested witnesses.
"I can understand why the minority does not want to now characterize them as minority-requested witnesses, but nonetheless they were minority-requested witnesses," he said.
Giuliani says he didn't bring up military aid with Ukraine
Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, said following Sondland's testimony that he did not bring up military aid with the Ukrainians.
Giuliani told Glenn Beck on his BlazeTV show that the issue of withheld funding came up after he had completed his "assignment."
"The reality is, that whole issue of military aid didn't come up until after I had finished the assignment they gave me," Giuliani said. "I never discussed military aid with them. And of course I can't tell you what I discussed with the president."
"But I had no involvement at all in the issue of military aid, and I believe that is a complete non-issue," he added.
He later added that part of his "mandate" was to gather evidence that would assist Trump in former special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Sondland testified that he understood from Giuliani that Ukraine had to publicly announce an investigation into the 2016 election and Burisma in order to secure a White House meeting with Trump.
Cooper says Ukraine asked about security assistance in July
Cooper testified that her staff heard that Ukraine was aware of a hold on security assistance in July, an update from her closed-door deposition.
She cited emails from her staff on July 25 in which the State Department said the Ukrainian Embassy and House Foreign Affairs Committee were "asking about security assistance."
She recalled another email from July 3 from the State Department stating that they had heard the congressional notification for security assistance was "being blocked" by the Office of Management and Budget at the White House.
Cooper's disclosure of new correspondence could prove a blow to a main GOP line of defense, which is that the hold on Ukraine aid was ultimately lifted and that the Ukrainians were unaware of the freeze in funding early enough for there to have been a quid pro quo.
Cooper said her staff made her aware of the correspondence after she had already given her closed-door testimony, but that none of the emails were brought to her attention at the time.
The hold on Ukrainian security assistance has been a key point in the impeachment inquiry. Each witness has said they opposed putting a hold on the aid, but none have definitively said they knew who ordered it to be frozen.
Witnesses sworn in
Cooper and Hale were sworn in following opening statements delivered by Schiff and Nunes.
Schiff emphasized the importance of the military aid to Ukraine that was frozen temporarily by the White House over the summer. That funding, he argued, is vital to both the national security interests of the United States and to Ukraine's efforts to repel Russian aggression in eastern parts of the country.
Nunes hammered the process as "skewed," since Republicans were not permitted to hear from certain requested witnesses, including the whistleblower and Hunter Biden.
"The accusations change by the hour," he said, urging Schiff to shut the process down.
Nunes says Americans are getting 'skewed impression' of impeachment inquiry from Democrats5:50 p.m.
Nunes, in his opening statement, said Democrats are giving the American people a "skewed version" of the impeachment inquiry by blocking witnesses and said they were holding hearings "in search of a crime."
He criticized Schiff for not allowing the anonymous whistleblower who first filed a complaint about Trump's July phone call with Zelensky to testify, as well as not allowing testimony from Hunter Biden.
"As we Republicans have argued at these hearings, the American people are getting a skewed impression of these events," Nunes said. "That's because the Democrats assume full authority to call witnesses, and they promptly rejected any new witnesses the Republicans requested."
Nunes also questioned why Democrats were pursuing the impeachment inquiry against Trump, urging Schiff to "bring it to a close."
"What exactly are the Democrats impeaching the president for? None of us here really know, because the accusations change by the hour," Nunes said. "Once again, this is impeachment in search of a crime. Mr. Chairman I would urge you to bring this to a close, adjourn this hearing, and move on and get back to the work of the Intelligence Committee."
White House says Sondland testimony 'completely exonerates' Trump
The White House declared in a statement that Sondland's testimony "completely exonerates" Trump of wrongdoing, arguing that the ambassador's allegations were based on "his presumptions and beliefs."
"Over the course of the Democrats' desperate impeachment inquiry, we have heard a great deal of hearsay, conjecture, and outright speculation about whether the President withheld military aid to the Ukraine based on a quid pro quo," press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. "The Democrats certainly tried - and have again failed - to make their case by using unreliable and indirect evidence. This country deserves better."
Sondland testified that there was a quid pro quo tying a White House meeting for the Ukrainian president to a public announcement of investigations that Trump wanted based on conversations with his personal attorney.
But Sondland said he did not hear directly from Trump that aid for Ukraine was contingent on any investigations.
"The direct evidence heard at these hearings makes clear that the Democrats' allegations are baseless and a pathetic attempt overthrow the 2016 election," Grisham said.
Team Trump: Hearing 'fizzled' for Democrats
Trump campaign national press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement that the hearing "fizzled" for Democrats, echoing the president and his GOP allies by seizing on Sondland's testimony that Trump told him that he wanted "nothing" from Ukraine.
"Over and over we've heard from Democrats and the media that the next hearing, the next witness, the next testimony would be the bombshell they've been promising, only to have it fizzle out like all the rest. It has happened yet again," McEnany said in a statement.
"Ambassador Sondland said repeatedly that President Trump directly told him he wanted nothing from Ukraine. Sondland also testified that no one - no one - ever told him that Ukraine aid was tied to investigations. In a normal world this would be the end of the story, but in Washington, D.C., the Democrats' sham impeachment rolls on - to the detriment of the American people."
Schiff calls Sondland testimony 'seminal moment'
Schiff in his closing remarks recapped some key allegations levied by Sondland in his opening statement, describing the ambassador's marathon appearance as a turning point in the impeachment proceedings.
"This is a seminal moment in our investigation, and the evidence you've brought forward is deeply significant and troubling," Schiff said.
He recounted some of the most damning points of Sondland's opening remarks, including when the ambassador said he and others were following the president's orders. He also highlighted Sondland's testimony that there was a quid pro quo tying a White House meeting for Ukraine to a public announcement of investigations.
While Sondland's testimony implicated multiple high-level administration officials and the president's personal attorney, Schiff said Trump is the one who should be viewed as the mastermind.
"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?" Schiff said.
"We are not prepared to say that," he added.
Nunes says Sondland testimony yielded no evidence to support impeachment
Nunes said during his closing remarks that Sondland's testimony yielded no evidence to support impeachment, describing the case brought against Trump by the Democrats as a "conspiracy theory."
"Nothing that 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," Nunes said.
He added that "testimony received today was far from compelling, conclusive, and provides zero evidence of any of the crimes that have been alleged."
Sondland cracks jokes amid lengthy hearing
Sondland struck a joking tone during a handful of his exchanges with lawmakers as his hearing dragged on into its sixth hour.
"That's what my wife calls me," Sondland quipped when asked by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) about National Security Council official Tim Morrison referring to him as "the Gordon problem" the day before.
Sondland, who donated $1 million to the president's inauguration, was also asked about Trump's efforts to distance himself from the EU ambassador by saying he doesn't know Sondland well, commenting: "Easy come, easy go."
Earlier, Sondland also sought to lighten up an exchange about his memory regarding his calls with Trump. He was asked by Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) why he remembered specific details of a September call with Trump while not remembering details of other interactions.
"I remember the first girl I kissed," Sondland said, laughing. "I remembered that conversation because, as I said, it was a pretty intense, short conversation."
Maloney presses Sondland on who would benefit from Biden investigation
After aggressive questioning from Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Sondland conceded that Trump would be the person to benefit most from a Ukrainian investigation into the family of former Vice President Joe Biden, with Maloney criticizing Sondland for being reticent to say it out loud.
After Maloney repeated his question multiple times, Sondland said that he "assumed President Trump would benefit" from a Ukrainian investigation of one of his 2020 rivals.
"There we have it. See, it didn't hurt a bit, did it?" Maloney said, as audience members in the hearing room applauded.
When Sondland objected to Maloney's repeated questions, saying he "resented" what the lawmaker was trying to do, Maloney pushed back, calling out Sondland on the length of time it took to make that admission.
"You have been forthright, this is your third try to do so, sir, didn't work so well the first time, did it," Maloney said in reference to Sondland's closed door testimony in October and his subsequent reversal of his initial testimony this month.
Maloney added that "with all due respect sir, we appreciate your candor, but let's be really clear on what it took to get it out of you."
Trump's 'I want nothing' notes take off on Twitter
Close-up images of the handwritten notes Trump had in front him while speaking to the press about the ongoing public impeachment hearings are going viral online.
In photos of the notes, which the president read from outside the White House on Wednesday afternoon, Trump details a past exchange he had with Sondland about Ukraine in September, which the official also discussed in his testimony.
One sheet of his notes that is making the rounds describes a point during the conversation in which Trump said he told Sondland he wanted "nothing" from the Ukraine.
"I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zellinsky [sic] to do the right thing. This is the final word from the President of the U.S," the page reads in all caps and thick black marker.
Viral reactions around the notes have prompted the phrase "I want nothing" to trend on Twitter.
Sondland says he wishes Trump would have 'simply met' with Zelensky
Sondland testified that he wished Trump would have just sat down with Zelensky, saying he believed it would have relieved Trump of any concerns about Ukraine.
"I would have preferred that, and I'm sure everyone would have preferred that the president simply met with Mr. Zelensky right away," Sondland said. "Our assessment of Mr. Zelensky was he and the president would get on famously.
Sondland has said throughout his testimony that he understood a White House meeting between Trump and Zelensky was contingent on Ukraine publicly announcing investigations that Trump wanted.
Sondland told lawmakers he thought Zelensky is "smart" and "charming" and would have gotten along well with Trump if given the chance.
"Once the two of them got together, we thought the chemistry would take over and good things would happen between the U.S. and Ukraine relationship," he said.
Zelensky still has not been to the White House to meet with Trump.
Sondland: Trump not a close friend
Sondland said that he wouldn't describe himself and Trump as "close friends" but said they have a "professional working relationship" and have spoken at least 20 times.
"It really depends on what you mean by 'know well.' We are not close friends," Sondland said under questioning from Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.). "We have a professional working relationship.
Sondland also confirmed he gave $1 million to Trump's inaugural committee in order to secure "a VVIP ticket" to the 2017 inauguration.
"It's a lot of money," Sondland said, smiling.
Swalwell: If someone walked into meeting room with an umbrella, 'do you have to see outside that it's raining?'
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) pushed back on comments from Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), suggesting that a quid pro quo need not specifically have been put into words to count as one.
"You know now ... there are some things around Ukraine that are wrong," Swalwell said, with Sondland responding, "I agree."
"Let's take out any leveraging of security assistance ... would you agree it is wrong for the president of the United States to ask the leader of a foreign government to investigate the president of the United States' political opponent?" Swalwell asked, with Sondland responding in the affirmative.
"One final hypothetical: If someone walks through those two doors wearing rain boots, a raincoat and holding an umbrella with raindrops falling off of them, do you have to see outside that it's raining to presume or conclude that it might be raining outside?" Swalwell asked.
Sondland responded, "I understand your hypothetical."
Speier says Trump earns 'five Pinocchios on a daily basis'
After Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) pointed out that Schiff had received "three Pinocchios" from The Washington Post's fact-checking metric, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said that President Trump gets "five Pinocchios" daily.
During his questioning, Conaway had entered into the record a Post article that faulted Schiff on his recent claim that whistleblowers have a statutory right to anonymity.
Later, while Speier was discussing whistleblower protections and Schiff's comments, Conaway cut in to say "the end of the article does go through that and also says it's three Pinocchios."
"The president of the United States has five Pinocchios on a daily basis, so let's not go there," Speier retorted.
Her comment was met with laughter and applause.
The Post's fact-checker gave Schiff three out of a possible four Pinocchios after he said Tuesday that the "whistleblower has the right, a statutory right, to anonymity."
The story said that his claim is really "on the line between Two and Three Pinocchios."
Schiff: Trump doesn't have to say 'I am bribing the Ukrainian president' to establish bribery
Schiff pushed back on what he said were implications from committee Republicans that there was no evidence of bribery unless it was explicitly spelled out by Trump.
"My colleagues seem to be under the impression that unless the president spoke the words 'Ambassador Sondland, I am bribing the 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," Schiff told Sondland.
"Nonetheless, ambassador, you've given us a lot of evidence of precisely that conditionality of both the White House meeting and the military assistance," Schiff said.
"You've told us, have you not, that you emailed the secretary of State and you said that if these investigations were announced, the new justice person was put in place, that the Ukrainians would be prepared to give the president what he wants and that would break the logjam," he added.
Turner accuses Sondland of making up testimony tying Trump to withholding Ukraine aid
Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) accused Sondland of basing his testimony that tied Trump to withholding aid to Ukraine in exchange for the Ukrainian government announcing investigations on nothing more than his own inferences.
Turner asked Sondland whether he had evidence that proved Trump was tied to the aid being withheld for a quid pro quo, with Sondland replying that he was "presuming" based on conversations he had with other administration officials.
Turner pushed back at this, drilling Sondland and asking him to answer yes or no to whether "no one on this planet told you that President Trump was tying aid to investigations."
Sondland said "yes" to this question, adding that his evidence for Trump tying the aid to Ukrainian investigations was his own "presumption."
"Which is nothing," Turner replied. "I mean, that is what I don't understand. You know what hearsay evidence is, ambassador? Hearsay is when I testify what someone else told me."
"You know what made-up testimony is? Made-up testimony is when I just presume it, you're just assuming all of these things, and then you are giving them the evidence," he added, referring to the committee Democrats.
Sondland pushed back, saying that he never said Trump should be impeached, but Turner responded by noting that Sondland's testimony left people with a "confusing impression" of what occurred.
"You do not have any evidence that the president of the United States was tied to withholding aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations," Turner said as he closed his questioning.
Giuliani slams GOP counsel over line of questioning
Rudy Giuliani criticized GOP counsel Stephen Castor and asked for an apology after Castor raised the president's personal attorney extensively during a line of questioning.
Giuliani responded in real time to Castor raising his business interests when asking Sondland why he trusted Giuliani during their communications about Ukraine.
"Republican lawyer doesn't do his own research and preparation, and is instead picking up Democrat lies, shame," Giuliani tweeted. "Allow me to inform him: I have NO financial interests in Ukraine, NONE! I would appreciate his apology."
Sondland has repeatedly raised Giuliani during his testimony. He told lawmakers that Trump directed him and other officials to "talk to Rudy" about certain Ukraine matters and that he understood Giuliani to be relaying the president's interests.
The Southern District of New York is reportedly investigating Giuliani's business dealings, including whether he failed to register as a foreign agent. Prosecutors are looking at Giuliani's ties to Ukrainian energy companies, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Perry pushes back
A spokesman for Energy Secretary Rick Perry pushed back on Sondland's testimony, asserting that he "misrepresented" Perry's interaction with Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and instructions that Perry received from Trump.
"Ambassador Sondland's testimony today misrepresented both Secretary Perry's interaction with Rudy Giuliani and direction the Secretary received from President Trump," Energy Department press secretary Shaylyn Hynes said in a statement. "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 that phone call did the words 'Biden' or 'Burisma' ever come up in the presence of Secretary Perry."
Nunes accuses Schiff of 'obstructing justice' by not giving Sondland transcript of OMB official's deposition
Nunes accused Schiff of "obstructing justice" by not giving Sondland the transcript of the deposition of an official involved in distributing foreign aid who spoke with the Intelligence Committee behind closed doors this past weekend.
"I would think it's obstruction of justice to not give the American people, and give the ambassador, the right to look at the transcript of the man who's in charge of the foreign aid in this town," Nunes said. "Now I could get into what he said, the chair could release what he said, but we're not even allowed to call that witness today."
The witness Nunes referring to was Mark Sandy, a senior official within the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), who gave a deposition to the committee on Saturday. Sandy reportedly told members of Congress that he did not know why the aid to Ukraine was held up.
Nunes also accused the committee Democrats of having "Watergate fantasies" in relation to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump, referring to the Nixon impeachment inquiry.
"We had the chair looking at the cameras, telling the American people, talking about Watergate, with their Watergate fantasies, I guess they fantasize about this at night, and then they come here and talk about obstruction of justice because they are not giving you documents that you think you should have," Nunes told Sondland.
White House: Sondland had a 'few brief phone calls' with Trump
Echoing Trump's earlier remarks, the White House claimed that Sondland's testimony made clear that Trump did not want a quid pro quo with respect to Ukraine.
Press secretary Stephanie Grisham also described Sondland as having a "few brief phone calls" with Trump, seemingly distancing the president from the witness.
"Ambassador Sondland's testimony made clear that in one of the few brief phone calls he had with President Trump, the president clearly stated that he 'wanted nothing' from Ukraine and repeated 'no quid pro quo over and over again,'" Grisham said. "In fact, no quid pro quo ever occurred. The U.S. aid to Ukraine flowed, no investigation was launched, and President Trump has met and spoken with President Zelensky. Democrats keep chasing ghosts."
Giuliani seeks distance from Sondland
Rudy Giuliani, a personal attorney for Trump, sought to defend his involvement in the Ukraine controversy as Sondland testified about his role.
"I came into this at [former Ukraine special envoy Kurt] Volker's request. Sondland is speculating based on VERY little contact. I never met him and had very few calls with him, mostly with Volker," Giuliani said on Twitter during the hearing.
"Volker testified I answered their questions and described them as my opinions, NOT demands. I.E., no quid pro quo!" he added.
Sondland repeatedly referenced Giuliani during his testimony. The ambassador told lawmakers that Trump directed him and other officials to "talk to Rudy" about certain Ukraine matters and that he understood Giuliani to be relaying the president's interests.
"If I had 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," Sondland said.
He added that Giuliani's requests amounted to a quid pro quo tying a White House meeting for Zelensky to demands that Zelensky announce investigations into Trump's political rivals.
While Giuliani pointed to Volker's testimony as a defense of his actions, even Volker expressed concerns about Giuliani's role in the administration and noted he had raised a "conspiracy theory."
Giuliani has been at the center of the ongoing impeachment inquiry and has been open about his efforts to pursue damaging information that might be useful to Trump. He has asserted that State Department officials were aware of his activities.
Two of his associates - Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman - have been indicted on charges of campaign finance law violations. Giuliani is reportedly under investigation in the Southern District of New York.
Trump: Sondland testimony means impeachment should be 'over'
Trump told reporters outside the White House he doesn't know Sondland "very well" and that Sondland's ongoing testimony Wednesday means that the House impeachment inquiry should be "over."
Reading from a packet of notes, Trump reenacted a conversation he had with Sondland that was described in his testimony, with the president saying he wanted "nothing" from Ukraine in exchange for investigations.
"That means it's all over. What do you want from Ukraine, he asks me, screaming. What do you want from Ukraine? I keep seeing all these ideas and theories," Trump said before leaving for a trip to Austin, Texas, providing his account of Sondland's part of the conversation.
"Here is my response that he just gave. Ready? You have the cameras rolling? I want nothing. That's what I want from Ukraine," Trump continued. "I want nothing - I said it twice."
Trump, who said he had been watching the hearing before he left the White House, recounted an exchange Sondland had with Schiff about the conversation almost verbatim, repeating parts of it several times.
Trump took issue, however, with Sondland's description that he was in a "bad mood" during the phone call.
"I'm always in a good mood. I don't know what that is," Trump said.
Schiff presses Sondland on knowledge of Burisma-Biden connection
Schiff pressed Sondland on his claim that he had not been aware of the connection between Burisma and the Bidens when he first learned Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani were pushing for investigations into the company.
"[Former Trump adviser] Tim Morrison testified that it took him all of doing a Google search to find out, 'Oh, this is the significance of Burisma, it involves the Bidens,'" Schiff said. "Are you saying that all this time, up until the [July 25] call, you never made the connection between Burisma and the Bidens, you just thought the president and Rudy Giuliani were interested in this one particular Ukrainian company?"
"Again, my role, Mr. Chairman, was just to get the meeting," Sondland responded, referring to a sit-down between Trump and Zelensky.
"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 the discussion with Rudy Giuliani, you never put Burisma together with the Bidens?" Schiff asked in response.
"I didn't, and I wasn't paying attention to what Mr. Giuliani was saying on TV - we were talking with him directly," Sondland responded.
Sondland says no one communicated concerns to him about 'irregular' Ukraine policymaking channel
Sondland said that none of the U.S. officials involved in what has been dubbed the "regular channel" of policymaking regarding Ukraine communicated to him regarding concerns over the "irregular channel."
When asked by GOP counsel Steve Castor about whether anyone had ever expressed concerns to him about the "irregular channel" on Ukrainian diplomacy, Sondland responded that he did not "remember anyone sounding any alarm bell."
"Had someone mentioned it, I would have sat up and taken notice," Sondland said. "Everyone's hair was on fire, but no one decided to talk to us."
Sondland also pushed back on the channel being called "irregular," citing the involvement of Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.
"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," Sondland said.
Sondland says he was 'shocked' by 'drug deal' characterization
Sondland said he was "shocked" to learn other diplomats had described as a "drug deal" the Trump administration's handling of its relations with Ukraine.
He was asked about a July 10 meeting in then-national security adviser John Bolton's office in which former envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker testified that Sondland had referenced "investigations." Sondland said he "probably mentioned" that an announcement of probes into Burisma and the 2016 election "needed to happen" to lift the hold on military aid to Kyiv.
"I don't recall any abrupt ending of the meeting or people storming out or anything like that," Sondland said, pushing back on Volker's characterization of the meeting. "That would have been very memorable if someone stormed out of a meeting based on something I said."
Asked if he was aware at the time of anyone characterizing the arrangement as a "drug deal," Sondland said he was not and that White House National Security Council official Fiona Hill had never described it as such to him, saying he was "shocked" to learn of the characterization, which was actually reportedly used by Bolton.
Pence's office denies he spoke with Sondland about investigations
Vice President Pence's office pushed back on Sondland's testimony that he raised concerns that aid for Ukraine had become tied to Trump's desire for investigations.
"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," Pence chief of staff Marc Short said in a statement
Sondland said in his opening statement that he brought up the issue during a Sept. 1 meeting with Pence in Warsaw, Poland. But Short denied the exchange ever took place.
"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," Short said.
Sondland says he and Trump use 'a lot of four-letter words' to communicate
Sondland said Wednesday that he and Trump often use profanity in their communications while confirming an exchange between them while Sondland was in Ukraine.
Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman asked Sondland if he could confirm a conversation he had with Trump while at a restaurant in Ukraine. According to David Holmes, a U.S. diplomat based in Ukraine who was present during the call, Sondland told Trump that Zelensky "loves your ass."
Sondland confirmed this on Wednesday, saying that "it sounds like something I would say," eliciting laughter in the hearing room.
Sondland added that this is "how president Trump and I communicate, a lot of four-letter words, in this case three-letter."
Sondland: 'Reference to A$AP Rocky' triggered memory of Kyiv phone call
Asked about his memory of additional details of his July 26 call with Trump from a Ukrainian restaurant following his initial deposition, Sondland told Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman that a reference to rapper A$AP Rocky reminded him.
"You have remembered a lot more than you did when you were deposed, is that right?" Goldman asked. "'One of the things that you know remember is the discussion you had with President Trump on July 26 in that restaurant in Kyiv."
"What triggered my memory was someone's reference to A$AP Rocky, which I believe was primary purpose of that phone call," Sondland said, referencing the rapper's detention in Sweden on assault charges. Trump was attempting to secure Rocky's release at the time.
"That's one way memory works, isn't it?" Goldman responded.
Sondland says he believed Ukraine did not actually have to conduct investigations - just announce them
Sondland testified that he believed Ukraine merely had to announce that it would conduct the investigations Trump wanted - but did not necessarily have to follow through - in order to satisfy the president.
"He had to announce the investigations, he didn't actually have to do them as I understood it," Sondland said of Zelensky, citing his conversations with Rudy Giuliani.
Sondland declined to speculate on Trump's motivations for seeking investigations into the 2016 election and the Bidens.
The ambassador to the European Union said earlier Wednesday morning that there was a quid pro quo tying a White House meeting for Zelensky to the Ukrainian president making a public declaration that he would follow through on the investigations Trump sought.
Sondland says he did not understand connection between Burisma and Bidens when investigation was first requested
Schiff questioned Sondland on his references to a "continuum of insidiousness" in relation to Ukrainian relations, with Sondland replying he didn't understand the nature of Trump's requests at the time.
"When we left the Oval Office on May 23, 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 longstanding problems," Sondland said.
"As time went on, more specific items got added to the menu including the Burisma and 2016 election meddling specifically, the [Democratic National Committee] server specifically," he added.
Asked by Schiff to confirm that his opening statement said there was a quid pro quo hinging a Trump-Zelensky meeting on investigations of the election, the Bidens and Burisma, Sondland said the Bidens "did not come up" but "today I know exactly what [Burisma] means" in relation to the Bidens, although he did not know at the time.
Sondland says aid to Ukraine 'should not have been delayed'
Sondland testified that he believes hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine should not have been delayed amid Trump's talks with Kyiv.
"This security aid was critical to Ukraine's defense and should not have been delayed," he said. "I expressed this view to many during this period."
He also defended administration efforts for a public statement from Ukraine committing to looking into corruption issues, saying he believed it was necessary to "break the logjam" and get the aid to Kyiv.
"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. 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," he said.
Sondland also said that both he and Zelensky raised the issue of security assistance with Vice President Pence around the time of a Sept. 1 meeting in Ukraine.
"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," Sondland said. "During the actual meeting, President Zelensky raised the issue of security assistance directly with Vice President Pence. The vice president said he would speak to President Trump about it."
Sondland is sworn in to testify
Sondland raised his right hand and vowed to tell the truth in his single-witness hearing.
Before he was sworn in, Schiff said that Congress would not tolerate any reprisal against witnesses and noted that any information that touched on classified information would be addressed separately.
Nunes submits request to subpoena Hunter Biden, whistleblower in opening remarks
Nunes requested that Schiff subpoena both Biden's son and the anonymous whistleblower who first kicked off the impeachment inquiry during his opening remarks on Wednesday.
"We need to subpoena Hunter Biden and the whistleblower for closed-door depositions, as well as relevant documents from the [Democratic National Committee], Hunter Biden's firm Rosemont Seneca and the whistleblower," Nunes said. "In the interest of some basic level of fairness, we expect you to concur with these subpoenas."
He then submitted the subpoenas for the record during the hearing.
Schiff is unlikely to grant these subpoenas, having blocked testimony by the whistleblower last week, citing the evidence gathered from other sources than corroborates the whistleblower's version of events.
In a Wednesday letter to Schiff on the subpoenas, Nunes pushed back on this, writing that "following revelations that the whistleblower has a bias against President Donald Trump and the disclosure that you had received an early account of the whistleblower allegations, you reversed course to deny the whistleblower an opportunity to testify."
The subpoena request was also signed by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
During his opening remarks, Nunes also told Sondland that he was "here today to be smeared" and told him he was "sorry you have to go through this."
Nunes zeroed in on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, saying that it relates to the impeachment inquiry and shows the Democrats' "mania to attack the president."
"They lied to the American people about that cooperation and refused to let us question the whistleblower to discover the truth," Nunes said.
Schiff warns Trump on obstruction
Schiff accuses Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of a "concerted" effort to obstruct the House impeachment investigation and warned them it could be used as evidence to draft an article of impeachment.
"They do so at their own peril," Schiff said at the conclusion of his opening remarks, noting that the third article of impeachment against former President Nixon accused him of refusing to obey subpoenas from Congress.
Schiff in particular seized on the opening statement of Sondland. Sondland in his opening statement will testify that an effort to use a White House meeting to press Ukraine for investigations was widely known within the administration and that he kept those at the State Department and within the White House updated of his efforts.
"Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret. Everyone was informed via email on July 19, 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 his call with President Trump," Sondland's opening statement reads, quoting from an email he sent to Pompeo, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and others on July 19.
"We have not received a single document from the State Department as Ambassador Sondland's opening statement will make here, those documents will bear directly on this investigation and this impeachment inquiry," Schiff said during his opening statement Wednesday.
"The knowledge of this scheme was far and wide and including, among others, Secretary of State Pompeo and the vice president," Schiff continued.
White House adviser says Trump doesn't know Sondland 'very well'
Pam Bondi, one of two new White House staffers brought on to handle impeachment messaging, said Wednesday morning that Trump does not know Sondland "very well."
"We're going to see what Gordon Sondland has to say today," Bondi said on "CBS This Morning." "The president knows him. The president does not know him very well."
Bondi, a former Florida attorney general, misstated Sondland's role, describing him as "ambassador to the Ukraine." Sondland is the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, though some in the Trump administration expressed concerns that he had expanded his portfolio to oversee matters related to Ukraine.
The comment from Bondi likely reflects a White House effort to distance the president from Sondland as he prepares to testify that there was a quid pro quo tying a White House meeting for the Ukrainian president to a pledge to conduct investigations Trump wanted.
Bondi added that it's unlikely Trump will testify in the impeachment inquiry, despite the president's indication he was considering it earlier this week.
Sondland to confirm quid pro quo in opening statement
Sondland plans to testify Wednesday that there was a definite quid pro quo in Trump's demands to Ukraine.
"Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret. Everyone was informed via email on July 19, 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 his call with President Trump," Sondland will say, according to a copy of his opening remarks obtained by The Hill.
Sondland will also heavily emphasize that at the "express direction of the president," he, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and then-special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker had to work with Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, on Ukraine policy - something he said they did not want to do.
Sondland described some of the circumstances of the phone call in which fellow call witness David Holmes, a career State Department official, described to House investigators. They were at a lunch in Kyiv when the president called Sondland to inquire about the subject of investigations, which Giuliani was pushing for at the time.
"Other witnesses have recently shared their recollection of overhearing this call. For the most part, I have no reason to doubt their accounts," Sondland testified.
Sondland updated Pompeo on Ukraine pressure campaign: report
Sondland kept Secretary of State Mike Pompeo updated on the White House's pressure campaign against the Ukraine, The New York Times reported early Wednesday.
Sondland, who is set to testify later in the day in the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump's dealings with Kyiv, in mid-August shared a draft statement with Pompeo intended to convince the president to meet with Zelensky, two people briefed told the Times.
The ambassador also reportedly talked with Pompeo about encouraging Zelensky to vow during a meeting between the leaders in Poland to take actions desired by Trump in order to improve U.S.-Ukraine relations. Pompeo reportedly approved this plan, but Trump canceled his trip to Poland, the Times noted.
Portion of US aid to Ukraine still unreleased: report
More than $35 million of the previously withheld U.S. aid to Ukraine that plays a central role in the impeachment inquiry is still unreleased, according to the Los Angeles Times.
A Pentagon spending document obtained by the newspaper reportedly showed the portion of the $400 million military aid designated for Ukraine is still in the possession of the U.S. Treasury.
A Pentagon spokeswoman confirmed to the Times that approximately $36 million of the aid is still in U.S. accounts, but declined to say why. Lt. Col. Carla Gleason added that it would be distributed "over the next several weeks."
Catch up with our previous coverage
On Tuesday morning, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman described attacks on him and other witnesses in the impeachment inquiry as "reprehensible" and "cowardly," recognizing career officials for their courage in coming forward to raise concerns about the administration's policies toward Ukraine.
Vindman, a top White House expert on Ukraine, said that he believed President Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine's president to be "improper" and that he reported concerns about it to a National Security Council lawyer out of a "sense of duty."
He also clashed with Republicans who asked if he may have had dual allegiances to other countries or if he was the source of leaks to outside press.
In the afternoon, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker pushed back on an allegation about Biden amplified by President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, calling it a "conspiracy theory."
Volker said specifically that he "rejected" the theory during a meeting with Giuliani on July 19 while insisting he had no knowledge of an effort to investigate Biden, now a leading 2020 White House hopeful, within the Trump administration.
Trump late Tuesday hailed the third day of public impeachment proceedings as a "great day for Republicans."
"A great day for Republicans, a great day for our Country!" Trump tweeted.