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CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA) Is Interviewed About Sondland's Hearing

Interview

Date: Nov. 21, 2019

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

HILL: The fourth day of public impeachment testimony bringing new focus on the people surrounding the President swept up in the inquiry. Do the Democrats though believe they gained any ground? Let's bring in one of the Democrats asking questions in the probe, Washington State Congressman Denny Heck?

Congressman, it's certainly an important moment today for Democrats, when we heard Ambassador Sondland say, yes, there was a quid pro quo. However, when he was pressed, he also made clear and I want to play a moment here, that it was not from the President who told him directly about that. Let's listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SONDLAND: President Trump never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on the meetings. The only thing we got directly from Giuliani was that the Burisma and 2016 elections were conditioned on the White House meeting. The aid was my own personal, you know, guess based again, on your analogy, two plus two equals four.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: It was his guess. He never heard it directly from the President. Is that going to be a problem for you moving forward?

REP. DENNY HECK (D-WA): The aid was withheld, Erica, and it was withheld over the objection of every single agency that was involved in it, the National Security Council, the Department of Defense, and the State Department, all wanted him to go ahead and directly instructed that it was being withheld under orders of Mick Mulvaney from the President for reasons that were never revealed. Two plus two equals four, Erica. He did it, he withheld the aid in an attempt to shakedown the Ukrainian President to undertake this politically- motivated investigation.

HILL: But again, as you point out, that's what was coming from Mick Mulvaney. As we heard from Ambassador Sondland, this is what he was, you know, hearing from Rudy Giuliani. It does -- does it matter? It seems that it should, that it was not coming directly from the President who was saying, This is what I want.

HECK: Erica, it came directly from the President. Please do read the transcript. He shook down President Zelensky.

HILL: I can promise you, I have like you several times.

HECK: I bet you have. In no uncertain terms, and that's a confession that was signed by Mick Mulvaney at that later press conference. And is supported by all the facts, all the players around.

[01:20:04]

Look, he told them, talk to Rudy. And Rudy told them what he wanted, which was the shakedown while the aid was being withheld. And if that isn't enough to suggest consciousness of guilt, remember that they moved that transcript immediately into the code words server to hide it. Remember that they refused to allow us to talk to any of the primary actors, Mick Mulvaney, or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, or Mr. Vought or Mr. Duffy over at the Office of Management and Budget. They won't let us talk to any of these people, nor will they produce any of the documents that have been duly subpoenaed of them. If that doesn't indicate a consciousness of guilt, I don't know what does when combined with the President's very words in that transcript.

HILL: I want to talk to you a little bit about those people, a number of whom you just mentioned, central figures here, who you have not heard from, and you brought that up earlier today, as well, asking why they hadn't been heard from. I want to play that moment, as well.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HECK: Why then, sir, with your courage to come before us, does that same standard not apply to Mr. Mulvaney, Mr. Duffy, Mr. Pompeo, Mr. Bolton, Mr. Vought, Mr. Giuliani, why shouldn't those same sentiments beat within their hearts to do their patriotic duty, and do what you have done, sir? Indeed, why doesn't that same standard apply to the President of United States?

SONDLAND: I wish I could answer.

HECK: I suspect you can't because there is no good answer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: As you said, you want to hear from them, you want to see these documents. If you don't, however -- if you don't hear from some of these officials, do you believe Democrats can convincingly make their case against the President?

HECK: He did it, Erica. The case has already been made. Look, we seem to be --

HILL: So, you don't need to see anything else?

HECK: Well, I -- what I am seeing is an overwhelming -- and indeed a mountain of evidence to suggest that he did it. And we seem to be constructing kind of a new legal standard here. If this were a crime, what you would be suggesting is, unless you have a signed confession, a videotape and three eyewitnesses, you can't convict anybody. And we all know that's not what happens in a criminal court of law. The evidence is overwhelming. He did it. And the only question remaining for Congress and for the American public is he did it. What's the appropriate remedy? How should he be held accountable? Is this behavior that is acceptable, that which I believe betrays his oath of office and compromises our national security.

HILL: As we talked about in the beginning, you had Ambassador Sondland today saying very clearly in his opening statement, Yes, there was a quid pro quo. We know from what we heard in both the questioning and even from hearing from lawmakers afterwards. It doesn't seem that that was enough to move the needle for Republicans. Do you believe at this point that there is even one Republican who is coming over to the side of the Democrats at this point and in agreement with you and seeing what you see?

HECK: Not yet, but then again, we're not taking the vote today or even tomorrow. Indeed, we have another hearing yet to go, Erica. And in fact, from two spectacular witnesses, Dr. Fiona Hill and David Holmes, he who overheard the conversation between Mr. Sondland and the President in that open terrorist restaurant in Kiev, Ukraine. There's still more information to come.

And today is a great example, as have other hearings been, we learned something new today that we didn't know before. We may learn something new tomorrow. We just don't know yet until we go through this. I also think that if you think about the American public, it says though there are three parts; there are those who haven't paid any attention at all until this began to be televised. You have those who paid quite a bit of attention and maybe even read the depositions, but that's just ink on a page. And now, they could actually see and hear some of the compelling and riveting stories by all these people.

So listen, I think there's a distance possibility that when you add those two factors plus the possibility of new information being revealed, that the American public will take this in and digest it, and give a considered opinion about what's the best for our country.

HILL: Give me a sense though, you say you are at a place now, right, where you're convinced. We know that from listening to you. You've seen enough and in your mind to drop articles of impeachment. So, if that's where you're at, what specifically with those articles be for you today?

HECK: I think there's a distinct case to be made for both abuse of power and there's an arguable case to be made for obstruction of Congress, which is I remind you, Erica, was the third article of impeachment against President Nixon. Look, he's refused to allow people around him to testify when Congress was exercising its constitutional responsibility under Article 1, Section 2 and Section 3, and he has withheld the documents. Even though as Ambassador Sondland himself indicated today, he was at a disadvantage because the State Department would not even allow him access to his own material, so that it could refresh his memory. And he complained that that wasn't fair to him, since he decided to respond to the duly issued subpoena.

[01:25:11]

HILL: Congressman Heck, we appreciate, again, taking the time to join us, and we will continue to watch where this goes next. As you mentioned, two more witnesses coming up tomorrow. Thank you, sir.

HECK: Thank you, Erica.

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