Three key witnesses testify in impeachment inquiry

By Meg Wagner, Veronica Rocha, Amanda Wills, Mike Hayes and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 8:04 p.m. ET, November 20, 2019
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12:13 p.m. ET, November 20, 2019

This is the handwritten statement Trump read from moments ago

Mark Wilson/Getty
Mark Wilson/Getty

President Trump, speaking to reporters today before leaving for Texas, read off a statement that appeared to be written in black Sharpie.

In large letters, the statement read:

"I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zellinsky to do the right thing. This is the final word from the Pres. of the U.S."

12:10 p.m. ET, November 20, 2019

Democrats and Republicans will each get 30 more minutes to question Sondland

YARA NARDI Yara Nardi/
YARA NARDI Yara Nardi/

Ranking member Devin Nunes just wrapped up his 45-minute round of questions. Afterward, House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff announced that both the Democrats and the Republicans will each get another 30-minute round to question Gordon Sondland.

Under the protocols for the House impeachment inquiry, Schiff can add additional rounds of questioning, so long as both sides get equal time.

Only Schiff and Nunes — or their lawyers — will get to ask questions. After these 30-minute rounds, each member will get five minutes to ask questions.

12:08 p.m. ET, November 20, 2019

President Trump responds to Sondland testimony: "This is not a man I know well"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Jacquelyn Martin/AP

President Trump spoke to reporters ahead of his departure to Austin, Texas, moments ago. He did not answer questions from reporters, instead previewing his trip and reading a statement on Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony from a notepad.

Trump distanced himself from Sondland, holding up a thick stack of papers saying, “I just noticed one thing and I would say that means it’s all over.”

Trump repeatedly said he told Sondland over the phone that on Ukraine, he wanted “nothing.”

“This is not a man I know well,” Trump emphasized. “Seems like a nice guy, though.”

Trump also noted that Sondland’s support for his presidential campaign “came in late.”

11:54 a.m. ET, November 20, 2019

GOP senator: "I don't necessarily agree" with Trump's actions

From CNN's Ted Barrett

Sen. Cornyn speaks to the press in 2018.
Sen. Cornyn speaks to the press in 2018. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

GOP Sen. John Cornyn dismissed testimony by Ambassador Gordon Sondland about a quid pro quo, saying, “The President can meet with anybody he wants to” and the “military aid was released.”

“I just think this is an impeachment process in search of a rationale, and I don’t think they’ve gotten one yet,” he told CNN.

Asked if there is nothing here that concerns him about the President’s actions, he replied:

“I don’t necessarily agree with it. But you can disagree with the action and ... believe (that) this is not a reason to tear the country in two a year before the election.”
11:48 a.m. ET, November 20, 2019

These GOP senators say they haven't watched the hearing

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

Several Republican senators say they haven't been watching today's hearing and bombshell testimony from Ambassador Gordon Sondland on Capitol Hill.

Here's what they said:

  • Arizona Sen. Martha McSally: "I haven't been watching it."
  • Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton: "Nope. Took my kid to school."
  • Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander: "I've been chairing my own hearing."

11:54 a.m. ET, November 20, 2019

Sondland said Giuliani made "demands" that came from the President

Andrew Harnik/AP
Andrew Harnik/AP

Gordon Sondland said he never talked to President Trump about "preconditions" for the Ukraine aid to be released, but his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani made "demands" that came from Trump.

"When the President says, 'talk to my personal attorney' and then Mr. Guiliani, as his personal attorney, makes certain requests or demands, we assume it's coming from the President," Sondland said.

Watch more:

11:44 a.m. ET, November 20, 2019

Pence's office says he "never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens"

US Vice President Mike Pence speaks in Warsaw on September 2, 2019.
US Vice President Mike Pence speaks in Warsaw on September 2, 2019. Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Marc Short said Pence never spoke to Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens.

“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," Short said in a statement.

Here's the rest of the statement:

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.

Some context: Sondland testified today that he raised concerns with Pence that the freezing of $400 million in security aid to Ukraine was linked to the investigations.

11:49 a.m. ET, November 20, 2019

What Democrats and Republicans can seize on in Sondland's testimony

Analysis from CNN's Lauren Fox, Phil Mattingly, Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

There are a lot of gaps in what US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland actually can remember: He is clear he is not a note-taker.

He doesn’t dispute many of the testimonies so far, including David Holmes, who overheard his July 26 phone call with Trump. But he doesn’t remember as clearly as other witnesses we have seen. Republicans might seize on this memory lapse in their questions. 

Meanwhile, Democrats are seizing on why withholding documents is so problematic.

Sondland testified that he didn’t take notes, and he has struggled to get documents that would help jog his memory from the State Department. This helps Democrats push the narrative that the withholding of documents is an impediment for their investigation. 

11:36 a.m. ET, November 20, 2019

Nunes continues spreading conspiracies of Ukraine meddling

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

Yara Nardi/AFP/Getty Images
Yara Nardi/AFP/Getty Images

Rep. Devin Nunes once again accused Ukraine of interfering in the 2016 election to help Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and that the Democrats colluded with the Ukrainian government.

These are false conspiracy theories.

Nunes has made these controversial statements at all of the public impeachment hearings so far, but they are not true. His claims contradict testimony from multiple US national security officials, who recently told lawmakers in public hearings and private depositions that the Ukrainian government did not interfere in the 2016 election.

In addition: The FBI, CIA, DOJ, DNI, NSA, and two Congressional committees concluded that it was Russia who interfered in the 2016 election. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation confirmed these conclusions, and his 448-page report pinned the blame on the Russian government and never accused Ukraine of any interference. Many of Trump’s handpicked appointees to lead US intelligence agencies also say it was Russia who meddled in 2016.