Video and Transcript: Michael Purpura Defense Argument Trump Impeachment Trial

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Mr. Chief Justice, members of the Senate, good afternoon. Mr. Leader, I believe that we will be ready to take a break at the conclusion of my remarks if it meets with your approval. On Saturday, we walked through some of the evidence that the House managers put forward and didn’t put forward during their 21 plus hours of presentation. That evidence that we recounted was drawn directly from the House manager’s own record, the case they chose to submit to this chamber. To echo my colleague, Mr. Sekulow, briefly, the House managers own evidence shows that President Trump did not condition anything on investigations during the July 25 call with President Zelensky and did not even mention the paused security assistance on the call. President Zelensky said that he felt no pressure on the call. Presidents Zelensky and the top Ukrainian officials did not learn of the pause on the security assistance until more than a month after the July 25 call.

And the House manager’s own record, their record that they developed and brought before this chamber, reflects that anyone who spoke with the President said that the President made clear that there was no linkage between security assistance and investigations. There’s another category of evidence demonstrating that the pause on security assistance was distinct and unrelated to investigations. The President released the aid without the Ukrainians ever announcing any investigations or undertaking any investigations. Here is Ambassador Sondland.

Elise Stefanik:
And the fact is the aid was given to Ukraine without any announcement of new investigations.
Gordon Sondland:
That’s correct.
Elise Stefanik:
And President Trump did in fact meet with President Zelensky in September at the United Nations, correct?
Gordon Sondland:
He did.
Elise Stefanik:
And there was no announcement of investigations before this meeting?
Gordon Sondland:
Elise Stefanik:
And there was no announcement of investigations after this meeting?
Gordon Sondland:
That’s right.

So while the security assistance was paused, the administration did precisely what you would expect, it addressed President Trump’s concerns about the two issues that I mentioned on Saturday, burden sharing and corruption. A number of law and policy makers also contacted the President and the White House to provide input on the security assistance issue during this period, including Senator Lindsey Graham. The process culminated on September 11, 2019. On that day, the President spoke with Vice President Pence and Senator Rob Portman, the vice president, in NSC senior director Tim Morrison’s words, was armed with his conversation with President Zelensky from their meeting just days earlier in Warsaw, Poland, and both the vice president and Senator Portman related their view of the importance of the assistance to Ukraine and convinced the President that the aid should be dispersed immediately. After the meeting, President Trump terminated the pause and the support flowed to Ukraine.

I want to take a step back now and talk for a moment about why the security assistance was briefly paused. Again, in the words of the house managers own witnesses, witness after witness testified that confronting Ukrainian corruption should be at the forefront of United States foreign policy toward Ukraine. They also testified that the President had long standing and sincere concerns about corruption in Ukraine. The House managers, however, told you that it was laughable to think that the President cared about corruption in Ukraine. But that’s not what the witnesses said. According to Ambassador Volker, “President Trump demonstrated that he had a very deeply rooted negative view of Ukraine based on past corruption and that’s a reasonable position,” according to Ambassador Volker, “Most people who know anything about Ukraine would think that.” And Dr. Hill testified, “I think the President has actually quite publicly said that he was very skeptical about corruption in Ukraine. And in fact, he’s not alone because everyone has expressed great concerns about corruption in Ukraine.”

The House managers have said that the President’s concern with corruption is disingenuous. They said that President Trump didn’t care about corruption in 2017 or 2018 and he certainly didn’t care about it in 2019, that was their words. Not according to Ambassador Yovanovitch, however, who testified that President Trump shared his concern about corruption directly with President Poroshenko, President Zelensky’s predecessor, in their first meeting in the Oval Office. When was that meeting? In June of 2017, 2017. The President also has well known concerns about foreign aid generally. Scrutinizing and in some cases curtailing foreign aid was a central plank of his campaign platform. President Trump is especially wary of sending American tax payer dollars abroad when other countries refuse to pitch in. Mr. Morrison and Mr. Hale both testified at length about President Trump’s longstanding concern with burden sharing in foreign aid programs. Here’s what they said.

Tim Morrison:
The President was concerned that the United States seem to bear the exclusive brunt of security assistance to Ukraine. He wanted to see the Europeans step up and contribute more security assistance.
David Hale:
We’ve often heard at the State Department that the President of the United States wants to make sure that foreign assistance is reviewed scrupulously, to make sure that it’s in truly in U.S. national interests and that we evaluate it continuously to meet certain criteria that the President’s established.
John Ratcliffe:
And has the President express that he expects our allies to give their fair share of foreign aid as evidenced by a point that he raised during the July 25th phone call with President Zelensky to that effect?
David Hale:
The principle of greater burden sharing by allies and other like-minded states is an important element of the foreign assistance review.

The President expressed these precise concerns to Senator Ron Johnson, who wrote, “He reminded me how thoroughly corrupt Ukraine was and again conveyed his frustration that Europe doesn’t do its fair share of providing military aid.” The House managers didn’t tell you about this. Why not? And President Trump was right to be concerned that other countries weren’t paying their fair share. As Laura Cooper testified, U.S. contributions to Ukraine are far more significant than any individual country and she also said E.U. funds tend to be on the economic side rather than for defense and security. Senator Johnson also confirmed that other countries refused to provide the lethal defensive weapons that Ukraine needs in its war with Russia.

Please keep in mind also that the pause of the Ukraine security assistance program was far from unusual or out of character for President Trump. The American people know that the President is skeptical of foreign aid and that one of his top campaign promises and priorities in office has been to avoid wasteful spending of American taxpayer dollars abroad. Meanwhile, the same people who today claim that President Trump was not genuinely concerned about burden sharing were upset when as a candidate, President Trump criticized free-riding by NATO members. This past summer, the administration paused, reviewed, and in some cases canceled, hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid to Afghanistan, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Lebanon. And these are just some of the reviews of foreign aid undertaken at the very same time that the Ukraine aid was paused.

So what happened during the brief period of time while the Ukraine security assistance was paused? People were gathering information and monitoring the facts on the ground in Ukraine as the new parliament was sworn in and began introducing anti-corruption legislation. Not withstanding what the House managers would have you believe, the reason for the pause was no secret within the White House and the agencies. According to Mr. Morrison, in a July meeting attended by officials throughout the executive branch agencies. The reason provided for the pause by a representative of the Office of Management and Budget was that the President was concerned about corruption in Ukraine and he wanted to make sure that Ukraine was doing enough to manage that corruption. In fact, as Mr. Morrison testified, by Labor Day, there had been definitive developments to demonstrate that President Zelensky was committed to the issues he campaigned on, anti-corruption reforms. Mr. Morrison also testified that the administration was working on answering the President’s concerns regarding burden sharing. Here’s Mr. Morrison.

Steve Castor:
Was there any inner-agency activity, whether it be with the State Department or the Defense Department, coordination by the National Security Council to look into that a little bit for the President?
Tim Morrison:
We were surveying the data to understand who was contributing what and sort of in what categories.
Steve Castor:
And so the President [inaudible 00:11:48] concerns, the inter-agency tried to address them.
Tim Morrison:

How else do we know that the President was awaiting information on burden sharing and anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine before releasing the security assistance? Because that’s what Vice President Pence told President Zelensky. On September 1, 2019, Vice President Pence met with President Zelensky. President Trump was scheduled to attend the World War II commemoration in Poland, but instead remained in the U.S. to manage the emergency response to Hurricane Dorian. Remember, this was three days, three days after President Zelensky learned through the Politico article about the review of the security assistance. Just as Vice President Pence and his aides anticipated, Jennifer Williams testified that once the cameras left the room, the very first question that President Zelensky had was about the status of the security assistance. The vice president responded by asking about two things.

The president responded by asking about two things, burden sharing and corruption. Here’s how Jennifer Williams described it. The VP responded by really expressing our ongoing support for Ukraine, but wanting to hear from president Zelensky, you know, what the status of his reform efforts were that he could then convey back to the president and also wanting to hear if there was more that European countries could do to support Ukraine. Vice President Pence knows president Trump and he knew what president Trump wanted to hear from President Zelensky. The vice president was echoing the president’s two recurring themes, corruption and burden sharing. It’s the same consistent themes every time. Ambassador Taylor received a similar readout of the meeting between the vice president and President Zelensky, including the vice president’s focus on corruption and burden sharing. Here’s ambassador Taylor.

On the evening of September 1st I received a readout of the Pence Zelensky meeting over the phone from Mr. Morrison, during which he told me that President Zelensky had opened the meeting by immediately asking vice president about the security cooperation. The vice president did not respond substantively, but said that he would talk to President Trump that night. The vice president did say that President Trump wanted the Europeans to do more to support Ukraine and that he wanted the Ukrainians to do more to fight corruption.

On September 11, based on the information collected and presented to President Trump, the president lifted the pause on the security assistance. As Mr. Morrison explained, our process gave the president the confidence he needed to approve the release of the security sector assistance. The House Managers say that the talk about corruption and burden sharing is a ruse. No one knew why the security assistance was paused and no one was addressing the president’s concerns with Ukrainian corruption and burden sharing. The House Managers’ own evidence, their own record, tells a different story, however. They didn’t tell you about this, not in 21 hours. Why not? The president’s concerns were addressed in the ordinary course. The president wasn’t caught as the House Managers allege, the managers are wrong. All of this together with what we discussed on Saturday demonstrates that there was no connection between security assistance and investigations. When the House Managers realized that their quid pro quo theory on security assistance was falling apart, they created a second alternative theory. According to the House Managers, President Zelensky desperately wanted a meeting at the White House with President Trump and President Trump conditioned that meeting on investigations. So what about the manager’s backup accusations? Do they fare any better than their quid pro quo for security assistance? No. No, they don’t.

A presidential level meeting happened without any preconditions at the first available opportunity in a widely televised meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 25, 2019. The White House was working to schedule the meeting earlier at the White House or in Warsaw, but those options fell through due to normal scheduling and a hurricane. The two presidents met at the earliest convenience without President Zelensky ever announcing or beginning any investigations. The first thing to know about the alleged quid pro quo for a meeting is that by the end of the July 25 call, the president had invited President Zelensky to the White House on three separate occasions, each time without any preconditions. President Trump invited President Zelensky to an in-person meeting on their initial April 21 call.

When you’re settled in and ready, I’d like to invite you to the White House.

On may 29, the week after President Zelensky’s inauguration, President Trump sent a congratulatory letter, again, inviting President Zelensky to the White House.

As you prepare to address the many challenges facing Ukraine, please know that the American people are with you and are committed to helping Ukraine realize its vast potential. To help show that commitment, I would like to invite you to meet with me at the White House in Washington DC as soon as we can find a mutually convenient time.

Then on July 25th President Trump personally invited President Zelensky to participate in a meeting for a third time.

Whenever you would like to come to the White House, feel free to call, give us a date and we’ll work that out, I look forward to seeing you.

That’s three separate invitations for a meeting, all made without any preconditions. During this time and behind the scenes, the White House was working diligently to schedule a meeting between the presidents at the earliest possible date.

Tim Morrison, whose responsibilities included helping arrange head of state visits to the White House or other head of state meetings, testified that he understood that arranging the White House visit with President Zelensky was a [do out 00:06:09] that came from the president.

The House Managers didn’t mention the work that the White House was doing to schedule the meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky, did they? Why not?

Scheduling a presidential meeting takes time. Mr. Morrison testified that his directorate, which was just one of several, had a dozen schedule requests in with the president for meetings with foreign leaders that we were looking to land and Ukraine was but one of those requests. Due to both presidents’ busy schedules, according to Mr. Morrison, it became clear that the earliest opportunity for the two presidents to meet would be in Warsaw at the beginning of September.

The entire notion that a bilateral meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky was somehow conditioned on a statement about investigations is completely defeated by one straightforward fact, a bilateral meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky was planned for September 1 in Warsaw, the same Warsaw meeting we were just discussing, without the Ukrainians saying a word about investigations. As it turned out, President Trump was not able to attend the meeting in Warsaw because of Hurricane Dorian, President Trump asked Vice President Pence to attend in his place.

But even that scheduling glitch did not put off their meeting for long. President Trump and President Zelensky met at the next available date, September 25, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. As President Zelensky himself has said, there were no preconditions for his meeting with President Trump. Those are his words. No conditions.

So you’re probably wondering, how could the House Managers claim that there was a quid pro quo for a meeting with President Trump when the two presidents actually did meet without President Zelensky announcing any investigations? Well, the House Managers moved the goalposts again, they claimed that the meeting couldn’t be just an in-person meeting with President Trump, what it had to be was a meeting at the Oval Office and in the White House, that’s nonsense.

Putting to one side the absurdity of the House Managers trying to remove a duly elected President of the United States from office because he met a world leader in one location versus another. This theory has no basis in fact.

As Dr. Hill testified, what mattered was that there was a bilateral presidential meeting, not the location of the meeting. She said, it wasn’t always a White House meeting, per se, but definitely a presidential level, you know, meeting with Zelensky and the president, I mean, it could have taken place in Poland, in Warsaw, it could have been, you know, a proper bilateral in some other context, but in other words, a White House level presidential meeting.

The House Managers didn’t tell you about Dr. Hill’s testimony, why not? In fact, they said just last week that President Zelensky still hasn’t gotten his White House meeting. Why didn’t they tell you about Dr. Hill’s testimony? So you would have the full context and information, they spoke for over 21 hours, they couldn’t take a couple of minutes to give you that context?

How else do we know that Dr. Hill was right? Because President Zelensky said so on the July 25 call. Remember, when President Trump invited President Zelensky to Washington on the July 25 call, President Zelensky said he would be happy to meet with you personally and offered to host President Trump in Ukraine, or, on the other hand, meet with President Trump on September 1 in Poland.

That’s exactly what the administration planned to do. If it weren’t for Hurricane Dorian, President Trump would have met with President Zelensky in Poland on September 1, just as President Zelensky had requested and without any preconditions. As it happened, President Zelensky met with the vice president instead and just a few weeks later met with President Trump in New York, all without anyone making any statement about any investigations.

And once again, not a single witness in the House record that they compiled and developed under their procedures, that we’ve discussed and will continue to discuss, provided any firsthand evidence that the president ever linked the presidential meeting to any investigations. The House Managers have seized upon Ambassador Sondland’s claim that Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky.

But again, Ambassador Sondland was only guessing, based on incomplete information. He testified that the president never told him that there was any sort of a condition for a meeting with President Zelensky. Why then did he think there was one? In his own words, Ambassador Sondland said that he could only repeat what he heard through Ambassador Volker from Giuliani. So he didn’t even hear from Mr. Giuliani himself.

But Ambassador Volker, who is the supposed link between Mr. Giuliani and Ambassador Sondland, thought no such thing. Ambassador Volker testified unequivocally that there was no linkage between the meeting with President Zelensky and Ukrainian investigations. I’m going to read the full questions and answers because this passage is key. This is from Ambassador Volker’s deposition testimony.

Question: did President Trump ever withhold a meeting with President Zelensky-

Did President Trump ever withhold a meeting with President Zelensky or delay a meeting with President Zelensky until the Ukrainians committed to investigate the allegations that you just described concerning the 2016 presidential election? Answer. The answer to the question is no if you want a yes or no answer, but the reason the answer is no is we did have difficulty scheduling a meeting, but there was no linkage like that.

Question. You said that you are not aware of any linkage between the delay in the Oval Office meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky and the Ukrainian commitment to investigate the two allegations as you described them, correct? Answer, correct.

On no fewer than 15 separate occasions, over the past week, the House managers played a video of Ambassador Sondland saying that the announcement of the investigations was a prerequisite for a meeting, or call with the president. 15 times. They never once read to you the testimony that I just did. They never once read to you the testimony in which Ambassador Volker refuted what Ambassador Sondland claimed he heard from Ambassador Volker.

So here’s what we know. President Trump invited President Zelensky to meet three times without preconditions. The White House was working behind the scenes to schedule the meeting. The two presidents planned to meet in Warsaw just as presidents Zelensky had asked and ultimately met three weeks later without Ukraine announcing any investigations. No one testified in the House record that the president ever said there was a connection between a meeting and investigations. Those are the facts, plain and simple. So much for a quid pro quo for a meeting with the president.

Before I move on, let me take a brief moment to address a side allegation that was raised in the original whistleblower complaint and that the House managers are still trying to push. The manager’s claim that President Trump ordered Vice President Pence not to attend Presidents Zelensky’s inauguration in favor of a lower ranking delegation, in order, according to them, to signal a downgrading of the relationship between the United States and Ukraine. That’s not true.

Numerous factors had to align, as I’m sure everyone in this room can greatly appreciate, for the Vice President to attend. First, dates of travel were limited. For national security reasons. The president and Vice President generally avoid being out of the country at the same time for more than a few hours. The president had scheduled trips to Europe and Japan during the period when our embassy in Ukraine anticipated the Ukrainian inauguration would occur, at the end of May, or in early June. Jennifer Williams testified that the office of the Vice President advised the Ukrainians that if the Vice President were to participate in the inauguration, the ideal dates would be around May 29, May 30, May 31, or June 1, when the president would be in the United States. She said, “If it wasn’t one of those dates, it would be very difficult or impossible for the Vice President to attend.”

Second, the House managers act as if no other priorities in the world could compete for the administration’s time. The Vice President’s office was simultaneously planning a competing trip for May 30 in Ottawa, Canada, to participate in an event supporting passage of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement. Ultimately, the Vice President traveled to Ottawa on May 30 to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and to promote the passage of the USMCA. This decision, as you know, advanced the top administration priority and an issue President Trump vigorously supported.

What you did not hear from the House managers was that the Ukrainian inauguration dates did not go as planned. On May 16, May 16, the Ukrainians surprised everyone and scheduled the inauguration for just four days later on May 20, Monday May 20. So think about that, May 16, May 20. Get everybody, security, advance, everyone to Ukraine. Jennifer Williams testified that it was very short notice, so it would have been difficult for the Vice President to attend, particularly since they hadn’t sent out the advanced team.

George Kent testified that the short notice left almost no time for either proper preparations, or foreign delegations to visit and that the state department scrambled on Friday the 17th to try and figure out who was available. Mr. Kent suggested that Secretary of Energy Perry be the anchor for the delegation, as someone who was a person of stature and whose job had relevance to our agenda. Secretary Perry led the delegation, which also included Ambassador Sondland, ambassador Volker and Senator Johnson. Ambassador Volker testified that it was the largest delegation from any country there and it was a high-level one. The House managers didn’t tell you this. Why not? The claim that the president instructed the Vice President not to attend President Zelensky inauguration is based on House manager assumptions, with no evidence that the President did something wrong.

And finally, as I’m coming to the end. If the evidence doesn’t show a quid pro quo, what does it show? Unfortunately, for the House managers, one of the few things that all of the witnesses agreed on was that President Trump has strengthened the relationship between the U.S. And Ukraine, and he has been a more stalwart friend to Ukraine and a more fierce opponent of Russian aggression than president Obama. The House managers repeatedly claimed the President Trump doesn’t care about Ukraine. They are attributing views to President Trump that are contrary to his actions. More importantly, they are contrary to the House managers own evidence.

But don’t take my word for it. Ambassadors Yovanovitch, Taylor and Volker all testified to the Trump administration’s positive new policy toward Ukraine based especially on President Trump’s decision to provide lethal aid to Ukraine. Ambassador Taylor testified that President Trump’s policy toward Ukraine was a substantial improvement over President Obama’s policy. Ambassador Volker agreed that America’s policy towards Ukraine has been strengthened under President Trump, whom he credited with approving each of the decisions made along the way.

Ambassador Yovanovitch testified that President Trump’s decision to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine meant that our policy actually got stronger over the last three years. She called the policy shift that President Trump directed very significant. Let’s hear from Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Volker and Ambassador Yovanovitch.

Elise Stefanik:
The Trump administration has indeed provided substantial aid to Ukraine in the form of defensive lethal aid, correct?
Bill Taylor:
That is correct.
Elise Stefanik:
And that is more so than the Obama administration, correct? Defensive lethal aid?
Bill Taylor:
Kurt Volker:
President Trump approved each of the decisions made along the way, providing lethal defensive equipment…
Marie Yovanovitch:
And the Trump administration strengthened our policy, by approving the provision to Ukraine of anti-tank missiles known as javelins. They are obviously tank busters, and so if the war with Russia all of a sudden accelerated in some way and tanks come over the horizon, javelins are a very serious weapon to deal with that.

Ukraine is better positioned to fight Russia today than it was before President Trump took office. As a result, the United States is safer too. The House managers did not tell you about this testimony from Ambassadors, Taylor, Volker and Yovanovitch. Why not? These are the facts, as drawn from the House manager’s own record on which they impeached the president.

This is why the House manager’s first article of impeachment must fail, for the six reasons I set forth. When I began on Saturday. There was no linkage between investigations and security assistance, or meeting on the July 25 call. The Ukrainians said there was no quid pro quo and they felt no pressure. The top Ukrainians did not even know that security assistance was paused until more than a month after the July 25 call. The House manager’s record reflects that anyone who spoke with the president said that the President made clear that there was no linkage.

The security assistance flowed and the presidential meeting took place, all without any announcement of investigations. And President Trump has enhanced America’s support for Ukraine in his three years in office. These facts all require that the first article of impeachment fail. You have already heard and will continue to hear from my colleagues on why the second article must fail. Once again, this is the case that the House managers chose to bring. This is the evidence they brought before the Senate. The very heavy burden of proof rests with them. They say their cases overwhelming and uncontested, it is not. They say they have proven each of the articles against president Trump. They have not. The facts and evidence of the case the House managers have brought, exonerate the President. Thank you for your attention.

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