After a week of riveting transcripts, Democrats are turning to the most public phase of their impeachment probe yet: open hearings.
Behind the scenes the preparations are exhaustive with one House Democratic leadership aide telling CNN that that the focus has been on everything from preparing lines of questioning and thinking through rebuttals to Republican talking points to hashing out a social media strategy that can be executed in real time.
The aide told CNN that the preparations are a “much bigger operation” and that the “coordination is on a whole other level” compared to what transpired before former special counsel Robert Mueller came to Capitol Hill to testify about his Russia investigation. There, Democrats sought to recapture momentum and change the public’s perception of a report that had been out for months. This time, Democrats view the moment is more urgent.
“The momentum is behind us for this. The objective for Mueller was harder, you were trying to recapture the momentum. This is an investigation we led, we obtained the information, we distilled the information,” the aide said.
Even during the current recess, rank-and-file members received daily talking points this week, an effort to help them boil down the essence of the hundreds of pages of transcripts. Even the schedule for next week has been carefully curated.
First, the spotlight will be on the top diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor and State Department official George Kent. The leadership aide said the aim of their testimony is to paint a full picture of the events that transpired. Taylor — who took meticulous notes — is seen by Democrats as an iron clad witness who came to believe through conversations with National Security Council official Tim Morrison and US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland that “everything,” as Taylor said in his opening statement, was conditioned on Ukraine announcing public investigations into Trump’s political rivals. Kent is viewed by Democrats as someone who can shed light on the role the President’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani played in Ukraine.
“They tell as much of the story upfront and that was part of the objective,” the leadership aide told CNN. “The first hour of a hearing and the first hearing has got to be a blockbuster.”
On Friday, Marie Yovanovitch, a three-decade career diplomat who was removed from her post in the spring, will testify. She is the first political casualty of Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine, a witness Democrats hope can display the toll that the President’s personal lawyer’s shadow foreign policy played there.
One Democratic member who has taken part in the depositions, told CNN that next week will be an opportunity for the public to see that the witnesses “are credible, apolitical, detailed, true patriots, and very specific about exactly what has transpired. The story that will be told, based on the facts, will show the President broke the law and that the set up and cover up are both far more extensive than originally thought.”
Meanwhile, Republicans are preparing to submit their list of requested witnesses for public hearings. They have already publicly said they would like to hear from the whistleblower, something Democrats are expected to reject.
With public hearings slated for next week, the House of Representatives is wasting no time in the ongoing impeachment investigation into President Trump.
Here are the key developments from today:
- Mick Mulvaney did not appear for testimony: The acting White House chief of staff defied a subpoena from the House and did not show up for his closed-door testimony today. He cited “absolute immunity.” Mulvaney dramatically confirmed last month that Trump froze nearly $400 million in US security aid to Ukraine partially to pressure the country into investigating Democrats — and proceeded hours later to deny having said so.
- White House officials blame Mulvaney for quid pro quo: White House officials Fiona Hill and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman told lawmakers that Mulvaney coordinated the effort to use military aid to Ukraine as leverage for investigation in his boss’s political opponents, according to deposition transcripts released today.
- What we learned from Hill: The White House’s former top Russia expert testified that she was shocked by the transcript of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian leader, calling Trump’s push for investigations “pretty blatant.” She also said Trump’s advisers “spent a lot of time” trying to convince him that the theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election was false.
- What we learned from Vindman: The National Security Council’s Ukraine expert testified that there was “no ambiguity” ahead of Trump’s July call with his Ukrainian counterpart that the Ukrainians would have to start an investigation into Trump’s political rival in order to secure a US-Ukraine meeting. He also said he had raised concerns about the July 25 call to NSC lawyers, and that the process that was used for placing the call transcript on a highly secure server was abnormal.
- Lawyers hint at John Bolton’s “relevant” information: Bolton’s lawyer said the former national security adviser has significant insights into matters being probed by the impeachment investigators. But Bolton’s attorney said his client will not testify until a court resolves whether he must obey a subpoena.
In today’s episode of “The Daily DC: Impeachment Watch” podcast, CNN Political Director David Chalian looks at:
- The transcripts from interviews with Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert
- New evidence that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney is at center of Ukraine deal
- How President Trump is distancing himself from Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland
- Why Rudy Giuliani was running “shadow foreign policy”
- Ukraine’s plan to cozy up to Trump administration
Chalian is joined today by CNN congressional reporter Lauren Fox and Mark Mazzetti, a CNN contributor and investigative correspondent for the New York Times.
Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, was asked by Republican counsel about the allegation that Ukraine or Ukrainians interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Democrats.
She was clear that Ukraine did not interfere in the 2016 election.
“…I am very confident based on all of the analysis that has been done…that the Ukrainian Government did not interfere in our election in 2016,” she said.
Pressed about the January 2017 Politico article at the center of the allegation, Hill said, “I’m aware of the reporting, but that doesn’t mean that that amounts to an operation by the Ukrainian Government.”
Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, described to lawmakers what she knew about the security aid to Ukraine that was withheld.
Hill said she was not told why the military aid to Ukraine was being held up but that “it actually came as a direction from the Chief of Staff’s office.”
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, described that before the July call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President Trump, “Ukrainians were looking for clarity on [Rudy] Giuliani’s role.”
“There were concerns about (how Giuliani) …. could be undermining the consensus policy. But frankly, up until that call, you know, in certain regards he was acting as a private citizen advancing his own interests to a certain extent,” Vindman said.
He added: “It wasn’t until that call that it became, that he was pulled into kind of an official role.”
Lt. Col Alexander Vindman said it “doesn’t take a rocket scientist” to understand why Trump would want to damage his political opponent, Joe Biden.
“Do you think the President was trying to get the Ukrainian Government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden?” someone asked.
“Look … Counsel … It’s all in the future,” Vindman said. “I guess, look, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where the gain would be for the President in investigating the son of a political opponent.”
Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, testified that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, was “very upset” about the way ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland was discussing a presidential meeting in front of the Ukrainian delegation at the White House on July 10.
“He [Vindman] said that these are obviously not issues that the National Security Council was dealing with, should not deal with,” said Hill, recounting a conversation she had after the fact with Vindman.
Hill also said Vindman was “really uncomfortable with where the conversation was, and that’s also because it was in front of Ukrainians, that it was basically Ambassador Sondland getting very annoyed that he already had an agreement with the Chief of Staff for a meeting between the Presidents on the basis of these investigations.”
Vindman, she said, was “alarmed” that Sondland had mentioned meeting with Rudy Giuliani and discussing a presidential meeting in front of the Ukrainians.
Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, testified that she was “extremely concerned” about Rudy Giuliani’s activities.
“I was extremely concerned that whatever it was that Mr. Giuliani was doing might not be legal, especially after, you know, people had raised with me these two gentlemen, [Lev] Parnas and [Igor] Fruman,” she said.
Hill said she spoke to her colleagues based in Florida, including the director for the Western Hemisphere.
“He’d mentioned that these people were notorious and that, you know, they’d been involved in all kinds of strange things in Venezuela and, you know, kind of were just well-known for not being aboveboard,” Hill said. “And so my early assumption was that it was pushing particular individuals’ business interests.”
Hill said former diplomat Amos Hochstein told her in May that a number of Ukrainians had complained to him about Giuliani discussing investigations and to change the board of Naftogaz, Ukraine’s geopolitically important state-owned oil and gas company.
Hill said in late May, after former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch had been removed, “it became clear” that Giuliani was pushing Ukrainians to open an investigation focused on Burisma.
President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, alleged it was inappropriate for the transcript of President Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to be put on a highly-classified system.
She said “that’s not the appropriate place for these kinds of transcripts.”
“The only circumstances in which that would be conceivable would be if it dealt with highly classified information,” Hill told the committee.
Hill did not know who would have the authority to direct such a move, but said she was unaware if either former national security adviser H.R. McMaster or former national security adviser John Bolton had done so.
Hill said when she was unaware of transcripts being moved to the classified system while she was at National Security Council.
Ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mark Meadows, clashed with Rep. Eric Swalwell after Democrats accused Meadows of trying to expose the identity of the anonymous whistleblower during Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s hearing, according to the transcript.
The tense exchange occurred after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, interrupted a GOP lawyer who was asking Vindman to name individuals with whom he discussed the July 10 meeting.
“Excuse me, let me just state this for the record. The whistleblower has a statutory right to anonymity,” Schiff said.
Meadows then interjected, while Schiff was still speaking, calling for a “point of order.”
Swalwell then jumped in, addressing Meadows directly in defense of Schiff, saying: “Hey Mr. Meadows, he’s the chairman, he finishes.”
After a brief back and forth, during which Swalwell again repeated that Schiff is the chairman and “he finishes,” Meadows responded: “Shut up.”
Lt. Col. Alexanader Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, downplayed the significance of his proposed edits that were not made to the rough transcript of the President’s July 25 call, which included adding a reference to Burisma and tapes of former Vice President Joe Biden that were not included in the transcript released by the White House.
Asked if the transcript was complete and “very accurate,” Vindman said it was. Vindman described the edits he proposed as “substantive,” but said he did not think there was any “malicious intent” or cover-up behind his proposed edits not being incorporated.
“I do not think there was malicious intent on anything of that nature to cover anything up,” Vindman said. “I don’t know definitively, but I don’t think that’s the case. And I think, in general, the people I work with try to do the right thing.”
In addition to the two edits previously reported about Burisma and the Biden tapes, Vindman said that one of the ellipses in the transcript replaced President Trump saying of the Crowdstrike server: “They say you have it.” But Vindman he noted Trump also said in the next line: “They say Ukraine has it.”
Vindman explained that the ellipses sometimes — but not always — replaced words. “Like I said, in my notes, if it was a Ukrainian word on something that required some content and it was not in there, I’d replace it, but not every ellipses has something else with it,” he said.
Vindman told lawmakers that he reviewed the transcript of Trump’s July 25 call produced by the White House Situation Room, as is protocol at the NSC, and made “a couple of edits and suggestions.”
But while Vindman would typically see the final transcript of such calls after the review process is complete, he said he did not in the case of the July 25 conversation with Ukraine’s president.
Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, warned lawmakers that “we have permitted open season on our diplomats, and it could happen to anybody,” referring to the campaign against former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and conspiracy theories about herself.
“It doesn’t matter whether they’re a noncareer official. It happened, rather disturbingly to me, to rather a lot of women, but it can happen to any political person as well. Any one of us here could be subject to this kind of claims and these kinds of attacks, any single person who gets crosswise with any of these individuals or any of these countries, if they think that any of us are in the way,” she said.
She later added, “If nothing else, we should all agree that what happened to Ambassador Yovanovitch is unacceptable, and we should not be letting this happen to our public servants across the board because it could happen to congressional staff. It could happen to absolutely everybody.”
Former national security adviser John Bolton has significant insights into matters being probed by the impeachment investigators, his lawyer said in a letter to congressional leaders today.
But Bolton’s attorney said his client will not testify until a court resolves whether a subpoena to him must be adhered to.
In a letter, lawyer Charles Cooper said, “Ambassador Bolton, who was the National Security Advisor to the President, and who was personally involved in many of the events, meetings, and conversations about which you have already received testimony, as well as many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far.”
Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, testified that in the July 10 meeting with the Ukrainian delegation, Energy Secretary Rick Perry “laid out all of these talking points” about working with Ukraine to tackle corruption in the energy sector.
Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton said this was encouraging and suggested they could start thinking about a meeting between Trump and President Trump Volodymyr Zelensky.
Bolton, Hill said, urged the Ukrainians to deal with the State Department and with Perry on that.
This is when, Hill testified, Gordon Sondland “did a redirect” of the conversation.
“And this is when Sondland, who is, you know, a fairly big guy, kind of leaned over across Ambassador Bolton,” she testified. “I mean, he was basically…countermanding what Ambassador Bolton had just said. In other words saying, I actually have, you know, some completely separate agreement about a meeting, you know, kind of you’re stonewalling kind of thing.”
Hill continued by saying Sondland looked irritated and told the Ukrainian delegation to go back to the Ward Room and talk about the next steps for the presidential meeting. She said Bolton was “pretty furious” about this, and that it was her impression that Sondland had previously talked to the Ukrainians about planning the presidential meeting — even though Bolton and others had been “recommending against having a meeting at this juncture.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden was asked if he would agree to appear if there was a Senate impeachment trial for President Donald Trump, as he spoke to reporters after filing for the New Hampshire Democratic primary.
“Number one, this is about Donald Trump, not about me. There’s not a single solitary thing that anybody has demonstrated that I didn’t do my job as the representative of the United States of America, representing America’s position,” he said.
“So, what Trump is doing and what he always do try to take the focus off of what the problem is. The problem is Donald Trump invited, at least on three occasions three different countries for different reasons to intervene in American elections. And this is a look, it’s a constitutional issue. The House has no choice. The President stood there and basically indicted himself in 30 meetings, saying there’s enough evidence to move forward with a trial in the United States Senate.”
Biden, who was a Senator during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, added that impeachment proceedings are “not fun”, but “there’s a constitutional responsibility.”
Remember: The whistleblower complaint that triggered the ongoing impeachment investigation centers around a claim that the President used military aid as a leverage to convince Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either of the Bidens.
Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, reviewed the text messages between Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and then-special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker made public by the impeachment inquiry.
When asked if that was normal diplomacy, Hill testified, “No.”
“Because of the content and the nature of, you know, setting up a meeting in relation to this, to something that is not a national security deliverable,” she said. “It was obvious from those text messages that they were referring to the investigations, and that was not something that we were pushing from the national security perspective, certainly not the National Security Council and certainly not the State Department.”
Hill said that they were pushing for investigations “in exchange for a White House meeting.”
More context: “I think potus really wants the deliverable,” Sondland texted Volker on Aug. 9, as the two were talking about possible dates for a meeting between President Trump and Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky.
Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top Russia adviser, testified that President Trump’s advisers tried to convince him that the theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election is false.
Hill said “we spent a lot of time” with Tom Bossert, Trump’s former Homeland Security advisor, former National Security Council advisor H.R. McMaster and others “trying to refute this one in the first year of the administration.”
“Tom and others who were working on cybersecurity laid out to the President the facts about the interference,” she said. “I can’t say any more than that.”
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the White House’s top Ukraine expert, spelled out to members of Congress that he believed the Ukrainians understood President Trump’s demand for investigations to be in exchange for a bilateral meeting — not aid to Ukraine.
Asked when the Ukrainians were made aware of the hold on US foreign aid, Vindman said:
“It was no secret, at least within government and official channels, that security assistance was on hold. And to the best of my recollection, I believe there was some of these light inquiries in the mid-August timeframe…about security assistance.”
“And just to be clear, is it fair then that when you related that opinion that the withholding of military aid was clearly not part of the demand during that July 25th phone call?” a member of Congress asked.
He responded: “I don’t think the Ukrainians were aware of it. So, my understanding is this was all about getting the bilateral meeting.”
A lawyer for two top White House officials suggested a federal judge still has to decide whether his clients must testify to impeachment investigators.
Charles Cooper, who represents former National Security Adviser John Bolton and former Acting National Security Advisor Dr. Charles Kupperman, told the House today that even if a court rules that Don McGahn can testify, such a holding would not automatically clear the way for his clients to do so.
Cooper penned the letter in response to a suggestion by House lawyers earlier in the week that a ruling in the McGahn case would apply to Kupperman and Bolton.
The letter suggested a more prolonged legal fight over the testimony of some top aides, and it could conceivably apply to others such as National Security Council legal advisor John Eisenberg and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
Cooper’s reiterated his position: the only way his clients can appear is if a Court says the White House’s immunity claim is invalid. Cooper says that because the House isn’t interested in McGahn’s views on sensitive national security issues in the case at hand, he is not in the same position as aides such as Kupperman and Bolton.
Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, tried to argue that “in the end, it kind of all worked out,” because “the Javelins happened, the security assistance dollars happened, continued to flow” and that President Trump met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in New York and the two leaders “hit it off.”
“In the end, it kind of worked like it normally does,” he said.
Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, pushed back on that point of view: “Well, it depends on what you mean about working out,” she said.
“The President and President Zelensky did, in fact, meet at the UNGA. That is correct. The military assistance appears to have been delivered, to the best of my knowledge and also to yours. But in terms of the overall U.S.-Ukrainian relationship, no, I wouldn’t say that this has worked out because we’re in the middle of now what is a scandal about Ukraine. So the manner in which we got to this point has been extraordinarily corrosive, the removal of our Ambassador and what we have done, which is laying open what appears to have been an effort in which a number of unsanctioned individuals, including Ukrainian American businesspeople, seem to have been involved in these efforts,” she said.
After a July 10 debriefing at the White House, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Fiona Hill reported their concerns about EU ambassador Gordon Sondland’s comments regarding Ukraine and a “deliverable” to National Security Council legal advisor John Eisenberg.
Eisenberg said he would “take a look into it,” according to the transcript. But Vindman testified that he never heard back from Eisenberg on the issue.
Hill and Vindman also discussed their concerns about the meeting with Vindman’s brother, Eugene Vindman, who is the chief ethics counsel at NSC.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has put Rep. Jim Jordan on the House Intelligence Committee as the impeachment inquiry continues into President Trump.
Rep. Rick Crawford will step aside temporarily to allow this to happen.
At this point in time there is no plan to add other Republicans to the panel — despite requests of some Trump allies, an aide told CNN.
Why this committee matters: The House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees have conducted the depositions behind closed doors with Trump administration officials who have testified under subpoena over the objections of the White House.
But the public hearings will be conducted only by the House Intelligence Committee. Under rules passed by the House last week, both Democrats and Republicans will have 45-minute blocks to question witnesses in which staff attorneys can participate.
Fiona Hill, the former National Security Council staffer responsible for Russia and Ukraine, told lawmakers during her testimony that it became clear during a July 10 meeting at the White House that an Oval Office visit for Ukraine’s president was contingent on him opening an investigation into President Trump’s political rivals.
Hill told lawmakers that Gordon Sondland, the US Ambassador to the European Union, said there was an agreement with acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney that “they would have a White House meeting or, you know, a Presidential meeting, if the Ukrainians started up these investigations again.”
“Ambassador Sondland, in front of the Ukrainians, as I came in, was talking about how he had an agreement with Chief of Staff Mulvaney for a meeting with the Ukrainians if they were going to go forward with investigations,” Hill said.
She said the suggestion alarmed then-national security adviser John Bolton, who “immediately stiffened” and ended the meeting.
Separately, top White House expert on Ukraine Alexander Vindman testified that Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland characterized the request for investigations by Ukraine — or a “deliverable” — as coordinated with Mulvaney, according to the transcript of his testimony released today.
Here’s more from Hill’s testimony:
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, testified that he drafted “talking points” ahead of President Trump’s July 25 call with his Ukrainian counterpart. He said he was also listening in on from the Situation Room.
Those talking points did not include anything about investigations into the 2016 election, Joe and Hunter Biden or Burisma, according to the transcript of Vindman’s testimony.
Vindman also said he did not know whether former national security adviser John Bolton listened in on the call but said that Bolton did have concerns about the call prior to it taking place.
Top White House Ukraine expert Alexander Vindman told congressional investigators that he “became aware of outside influencers promoting a false narrative of Ukraine inconsistent with the consensus views of the entire interagency” that undermined US cooperation with Ukraine in spring of 2019, according to a transcript of his testimony released Friday.
He also said that then-Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko was advancing a narrative undermining the former Ambassador in Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch “for the purpose of self-preservation for himself and the President at the time, President Poroshenko.”
Vindman said he learned of Rudy Giuliani’s participation in this “narrative” in April 2019.
State Department official George Kent testified that Giuliani met privately with Lutsenko to “throw mud” at Yovanovitch and amplified this narrative as part of his “campaign of slander” against the former ambassador.
Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, testified that she was “shocked” to read the rough transcript of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, particularly the comments regarding former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and Trump’s “pretty blatant” push for politically-motivated investigations.
“Particularly on Ambassador Yovanovitch, and very saddened because, again, Ambassador Yovanovitch is a great American, and I don’t think any American citizen should be disparaged by their President,” Hill said. “So that made me very sad and very shocked and, yeah, not too happy.”
Hill said “the other issue” — Trump pushing Zelensky for investigations regarding Joe and Hunter Biden and the 2016 election — “it was pretty blatant.”
“I found that I couldn’t really explain that away with an alternate explanation,” Hill said. “So that’s what I mean about being, you know, quite shocked.”
She added: “I sat in an awful lot of calls, and I have not seen anything like this,” she added. “And I was there for two and a half years. So I was just shocked.”
Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, told lawmakers she had personally told special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker before July 10 what national security adviser John Bolton had decreed.
Bolton said, according to Hill, that Volker and others should not be talking to Rudy Giuliani about Ukraine. It was her understanding that Volker was “trying to fix” the growing “negative perceptions” about Ukraine and the new Ukrainian leader’s administration by working with Giuliani.
“But I expressed to him that I was concerned that there were business dealings, nefarious business dealings, underway,” Hill said.
Hill testified that Giuliani’s public Ukraine activities had drawn the attention of administration officials, and that many simply watched it unfold on television. She described learning about Giuliani’s planned May trip to Ukraine after he said on TV he was going. “And there was, you know, kind of, quite a bit of consternation of the party of the State Department,” she said.
She said the TV in Bolton’s office was always on, usually tuned to Fox. “And often when I was in the office, Giuliani would be on the television, and you know, Ambassador Bolton would put on the sound to hear what he was saying,” Hill said.
Top White House expert on Ukraine Alexander Vindman told congressional lawmakers that EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland characterized the request for investigations by Ukraine — or a “deliverable” — as coordinated with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, according to the transcript of his testimony released today.
“He [Sondland] just said that he had a conversation with Mr. Mulvaney, and this is what was required in order to get a meeting,” Vindman said, adding that he opposed this approach because it was “inappropriate” and “had nothing to do with national security.”
The National Security Council official said there was “no ambiguity” that there was a demand Ukraine investigate the Bidens in exchange for a White House meeting.
Former Russia adviser for President Trump Fiona Hill recounted that it was not just Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, who dealt with the lies and conspiracy theory smears that derailed her ambassadorship.
Hill testified that she, too, experienced them. She said her entire first year on the White House National Security Council was filled with “hateful calls.”
“I’d experienced exactly the same treatment that [Hill] had in the whole first year of my tenure at the National Security Council, which is a period in which Lieutenant General McMaster and many other members of staff Were targeted as well, and many people were hounded out of the National Security Council because they became frightened about their own security.”
The deposition of Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, was interrupted when a GOP congressman who is not on any of the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry tried to enter the hearing room.
The transcripts detail the conversation Rep. Matt Gaetz has with House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff when he entered the room.
At the time, sources said Gaetz was booted from the hearing because he is not on any of the three committees conducting the impeachment investigation — Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight.
“Mr. Gaetz, you’re not permitted to be in the room,” Schiff said.
He responded that he’s on the Judiciary Committee — to which Schiff said that committee isn’t part of the investigation
“Mr. Gaetz, you’re not permitted to be in the room. Please leave,” Schiff said.
Rep. Jim Jordan, who sits on the oversight committee asked, “Mr. Chairman , really?”
“Yes, really,” Schiff said.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, said “there was no doubt” about what President Trump was asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for during his July call — a deliverable of having a foreign government investigate a US citizen in exchange for a US-Ukrainian meeting.
“In total, looking at the transcript, that I saw it was a this is a deliverable, this is what was required in order to get the meeting that the Ukrainians had been aggressively pushing for, had been trying to coordinate,” Vindman said.
Compared to an earlier April call, the July 25 call, Vindman said, “was not a positive call. It was dour.”
Vindman confirmed he was listening in real time to the call.
“And was there any doubt in your mind as to what the President, our President, was asking for as a deliverable?” a member of Congress asked.
“There was no doubt,” he said.
Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, testified she had a “very good relationship” with Kurt Volker, the special envoy to Ukraine. She also testified she thought she had a “very good relationship” with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland but she describes a “blow-up with him” in June.
“When he told me that he was in charge of Ukraine, because initially I said to him, ‘You’re not,’ with that kind of, you know, surprise and probably irritation in my voice,” she said.
Hill asked who put Sondland in charge of Ukraine. “And he said, the President,” Hill testified. “Well, that shut me up, because you can’t really argue with that.”
She also added that while she believed Volker always acted with integrity, but that she did tell him, “we did not think it was a good idea for him talking to Rudy Giuliani.”
Hill testified that Volker responded that he would be able to reason with Giuliani and manage him. “Well, we did not think that this was manageable,” she said. “And Ambassador Bolton made it very clear that nobody should be talking to Rudy Giuliani, on our team or anybody else should be.”
Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, said she spoke with Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan frequently about her concerns with Rudy Giuliani and attacks on Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, according to a transcript of her testimony in the impeachment inquiry
Hill said that Sullivan “just expressed that he was also concerned. He didn’t give any specifics, you know, back again. He just gave me a good, you know, respectful hearing. And it was clear that he was very upset about what had happened to Ambassador Yovanovitch.”
Asked if Sullivan ever said that he or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were going to do anything about it, Hill said that Sullivan told her “both he and Secretary Pompeo had tried their best to head off what happened.”
Hill is President Trump’s former top Russia adviser and Alexander Vindman is the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert.
We’re going through the documents now, and we’ll post highlights here.
The House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry will shortly transcripts of testimony given behind closed doors by Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Fiona Hill, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry.
Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, testified on October 29. Hill, who previously served as the top NSC Russia adviser, testified on October 14.
As the House prepares for its first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, the GOP is trying to shift attention back to the whistleblower whose complaint initially prompted the investigation.
At a Keep America Great rally this week in Lexington, Kentucky, Sen. Rand Paul urged the media to name the whistleblower, later threatening to do so himself. Paul told CNN on Tuesday that “the Whistleblower Statute protects the whistleblower from having his name revealed by the Inspector General” but that “no one else is under any legal obligation.”
This growing discussion raises the question of whether it’s a crime to out a government whistleblower.
Turns out, the answer isn’t as simple as it may seem. It depends on who does the unmasking — and the circumstances surrounding it.
But that doesn’t mean it’s legal.
Rad more analysis here.
President Trump, asked about his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s refusal to testify in the impeachment inquiry today, said he would “love to have” Mulvaney testify — but added he doesn’t want to give “credibility” to the impeachment inquiry.
“I don’t want to give credibility to a corrupt witch hunt. I’d love to have Mick go up frankly,” Trump told reporters on the south lawn.
He continued: “I think he’d do great. I’d love to have him go up. I’d love to have almost every person go up when they know me. What I don’t like is when they put all these people that I never met before.”
Moments ago, President Trump also said the House shouldn’t have public hearings in the impeachment inquiry.
President Trump made his usual digs against House Intelligence chair Adam Schiff and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi but added a new line telling reporters Friday, “despite all that, we’re kicking their ass.”
Trump made his familiar claims against the two referring to them both as “corrupt politicians” before adding his colorful comments.
Trump then said, without any evidence to support his claims: “We have the highest poll numbers.”
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s lawyer informed investigators he would not be complying with their subpoena, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry.
Just moments before his deposition was scheduled to begin, Mulvaney’s lawyer informed impeachment officials that he had been directed by the White House not to comply with the authorized subpoena and asserted “absolute immunity.”
Here’s what we know: Mulvaney admitted from the White House briefing room that the President withheld vital military aid in order to pressure Ukraine to conduct investigations that would benefit the President’s personal and political interests, not the national interest. Other witness testimony during this inquiry also has indicated that Mulvaney’s testimony could shed additional light on the President’s abuse of the power of his office for his personal gain.
What absolute immunity means: Trump’s lawyers have argued that the Constitution shields the President from any criminal investigation — not just from actual prosecution — while he holds office. This claim defies court precedent and basic constitutional principles, according to legal analysts.
President Trump claimed he does not know US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland well.
Ambassador Sondland’s testimony was released on Tuesday.
“Let me just tell you, I hardly know the gentleman,” Trump told reporters outside the White House on Friday.
He continued, “But this is the man who said there was no quid pro quo and he still says that and he said that I said that, and he hasn’t changed that testimony. So this is a man that said as far as the president is concerned, there was no quid pro quo. Everybody that’s testified, even the ones that are Trump haters, they’ve all been fine, they don’t have anything.”
Remember: Despite Trump’s claims, Sondland revised his testimony to admit a quid pro quo linking US military aid to Ukraine with an investigation into Joe Biden and the 2016 election.
About the Trump-Sondland relationship: Sondland once said President Trump gave him specific assignments with Ukraine.
“President Trump has not only honored me with the job of being the US ambassador to the EU, but he’s also given me other special assignments, including Ukraine,” he told a Ukraine media outlet in July.
Trump previously called Sondland “a really good man and great American” and “highly respected.”
President Trump said the name of the intelligence whistleblower whose complaint document triggered the House impeachment inquiry should be revealed.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump called the individual a disgrace and said his or her name should be made public.
Trump added he thinks the whistleblower’s lawyer should be sued.
Remember: Andrew Bakaj, a lawyer for the whistleblower, sent a letter to the White House yesterday warning the President to “cease and desist” attacking his client.
“I am writing out of deep concern that your client, the President of the United States, is engaging in rhetoric and activity that places my client, the Intelligence Community Whistleblower, and their family in physical danger,” Bakaj wrote to White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
President Trump said Democrats shouldn’t hold public hearings in the impeachment inquiry.
Speaking to reporters at the White House before a trip to Atlanta, Trump said the public hearings were a continuation of a “hoax.”
“They shouldn’t be having public hearings. This is a hoax. This is just like the Russian witch hunt,” Trump said.
Some background: Democrats announced the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry will begin next week. Top US diplomat in the Ukraine Bill Taylor, State Department official George Kent and former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch are scheduled to testify.
The public hearings will be conducted just by the House Intelligence Committee. Under rules passed by the House last week, both Democrats and Republicans will have 45-minute blocks to question witnesses in which staff attorneys can participate.
Remember: Trump and the Republican party have criticized the impeachment inquiry, which began with closed-door depositions limited to the House committees directly involved in the investigation, for a lack of transparency. The House voted last week to formalize the impeachment inquiry, a resolution that included protocols for the public hearings.
President Trump says he’s not concerned about depositions from current and former administration officials in the ongoing impeachment inquiry.
Speaking to reporters at the White House before departing for Atlanta, Trump said the testimony he’s read is fine — but repeated that he believes the most important thing is the White House-released transcript of his phone call with Ukraine’s president.
Trump said again that he doesn’t know many of the people who have appeared before the impeachment committees. He said some were fine, but others were “Never Trumpers.”
The President is still speaking to reporters.
So far, the House has released transcripts from six witnesses’ testimony in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
There are still more transcripts to come, although we don’t know when exactly the congressional committees could release them.
In the meantime, you can, you can read through the six transcripts that are already out:
- Transcript for Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent’s House testimony
- Transcript for Former US special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker’s House testimony
- Transcript for US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland’s House testimony
- Transcript for US diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor’s House testimony
- Transcript for US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s House testimony
- Transcript for former State Department official Michael McKinley’s House Testimony
Sources from: CNN
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