Morrison Says He Heard No Demand By Trump: Impeachment Update
(Bloomberg) -- The House Intelligence Committee began its second week of public impeachment hearings into President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs on the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, special adviser for Europe and Russia in Vice President Mike Pence‘s office, testified in the morning.
The afternoon session heard from Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, and Timothy Morrison, NSC senior director for Europe and Russia.
Here are the latest developments:
Morrison Says He Heard No Demand By Trump (7:55 p.m.)
Morrison said he didn’t hear Trump make any demands in his July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
“I did not hear him make any sort of demand,” Morrision said while being questioned by Republican John Ratcliffe.
Asked by Ratcliffe whether anyone on the National Security Council expressed concern after the call that a crime such as bribery or extortion had occurred, Morrison said, “No, sir.”
Volker Now Recalls Sondland Statement (7:01 p.m.)
Volker said he now remembers a statement made in July by Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland that Volker had omitted from prior testimony, saying that statements by Vindman “jogged my memory.”
Volker said Tuesday that Sondland made a “generic comment about investigations” during a July 10 meeting with Ukrainian officials in then-National Security Advisor John Bolton’s office. Volker said everyone present thought it was inappropriate.
Asked by Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff why he didn’t mention the statement when he testified in private on Oct. 3, Volker said, “I did not remember that at the time.“
Volker said he didn’t believe foreign governments should be asked to investigate a U.S. official.
When Schiff asked Morrison whether he had any concern about Trump’s July 25 request for an investigation, he said, “As a hypothetical matter I do not” because he didn’t understand the president to be seeking a probe of Joe Biden.
Schiff noted that Morrison nonetheless went to a National Security Council lawyer about his concern that information about the call might leak.
“If it was a perfect call, would you have a concern about it leaking?” Schiff said, alluding to Trump’s frequent description of the July 25 call as “perfect.” Schiff asked whether it would be appropriate to ask Ukraine to investigate former Ohio Governor John Kasich, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Volker.
Morrison said those would be inappropriate. Asked the difference between that and an investigation of Biden, he said, “I can only speak to what I understood at the time and what I felt at the time.”
Judge to Rule Monday on McGahn Subpoena (6:07 p.m.)
A federal judge said she’ll rule next Monday on whether former White House Counsel Don McGahn must obey a subpoena to testify to the House Judiciary Committee.
U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, in a brief order, said she’ll issue a ruling barring “unforeseen circumstances.”
Trump has asserted that absolute immunity shields McGahn from being questioned.
Sondland Described Aid Link, Morrison Says (5:16 p.m.)
Morrison said Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told him on Sept. 1 he had advised a Ukrainian official that the release of nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine was being linked to an announcement by Ukraine of a commitment to investigate Joe Biden and the 2016 elections.
Then, Morrison said Sondland told him on Sept. 7 that Trump had said that Zelenskiy, specifically, would have to make that announcement himself.
Sondland said “there was no quid pro quo but President Zelenskiy had to make the statement and he had to want to do it,” said Morrison.
Pence Aide Heard Nothing Wrong in July Call (4:53 p.m.)
Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser, Keith Kellogg, said in a statement Tuesday that he listened to Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and that he “heard nothing wrong or improper.”
Kellogg issued the statement after Jennifer Williams, a Pence aide who was also on the call and reports to Kellogg, testified in the House impeachment inquiry. Kellogg said Williams accurately testified that she didn’t inform him of any concerns after the call.
“In fact, she never reported any personal or professional concerns to any other member of the vice president’s staff, including our chief of staff and the vice president,” he said.
Kellogg also said Williams’ testimony about Pence’s Sept. 1 meeting with Zelenskiy in Poland was accurate. The two discussed the delay in U.S. financial aid at the meeting.
“She affirmed that the vice president focused on President Zelenskiy’s anti-corruption efforts and the lack of European support and never mentioned former Vice President Joe Biden, Crowdstrike, Burisma, or investigations in any communication with Ukrainians,” he said. -- Alex Wayne
Morrison Disappointed by Trump Ukraine Call (4:38 p.m.)
Morrison said he was disappointed in Trump’s handling of the July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
“I was hoping for a more full-throated statement of support from the president concerning President Zelenskiy’s reform agenda,” Morrison said during questioning by a Democratic staff lawyer.
Regarding Trump’s request for a Ukrainian investigation of the president’s political rival, Morrison said, “It’s not what we recommended to the president to discuss.”
Morrison said the call confirmed the “parallel process” of policy toward Ukraine that former U.S. official Fiona Hill had warned him about.
Volker said he was surprised and troubled when he read the record of the call when its was released in late September.
“I don’t think that raising 2016 elections or Vice President Biden or these things I consider to be conspiracy theories circulated by the Ukrainians” are “things that we should be pursuing as part of our national security strategy with Ukraine,“ Volker said.
Democrats Seek McGahn Hearing in Next Phase (4:12 p.m.)
Citing an “urgent need” in connection with the House impeachment inquiry, Judiciary Committee Democrats asked a federal judge in Washington to rule quickly on their request to enforce a subpoena issued in April requiring testimony from former White House Counsel Don McGahn.
“Given that the House’s impeachment inquiry is proceeding rapidly, the committee has a finite window of time to effectively obtain and consider McGahn’s testimony,” committee lawyers told U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in a filing on Tuesday.
Jackson heard arguments Oct. 31 on whether lawmakers can compel McGahn to appear before them or whether Trump’s assertion of absolute immunity shields the attorney from being questioned.
McGahn’s testimony originally was sought for May 21 in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction of that probe by Trump. The House sued in August to force him to testify.
“In addition, recent evidence produced in the criminal proceedings against former Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone indicates that President Trump may have provided false statements in his written answers to the special counsel’s office,” the committee’s lawyers said in court papers.
Stone was convicted on Friday of lying to Congress, obstructing a congressional investigation and witness tampering. -- Andrew M. Harris
Volker Says He Missed Biden-Burisma Link (4:08 p.m.)
Volker said he thought there was an “important distinction” between Joe Biden and the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings, on whose board Biden’s son Hunter sat. He said he now realizes that others saw the idea of Ukraine investigating Burisma the same as investigating Biden.
“In retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections,” Volker said.
He also said he wasn’t aware of a phone call between Trump and Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, on July 26 -- a day after Trump spoke to Ukraine’s president. David Holmes, a foreign service officer in Kyiv, has testified that he overheard Trump on the call asking Sondland about “the investigations.”
Volker Not ‘Aware’ of Bid for Biden Probe (3:49 p.m.)
Volker told the committee that he wasn’t aware of and didn’t knowingly take part in any effort to urge Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rival, Joe Biden.
“Vice President Biden was not a topic of our discussions,“ Volker said. “I was not on the July 25 phone call between President Trump and President Zelenskiy. I was not made aware of any reference to Vice President Biden or his son by President Trump, until the transcript of that call was released on Sept. 25.”
Volker said that until he resigned on Sept. 27, his role was to lead “the official channel” of relations with Ukraine.
Morrison Says ‘Fears’ About Call Realized (3:46 p.m.)
Morrison said he worried at the time of Trump’s July 25 call with the president of Ukraine that disclosing its contents would have a negative effect in Washington.
“My fears have been realized,” Morrison said.
Hearing Resumes With Volker, Morrison (3:25 p.m.)
The Intelligence Committee opened its afternoon session, with testimony planned from Volker and Morrison. Their appearance was requested by Republicans on the panel.
Ukrainian Calls Vindman Job Offer a ‘Joke’ (2:58 p.m.)
Former Ukrainian national security official Oleksander Danylyuk said he was joking when he offered Vindman a job as Ukraine’s defense minister.
In a telephone interview, Danylyuk said, “It is is important to differentiate serious matter and humor.”
“The ‘offer’ to join Ukrainian government was made in a joking manner, which was clear by the context and tone as a comment that it used to be fashionable to hire expatriates in the government few years ago,” Danylyuk said. “It was clear to me that it was taken by Alex Vindman as a joke.”
Vindman testified earlier Tuesday that he dismissed the offer. He called it “comical” and said he reported the incident to his superiors. -- Daryna Krasnolutska
Volker, Morrison Due In Afternoon Session (2:07 p.m.)
On deck for the committee’s afternoon hearing are Kurt Volker, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, and Timothy Morrison, a National Security Council expert on Europe and Russia.
GOP lawmakers want Volker to testify publicly because he said he wasn’t aware of attempts to withhold U.S. aid unless Ukraine announced it would open investigations that would help Trump politically.
Other witnesses have described Volker as a key player in an effort led by Rudy Giuliani at Trump’s behest to push Ukraine into investigations that would entangle former Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival of the president.
Morrison listened to the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s president, and Republicans are likely to focus on his past statements that he heard nothing illegal in the conversation. He did, however, testify that he was concerned about how it would look if leaked.
Part One of ‘Today’s Circus’ Ends (1:50 p.m.)
The morning hearing adjourned after about four and a half hours. “Act one of today’s circus is over,” said top committee Republican Devin Nunes.
“The Democrats are no closer to impeachment than they were three years ago,” Nunes said. “Democrats continue to poison the American people with this nonsense.”
Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, said that even though Republicans say Trump was urging Ukraine to investigate corruption, instead the message from the president was, “Do engage in political investigations and do it for my re-election.”
The effort is “no less odious because it was discovered and it was stopped,” Schiff said.
White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said, “We have learned nothing new in today’s illegitimate ‘impeachment’ proceedings.” She accused Democrats of trying to “overturn the outcome of a free and fair election.”
Vindman Describes ‘Shock’ During July 25 Call (1:24 p.m.)
Vindman said “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing” when he listened to Trump’s July 25 call with the president of Ukraine.
“It was probably an element of shock, that maybe in certain regards my worst fear of how our Ukraine policy could play out was playing out and how this was likely to have significant implications for U.S. national security,” Vindman said. He said he reported his concerns to a White House lawyer “because that was my duty.”
Democrat Sean Maloney had Vindman reread the portion of his opening statement where he directly assured his father he would be fine after taking on the most powerful leader in the world. Maloney asked him why he could have that confidence.
“Because this is America,” Vindman said. “This is the country that I have served and defended,” he said, adding, “Here, right matters.”
Vindman Excluded From Meetings After Call (12:24 p.m.)
Vindman said he was excluded from some meetings to which he would normally have been invited after his connection to the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s president became known.
Whether that was a direct reprisal, Vindman said, “I am not sure I can make that judgment,” but he said it was “out of the course of normal affairs.”
Vindman is Quizzed on Ukraine Job He Spurned (12:13 p.m.)
Under questioning from Republican staff lawyer Steve Castor, Vindman said he was offered the job as Ukraine’s defense minister while on an official trip to that country.
“I’m an American, I came here as a toddler, and I dismissed the offer,” said Vindman, an immigrant from Ukraine. He called the offer “comical,” and said he reported the incident to his superiors.
Later, Democrat Jim Himes accused Republicans of seeking to question Vindman’s loyalty to the U.S. by raising the matter.
“They’ve accused you of espionage and dual loyalties,” Himes said.
“That was designed exclusively to give the right-wing media an opening to question your loyalties,” Himes said. The questions about the job offer “may have come cloaked in a Brooks Brothers suit and in parliamentary language, but that was designed exclusively to give the right-wing media an opening to question your loyalties.”
Asked by Himes whether he considers himself a “never Trumper,” Vindman responded, ”Representative, I’d call myself never partisan.”
Vindman Rebuffs Nunes on Whistle-Blower (10:56 a.m.)
Vindman rebuffed questions from top committee Republican Devin Nunes about the identity of the whistle-blower whose complaint led to the House inquiry.
Nunes asked Vindman whether he discussed Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president with anyone afterward. Vindman said he provided readouts to State Department official George Kent and “an individual in the intelligence community.”
Nunes asked which agency in the intelligence community, but committee Chairman Adam Schiff cut him off, saying the committee is obligated by law to protect the whistle-blower’s identity. “These proceedings will not be used to out the whistle-blower,” Schiff said.
Vindman said he doesn’t know the whistle-blower’s identity and that he’s been advised by his lawyer and instructions from the committee chairman not to provide any specifics about anyone in the intelligence community.
Nunes responded, “You can answer questions or you can plead the Fifth.”
Nunes noted that Republicans have tried to subpoena the whistle-blower to give a sworn statement, but that Schiff has rejected the request.
At one point Nunes addressed Vindman as “Mr. Vindman,” and the Army officer responded, “Ranking member, it’s Lieutenant Colonel Vindman, please.”
Transcript Viewed as Sensitive, Vindman Says (10:27 a.m.)
Vindman said the decision to put the rough transcript of the July 25 call into a secure server was made “on the fly” after he expressed concerns about it to a National Security Council lawyer.
“My understanding is that this was viewed as a sensitive transcript,” Vindman said, and that to avoid leaks and “preserve the integrity of the transcript it should be segregated in a smaller group.” He said he wasn’t sure what officials meant by preserving the integrity of the transcript.
Vindman said he didn’t take the decision as “anything nefarious” and that he also didn’t view it as a mistake.
Vindman Says He Saw Trump Request as Demand (10:03 a.m.)
Vindman said because of the “power disparity” between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, he viewed Trump’s request for investigations as a demand.
In military culture, “when a senior asks you to do something, even if it’s polite and pleasant, it’s not to be taken as a request, it’s to be taken as an order,” Vindman said.
Because of Trump’s power over Zelenskiy, it was clear that “in order to get the White House meeting, President Zelenskiy would have to deliver these investigations,” Vindman said.
“It was inappropriate, it was improper for the president to request, to demand an investigation into an political opponent,” Vindman said. “Especially a foreign power where there is at best dubious belief that this would be a completely impartial investigation.”
“It was also clear that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma, it would be interpreted as a partisan play,” Vindman said. “This would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing bipartisan support, undermine U.S. national security, and advance Russia’s strategic objectives in the region.”
Vindman Defends Career of Service to U.S. (9:50 a.m.)
Vindman defended his career of service to the U.S., responding to Republicans and conservative media figures who raised questions about his loyalty. He recognized his father who brought Vindman and his family from the former Soviet Union to the U.S. 40 years ago.
The decorated Iraq war veteran also recognized his two brothers, who also serve in the military.
“Dad, my sitting here today, in the U.S. Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family,” Vindman said. “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.”
Vindman Says He Reported Concerns Properly (9:47 a.m.)
Vindman said he reported his concerns about the July 25 call “in official channels, to the proper authorities in the chain of command.”
“My intent was to raise these concerns because they had significant national security implications for our country,” Vindman said.
He also lambasted the attacks on his colleagues who testified.
“I want to state that the vile character attacks on these distinguished and honorable public servants is reprehensible,” Vindman said. “It is natural to disagree and engage in spirited debate, this has been our custom since the time of our Founding Fathers, but we are better than callow and cowardly attacks.”
Vindman Calls Giuliani Disruptive on Ukraine (9:40 a.m.)
Vindman told the committee that last spring, he became aware of two “disruptive actors” in Ukraine -- Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Ukraine prosecutor general Yuri Lutsenko. He said they were “promoting false information that undermined the United States’ Ukraine policy.“
“The NSC and its inter-agency partners, including the State Department, grew increasingly concerned about the impact that such information was having on our country’s ability to achieve our national security objectives,” Vindman said.
Williams Describes Trump Call as Unusual (9:37 a.m.)
Williams said in her opening statement that she listened to Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president and found it “unusual because, in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.”
She said she didn’t know whether Pence reviewed her update or the transcript of the call, and she didn’t discuss the call with him or any colleagues in the vice president’s office.
Nunes Says Witnesses Identified No Crimes (9:27 a.m.)
Top committee Republican Devin Nunes criticized the House investigation, saying the three officials who testified last week had only second- or third-hand knowledge and were “unable to identify any crime or impeachable offense that the president had committed.”
He accused the news media of being “puppets of the Democratic Party” in covering the impeachment investigation. “They’ve learned no lessons” as they “try to stoke another partisan frenzy,” he said.
Nunes again called for testimony from the whistle-blower whose complaint set off the investigation. The lawmaker asked about the whistle-blower’s biases and suggested the person had connections with Democratic politicians and the news media.
Schiff Says Trump Acted for Personal Aims (9:14 a.m.)
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said in his opening statement that Trump “put his own personal and political interests above those of the nation.“
“He undermined our military and diplomatic support for a key ally, and undercut U.S. anticorruption efforts in Ukraine,” Schiff said.
“How could our diplomats urge Ukraine to refrain from political investigations of its own citizens, if the president of the United States was urging Ukraine to engage in precisely the same kind of corrupt and political investigation of one of our own citizens?” the chairman said.
House Hearing With Vindman, Williams Begins (9:08 a.m.)
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff gaveled in Tuesday’s hearing that will receive testimony from Vindman and Williams.
NSC Aide Vindman to Open Week’s Testimony (8 a.m.)
Lawmakers will ask Vindman at the morning hearing about his previous testimony that he listened to Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and was so disturbed by the conversation that he reported it to the NSC’s legal counsel.
Williams, who will appear with Vindman in the morning, was also on the July 25 call and previously testified that she found some of the discussion to be “unusual and inappropriate.” She said Trump mentioned the Burisma energy company, which had former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter on its board.
During an afternoon hearing, lawmakers will hear from Volker, one of the “three amigos” designated by Trump to lead back-channel relations with Ukraine. Volker said earlier in closed-door testimony that he was never told why Trump withheld security aid from Ukraine.
Morrison will be asked about his earlier statement that he wasn’t concerned that anything illegal was discussed during the July 25 call.
Catch Up on Impeachment Coverage
Envoy’s Complaint About Trump Triggers ‘Intimidating’ New Attack
Ukraine Envoy’s Testimony on ‘Smear Campaign’ Draws Trump Fire
Impeachment Hearing Shows Probe’s Limits Despite New Revelation
- GOP Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said he doesn’t remember Trump telling diplomatic officials to talk to his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani about Ukraine during a meeting last May. U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testified that Trump told U.S. officials to “talk to Rudy” about Ukraine policy.
- The Gordon Sondland transcript is here and here; former special envoy Kurt Volker’s transcript is here and here. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s transcript is here and here; the transcript of Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to the secretary of State, is here. The transcript of David Holmes, a Foreign Service officer in Kyiv, is here. The transcript of Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale is here. The transcript of William Taylor, the top U.S. envoy to Ukraine, is here and here. State Department official George Kent’s testimony is here and here. Testimony by Alexander Vindman can be found here, and the Fiona Hill transcript is here. Laura Cooper’s transcript is here; Christopher Anderson’s is here and Catherine Croft’s is here. Jennifer Williams’ transcript is here and Timothy Morrison’s is here.
- Taylor’s opening statement is here; Kent’s statement is here. Yovanovitch’s opening statement is here. Kurt Volker’s opening statement is here; Tim Morrison’s statement is here. Alexander Vindman’s statement is here. Jennifer Williams’s opening staement is here.
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