The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry

By Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes, Zoe Sottile and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019
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4:01 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019

White House official testified Ukraine "did not interfere in our election in 2016"

From CNN's Michael Warren

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.”

3:59 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019

Former Russia adviser said security aid was held at the direction of the chief of staff's office

From CNN's Michael Warren

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.”


3:57 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019

White House official testified that July call "pulled" Giuliani "into kind of an official role"

From CNN's Maegan Vasquez

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."

3:35 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019

White House's top Ukraine expert said it "doesn’t take a rocket scientist" to see how Trump would benefit from investigation into Biden

From CNN's Maegan Vasquez

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.”

Read more:

3:56 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019

Why the White House's top Ukraine expert was upset over discussions of a presidential meeting

From CNN's Michael Warren

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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.

3:53 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019

Former top Russia adviser was concerned what Giuliani was doing "might not be legal"

From CNN's Alex Rogers

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.

3:07 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019

Hill said putting Ukraine transcript on classified system was not "appropriate" 

From CNN's Allie Malloy

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.

3:09 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019

Lawmakers clash during Vindman testimony

From CNN's Zach Cohen

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.”

3:01 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019

Vindman testified there was no "malicious intent" to cover anything up in Trump's Ukraine call transcript

From CNN's Jeremy Herb and Zach Cohen

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.