The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry
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.