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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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.”

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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.


2:55 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019

Hill warned of "open season on our diplomats"

From CNN's Haley Byrd

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.”

2:41 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019

John Bolton has "relevant" information on Ukraine probe not yet disclosed, lawyer says 

From CNN's Adam Levine, Ariane de Vogue and Kevin Bohn

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.”

2:44 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019

Hill said Rick Perry laid out Ukraine talking points at a meeting

From CNN's Mike Warren

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.”