Hill: Advisers tried to convince Trump that Ukraine 2016 interference theory was false
From CNN's Alex Rogers
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.”
2:03 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019
Ukraine was interested in a meeting, not aid, in exchange for investigation, Vindman testified
From CNN's Maegan Vazquez
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."
1:57 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019
White House officials are not backing down from court battle over impeachment testimony
From CNN's Ariane de Vogue
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.
1:57 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019
Hill called path to releasing the security aid "extraordinarily corrosive"
From CNN's Haley Byrd
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.
1:45 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019
Vindman reported concerns to security officials, including his brother
From CNN's Zachary Cohen
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.
1:36 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019
Rep. Jim Jordan is officially on the House Intelligence Committee
From CNN's Phil Mattingly
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.
1:48 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019
White House officials testify quid pro quo effort was coordinated with Mulvaney
From CNN's Kevin Liptak
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:
1:22 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019
Vindman drafted talking points with Ukrainian official ahead of July 25 call
From CNN's Zachary Cohen
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.
1:21 p.m. ET, November 8, 2019
Vindman aware of "outside influencers promoting a false narrative" of Ukraine in spring 2019
From CNN's Zachary Cohen
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.