Impeachment hearings: Witness recalls Ukrainian’s quip about probes

FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2019, file photo, Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a military officer at the National Security Council, center, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington. Vindman is set to deliver public testimony about President Donald Trumps alleged attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival. Democrats and Republicans are expected to press contrasting narratives about the 20-year Army veterans decision to come forward to allege abuse of power by his commander-in-chief. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2019, file photo, Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a military officer at the National Security Council, center, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington. Vindman is set to deliver public testimony about President Donald Trumps alleged attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival. Democrats and Republicans are expected to press contrasting narratives about the 20-year Army veterans decision to come forward to allege abuse of power by his commander-in-chief. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

A top diplomat says he now remembers a top Ukrainian official taking issue with advice he offered cautioning against political investigations.

Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, says that during a September dinner with Andriy Yermak, he’d discouraged Ukraine from trying to prosecute the country’s previous president. Volker says he warned it would sow deep societal divisions.

Volker says Yermak quipped in response, “You mean like asking us to investigate Clinton and Biden?”

Volker claims he didn’t “quite understand” the remark and was “kind of puzzled” by it.

Volker says he accepted the idea of Ukraine going along with a push by President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to investigate the Ukraine gas company Burisma and the 2016 elections. But he says he was unaware of a connection to Joe Biden, whose son served on Burisma’s board.

Read more: What to watch on Day 3 of public Trump impeachment hearings

6:40 p.m.

Former National Security Council aide Tim Morrison says one of his colleagues warned him about President Donald Trump’s European Union ambassador, Gordon Sondland, and even coined a name for her concerns: “the Gordon problem.”

Morrison is testifying Tuesday in House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

Other witnesses have testified that Sondland talked directly to Trump as the president pushed Ukraine to investigate Democrats. Sondland, who testifies Wednesday, tried to negotiate with the Ukrainians for the investigations.

Sondland also clashed with some in the White House as he took a leading role in Ukraine policy, including former adviser Fiona Hill, who Morrison said coined the phrase.

After talking to Hill, Morrison said he kept track of what Sondland was doing and “didn’t necessarily always act” on what he suggested.

5:30 p.m.

Former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker says he felt a discussion of investigations was “inappropriate” in a July meeting between Ukrainian and U.S. officials at the White House.

Testifying during a House impeachment hearing on Tuesday, Volker confirmed others’ testimony that President Donald Trump’s European Union ambassador, Gordon Sondland, raised the investigations “in a generic way” to the Ukrainians and that then national security adviser John Bolton immediately ended the meeting.

The meeting happened two weeks before a call in which Trump asked Ukraine’s president to investigate Democrats. That call is central to the impeachment probe.

Other witnesses have testified that the investigations were discussed further in a second meeting that day. Volker said he doesn’t recall that discussion.

5:20 p.m.

A former White House national security official says his boss told him to “tell the lawyers” about two worrisome conversations in which a diplomat told him about blocking military aid to Ukraine.

Tim Morrison testified at Tuesday’s House impeachment hearing about two September exchanges with Gordon Sondland.

Sondland is an envoy overseeing European Union policy who was also helping shape U.S. policy toward Ukraine.

Morrison says Sondland said he’d told a Ukrainian official that his government would have to announce investigations into President Donald Trump’s Democratic political foes to free up the U.S. military assistance.

Morrison says Sondland also told him there was no “quid pro quo,” but that Ukraine needed to announce those investigations to get the aid.

Morrison says his boss, then White House national security adviser John Bolton, told him to tell their lawyers about Sondland’s remarks.

5:15 p.m.

Former U.S. special representative to Ukraine Kurt Volker is testifying in the impeachment inquiry that President Donald Trump told him he should talk to his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani about the new Ukrainian president. But he “didn’t take it as an instruction.”

The exchange with Trump happened soon after Volker and other officials returned to Washington from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s inauguration in May. Volker and others spoke highly of Zelenskiy and urged Trump to host him for a White House meeting.

But Trump pushed back and said the diplomats should talk to Giuliani.

Volker recalled that Trump said he hears “terrible things” about Zelenskiy and he should talk to Giuliani.

Volker testified that he “understood from that context that that’s where he hears it from” and he “didn’t take it as an instruction.”

4:50 p.m.

A former top national security adviser to President Donald Trump says a rough transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was placed on a highly classified system by mistake.

The official, Tim Morrison, is testifying Tuesday in the House impeachment inquiry. He says he and a top White House lawyer, John Eisenberg, agreed that access should be restricted to officials with high-level security clearances.

But Morrison says he later learned that the rough transcript of the call was placed on a highly classified server typically reserved for national secrets.

Morrison says the placement on the more secure server “was a mistake. It was an administrative error.”

Morrison says nothing on the call warranted placement on the server.


About the Author:

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.