Live updates: National security officials Fiona Hill and Alexander S. Vindman are in discussions to give public testimony in impeachment inquiry – The Washington Post

The release of the transcripts came after acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney defied a subpoena and skipped a scheduled closed-door deposition at the Capitol.

Meanwhile, in a break with her father and leading congressional Republicans, Ivanka Trump said it was “not particularly relevant” to know the identity of the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the probe into Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden at a time when nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid was being withheld.

●Trump’s demands of Ukraine came down to three words: ‘Investigations, Biden and Clinton,’ official’s testimony states.

2:20 p.m.: Hill and Vindman in talks to give public testimony in impeachment inquiry

Two National Security Council officials who expressed alarm about the pressure that Trump and his allies put on Ukraine are in discussions to testify at a public hearing later this month, according to congressional Democratic advisers familiar with the plan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing inquiry.

In previous closed-door testimony, Hill and Vindman described their distress — and that of their boss, then-national security adviser John Bolton — as a plan directed by the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, changed the direction and tone of U.S. policy toward Ukraine, one of the most vulnerable U.S. allies in Eastern Europe.

People familiar with the impeachment inquiry said Hill and Vindman would likely appear together to present a narrative of the view of top National Security Council aides. A similar approach will unfold publicly next week when veteran U.S. diplomats, the first public witnesses, are scheduled to provide the State Department perspective.

A House Intelligence Committee official said that no decisions have been made regarding the schedule of public hearings after next week.

If Hill and Vindman testify, the pair is expected to discuss the concern inside the NSC over the role played by Giuliani, who directed the effort to get information from Ukraine regarding Biden and his son, and other matters.

The concern about the pressure applied to Ukraine was shared by Bolton, an icon among conservative Republicans who is prepared to defy the White House and testify if offered to do so by the courts.

Tom Hamburger and Paul Kane

1:45 p.m.: Lawyer for Bolton, deputy says no testimony until judge resolves dispute

The lawyer for President Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton and his deputy, Charles Kupperman, said the two will not participate in the House impeachment inquiry until a federal judge resolves the specific dispute over whether they are legally permitted to testify.

“It is important both to Dr. Kupperman and to Ambassador Bolton to get a definitive judgment from the Judicial Branch determining their Constitutional duty in the face of conflicting demands of the Legislative and Executive Branches,” attorney Charles Cooper wrote in a letter to House lawyers released on Friday.

The letter came in response to House Democrats’ request this week that Kupperman drop his novel lawsuit seeking to resolve conflicting orders over his participation in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

1:40 p.m.: Vindman stands by assertion that Trump demanded an investigation in return for White House meeting

In a crucial discussion of what constitutes a quid pro quo, Vindman was grilled by a Republican member of the committee about why he believed that Trump had made a “demand” that Ukraine launch an investigation of a U.S. citizen in return for a White House meeting with Ukraine’s president.

Vindman, explaining what he called the vast “power disparity” between Trump and Zelensky, told Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) that Trump’s request for a “favor” from Zelensky was fairly interpreted as a demand.

“When the president of the United States makes a request for a favor, it certainly seems — I would take it as a demand,” Vindman said.

“Fair enough,” Ratcliffe responded, even as he went on to express doubts about the premise.

Vindman said that his reasoning was that “this was about getting a White House meeting. It was a demand for him to fulfill … this particular prerequisite to get the meeting.”

Ratcliffe pressed Vindman on the word “demand,” saying “we’re talking about an allegation that there was a quid-pro-quo significance, and demand has a specific connotation.” Ratcliffe stressed that Trump and others have denied there was any such demand.

But Vindman stood by his description, saying “it became completely apparent what the deliverable would be in order to get a White House meeting. That deliverable was reinforced by the p resident. The demand was, in order to get the White House meeting, they had to deliver an investigation.”

1:35 p.m.: Hill was ‘shocked’ when she read the rough transcript of Trump’s call

Hill, who served until July as the White House’s top expert on Russia and Europe, told lawmakers that she was “shocked” when she read the rough transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky.

Hill said she was upset at the veiled threats that Trump seemed to lob at former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who was dismissed from her embassy post amid a smear campaign led by Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer.

Hill described Yovanovitch as a “great American.”

“I don’t think any American citizen should be disparaged by their president,” Hill continued. “So that made me very sad and very shocked.”

She said she was also shocked by Trump’s effort to pressure Zelensky to open investigations that would be advantageous to Trump. “I sat in an awful lot of calls, and I have not seen anything like this,” she said. “So I was just shocked.”

1:30 p.m.: Earlier call with Zelensky was ‘positive,’ Vindman testifies

Vindman testified that Trump’s earlier, April call with his Ukrainian counterpart was a “positive” one, and that Trump “expressed his desire to work with President Zelensky and extended an invitation to visit the White House.”

Trump suggested Friday that he might release a transcript of that call, which Vindman listened in on.

1:25 p.m.: Vindman said his notes did not match some portions of transcript

Vindman testified that he suggested a few changes to a transcript of the Trump-Zelensky call that circulated in the White House — which was different from his notes.

Vindman said he recalled a comment about there being “recordings of these misdeeds,” though in the transcript that comment was replaced with ellipses. He also said he recalled Zelensky saying explicitly that he would look into “Burisma,” the Ukrainian company for which Joe Biden’s son worked, rather than merely “the company.”

Vindman felt the omission of the company name was significant.

“Because, frankly, the president of Ukraine would not necessarily know anything about this company Burisma,” Vindman testified. “I mean, he would certainly understand some of this — some of these elements because the story had been developing for some time, but the fact that he mentioned specifically Burisma seemed to suggest to me that he was prepped for this call.”

Vindman said there is a normal process for officials suggesting edits to transcripts, but in this instance, the document was put in a “different, more secure system,” and he had to get a hard copy to make suggestions.


1:20 p.m.: Jordan named to Intelligence Committee, setting up lead role in public hearings

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) was named to the House Intelligence Committee, giving the stalwart ally of Trump a key role in the president’s defense ahead of public hearings on Trump’s potential impeachment.

Jordan replaces Rep. Eric A. “Rick” Crawford (R-Ark.), a junior member of the panel, who resigned Friday in a brief letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that was read into the record during a pro forma House session Friday afternoon.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who in practice has sole discretion over the Republican membership of the committee, said in a statement that the move was temporary.

“Rick is an exemplary member of the House Intelligence Committee and fulfills his oversight responsibilities with a sense of seriousness, thoughtfulness, and dedication to our country,” McCarthy said. “In Speaker Pelosi’s House, those responsibilities have fallen victim to partisan witch hunts. The typically venerable Intelligence Committee has now become the partisan Impeachment Committee.”

The shuffle comes a day after an anonymous former college wrestling referee filed a federal lawsuit accusing Jordan, during his time as an Ohio State University wrestling coach in the early 1990s, of ignoring his complaints about a team doctor, Richard Strauss, who was found to have sexually preyed on university athletes for decades.

Jordan denied the charges through a spokesman who said he “never saw or heard of any kind of sexual abuse.”

1:15 p.m.: Bolton called arrangement for Trump-Zelensky meeting a ‘drug deal,’ Hill testifies

A “very angry” John Bolton, then national security adviser, called arrangements for a meeting between Trump and Zelensky contingent on investigations of Trump’s political opponents a “drug deal,” Hill testified.

Hill said Bolton told her to report what happened during the July 10 meetings to John Eisenberg, the top lawyer for the National Security Council, and recalled what he said verbatim.

“This is a direct quote from Ambassador Bolton: ‘You go and tell Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this,’” Hill said.

Gordon Sondland is the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

According to Hill, Bolton’s comments came after a meeting in which Sondland undermined him in front of a Ukrainian delegation by saying there was already a plan for Trump and Zelensky to meet.

“I think he was being ironic,” Hill said of Bolton, “but he wasn’t very happy. He was very angry.”

Bolton played a central role in the Ukraine saga and is seen as a powerful potential witness for Democrats running the impeachment inquiry.

1:10 p.m.: Hill says putting Ukraine transcript on secret system was inappropriate

Hill said that it was not appropriate for the transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with his Ukrainian counterpart to be put on a secretive system.

“The only circumstances in which that would be conceivable would be if it dealt with highly classified information,” Hill said.

She added that she had no knowledge of H.R. McMaster or John Bolton, the former two national security advisers, agreeing to anything like that.

Hill said she was not even sure who would have to approve such a move.

1:05 p.m.:
Vindman claims he was told linking White House meeting to Biden investigation was coordinated with Mulvaney

Vindman testified that Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, told him the idea of preconditioning a White House meeting on the Ukrainians helping investigate the Bidens “had been coordinated with White House Chief of Staff Mr. Mick Mulvaney.”

“[Sondland] just said that he had had a conversation with Mr. Mulvaney, and this is what was required in order to get a meeting,” Vindman testified.

Vindman said Sondland was explicit in what was wanted: “That the Ukrainians would have to deliver an investigation into the Bidens.”

He said he believed Sondland mentioned the Bidens by name.

“There was no ambiguity,” Vindman testified.

1 p.m. Vindman says ‘no doubt’ Trump was seeking political investigations

Vindman, a Ukraine expert who listened to Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky, said “there was no doubt” that Trump was seeking political investigations of political rivals, according to a transcript of his deposition released Friday.

“It was a demand for him to fulfill his — fulfill this particular prerequisite in order to get the meeting,” Vindman said of Trump’s request to the Ukrainian president.

Vindman said there was no doubt in his mind that Trump was seeking the probes as the Ukrainian leader sought a head of state meeting with Trump.

12:50 p.m.: Woman holds sign taunting Trump about impeachment

En route to the Whitley hotel in Atlanta, where Trump is meeting privately with supporters, his motorcade was met by onlookers, including one woman with a sign clearly meant to troll the president.

“I’m the Whistleblower,” it said.


12:40 p.m.: Leading Democrats issue statement on newly released transcripts

A statement released by Democrats leading three committees involved in the impeachment inquiry emphasized that Vindman is an “active duty military officer who was awarded the Purple Heart after being injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq.”

“Lt. Col. Vindman testified that the July 25, 2019, call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president led him to report immediately to lawyers at the White House his serious concerns about political investigations the President pressed for on the call,” the statement said.

“Lt. Col. Vindman also told the Committees that the ‘demand’ by President Trump for the announcement of a politically-motivated investigation into a U.S. citizen by a foreign country forced him to make a ‘moral and ethical’ judgment, and led to his concern that the act could ‘undermine U.S. national security.’

The three Democrats called Hill “a respected Russia and Ukraine expert who served as Lt. Col. Vindman’s supervisor” and said she “detailed how senior officials at the White House, including national security adviser John Bolton, shared her serious concern about efforts before the July 25 call to push Ukraine to undertake these politically-motivated investigations, and about her efforts, at Mr. Bolton’s direction, to report this activity to senior White House officials.”

The statement was issued by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) and acting Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.).

12:30 p.m.:


House investigators release transcripts of key depositions from two National Security Council officials

The closed-door testimony of Vindman and Hill was made public early Friday afternoon.

Vindman is a Ukraine expert who listened in on the July 25 phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian leader and reported grave concerns to the NSC’s lead counsel.

Hill is a senior NSC official for Russia and Europe who expressed concerns about Ukraine shadow policy being carried out by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, among others.

Read the full testimony of Fiona Hill here.

Read the full testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman here.

12 p.m.: Second person says he told Rep. Jim Jordan about sexual misconduct at Ohio State

A college wrestling referee says he reported sexual misconduct involving a former doctor who’s been accused sexually abusing nearly 300 men over a 17-year period to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a former assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University. The congressman was dismissive, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court, and the doctor, Richard Strauss, continued to treat and abuse students at the school.

Ohio State says it’s aware of 1,429 instances of fondling and 47 instances of rape involving Strauss, who committed suicide in 2005. Thursday’s filing marks the 13th lawsuit against the school.

Jordan has found himself at the periphery of the controversy because some former wrestlers have said he was aware — or should have been aware — of Strauss’s misconduct. Jordan has denied any knowledge of the abuse, and did so again on Friday.

“Congressman Jordan never saw or heard of any kind of sexual abuse, and if he had he would’ve dealt with it,” Jordan spokesman Ian Fury. “Multiple investigations have confirmed this simple fact.”

The lawsuit comes as Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, has taken a leading role in the House impeachment inquiry as perhaps Trump’s most aggressive defender. Inside numerous closed door interviews conducted over the past six weeks, Jordan and a senior Oversight Committee aide reporting to him led GOP questioning.

— Rick Maese and Mike DeBonis

11:20 a.m.: Sen. Kennedy stands by comments about Pelosi being ‘dumb’

Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) on Friday stood by his comments earlier this week at a Trump campaign rally, when he said of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif), “It must suck to be that dumb.”

Kennedy was asked during a Fox News interview if what he said was “too much.”

“I didn’t mean disrespect, but I do think what I said is accurate, and let me say it again: I think what Speaker Pelosi is doing is not only dumb, it’s dangerous,” Kennedy said. “It’s a partisan impeachment, clearly. All impeachments, I guess, are political, but this one’s 100 percent political, and it’s going to establish a new norm for America that I think is bad for us.”

Kennedy said that whatever one thinks of Trump, the process is not fair.

“I think Speaker Pelosi intends to give the president a fair and impartial firing squad, and she made up her mind before she saw the facts,” he said.



10:50 a.m.: Mulvaney asserted ‘absolute immunity’ in defying House subpoena

Mulvaney’s outside counsel informed House investigators one minute before his scheduled deposition that he wasn’t coming because he had “absolute immunity,” an official working on the impeachment inquiry said.

House Democrats want to hear from Mulvaney who has direct knowledge of Trump’s thinking behind withholding military aid from Ukraine and who said, before walking it back, that it was a quid pro quo.

“If the White House had evidence to contest those facts, they would allow Mr. Mulvaney to be deposed, as three chiefs of staffs of President Clinton were during his impeachment proceedings,” said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss closed-door proceedings. “Instead, they’re hiding and trying to conceal the truth from the American people. Given the extensive evidence the committees have already uncovered, the only result of this stonewalling is to buttress the case for obstruction of this inquiry.”

Trump was asked by reporters Friday about his blocking aides from testifying being a possible obstruction of Congress charge.

“They’re making it up,” Trump said. “I don’t want to give credibility to a corrupt witch hunt. I’d love for Mick to go up … except it validates a corrupt investigation.”

10:40 a.m.: Trump calls whistleblower ‘a disgrace to our country’

Trump called the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry “a disgrace to our country” and said his lawyer should be sued “maybe for treason” as he continued to talk to reporters outside the White House.

Trump and fellow Republicans have stepped up attacks on the anonymous U.S. intelligence official in recent weeks as they seek to discredit the inquiry.

The president and his allies have also seized on 2017 tweets written by Mark S. Zaid, one of the whistleblower’s lawyers, in which he predicted Trump would be impeached.

Trump also continued his attacks on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), calling them “corrupt politicians.”

Trump called Schiff, who is leading the inquiry, “a double-corrupt politician.”

“He’s as corrupt as you’ll ever see,” Trump claimed.

“He looks all over, tries to find people who don’t like Trump and puts them up” as witnesses, Trump said.

10:30 a.m.: Trump says House shouldn’t be holding public hearings

Trump said that the House should not be holding public hearings next week and suggested again that he would release a transcript of an April phone call that he had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Speaking to reporters as he left the White House, Trump called the impeachment inquiry “a hoax.”

“They shouldn’t be having public hearings,” Trump said.

Trump’s July call with Zelensky has been at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. The White House previously pledged to release the transcript of a call in April, shortly after Zelensky was elected.

“I will give it if they want it, I’ll give it to them,” Trump told reporters. “I’m okay with releasing it. It doesn’t bother me. I know what I said; it was fine.”

He later added that he doesn’t “like doing it because it’s such a bad precedent.”

10 a.m. Mulvaney has not shown up for his deposition

Mulvaney has not shown up for a closed-door deposition scheduled at the Capitol at 9 a.m. He is under subpoena.

Mark Sandy, the associate director for national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget, was scheduled to appear at 9:30 a.m. He also has not shown up.



9:50 a.m.: GOP fundraising off investigating Bidens

Republicans have been raising money off the impeachment inquiry since it began weeks ago, but Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan went a step further Friday soliciting funds off the idea of investigating the Bidens.

Walberg’s campaign repeats Trump talking points, suggesting there was something nefarious about Hunter Biden serving on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company. Walberg asks, “Should Congress investigate Joe and Hunter Biden, as President Trump has demanded?”

Trump’s desire for an investigation into the Bidens by the Ukrainian government is at the center of the impeachment inquiry that is probing whether the president abused his power by pressuring a foreign leader to help him gather information on a political foe.

8 a.m.: Republicans continue focus on 2017 tweets by whistleblower lawyer

As they sought to discredit the impeachment inquiry, Republicans continued to focus Friday on tweets from 2017 in which Mark S. Zaid, a lawyer for the whistleblower, predicted Trump’s impeachment.

“The whistleblower’s attorney was calling for @realDonaldTrump’s impeachment just 10 DAYS into his presidency,” Republican National Committee Charwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted. “This has never been about facts — it’s always been about overturning the 2016 election!”

Shortly afterward, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham echoed those remarks during an appearance on Fox Business Network.

“The fact that the whistleblower has now his attorneys who since the day the president took office were tweeting about a coup and how they had to get the president out of the office should be of concern to a lot of people,” Grisham said.

Zaid referred to impeachment on Twitter in January 2017 after Trump fired Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce executive policies.

“#coup has started. First of many steps. #rebellion. #impeachment will follow ultimately,” Zaid wrote.

In July 2017 tweets, Zaid also predicted that CNN “would play a key role in @realDonaldTrump not finishing out his full term as president” and said: “We will get rid of him, and this country is strong enough to survive even him and his supporters.”

Zaid responded to his Republican critics Thursday.

“I live in the United States. Not Nazi Germany. Not Stalinist Russia. Not North Korea,” he tweeted in response to Trump’s son Eric’s suggestion that he go to prison.

“Here, we have the right to object to the policies — and indeed the person — who holds the office of president. I rep a lawful #whistleblower,” he added. “Which country do all of you want to live in?”


7:30 a.m.: Ivanka Trump says identity of whistleblower ‘not particularly relevant’

Breaking with her father and several leading congressional Republicans, Ivanka Trump said Friday that the identity of the whistleblower is “not particularly relevant” to the impeachment inquiry.

Ivanka Trump, a senior White House adviser, spoke to the Associated Press during a trip to Morocco where she has been promoting a U.S. program aimed at helping empower women in developing countries.

She noted that the anonymous U.S. intelligence official whose complaint sparked the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry was not party to the July 25 call in which Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to conduct investigations that could benefit Trump politically.

“This is a third party who was not privy to the call and did not have firsthand information,” Ivanka Trump said. “That is what was the catalyst for all of this discussion. But to me, it’s not particularly relevant aside from what the motivation behind all of this was.”

President Trump has repeatedly calling for unmasking the whistleblower, and congressional Republicans have said they will seek public testimony from him.

Earlier this week, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, shared a post on Twitter that mentioned the “alleged whistleblower” by name.

In the AP interview, Ivanka Trump was critical of Democrats, saying they are interesting in “overturning the results of the 2016 election” through impeachment.

7 a.m.: Mulvaney expected to defy subpoena

Mulvaney is expected to defy a subpoena and not show up Friday for a scheduled deposition before House investigators.

In a letter Tuesday, leading House Democrats said they are interested in Mulvaney’s involvement in an effort by Trump, his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and others to withhold a White House meeting from the Ukrainian president and nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid at a time when Trump was pressing Ukraine for investigations that could benefit him politically.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Wednesday that Mulvaney would not appear for the requested deposition.

“I’m told no,” she told reporters at the White House when asked if Mulvaney plans to appear.

“Why would we try to be complicit in an impeachment inquiry that we’re not even sure what it’s about?” Conway said. “What is it about? If I gave you a blank piece of paper, literally, what would you write on it? What are we telling the American people, right here right now, as to why we’re impeaching the president?”

On Thursday, House investigators issued a subpoena in an attempt to compel Mulvaney to appear but that is not expected to change the dynamic.

Mark Sandy, the associate director for national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget, has also been asked to appear before House investigators on Friday. Other OMB officials have defied requests or subpoenas for information.

6 a.m.: Whistleblower’s lawyer sends cease-and-desist letter to Trump

Lawyer Andrew Bakaj, in a letter to the White House dated Thursday, demanded that Trump stop calling for the publication of the whistleblower’s identity and alleged that his “reckless and dangerous” comments already had intimidated the whistleblower.

“Let me be clear: should any harm befall any suspected named whistleblower or their family, the blame will rest squarely with your client,” said the letter, addressed to Pat Cipollone, counsel to the president, and copied to congressional leaders.

Trump and his allies have attacked the whistleblower and argued that the person does not deserve anonymity. Republicans want to bring the whistleblower in to testify in the public hearings. Democrats say his testimony doesn’t matter because his complaint has been corroborated by several witnesses.

“I submit that it is in your client’s best interest to cease and desist in calling for the public disclosure of my client’s identity and to cease in rhetoric that may endanger their life and the lives of their family,” Bakaj said in the letter to Cipollone. “Should anyone be physically harmed, my co-counsel, Mark Zaid, and I will not hesitate to take any and all appropriate action against your client.”

6 a.m.: Trump ‘violates all recognized democratic norms,’ federal judge says in biting speech on judicial independence

In an unusually critical speech that lamented the public’s flagging confidence in the independence of the judicial branch, a federal judge slammed Trump for “feeding right into this destructive narrative” with repeated attacks and personal insults toward judges he dislikes.

U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman of the District of Columbia said Trump’s rhetoric “violates all recognized democratic norms” during a speech at the annual Judge Thomas A. Flannery Lecture in Washington on Wednesday.

“We are in unchartered territory,” said Friedman, 75, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton. “We are witnessing a chief executive who criticizes virtually every judicial decision that doesn’t go his way and denigrates judges who rule against him, sometimes in very personal terms. He seems to view the courts and the justice system as obstacles to be attacked and undermined, not as a coequal branch to be respected even when he disagrees with its decisions.”

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment early Friday on Friedman’s speech.