Posts tagged with "EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland"

Lt. Colonel Vindman testifies: ‘I did this out of a sense of duty’

November 20, 2019

Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman—the principal White House adviser on Ukraine to the national security staff and the to the president—said in his opening statement in the impeachment inquiry on November 19 that he “was concerned” as he personally listened to President Donald Trump phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25.

As he sat in the Situation Room along with White House colleagues and heard firsthand the conversation between the two leaders, Vindman told the House Intelligence Committee, “…what I heard was improper.”

He clarified, “It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent. It was also clear that, if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma, it would be interpreted as a partisan play. This would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing bipartisan support; undermine U.S. national security; and advance Russia’s strategic objectives in the region.”

He said he never expected to testify about the president’s words and actions, but he did so out of a “sense of duty.”

Indeed, according to a report by NBC News—which obtained a copy of the opening statement and posted it—Vindman’s account is significant because Republicans have attempted to paint previous witnesses as unreliable given their second- or third-hand knowledge about the pressure campaign. Vindman said that he witnessed EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland ask Ukrainian officials to open the investigation in order to get the aid — a meeting then-national security adviser John Bolton cut short. He also said that the July 25 call was “inappropriate” and he reported his concerns immediately

What’s more, he noted, he continued to support the foreign policy objectives of the administration, even after he reported his concerns—both on July 10 about Ambassador Sondland’s message detailing what was expected from Ukraine in return for the nearly $400 million in military aid—and on July 25 about the president’s dialog with Zelensky.

“When I reported my concerns,” Lt. Colonel Vindman said, “my only thought was to act property and to carry out duty. Following each of my reports [to National Security Council attorney John Eisenberg, who placed the transcript of the phone call on a classified server]… I immediately returned to work to advance the President’s and our country’s foreign policy objectives. I focused on what I have done throughout my career, promoting America’s national security interests.”

NBC News reported that Vindman —whose loyalty to the United States has come under attack from some in conservative media—excoriated the “reprehensible” and “cowardly” attacks on career foreign service officers and others who have appeared or were expected to do so, saying they do this work out of patriotism and not partisanship.

In a powerful close, Vindman thanked his father for deciding to emigrate to America from Ukraine, saying his testimony was proof it was the right decision. “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth,” he said looking into the camera directly at his dad.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Taylor: Trump cared more about politically motivated Biden ‘investigations’ than ally Ukraine

November 14, 2019

Ambassador William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, on Wednesday said that America’s Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland told a member of his staff in July that President Donald Trump cared more about a politically motivated investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden than he did about longtime ally Ukraine.

According to a report by The Hill, Taylor—who delivered public testimony under oath at the first televised impeachment inquiry—talked to Sondland on July 26.

That conversation came just one day after a now-infamous phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25—during which the U.S. president allegedly tried to coerce the new leader into announcing that he would investigate the Biden family by withholding $400 million in congressionally approved military aid to the small nation.

 Taylor said his staffer, whom he did not name, overheard a phone call between Sondland and Trump during which the president asked the EU ambassador about the investigations.

“Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kyiv. The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about ‘the investigations,’” Taylor said, according to The Hill’s report.

“Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward. Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which [Trump attorney Rudy] Giuliani was pressing for,” he continued.

Taylor said that Sondland made the comments following a meeting with a top Zelensky aide, Andriy Yermak, in Ukraine. Taylor said he was not aware of the details when he testified behind closed doors in connection with the impeachment inquiry last month and that he was including it for “completeness.”

“I reported this information through counsel to the State Department’s Legal Adviser, as well as to counsel for both the Majority and the Minority on the Committee. It is my understanding that the Committee is following up on this matter,” Taylor said.

Sondland, who testified privately before the committees before Taylor, has also corrected his remarks to say that he told Yermak during a meeting on September 1 that aid to Ukraine would not likely flow until Kyiv made a public statement about pursuing investigations related to 2016 election interference and Burisma, a Ukrainian energy firm with ties to Hunter Biden.

Sondland has sought to distinguish the issue of Burisma from the Bidens, though other witnesses have connected the two. Trump specifically named Biden on the call with Zelensky in July.

As The Hill noted, the Trump Administration eventually released military aid to Ukraine, and Kyiv did not make a public statement about pursuing investigations sought by Giuliani and Trump.

Trump has insisted he did nothing wrong in his interactions with Zelensky, describing the July 25 phone call as “perfect” and accusing Democrats of a partisan effort to damage him politically. Trump has said he wanted Ukraine to investigate “corruption” and that his comments had nothing to do with politics.

Research contact: @thehill

Current White House official plans to testify at impeachment probe, if subpoenaed

October 29, 2019

Tim Morrison, a  top expert on Russia and Europe who serves on the National Security Council—and who has been identified as a witness to one of the most explosive pieces of evidence unearthed by House impeachment investigators—plans to testify, even if the White House attempts to block him, Politico reports.

“If subpoenaed, Mr. Morrison plans to appear for his deposition,” his attorney, Barbara Van Gelder, said.

He joined the NSC in July of 2018 following former Nation Security Adviser John Bolton’s appointment. His testimony is expected to be so significant because Morris is said to have listened to the July 25 call between Trump and the Ukrainian leader, CNN reported earlier this month.

Indeed, Morrison is one of the few witnesses who was on the phone to hear everything that was said between the two leaders during their full half-hour phone call. A transcript of the call was released by the White House but was not a full verbatim.

Already, several high-profile witnesses have defied White House, State Department, and Pentagon orders not to cooperate with the impeachment probe. In each case, lawmakers have issued a subpoena, which the officials have relied on to justify testifying over the administration’s objections.

Morrison was also a crucial figure identified Tuesday by Trump’s ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, as a witness to Trump’s effort to withhold military aid from Ukraine in order to bend President Volodymyr Zelensky to his will.

According to the Politico report, Taylor testified that on September 1, Morrison told him about a conversation he witnessed between Trump’s E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland and a senior Ukrainian government official. In that conversation, Taylor said Morrison told him, Sondland informed the official that hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Ukraine were dependent on the opening of political investigations.

Taylor also said Morrison spoke to him on Sept. 7 about another conversation with Sondland. In that conversation, per Taylor’s recounting, Sondland revealed he had spoken directly with Trump about Ukraine and that Trump insisted that Zelensky should publicly declare the political investigations himself, rather than leaving it to subordinates. According to Taylor, Morrison said he then relayed details of the call to then-national security adviser John Bolton as well as NSC lawyers.

Van Gelder declined to comment on a CNN report that indicated Morrison would corroborate the key details of Taylor’s testimony. “We will not be commenting on what he will say to the committees,” she said.

Research contact: @politico