A Quick Recap of Yesterday’s Impeachment Hearings
Yesterday’s impeachment hearings heard the testimony of the following four state officials:
- Jennifer Williams – currently serving the Office of the Vice-President and responsible for Europe and Eurasia issues.
- Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman – currently on the National Security Council dealing with Ukraine and other countries.
- Ambassador Kurt Volker – former State Department’s Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations
- Tim Morrison – former Senior Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council
First, a quick refresher:
The impeachment hearings originated from a whistleblower complaint which alleges “that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” The complaint says that during a phone call between President Trump and newly-elected Ukrainian President Zelensky, “the President pressured Mr. Zelenskyy to, [conduct] an investigation into the activities of former Vice President Joseph Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden”. Additionally, former Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor previously testified that security assistance funding from the United States to Ukraine was being held, and asserted “that the security assistance money would not come until President Zelenskyy committed to pursue the [Biden] investigation.” President Trump has since released a transcript of this phone call, and separately the security assistance funding was released in September.
Key Quotes from the testimony of Jennifer Williams:
- “On July 25th, along with several of my colleagues, I listened to a call between President Trump and President Zelensky…, I found the July 25th phone call unusual because in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.”
- “I thought that the references to… former Vice President Biden and his son struck me as political in nature”. When asked if she “thought that [Trump’s reference to Biden in the call] could potentially be designed to assist President Trump’s re-election effort”, Mrs. Williams responded, “I can’t speak to what the President’s motivation was in referencing it”.
- Mrs. Williams confirmed the following is fair summary of the July 25th call: “President Trump demanded a favor of President Zelensky to conduct investigations [that] were for President Trump’s political interests, not the national interests, and in return for his promise of a much desired White House meeting with President Zelensky.”
- “On September 1st. at the meeting which I attended,… neither the Vice President nor President Zelensky mentioned the specific investigations discussed during the July 25th phone call.”
Key Quotes from the testimony of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman:
- “On July 10, 2019 Ukraine’s National Security Adviser visited Washington D.C. for a meeting… Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short when Ambassador Sondland started to speak about the requirement that Ukraine deliver specific investigations in order to secure [President Zelensky’s] meeting with President Trump. Following this meeting, there was a short debriefing during which Ambassador Sondland emphasized the importance of Ukraine delivering the investigations into the 2016 elections, the Bidens, and Burisma.”
- In regards to Ambassador Bolton’s meeting with Ukraine’s National Security Adviser, Colonel Vindman was asked if he could “remember Sondland using the word, Biden” during the meeting, to which Colonel Vindman answered “He did not. to the best of my recollection, I don’t think he did.”
- “On July 25th,… I listened in on the call with White House colleagues. I was concerned by the call. What I heard was inappropriate… It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government to investigate a U.S. citizen and a political opponent… [It posed] significant national security concerns for our country.”
- Colonel Vindman responded “Not that I can recall” to the question “did you ever hear from any Ukrainians either in the United States or Ukraine about any pressure that they felt to do these investigations that President Trump demanded?”
- “I have never had any contact with the President of the United States.”
Key Quotes from the testimony of Ambassador Kurt Volker:
- “I do not know who the whistle-blower is.”
- “I understand the gravity of these proceedings, but I beg you not to lose sight of the military conflict under way in Eastern Ukraine today, the ongoing illegal occupation of Crimea, and the importance of reform of Ukraine’s politics and economy. Everyday that the focus of discussion involving Ukraine is centered on these proceeding instead of those matters is a day we are not focused on the interest of Ukraine [or] the United States”.
- “I can tell you my impression is that [Trump] had a strongly negative view of Ukraine” dating back to 2017.
- In a May 23rd, 2019 meeting on Ukraine, Ambassador Volker recalled “the President came into the meeting and immediately started speaking… that Ukraine is a terrible place, they’re all corrupt, and they’re terrible people and they tried to take me down… I tried to explain that President Zelensky agrees with [him]. He was elected because… he has a strong mandate from the people of Ukraine to change it, and that’s why it’s important that we actually show him very strong support now. But, the President was not convinced, and he said that Zelensky is no different, that he has terrible people around him”.
- In relation to aid to Ukraine being held up for 55 days, Ambassador Volker remarked “it’s something that had happened in my career in the past. I’ve seen holdups of assistance. I just assumed it was part of the decision making progress; someone had an objection and we had to overcome it.”
Key Quotes from the testimony of Tim Morrison:
- “At no time was I aware of or knowingly took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden.”
- “The accusation that Vice President Biden acted inappropriately did not seem at all credible to me.”
- “I was not on the July 25th phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky. I was not made aware of any reference to Vice President Biden or his son by President Trump until the transcript of that call was released”.
- “We stressed our finding that President Zelensky represented the best chance for getting Ukraine out of the mire of corruption it had been in for over 20 years. We urged [President Trump] to invite President Zelensky to the White House. The President was very skeptical. Given Ukraine’s history of corruption, that’s understandable… It was clear to me that despite the positive news and recommendations being conveyed by this official delegation about the new President, President Trump had a deeply rooted negative view on Ukraine rooted in the past. He was receiving other information from other sources including Mayor Giuliani that was more negative”.