House investigators on Saturday released transcripts of closed-door testimony from two top White House officials, shedding new light on key details of President Donald Trump’s controversial dealings with Ukraine.
Timothy Morrison, deputy assistant to Trump, told impeachment investigators late last month that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, informed top Ukrainian officials that both a coveted White House meeting and U.S. military aid were contingent on a public announcement about investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Further, Morrison testified that Sondland was acting on direct orders from Trump.
“He related to me he was acting ― he was discussing these matters with the President,” Morrison said of Sondland, according to the transcript.
“And, in fact, every time you went to check to see whether he had, in fact, talked to the President you found that he had talked to the President?” a lawmaker inquired.
“Yes,” Morrison replied.
His testimony surrounding the quid pro quo with Ukraine backs up the public testimony given this week by acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor.
Both Morrison and Jennifer Williams, a top aide to Vice President Mike Pence, listened in on the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ― which inspired a whistleblower report that kicked off the House impeachment inquiry.
Williams said in her testimony earlier this month that she found Trump’s requests of Zelensky to be “unusual and inappropriate.” According to an edited transcript of the call released by the White House, Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to “do us a favor” by looking into the Bidens. On the call, he also pushed a conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election to the benefit of Hillary Clinton, not himself.
Williams testified that, on the call, she heard Zelensky bring up Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company where Hunter Biden served as a board member. Trump has alleged without evidence that Joe Biden inappropriately favored Burisma as he worked to curb corruption in Ukraine during his tenure as vice president.
The White House transcript, however, does not include Zelensky’s mention of Burisma.
The testimony appears to suggest that Trump used the full weight of his office to pressure Zelensky. Although Pence was initially expected to attend Zelensky’s inauguration earlier this year, Williams said it was her understanding that the order to skip the inauguration had come directly from Trump.
“The testimony released today shows that President Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky immediately set off alarm bells throughout the White House. Both witnesses provided the Committees with first-hand accounts after personally listening to the call in the White House Situation Room,” the chairs of the House intelligence, oversight and foreign affairs committees said in a statement on Saturday.
Transcripts of the aides’ private testimony are just the latest to be released as the impeachment probe has entered a new, public phase.
Last week, Americans were able to hear public testimony from Taylor, State Department official George Kent and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Morrison is scheduled to testify publicly on Tuesday, Nov. 19, in an afternoon session with Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine.
Williams and National Security Council adviser Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman are scheduled to testify in a morning session.