Security Aide Tells of Ukraine Concerns: Impeachment Update

Billy House
Security Aide Tells of Ukraine Concerns: Impeachment Update

(Bloomberg) -- The House voted Thursday to adopt rules for the next, more public phase of the impeachment investigation. President Donald Trump and his lawyers would be allowed to participate more in the next steps of the inquiry.

Also, the House committees conducting the inquiry heard closed-door testimony from Timothy Morrison, the National Security Council’s senior director for Europe and Russia.

Here are the latest developments:

National Security Aide Tells of Ukraine Moves (7:30 p.m.)

Morrison told House impeachment investigators that he was concerned on multiple levels after learning of administration efforts to pressure the Ukraine government to investigate the president’s political rivals in return for military aid.

He also specifically identified Gordon Sondland, Trump’s envoy to the European Union, as having communicated to a Ukrainian official that the American military aid would be released if the country investigated an energy company linked to Hunter Biden, former vice president Joe Biden’s son.

According to Morrison’s prepared opening remarks Thursday to the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees, he confirmed the substance of similar testimony given by William Taylor the acting ambassador to Ukraine, about what Sondland told the Ukrainian official.

Morrison said that his resignation, which has been reported, has been delayed until after his involvement with the committees has been concluded.

Pentagon Says Vindman Will Be Protected (6:25 p.m.)

A U.S. Defense Department official said Thursday that “robust procedures” were in place to protect Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman after he testified in the House impeachment inquiry.

Separately, an Army spokeswoman said in a statement that Vindman has been “afforded all protections anyone would be provided in his circumstances.”

The statements, from the Pentagon official and the Army spokeswoman, were released after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote to top Army officials demanding to know what protections will be afforded to Vindman after the National Security Council aide’s patriotism was questioned by some conservatives who were angry over his testimony.

Vindman testified Tuesday that he listened to Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukraine’s president and was so disturbed by the conversation that he reported it to the NSC’s lawyer.

Judge Hears Arguments on McGahn Subpoena (4:39 p.m.)

A Trump administration lawyer told a federal judge she doesn’t have jurisdiction to consider a House committee lawsuit seeking to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify to the House Judiciary Committee.

“This kind of lawsuit can’t be here,” Justice Department attorney James Burnham told U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson Thursday in Washington.

The Democratic-led Judiciary Committee subpoenaed McGahn in April to testify.

McGahn, who resigned his White House post in October 2018, didn’t make his scheduled May 21 appearance before Congress after the White House asserted he was “absolutely immune” from compelled testimony. The House later cited him for contempt, then sued to enforce its subpoena.

Lawyers for the House committee told the judge that while the Trump administration can assert executive privilege to prevent McGahn from answering specific questions, it can’t make a blanket assertion of immunity.

NSC Aide Wasn’t Disturbed By July 25 Call (2:32 p.m.)

Former National Security Council aide Timothy Morrison told House impeachment investigators Thursday he was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed during the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said a congressional official familiar with his testimony.

Morrison confirmed to members of the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees that he was among the officials who listened in on that call, said the official. Morrison’s lawyer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Morrison left his NSC position a day before his testimony, a senior Trump administration official said.

Representative Mark Meadows, a Republican on the Oversight Committee, told reporters that Morrison’s testimony is “at odds” with the deposition given earlier this week by NSC aide Alexander Vindman, who told the committees he was so disturbed by the July conversation that he reported it to the NSC’s lawyer. Meadows said Morrison’s testimony will form the core of the GOP’s defense of Trump. -- Billy House

Democrats Promise Equal Chance for Questions (12:53 p.m.)

Republicans and Democrats will have an equal opportunity to question witnesses in the public impeachment inquiry hearings, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters.

Schiff said the rules adopted by the House Thursday will allow committee chairmen to begin releasing transcripts of the closed-door hearings held so far, adding that those transcripts will show that the GOP has had an equal chance to conduct questioning.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel said that in the private hearings, “We’ve seen damning evidence that the president abused his power and jeopardized our national security to help his own political fortunes.”

Americans “deserve to know the facts and they soon will,” Engel said.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said that when the probe advances to his committee the president will have more rights than during the initial fact-finding stage.

“It is the duty of the house to vindicate the Constitution,” Nadler said. -- Emily Wilkins and Evan Sully

White House Says Trump Did ‘Nothing Wrong’ (11:41 a.m.)

Minutes after the House vote, White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham issued a statement saying Trump “has done nothing wrong and the Democrats know it.”

“Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats’ unhinged obsession with this illegitimate impeachment proceeding does not hurt President Trump,” she said. “It hurts the American people.” She said Democrats are trying to “destroy” the president.

Grisham said that the impeachment inquiry is proceeding at the expense of other priorities in the House, including lowering drug costs and passing a U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. -- Justin Blum

Two Democrats Break Ranks on Inquiry Vote (11:35 a.m.)

Two Democrats, Collin Petersonof Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, broke ranks with their party and voted with Republicans against the rules for the inquiry.

Independent House member Justin Amash of Michigan, who quit the Republican Party earlier this year, voted with Democrats for the inquiry. -- Billy House, Erik Wasson

House Votes to Open Public Trump Inquiry (11:29 a.m.)

The House adopted the resolution that puts Trump on the path toward impeachment. The 232-196 vote fell along sharply partisan lines.

All signs point to the House taking a formal vote on articles of impeachment on Trump, possibly before the end of the year. However, it would take a two-thirds majority vote in the Republican-controlled Senate to convict him, and therefore remove him from office, an outcome viewed at this point as highly unlikely.

The resolution doesn’t establish a deadline for the investigation. It directs six House committees to continue investigating different aspects of Trump’s administration, business and associates, with the Intelligence Committee leading the probe of the Ukraine-related allegations. Public hearings could begin in two weeks. -- Billy House

House Has Votes to Back Probe; Vote Ongoing (11:25 a.m.)

The House has enough votes to adopt the resolution that puts Trump on the path toward impeachment. The vote is ongoing, falling along sharply partisan lines.

With this measure, Democrats plan to hold public impeachment hearings to investigate whether Trump should ultimately be removed from office for pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political rival and other possible misdeeds. The closed depositions led by the Intelligence Committee will continue, along with probes in five other panels.

Eventual articles of impeachment would be drafted by the Judiciary Committee for a final floor vote to impeach the president. It would then be up to the Republican-led Senate to decide whether Trump should be removed from office. -- Billy House

Pelosi Says ‘Sad Day’ Ahead of Key Vote (10:33 a.m.)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said a decision on whether to impeach Trump “has not been made” as the House prepares to vote on rules for the next phase of the inquiry.

”It’s a sad day because nobody comes to Congress to impeach the president of the United States,“ she told reporters.

“It’s about the truth and it’s about the Constitution and we’re working very hard to defend our democracy,” she said. “The times have found us.” -- Erik Wasson, Billy House

NSC Aide Morrison Arrives for House Testimony (8:32 a.m.)

Former National Security Council aide Timothy Morrison arrived at the Capitol Thursday for his scheduled testimony before House committees undertaking an impeachment inquiry.

Morrison left his position a day before his scheduled testimony, a senior Trump administration official said.

Morrison, who served as special assistant to the president and the NSC’s senior director for Europe and Russia, has been identified as one of the officials who listened in on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s president where Trump pressed for an investigation of his political opponent Joe Biden and his son. -- Billy House

Key Events

House investigators asked Trump’s former National Security Advisor John Bolton to testify on Nov. 7. Bolton was ousted from the White House last month, and it’s unclear how he’ll respond to the request. He would be a key witness to White House events on the administration’s interaction with Ukraine.Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan distanced the State Department from Rudy Giuliani’s claim that his work on Ukraine was done at the department’s request, suggesting it was part of a parallel process that Sullivan and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo weren’t engaged on. Sullivan spoke at his nomination hearing to be U.S. ambassador to Russia.The House Rules Committee advanced rules Wednesday for public hearings by the House Intelligence Committee and, after that, by the Judiciary Committee. Majority Democrats blocked a bid by Republicans to gain equal power to issue subpoenas. The full House plans to vote on the rules Thursday.

--With assistance from Steven T. Dennis, Erik Wasson, Emily Wilkins, Evan Sully, Daniel Flatley and Tony Capaccio.

To contact the reporter on this story: Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, John Harney, Kevin Whitelaw

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