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December 13, 2019
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The Trump Impeachment Inquiry: Latest Updates

The Trump Impeachment Inquiry: Latest Updates
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House Democrats released two more transcripts of private witness depositions early Friday afternoon, this time disclosing testimony from Fiona Hill, a former White House policy adviser, and Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, who still works there as a Ukraine expert.

Substantial elements of what the officials had to say have already seeped into public view, but the transcripts fill out the picture of what they know about an apparent campaign by Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to pressure Ukraine to conduct politically motivated investigations of Democrats. They will also show what Ms. Hill and Colonel Vindman might have to say if called to testify publicly.

Ms. Hill was the senior director for Russian and Europe on the National Security Council until July. When she spoke with investigators last month, she described a heated confrontation at the White House in early July after Gordon D. Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, told visiting Ukrainian officials that they would need to conduct the investigations Mr. Trump wanted if their new president was to get the White House meeting he coveted. Ms. Hill said that she reported the episode to White House lawyers at the direction of her boss, John R. Bolton, who called whatever was taking place toward Ukraine a “drug deal” they should not be a part of.

Colonel Vindman, the top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council, testified that he had been deeply alarmed by another episode at the center of the inquiry: a July phone call in which Mr. Trump pressed Ukraine’s president to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son, as well as possible Democratic collusion with Ukraine in 2016. Colonel Vindman said that he notified the same White House lawyers that he viewed that call as inappropriate, and that they later locked down a summary of the call and instructed him not to discuss it.

Democrats have now released a total of nine transcripts, with a handful left to go. They expect to make all of the interview records public in the coming days.
Nicholas Fandos

Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, failed to appear on Friday for a 9 a.m. interview in the impeachment inquiry, defying a subpoena. Investigators had hoped to question Mr. Mulvaney for his role in President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine, including his involvement in the decision to withhold a $391 million package of security assistance.

Democrats leading the investigation issued the subpoena for Mr. Mulvaney on Thursday night. In a statement on Friday, an official working on the impeachment inquiry said that Mr. Mulvaney’s lawyer informed them one minute before the start of his deposition that the White House had directed Mr. Mulvaney not to comply with the subpoena, claiming he had “absolute immunity” from appearing before Congress.

Investigators were eager to question Mr. Mulvaney in the wake of his admission in the White House briefing room last month of a quid pro quo linking the military aid for Ukraine to that country’s announcement of investigations that Mr. Trump wanted. Hours later, Mr. Mulvaney said he was misunderstood and retracted the statement.

The official working on the inquiry said that if Mr. Mulvaney had evidence that would exonerate Mr. Trump, he would have shown up for the interview. The official predicted that the no-show would help build the case for obstruction of the impeachment investigation.

Mark Sandy, the associate director for national security programs at the White House Office of Management and Budget, also did not show up for an interview scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Investigators also wanted to ask Mr. Sandy about the budget office decision to put a hold on the aid for Ukraine.
Michael D. Shear

Mr. Trump on Friday said he had little concern about the recent stream of damning testimony from officials in his own administration who have cooperated with the House impeachment inquiry, and he dismissed the public hearings scheduled to start next week as a “hoax.”

“They shouldn’t be having public hearings,” Mr. Trump said to reporters as he left the White House to travel to Georgia, adding that they were a “hoax.” He said the impeachment inquiry was a continuation of the “Russian witch hunt.”

The testimony from former and current officials has provided a remarkably consistent account of how Mr. Trump tried to enlist Ukraine to smear his political rivals by setting up a quid pro quo in which nearly $400 million in military aid would be withheld until the country announced it was investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats. The witnesses have described a shadow foreign policy campaign led by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, while career diplomats and seasoned national security specialists on Ukraine were sidelined.

“I’m not concerned about anything. The testimony has all been fine,” Mr. Trump said. He said his quest for investigations into Mr. Biden was merely an effort to root out corruption in Ukraine as part of his stewardship of American taxpayer dollars.

Mr. Trump also said that he had never heard of many of the witnesses and that the ones he did know were “Never Trumpers.” Of Gordon D. Sondland, a campaign donor to Mr. Trump whom he installed as the United States ambassador to the European Union, the president said: “I hardly know the gentleman.”

Mr. Sondland changed his testimony this week and acknowledged that he laid out the quid pro quo to a top Ukrainian official, saying the country would likely not get the military aid unless it publicly announced the investigations Mr. Trump had demanded.
Eileen Sullivan

  • Mr. Trump repeatedly pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate people and issues of political concern to Mr. Trump, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Here’s a timeline of events since January.

  • A C.I.A. officer who was once detailed to the White House filed a whistle-blower complaint on Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Zelensky. Read the complaint.

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