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“Everyone was in the loop”: Highlights from the Tuesday and Wednesday Impeachment Hearings

The House impeachment public hearings continued this week, with four hearings in two days.

Who appeared when?

On the morning of Tuesday, November 19, Jennifer Williams and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified. Williams is an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and Vindman is the director for European Affairs at the National Security Council. In the afternoon, former ambassador Kurt Volker, a former envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a White House aide at the National Security Council, testified.

On the morning of Wednesday, November 20, ambassador Gordon Sondland testified. In the afternooon, Laura Cooper, deputy assistance secretary of Defense, and David Hale, undersecretary of State, testified.

The July 10 meeting: Williams’ and Vindman’s testimonies

Vindman testified about a White House meeting on July 10 with Ukraine’s national security adviser. The meeting was apparently cut short when Sondland told Ukrainian officials that they would have to provide “deliverables” in order to secure a separate White House meeting with President Trump. Vindman understood “deliverables” to mean investigations into Burisma and the Bidens.

Vindman also described Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and the former Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuiry Lutsenko as “two disruptive actors” who were “promoting false information that undermined the United States’ Ukraine policy.” He claimed that the National Security Council “grew increasingly concerned” about the detrimental effect of the information Giuliani was spreading on national security.

Chairman Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee mentioned that, in Vindman’s earlier closed-door testimony, he “testified that due to the unequal bargaining position of the two leaders and Ukraine’s dependency on the U.S., the favor Trump asked of Zelensky was really a demand.”

Williams testified that she knew that the U.S. was withholding aid from Ukraine in July, but that Ukraine started receiving aid again in September, for a reason unknown to her. She also claimed that she wasn’t sure if Vice President Mike Pence knew about the call, but did say that on a September 1 meeting between Pence and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Pence said that the U.S. would fully support Ukraine and did not mention the call.

The White House did not allow Williams to testify about an additional call between Trump and Zelensky on September 18 because the call is classified. Schiff asked Williams to submit in writing information pertaining to the inquiry.

Volker’s and Morrison’s testimonies

Volker testified about a meeting on May 23 in which Trump called Ukraine “a terrible place” with officials who were “all corrupt”, including Zelensky.

Sondland’s testimony: “Everyone was in the loop”

In his highly publicized testimony, Sondland directly implicated Trump and top State Department officials.

Sondland first described how he, Volker, and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry worked with Giuliani on Ukraine policy, even though they “did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani,” and “were playing the hand [they] were dealt.” Referring to himself and others in the State Department, Sondland said that “Everyone was in the loop. It [Trump’s Ukraine policy] was no secret.” Sondland mentioned that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was directing Volker to communicate with Giuliani as late as September 24.

Sondland explicitly stated that yes, there was a quid pro quo. According to him, Trump would not agree to meet with the Ukrainians in the White House until Ukraine announced investigations into Burisma, the Bidens and the 2016 election. This claim is consistent with Vindman’s testimony.

Sondland also said that while he never heard Trump mention withholding aid to Ukraine, he understood that aid was contingent on Ukraine announcing investigations.

Lastly, Sondland mentioned how it was his understanding that Zelensky only had to announce investigations, not actually undertake them, to satisfy Trump.

Schiff called Sondland’s testimony “a seminal moment in our investigation.”

Trump maintains that there was no quid pro quo.

Cooper and Hale’s testimonies

Cooper testified that Ukraine was aware as early as July that their aid was being withheld, as her staff received multiple emails asking why aid had not been sent.

Hale testified that, while working in the State Department, he was aware of efforts led by Giuliani to oust former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

Next in the Trump impeachment hearings

On Thursday, November 21, Fiona Hill and David Holmes will testify. Hill was Vindman’s previous supervisor and a White House Russia expert, and has expressed concerns about Trump’s dealings in Ukraine. Holmes is a White House official who claimed to overhear a phone call between Sondland and Trump about Ukraine and the investigations into the Bidens.

As of now, no other hearings are scheduled.

You can find full footage of Tuesday’s impeachment testimonies by Williams and Vindman here, and by Volker and Morrison here

You can find full footage of Wednesday’s impeachment testimonies by Sondland here, and by Cooper and Hale here

Information about the original July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky can be found here.

A guide to the various people and events in the Trump impeachment inquiry is available here.

Information on last Tuesday’s impeachment hearing can be found here.


Image: screenshotted from Bloomberg Politics

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