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National Govt & Politics
The Latest: Witness describe Trump dealing with Ukraine
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The Latest: Witness describe Trump dealing with Ukraine

The Latest: Witness describe Trump dealing with Ukraine
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
FILE - In this July 31, 2019 file photo, National security adviser John Bolton speaks to media at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Latest: Witness describe Trump dealing with Ukraine

The Latest on President Donald Trump and the House impeachment inquiry (all times local):

8:45 p.m.

Key White House officials told impeachment investigators that President Donald Trump's deal with Ukraine was a straight-out trade: If Ukraine's new leader wanted an Oval Office welcome he would have to open a public probe into Joe Biden and his son.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer assigned to the National Security Council, said, "There was no ambiguity."

Vindman's testimony was one of two transcripts released Friday by House Democrats leading the impeachment probe. They also released a transcript of testimony from Fiona Hill, a former White House Russia adviser.

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3:15 p.m.

Former national security adviser John Bolton has information about "many relevant meetings and conversations" related to Ukraine that House impeachment investigators have not yet heard testimony about.

That's according to a letter that Bolton's attorney, Charles Cooper, sent Friday to the House that suggests Bolton would appear in the probe only if a court orders him to do so.

In the letter, Cooper says there's a tall barrier to forcing Bolton and his former deputy, Charles Kupperman, to testify because any testimony that they would give would implicate sensitive matters of national security and foreign affairs. Kupperman has sued to request a judge's guidance on whether he can be forced to appear.

The letter says both Bolton and Kupperman are prepared to appear if a federal judge resolved the dispute in Congress's favor.

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2:10 p.m.

Two national security officials who testified before House impeachment investigators say there was no evidence to suggest Ukraine meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Both Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Fiona Hill, whose transcripts were released Friday, said there was no basis for the suggestion.

Hill was the senior director for Europe and Russia at the National Security Council. She described the idea as "fiction" that Ukrainians were looking "to mess with our Democratic systems."

She said that other national security officials had tried to explain to President Donald Trump that it wasn't plausible.

She called it a debunked theory and said officials were disheartened to see the president suggest it to Ukraine's new president when they spoke.

Vindman, an Army officer also assigned to the NSC, said he was unaware of any "authoritative basis" for the theory.

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1:45 p.m.

A national security official told House impeachment investigators the transcript of the July 25 call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine's leader at the center of the probe was edited to remove a reference to the energy company with ties to Joe Biden's son.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman said it seemed that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had been prepped for the call with Trump. He said that Zelenskiy specifically referenced looking into the situation with Burisma, the company linked to Hunter Biden.

But Vindman said the rough transcript was edited to read: "the company."

Vindman also said the editing process for the rough transcript of the call went through a different, more secure system. And he had a difficult time logging into the system and had to get a hard copy and make edits on paper.

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1:40 p.m.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has appointed one of President Donald Trump's strongest defenders to the House intelligence committee days before the panel begins public impeachment hearings against him.

McCarthy announced Friday that Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan is joining the committee and another member, Arkansas Rep. Rick Crawford, is "temporarily stepping aside." Crawford will rejoin the panel after impeachment, McCarthy said.

Jordan is the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee and has been the top GOP spokesman as the intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees have led closed-door depositions with impeachment witnesses. Only the House intelligence panel is holding the public hearings, a move that shut Jordan out of the process.

McCarthy said Jordan "has been on the front lines in the fight for fairness and truth."

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1:20 p.m.

A national security official called in to testify before House committees on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump says a diplomat specifically mentioned that the Ukrainians would have to investigate the Bidens.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman says in testimony that there was "no ambiguity."

He says the conversation happened during a White House meeting with Ambassador Gordon Sondland, Ukrainian officials and others.

Transcript of Vindman's testimony was released Friday.

Vindman is an Army officer assigned to the National Security Council.

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12:35 p.m.

House Democrats have released two new transcripts as they wrap up closed-door depositions in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

Impeachment investigators released the testimony of Fiona Hill, a former White House Russia adviser, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer assigned to the National Security Council. Both testified about their concerns as Trump pushed Ukraine for investigations of Democrats.

Vindman listened in to the July 25 call where Trump personally appealed to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the investigations of political rival Joe Biden and his family and also Ukraine's role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

A whistleblower's complaint about that call triggered the impeachment probe.

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10 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he's considering releasing the transcript of an April call he had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. He says that, if House investigators want to see a summary of the April 21 call, he has "no problem" giving it to them.

That call came three months before the July 25 call that sparked the impeachment inquiry into his efforts to push Zelenskiy to investigate his political rivals.

Trump on Friday also dismissed the significance of the impeachment inquiry testimony that has been released so far as he left the White House for a trip to Georgia.

He says, "No one seems to have any first-hand knowledge" and claims that, "Every one of those people canceled themselves out."

He's also criticizing Democrats in the House for planning public hearings, even though the White House pushed for them to happen.

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1:05 a.m.

There were three words President Donald Trump wanted to hear from the Ukraine president: Investigations, Biden, Clinton.

That's according to the transcript, released Thursday, of an impeachment inquiry interview with career State Department official George Kent.

Kent told investigators that that was his understanding of what Trump wanted Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to say in order to unlock U.S. military aid, as relayed to the official by others, including those in direct contact with the president.

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Washington Insider

  • After hearing Tuesday from three people who listened in on President Trump's July 25 phone call with the leader of Ukraine, lawmakers will take testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who helped to coordinate efforts in Ukraine with President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Sondland will certainly have to address a phone call he supposedly made from a restaurant in Ukraine - on an unsecured cell phone - where he spoke to President Trump, who made clear he wanted to know if Ukraine was going to announce it had started investigations into the Bidens, and a 2016 conspiracy theory that Ukraine - and not Russia - had hacked Democrats during the elections. “Ambassador Sondland is a big personality,” said former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, who testified a day earlier. Follow along with developments here: - 11:45 am. The GOP response in the hearing (and outside) is that President Trump never directly told Sondland to do anything. Q: The President never told you about pre-conditions for a White House meeting. Sondland: 'Personally, no.' 11:30 am.  President Trump is now 45 minutes behind schedule for his departure from the White House.  He is headed today to Texas. 11:25 am.  Nunes starts the GOP time by focusing not on anything Sondland said in his testimony so far today, focusing on Republican allegations that Ukraine was 'out to get him' during the 2016 elections. First question from Nunes on this line. Sondland: 'I am not aware of it.' Nunes keeps going with more. Sondland: 'I am not aware of it.' 11:20 am.  During the break, Democrats went to the TV cameras stationed outside.  11:15 am.  Again in this impeachment hearing process, viewers on Fox News are getting some different messages. 11:00 am.  A light moment in the hearing, as Sondland says he and President Trump tend to communicate with words that probably aren't for kids. 10:47 am.  On the Drudge Report.  It's not the greatest of headlines for the President on what's usually a favorable website. 10:45 am. Sondland said the President and Giuliani wanted Ukraine to publicly announce the Burisma / Bidens / Crowdstrike-2016 investigations. But Sondland says that doesn't mean Ukraine actually had to undertake the investigations. 10:35 am.  Critics of the President in Congress say the testimony today from Sondland is a big, big deal. 10:20 am. Sondland says Secretary of State Pompeo was up to date with the Giuliani/Trump efforts all along. Sondland says he raised the delay in aid with Vice President Pence on September 1.  10:15 am.  Sondland has finished with his opening statement.  There is a lot of explosive testimony there, especially Sondland saying that 'everyone was in the loop' about the President seeking investigations from Ukraine. 10:05 am.  Was there a quid pro quo involving Ukraine?  Sondland says, in one sense, the answer is yes. 10:00 am.  Sondland says he was surprised to see the rough transcript of the July 25 call the President had with the leader of Ukraine, because he had not been told about the fact that President Trump mentioned investigations related to Biden/Burisma/Crowdstrike in the call. 9:50 am.  Sondland repeatedly says that State Department officials wanted no part of Giuliani being involved in diplomatic work.  But the President did.  So, they had to play the hand they were dealt (Sondland's description). 9:40 am.  Democrats immediately seize on the 'quid pro quo' description by Sondland.  9:27 am.  Sondland uses the term “quid pro quo” to describe what was going on at three different points in his prepared testimony. 9:25 am.  Sondland will also show that Vice President Pence was in that loop as well. 9:20 am.  Sondland says multiple times - “Everyone was in the loop.” 9:15 am.  Sondland says it has been difficult to come up with answers because the White House and State Department have not helped him get documents and phone records. 9:10 am.  The hearing is underway.  Sondland's statement is going to provide some interesting moments in questioning from both parties.  Here is the Ambassador's recount of the July 26 unsecured cell call to President Trump from a restaurant in Kyiv. 9:00 am - The opening statement of Sondland is now available at the following link. 8:40 am.  Someone asked me on Facebook what the advantage is of actually being in the hearing room.  In one way, it is being a witness to history.  But not seeing the TV feed could put you at a disadvantage, as many others watch every facial twitch, frown, and smile on the faces of the witnesses and lawmakers.  When I got here into the room this morning, I found the still photographers had taken my power plug spot, and a TV crew has taken my audio feed. So, I had to deal with that, and switch things around. If I were back in my booth in either the House or Senate side of the Capitol, everything would be just fine. I could stand, go to the bathroom, have lunch,  etc.  Here is my “view” of the dais. 8:10 am.  The folks at Fox and Friends do not buy the testimony that President Trump talks loud and could be overheard on his cell phone. 8:00 am.  A reminder of the testimony so far, is that Sondland called up President Trump from a restaurant in Ukraine, and spoke to him on an unsecured cell phone.  In that call, US embassy staffer David Holmes testified that he could easily hear the President's voice, and hear what was being discussed with Sondland - investigations - which Mr. Trump wanted from the Ukraine government. The Holmes testimony can be found at this link. 7:50 am.  The Sondland phone call with President Trump is going to get a lot of attention today - and rightfully so. 7:45 am.  Most readers probably know Sondland's name from the impeachment / Ukraine controversy, but don't really know all of the details.  There's some interesting stuff which has GOP lawmakers a bit uneasy, because the script today may not be that obvious at first. 7:35 am.  It's not just Gordon Sondland testifying today, starting at 9 am.  And there is another hearing on Thursday.  Like Tuesday, it would be no surprise for me if the hearings are still going at 8 pm - which is when the Democratic debate in Atlanta is set to begin.  That would a split screen political Super Bowl.