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Impeachment transcripts released for Alexander Vindman and Fiona Hill

Los Angeles Times logo Los Angeles Times 11/8/2019 By Jennifer Haberkorn and Eli Stokols, Los Angeles Times
a group of people in uniform posing for the camera: Army Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, arrives at a closed session before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. © Alex Wong/Getty Images North America/TNS Army Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, arrives at a closed session before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON — Two National Security Council experts told House investigators that they had serious concerns about Rudolph W. Giuliani’s efforts to affect U.S. policy in Ukraine, including what one called his “partisan investigations” of Democrats, according to transcripts released by House Democrats on Friday.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an expert on Ukraine who still works in the White House, and Fiona Hill, an expert on Russia who left her post in July, voiced similar concerns about the demands that Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, was making in Ukraine and how to work with – or around – him.

Vindman said that Ukrainian government officials reached out to him in April “for advice on how to respond to Mr. Giuliani’s advances, meaning his call to undertake these — what would come across as partisan investigations.”

Vindman was one of two people who testified that they were so troubled after Trump asked Ukrainian President Zelenskiy in a July 25 phone call for a “favor” — investigations that could benefit his 2020 reelection campaign — that they expressed their concerns to NSC lawyers.

Slideshow by photo services

He told lawmakers that there was “no doubt” Trump was asking for a “deliverable” from Zelenskiy — a public announcement about investigating Democrats before Trump would agree to let the newly-elected leader of the embattled U.S. ally visit the White House.

When pressed by Republicans on how he came to that conclusion, Vindman said there were no expressed words exchanged but that his conclusion was there was a quid pro quo on the table.

“The demand was, in order to get the White House meeting, they had to deliver an investigation. That became clear as time progressed from how this thing unfolded,” he said.

Hill told lawmakers that she became aware of Giuliani’s sudden “strong interest” in Ukraine in early 2019 after seeing his TV interviews and reading articles in The Hill.

“Mr. Giuliani was asserting quite frequently on television in public appearances that he had been given some authority over matters related to Ukraine, and if that was the case, we hadn’t been informed about that,” she said.

“But he was making a lot of public statements and, you know, obviously making a lot of assertions, including about our ambassador to Ukraine,” Marie L. Yovanovitch, she added.

Hill told lawmakers that Yovanovitch was recalled as U.S. envoy to Ukraine in May as the result of a smear campaign orchestrated by Giuliani and others. Hill called the episode convinced her to leave the administration.

“There was no basis for her removal,” Hill said. “The accusations against her had no merit whatsoever.”

But Hill said Giuliani “had created an atmosphere in which she was under great suspicion, and it was obvious that she would lose the confidence of senior people because these accusations seem to stick to people even when they’re proved not to be true.”

Finding the situation to be “dispiriting,” Hill sought out John Bolton, then national security adviser. She described his reaction as “pained.”

“He basically said — in fact, he directly said: ‘Rudy Giuliani is a hand grenade that is going to blow everybody up.’ He made it clear that he didn’t feel that there was anything that he could personally do about this,” Hill said.

Democrats had subpoenaed Bolton to testify this week but he declined, saying he would await a court ruling on whether he must comply.

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©2019 Los Angeles Times

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