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New testimony draws Trump chief of staff into Ukraine scandal

The Guardian logo The Guardian 11/8/2019 Tom McCarthy in New York
Mick Mulvaney wearing a suit and tie: Mick Mulvaney in October. Mulvaney himself said in a press conference the White House had conditioned military aid on investigations in Ukraine. He later denied he had said that. © Reuters Mick Mulvaney in October. Mulvaney himself said in a press conference the White House had conditioned military aid on investigations in Ukraine. He later denied he had said that.

President Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney approved a White House meeting with the president for the Ukrainian leader on condition Ukraine announced investigations tied to Trump’s political rival Joe Biden, according to testimony released on Friday.

Related: Trump impeachment inquiry: Mick Mulvaney implicated in released transcripts

Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, “blurted out” that Mulvaney had approved the meeting if the Ukrainians announced an investigation of Burisma, a gas company that formerly employed Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, said Fiona Hill, a national security council member who was deposed last month by the congressional committees pursuing an impeachment inquiry against Trump.

Hill’s account was corroborated by simultaneously released testimony by another firsthand witness to the conversation, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.

Previously released testimony has indicated a central role for Mulvaney in brokering an agreement in which Ukraine would intervene in the 2020 U.S. election by announcing the Burisma investigation, but the Hill testimony released on Friday was the first to describe direct involvement in the plot by the acting chief of staff.

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Mulvaney himself said in a televised October press conference that the White House had conditioned military aid on investigations in Ukraine, but he later denied he had said that.

Hill told investigators of a July 10 meeting attended by herself, Sondland, nationals security adviser John Bolton, Ukrainian officials and others.

Hill testified: “Then Ambassador Sondland blurted out: ‘Well, we have an agreement with the chief of staff for a meeting if these investigations in the energy sector start.’ And Ambassador Bolton immediately stiffened and ended the meeting.”

Vindman gave a similar account of the meeting.

“I heard him say that this had been coordinated with White House chief of staff Mr. Mick Mulvaney,” Vindman said.

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