United States President Donald Trump‘s top adviser on Ukraine told House investigators leading an impeachment inquiry that there was “no ambiguity” that a US ambassador told Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, according to a transcript of his testimony.
On Friday, House investigators leading the probe released the testimony of Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Vindman, an Army officer assigned to the National Security Council, and Fiona Hill, a former White House Russia adviser.
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Both testified about their concerns as Trump pushed Ukraine for investigations of Democrats.
Vindman said that Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, told Ukrainian officials they would need to investigate the Bidens if they hoped to have a coveted meeting with Trump, according to the transcript.
“He was calling for something, calling for an investigation that didn’t exist into the Bidens and Burisma,” Vindman said, referring to the Ukrainian firm where Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, served on the board. “The Ukrainians would have to deliver an investigation into the Bidens.”
When investigators pushed if the requested investigation was specifically into the Bidens, Vindman responded: “My visceral reaction to what was being called for suggested that it was explicit.”
“There was no ambiguity,” he added.
Vindman told House investigators he had alerted superiors to his concerns on two occasions, including after he listened to the July 25 call in which Trump personally appealed to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate political rival Joe Biden and the outlier theory of a Ukrainian role in the 2016 US presidential election.
House Democrats are investigating whether Trump sought the help of Ukraine for his own political gain, specifically by withholding nearly $400m in military aid to pressure officials into investigating the Bidens.
Vindman also told the House panel that a memo of the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s leader at the centre of the probe was edited to remove a specific reference to Burisma.
Vindman said the rough transcript was edited to replace Burisma with “the company”.
Meanwhile, Hill testified about an incident in which Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, “immediately stiffened” during a meeting when Sondland “blurted out: Well, we have an agreement” with Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, “for a meeting if these investigations in the energy sector start” – another apparent reference to Burisma.
Bolton, who has declined a request by the House to testify, abruptly ended the meeting after the comment, Hill said.
Hill also described Bolton’s dismay over the unofficial statecraft of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
“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, according to the testimony.
House Democrats have been releasing transcripts of closed-door testimonies to nullify claims by the Trump administration and his Republican allies that the probe has been overly secretive. Democrats, who last week passed a resolution formalising the inquiry, have said the first public hearings will begin next week.