Volker downplaying how much he knew about demands for investigations
Volker has repeatedly downplayed how much he personally knew about tying investigations Trump wanted into Burisma and a conspiracy theory related to do the 2016 election to a White House visit by Zelenskiy and, potentially, military aid to Ukraine.
“The issue of the security assistance was one where I thought that this was really related to a general negative view of Ukraine,” Volker said, responding to questions from members of the House Intelligence Committee.
He added moments later that he wouldn’t call a public announcement by Zelenskiy for the desired investigations “a condition” for the Zelenskiy-White House meeting.
“I wouldn’t have called it a condition; it’s a nuance, I guess,” Volker said.
Volker, however, added that he nevertheless viewed the production of such a public statement “as very helpful.”
“If we could get this done, it would help improve the perception that President Trump and others had,” he said, responding to questions from Goldman.
But Volker’s statements that suggest he didn’t know, or knew little, about conditioning a White House visit to the investigations contradict what he wrote in a July 25 text to a top Zelenskiy aide.
“Heard from White House – assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for a visit to Washington,” Volker wrote in a text — sent just before Trump spoke by phone to Zelenskiy. The text message was one of several provided to, and released by, House Democrats as part of their inquiry.
Castor takes aim at Vindman while questioning Morrison
During questioning from Castor, the GOP’s counsel, Morrison was asked if he had any concerns about Vindman’s judgment to which he said “yes.” Morrison's lawyer, however, stopped that line of inquiry because she said it went beyond the scope of the hearing.
Morrison also said other officials have raised concerns about potential leaks from Vindman and that he was concerned that Vindman, who he supervised, did not always keep him in the loop about his concerns. Morrison told Castor he questioned why Vindman did not come to him first about the concerns he had about the July 25 call instead of national security lawyers in the administration.
Castor’s questions to Morrison is a continuation of the efforts from the earlier hearing to challenge Vindman’s credibility.
Morrison says he had a ‘sinking feeling’ about the Ukrainian aid
Morrison testified that his ‘‘sinking feeling" was tied to his concern that the fiscal year funds allocated by Congress would expire at the end of September and officials would have to go back to lawmakers and explain why. He said it was not exactly tied to his concerns about the phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president. But he said then-national security adviser John Bolton told him to go “tell the lawyers” — adding that he was not sure why Bolton told him that.
Nunes: Bribe anyone recently?
Nunes staked out a particularly blunt line of questioning late Tuesday afternoon, a full eight hours after impeachment hearings began this morning.
“Did anyone ask you to bribe or extort anyone?” he asked both witnesses of their dealings with Ukraine.
Both said no.
Rudy emerges, again, as key figure
Both Morrison and Volker are painting a picture in their testimony of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, being far and away the most influential figure in the president’s orbit when it came to Ukraine policy.
Volker testified that Giuliani was providing Trump a “negative narrative” — one “fueled by accusations from Ukraine’s then-prosecutor general” — about Ukraine that wasn’t taken seriously by several other advisers.
Volker also said that when Trump told him to “talk to Rudy,” he didn’t interpret that as an order by Trump.
“I didn’t take it as an instruction,” he said. “I took it as just part of the dialogue.”
Volker, however, said he did eventually connect Giuliani with Andrey Yermak, a senior aide to Zelenskiy, and the two discussed a need for the Ukrainian government to release a public anti-corruption statement.
ANALYSIS: Dem lawyer guides testimony blowing holes in GOP narratives
Democratic staff lawyer Daniel Goldman is calmly driving a wedge between the witnesses and Trump, allowing Volker and Morrison to distance themselves — willingly or unwillingly — from the effort to investigate Biden.
In particular, after amending his earlier testimony, Volker explained that he did not see investigating Burisma and investigating Biden as one and the same until he saw a transcript of the president’s call with Zelenskiy much later.
He said he thought “there was a way to thread the needle” between the two, but “for them, it was synonymous.”
Goldman’s questioning led Morrison to describe a parallel policy process in which Sondland spoke directly with Trump — who has said that he barely knows Sondland — and that he repeatedly checked up on Sondland’s claims that he had spoken with Trump and found those claims to be true.
“I was concerned” about Sondland connecting aid to investigations, Morrison said.
Combined, the testimony provided by these two witnesses is deeply damaging to the narrative that Sondland and Giuliani were operating outside the president’s knowledge and the case that the aid was not withheld as leverage to produce a public statement regarding investigations.