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Senior National Security Officials Are Key Officials Closer to Trump for Ukraine in Impeachment Investigation

"His mandate as president is to make deals," Morrison tells Sondland.

Sondland continues to emerge as a key figure in the Democratic Party's impeachment investigation, as numerous witnesses identify it as central to the answers. the question at the heart of efforts to remove Trump from office: Did the president refuse special military assistance and a visit to the White House, desperately sought by the new Ukrainian government in the face of Russian aggression in exchange for investigations into his political rivals? [1

9659002] Sondland gave an affidavit behind closed doors, but questions were raised as to whether he was fully forthcoming with MPs. He has already revised his testimony once and Sondland will make a public statement to the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday in his current expected appearance.

The release of the Morrison transcript came as a longtime budget official swore testimony behind closed doors on Saturday that the White House's decision to freeze military aid to Ukraine in mid-July is extremely irregular and top political appointees in the Office of Management and budget failed to explain the delay. Mark Sandy's testimony appears to be the first OMB official to testify in the House impeachment poll confirms Democrats' claim that the decision to withhold nearly $ 400 million in congressional funds, including millions in deadly aid, it is political.

Sandy, Deputy Assistant to the Director of Homeland Security Programs at OMB, testified that he was instructed to sign the first of several appointments in which officials approached freezing funds, according to two people familiar with his testimony who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak candidly. He was never given a specific reason why the letter was being sent, the people added.

Other witnesses testify that the letter signed by Sandy is dated July 25, the same day that Trump spoke by phone with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and a week after OMB verbally informed interagency officials that they were withholding funds from The White House. The signatures of Sandy's boss, politically appointed Michael Duffy, appear in subsequent letters.

Sandy testified that the change came when Duffy told him that he wanted to learn more about the budget allocation process. Sandy thought it was strange, people familiar with his testimony said – and told investigators that he had suggested to Duffy that if he wanted to learn more about the process, there were other ways to do it. Duffy insists.

Sandy testifies that he has never seen a senior OMB political officer in his career take control of a portfolio in such a way, according to people familiar with his testimony, who add that he made no noise. because he wanted to keep his job.

In a transcript of his closed-door refusal published on Saturday, Morrison outlined the actions and statements of Sondland – raising the stakes for the EU public testimony to the ambassador on Wednesday.

He said he spoke with Sondland after the ambassador spoke with Andrei Yermak, Zelensky's chief aide, after a meeting between Zelensky and Vice President Pence in Warsaw in early September. That conversation was part of an amendment Sondland made in his testimony, in which he said he told a Ukrainian official that if his country did not announce the investigations Trump wants – former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter are investigating. as an unfounded theory of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 elections – military assistance may not end.

According to Morrison, who spoke to Sundland directly after his conversation with Yermak, Sundland "told me that in his – what he was reporting was that he believed in – what could help them move aid." , is if the Attorney General goes to the microphone and announces that the investigation into Burmism has begun. "

Hunter Biden was aboard Burma, while his father was the subject of Ukraine's policy on the Obama administration.

Morrison later explained that under Burism meant investigations in general, but he said that in his conversation with Sondland, the word Burism did not appear, nor did Joe or Hunter Biden name.

But Sondland's conversation with Yermak seems to have struck Morrison. He spoke with then-National Security Advisor John Bolton, whose leadership "was in keeping with my instinct, he was sure lawyers were watching."

Morrison said at other times he spoke with Sondland about his activities going beyond normal. channels. "I would offer him advice on what others in the inter-departmental case are doing, that he should take his instincts or his impulse, or I would tell him that I thought there was perhaps a more effective way to achieve it than he did. I'm thinking. "

Morrison said that Fiona Hill, the NSK employee he replaced, advised him to "avoid Gordon.

“And I said that I thought it would be more effective and the approach that would follow, I would prefer to have it inside the tent, you know, not outside the tent. And so I wanted to know what he was doing and do my best to spy on, you know, problems, as opposed to not knowing, ”Morrison testifies.

However, Morrison left open the question of whether Sondland was acting directly on the President's orders or taking his own initiative based on what he believed Trump wanted.

He recalled talking to Kurt Volcker, a former envoy to Ukraine after the August 2 meeting at the White House, and pressed him with Sondland and the president's personal lawyer, Rudolf W. Giuliani, who publicly discussed Ukraine's desire to start political investigations into Trump's rivals. "I think we both agreed that Ambassador Sundland was, you know, kind of a free radical. He was something outside, engaged when he wanted, and it wasn't always possible to keep track of what this was and who he was talking to. "

At the same time, Morrison said he reported interactions with Sundland up the chain of command, including attorneys and Bolton, for" protecting the president. "

" Ambassador Bolton likes to say that the process is your defense. So part of what I'm trying to do here, talking to the lawyers, is make sure they know what Mr. Sondland is doing. And he says the president is aware, but I'm still not entirely sure he is, "Morrison testifies.

Democrats couldn't get Morrison to attach anything directly to Trump. He qualified several times that understanding

Morrison also told lawmakers that he feared the contents of the July 25 conversation between Trump and Zelensky, where Trump brought out Bidens and the theory of the 2016 election, is harmful. therefore recommended limiting access to the census.

Morrison, who left the slave At the end of October, the father said he knew immediately after hearing the call that they should be on hand.

He said this was the only time he had ever asked the NSC legal team to restrict access.

He said that his concerns were how the rude rewriting would "Play in a polarized Washington environment" and affect Ukraine's view of its relations with the United States. He said he was "worried that the call was not the full endorsement of the reform program in Ukraine that I hoped to hear."

But Morrison said it was a "mistake" that the call transcript was eventually transferred of a highly classified system reserved for codeword intelligence, not the normal Portal system that restricted access.

And although he feared the conversation would end, Morrison broke up with his colleagues, telling House investigators that he had heard nothing "inappropriate" about Trump's call with Zelensky.

Morrison's interpretation of the controversial call that triggered the impeachment procedure could also make him a valuable witness for Republicans who complain Friday that Democrats are delaying the release of his testimony.

"Do you see that something wrong happened during the conversation? "The Republican lead councilor asked Morrison.

"Correct," he replied.

Morrison was unhappy that Lt. Col. Alexander Windman, one of his subordinates who would give public testimony next week, had approached the NSC attorney general with concern about Trump's call to Zelensky to investigate Bidens.

He also challenged the Vindman account in which he requested revisions to the document to include a mention of Burisma, the gas company that uses Hunter Biden on its board.

"I believe it is accurate and complete," Morrison says of the rough transcript. He said he recalled accepting all the changes proposed by Windman. Morrison's recollection, however, contradicts the remarks of Jennifer Williams, Pence's chief aide, who said that Burrism was mentioned during the conversation. Williams' transcript was also made public on Saturday.

Williams' recent calls from the July 25 call reflect Zelensky's reference to Burma during the conversation, her lawyer said in a Nov. 11 announcement with her descriptive protocol in contrast to a White House call transcript .

Williams testified that the conversation was "unusual" given the mention of specific investigations

"I suppose it shed some light on the possible other motives behind the retention of security assistance,

"Testimony released today shows that President Trump's telephone conversation with President Zelensky on July 25 immediately triggered an alarm at the White House," said President of Intelligence Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Elliott's Foreign President L. Engel ( DN.Y.) and Acting Chairman of the Supervisor Carolyn B. Maloney (DN.Y.) in a joint statement.

Williams also testified that Pence canceled the trip to attend Zelensky's assumption of office was decided by Trump. She said she never received an explanation for the change in plans.

"My understanding from my colleague – and again I was not there for the conversation – was that the president asked the vice president not to attend," she told deputies.

Alice Vibeck and Mike Debonis contributed to this report.

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