Nov 21, 2019

Fiona Hill: It is "not credible" Sondland didn't make Biden-Burisma connection

Former White House top Russia adviser Fiona Hill testified Thursday that it is "not credible" that EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland did not understand that the investigation President Trump was pushing for into Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma was equivalent to an investigation of the Bidens.

The exchange:

REP. MALONEY: "I thought you said it was obvious to you. Excuse me."
HILL: "It was obvious to me, correct."
MALONEY: "It was obvious Burisma meant Bidens."
HILL: "Yes, it was."
MALONEY: "You treated that as an easy thing to understand. Mr. Morrison figured it out with a single Google search. Is it credible to you that Mr. Sondland was completely in the dark about this all summer?  I mean you had an argument about it."
HILL: "It is not credible to me that he was oblivious."

Why it matters: Sondland and former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker both testified that they did not understand the Burisma investigation to be related to the Bidens until September, when the White House released the transcript of a phone call showing Trump discussed the Bidens with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

  • This is in spite of the fact that Rudy Giuliani was frequently tweeted and appearing on Fox News to push allegations about the Bidens and Burisma.
  • Sondland and Volker both said that if they had known Trump was pushing for an investigation of his domestic political rival, they would have objected.

The big picture: One of the main takeaways from Hill's testimonies is that she had a conflict with Sondland over his claim that he was working on Ukraine policy at Trump's direction.

  • Hill testified that Sondland claimed to be reporting directly to the president and other senior White House officials to pursue a "domestic political errand" — investigations linked to the Biden family's business dealings in Ukraine — while National Security Council staff focused on traditional foreign policy.

Go deeper: More highlights from Hill's and David Holmes' testimony

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Hill says she told Sondland that Ukraine policy was "all going to blow up"

Fiona Hill, President Trump's former top Russia expert, testified during Thursday's impeachment hearing that she told EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland earlier this year that the Trump administration's policy on Ukraine was "all going to blow up."

The big picture: Hill illustrated a dual-track policy that "diverged" seemingly at Trump's direction. According to her testimony, Sondland claimed to be reporting directly to the president and other senior White House officials to pursue a "domestic political errand" — investigations linked to the Biden family's business dealings in Ukraine — while National Security Council staff focused on traditional foreign policy.

Go deeperArrowNov 21, 2019

David Holmes recounts Trump phone call with Sondland in Ukraine

David Holmes, a State Department official at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, testified on Thursday about a now-infamous phone call in Kyiv in which he overheard President Trump and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland discuss the "investigations" that are now at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

Go deeperArrowNov 21, 2019

Highlights from Kurt Volker's and Tim Morrison’s testimonies

Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

Former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and former National Security Council Russia adviser Tim Morrison — two witnesses called by Republicans — testified Tuesday afternoon in the second public impeachment hearing of the day.

The big picture: Volker was part of a cadre of officials who worked with Rudy Giuliani to push Ukraine to announce investigations into Trump's political rivals, though he testified Tuesday that he was not aware that the investigation would involve Joe Biden. Morrison testified that EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland informed him that nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine would be released if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the investigations.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 20, 2019