Oct 31, 2019

Kurt Volker's former advisers testify before impeachment probe

Croft and Anderson testify on Oct. 30. Photos: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Former National Security Council staffer Catherine Croft and Ukraine expert Christopher Anderson testified before House impeachment committees Wednesday.

Why it matters: Croft and Anderson are former advisers to Kurt Volker, the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, who was named in the whistleblower complaint about the July 25 presidential phone call that spurred an impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

The big picture: House committees leading the impeachment inquiry believe that the president's decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine and his push for Ukraine to investigate his 2020 rival Joe Biden jeopardized national security.

  • Trump says he withheld aid to force other European nations to contribute and argues that calling for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens was appropriate.
  • Anderson's testimony fills in more blanks on how high-level diplomats like Volker navigated White House strategy on Ukraine.
  • Croft's testimony fills in more blanks on former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch's ouster, which the whistleblower said was one of the circumstances that led him to believe Trump may have been soliciting foreign election interference.
What they're saying:

1. In his opening statement, Anderson said "there were some vague discussions" in a June 18 meeting at the Department of Energy about how to address Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani's "continued calls for a corruption investigation."

  • Anderson said that after the meeting, he "agreed on the importance of not calling for any specific investigations" with Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine.
  • Per Anderson's testimony, during a June 13 meeting with Volker and former national security adviser John Bolton, Bolton cautioned that Giuliani was a "key voice with the President on Ukraine, which could be an obstacle to increased White House engagement" with the country.

Background: Taylor testified that Trump conditioned the release of military aid on the Ukrainian president's willingness to investigate the Bidens' ties to natural gas company Burisma and the 2016 election. He told EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland on Sept. 9: "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

2. In her opening statement, Croft said lobbyist and former Rep. Robert Livingston told her in multiple calls that Yovanovitch — who served under President George W. Bush — was an "Obama holdover" associated with George Soros and "should be fired."

  • "It was not clear to me at the time — or now — at whose direction or at whose expense Mr. Livingston was seeking the removal of Ambassador Yovanovitch," Croft added, saying she sent documentation of the calls to Trump's former Russia adviser Fiona Hill.

Background, per the NYT: House investigators are determining if smears against Yovanovitch — largely by Giuliani — were "part of a larger pressure campaign" by Trump and his lawyer "to secure from Ukraine politically beneficial investigations into Democrats."

Go deeper: John Bolton has been asked to testify in impeachment probe

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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

A viewer's guide to the impeachment hearings

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos by Alex Wong via Getty Images, and Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The next phase of impeachment begins at 10 a.m. today with the first public hearing about President Trump's actions toward Ukraine — so here's a look at the witnesses you're likely to see.

Why it matters: Impeachment so far has been a messy and confusing process, with so many subplots that it's easy to lose track of what really matters: whether Trump held up military aid and a White House meeting with Ukraine's new president in exchange for a public promise to investigate Joe Biden's family.

Go deeperArrowNov 13, 2019

The highlights from all of the public impeachment hearings

The view before Marie Yovanovitch's impeachment hearing. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The House Intelligence Committee wrapped up on Thursday its planned schedule of public testimony in its impeachment inquiry, holding seven hearings with 12 witnesses over the past two weeks.

The big picture: The committee heard hours of testimony from witnesses who were both working on the ground in Ukraine and within the Trump administration at the time of the alleged White House pressure campaign against the Ukrainian government to secure an investigation into the Biden family's business dealings.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 22, 2019