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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Tim Morrison, Senior Director For Europe And Russia, NSC and Amb. Kurt Volker, Fmr. U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine Are Questioned in Public Impeachment Hearing. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired November 19, 2019 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VOLKER: Concerning the allegations, I stressed that no one in the new team governing Ukraine had anything to do with anything that may have happened in 2016. They were making television shows at the time. I also said that is not credible to me, that former Vice President Biden would have been influenced in any way by financial or personal motives in carrying out his duties as vice president. A different issue is whether some individual Ukrainians may have attempted to influence the 2016 election, or thought they could buy influence. That is at least plausible, given Ukraine's reputation for corruption. But the accusation of Vice President Biden acted inappropriately did not seem at all credible to me.
After that meeting, I connected Mayor Giuliani and Mr. Yermak by text and later by phone. They met in person, on August 2, 2019. In conversations with me following that meeting, which I did not attend, Mr. Giuliani said that he had stressed the importance of Ukraine conducting investigations into what happened in the past and Mr. Yermak stressed that he told Mr. Giuliani it is the government's program to root out corruption and implement reforms and they would be conducting investigations as part of this process anyway. Mr. Giuliani said he believed Ukrainian president needed to make a statement about fighting corruption and that he had discussed this with Mr. Yermak. I said I did not think that this would be a problem since that is the government's position anyway.
I followed up with Mr. Yermak and he said that they would indeed be prepared to make a statement. He said it would reference Burisma and 2016, in a wider context of bilateral relations and rooting out corruption anyway. There was no mention of Vice President Biden. Rather, in referencing Burisma and 2016 election interference, it was clear to me that he Mr. Yermak, was only talking about whether any Ukrainians had acted inappropriately. At this time, I was focused on our goal of getting President Zelensky and President Trump to meet with each other and I believe that their doing so would overcome the chronically negative view President Trump toward Ukraine. I was seeking to solve the problem I saw when we met with President Trump in the Oval Office on May 23.
As a professional diplomat, I was comfortable exploring whether there was a statement Ukraine could make about its own intentions to investigate possible corruption that would be helpful in convincing Mr. Giuliani to convey to President Trump a more positive assessment of the new leadership in Ukraine. On August 16, Mister Yermak shared a draft with me, which I thought looked perfectly reasonable. It did not mention Burisma or 2016 elections, but was generic. Ambassador Sondland and I had a further conversation with Mr. Giuliani who said that in his view, in order to be convincing that this government represented real change in Ukraine, the statement should include specific reference to Burisma and 2016.
Again, there is no mention of Vice President Biden these conversations. Ambassador Sondland and I discussed these points and I edited the statement drafted by Mr. Yermak to include these points to see how it looked. I then discussed it further with Mr. Yermak. He said that for number of reasons, including the fact that Mr. Lutsenko was still officially the prosecutor general, they do not want to mention Burisma or 2016. I agreed, and the idea of putting out a statement was shelved. These were the last conversations I had about this statement, which were on or about August 17 and 18. My last contact with Mr. Giuliani, according to my records was on August 13 until he tried to reach me on September 20 after the impeachment inquiry was launched.
At this time, that is to say, in the middle of August, I thought the idea of issuing this statement have been definitively scrapped. In September, I was surprised to learn that there had been further discussions with Ukrainians about President Zelensky possibly making a statement in an interview with U.S. media similar to what we had discussed in August. Since these events and since I gave my testimony on October 3rd, a great deal of additional information and perspectives have come to light.
I've learned many things that I did not know at the time of the events in question. First, at the time I was connecting Mr. Yermak and Mr. Giuliani and discussing with Mr. Yermak and Ambassador Sondland to possible statement that could be made by the Ukrainian president, I did not know of any linkage between the hold on security assistance and Ukraine pursuing investigations.
No one had ever said that to me and I never conveyed such a linkage to the Ukrainians. I opposed the hold on U.S. security assistance as soon as I learned about it on July 18 and I thought we could turn it around before the Ukrainians ever knew or became alarmed about it.
I did not know the reason for the hold but I viewed it as a U.S. policy problem that we needed to fix internally and I was confident we would do so. I believe the Ukrainians became aware of the hold on August 29th and not before.
That date is the first time any of them asked me about the hold by forwarding an article that had been published in Politico. When I spoke the Ukrainians about the hold after August 29th, instead of telling them that they needed to do something to get the hold released, I told them the opposite.
That they should not be alarmed. It was an internal U.S. problem and we were working to get it fixed. I did not know others were conveying a different message to them around the same time.
Second, I did not know about the strong concerns expressed by then National Security Advisor, John Bolton, to members of his NSC staff regarding the discussion of investigations. I participated in the July 10th meeting between National Security Advisor Bolton and then Ukrainian Chairman of the National Security Defense Council, Alex Danylyuk.
As I remember, the meeting was essentially over when Ambassador Sondland made a general comment about investigations. I think all of us thought it was inappropriate. The conversation did not continue and the meeting concluded.
Later on the Ward Room, I may have been engaged in a side conversation or had already left the complex because I do not recall further discussion regarding investigations of Burisma.
Third, I did not understand that others believed that any investigation of the Ukrainian company, Burisma, which had a history of accusations of corruption was tantamount (ph) to investigating Vice President Biden. I drew a sharp distinction between the two.
It has long been U.S. policy under multiple administrations to urge Ukraine to investigate and fight internal corruption. I was quite comfortable with Ukraine making its own statement about its own policy of investigating and fighting corruption at home.
At the one in person meeting I had with Mayor Giuliani on July 19th, Mayor Giuliani raised and rejected the conspiracy theory that Vice President Biden would have been influenced in his duties as Vice President by money paid to his son.
As I previously testified, I have known Vice President Biden for 24 years. He is an honorable man and I hold him in the highest regard. At no time was aware of or knowingly took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden.
And as you know from the extensive documentation I provided, Vice President Biden was not a topic of discussion. I was not on the July 25th phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky.
And I was not made aware of any reference to Vice President Biden or his son by President Trump until the transcript of that call was released on September 25th, 2019. Throughout this time I understood that there was an important distinction between Burisma and Biden and I urged the Ukrainians to maintain such a distinction.
I did not know that President Trump or others had raised Vice President Biden with Ukrainians or had conflated the investigation of possible Ukrainian corruption with investigation of the former Vice President.
In retrospect for the Ukrainians it would clearly have been confusing. In hindsight I now understand that others saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involving the Ukrainian company, Burisma, as equivalent to investigating former president -- Vice President Biden.
I saw them as very different. The former being appropriate and unremarkable, the latter being unacceptable. In retrospect I should have seen that connection differently and had I done so I would have raised my own objections.
Fourth, much has been made of the term three amigos in reference to Secretary Perry, Ambassador Sondland, and myself. I've never used that term and frankly cringe when I hear it because for me the three amigos will always refer to Senator McCain, Senator Lieberman, and Senator Graham in reference to their work to support the surge in Iraq.
Moreover, I was never aware of any designation by President Trump or anyone else including Ambassador Sondland or the three of us as a group in charge of Ukraine policy. Rather, as I understood it, each of us in our respective official capacities continued to work together after our attendance of President Zelensky's inauguration to push for greater U.S. support for Ukraine.
Leading the diplomacy around Ukraine negotiations have long been my official responsibility but I welcome the added support and influence of a cabinet member and our EU Ambassador.
Fifth, I was not aware that Ambassador Sondland spoke with President Trump on July 26th, while Ambassador Taylor and I were visiting the conflict zone. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, allow me to thank you again for the opportunity to provide this testimony. I believe that U.S. foreign policy and national security interest in Ukraine are of critical importance and I would be pleased to answer your questions. Thank you.
SCHIFF: Thank you gentlemen for your opening statements. We'll now proceed to the first round of questions as detailed in the memo I provided the committee members. So it'll be 45 minutes of questions conducted by the chairman or majority council, followed by 45 minutes for the Ranking member or minority council.
Following that, unless I specify additional equal time for extended questioning, we'll proceed under the five minute rule and every member will have a chance to ask questions. I now recognize myself or council for the first round of questions.
Ambassador Volker, I was going to just yield to the minority council but there are a couple points that you made in your opening statement that I wanted to ask about first. First you said that now former Attorney General Lutsenko was not credible.
Mr. Lutsenko is the author of a number of allegations against Ambassador Yovanovitch, a number of allegations that were shared with John Solomon of the Hill. A number of allegations that have been repeatedly brought up by my Republican colleagues. Why is it that you found Mr. Lutsenko not credible and told Mr. Giuliani so?
VOLKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First off, the allegations themselves, including those against Ambassador Yovanovitch, did not appear to me to be credible at all. I know her to be an incredibly confident professional, someone I've worked with for many, many years.
The suggestions that she was acting in some inappropriate matter were not credible to me. I've known Vice President Biden for a long time. Those accusations were not credible. And then separate from that, I also was aware of the political situation in Ukraine.
We had a situation where President Poroshenko appeared to not be in a favorable position going into the elections where it was increasingly apparent, then candidate Zelensky was going to win.
As is often the case in Ukraine, a change in power would mean change in prosecutorial powers as well. And there have been efforts in the past at prosecuting the previous government. I think Mr. Lutsenko, in my estimation, and I said this to Mayor Giuliani when I met with him, was interested in preserving his own position. He wanted to avoid being fired by a new government in order to prevent prosecution of himself -- possible prosecution of himself, possibly also this is something that President Poroshenko would have welcomed, as well, because he probably would have avoided any efforts to prosecute President Poroshenko, as well.
So by making allegations like this and making sure they were reaching U.S. media, I think that Mr. Letsenko was trying to make himself appear to be an important and influential player in the United States.
SCHIFF: Ambassador, let me also ask you about the allegations against Joe Biden, because that has been a continuing refrain from some of my colleagues, as well. Why was it you found the allegations against Joe Biden, related to his son or Burisma, not to be believed?
VOLKER: Simply because I've known Vice President -- former Vice President Biden for a long time, I know how he respects his duties of higher office and it's just not credible to me that a Vice President of the United States is going to do anything other than act as how he sees best for the national interest.
SCHIFF: Finally, Ambassador, before I turn it over, I was struck by something you said on Page 8 of your statement, which reads "in hindsight, I now understand that others saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involving the Ukrainian company Burisma as equivalent to investigating former Vice President Biden. I saw them as different, the former being appropriate and unremarkable, the latter being unacceptable."
In retrospect, you said "I should have seen that connection differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections." What is it now, Ambassador, in retrospect that you recognize that you didn't at the time that leads you to conclude that you would or should have raised these objections?
VOLKER: Yeah, that others did not see the distinction between these things as I saw it. As I said, there is a history of corruption in Ukraine, there's a history with the company of Burisma -- it's been investigated. That is well known. There is a separate allegation about the Vice President acting inappropriately. His son was a board member of this company but those things I saw as completely distinct. And what I was trying to do in working with the Ukrainians was to thread a needle, to see whether things that they can do that are appropriate and reasonable as part of Ukraine's own policy of fighting corruption, that help clarify for our President that they are committed to that very -- that very effort.
There's a way to thread that needle, I -- I thought it was worth the effort to try to solve that problem. As it turns out, I now understand that most of the other people didn't see or didn't consider this distinction, that for them it was synonymous.
SCHIFF: Well one of those people who saw it as synonymous turns out to be the President of the United States. I take it you didn't know until the call record was released that the President in that call doesn't raise Burisma, he asked for an investigation of the Bidens. Is that right?
VOLKER: That is correct.
SCHIFF: I take it since you say that -- you acknowledge that asking for an investigation of the Bidens would have been unacceptable and objectionable, that had the President asked you to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, you would have told him so?
VOLKER: I would have objected to that. Yes, sir.
SCHIFF: Mr. Goldman?
GOLDMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just one follow up on that, Ambassador Volker. When -- when you say thread the needle, you're -- you mean that you understood the relationship between Vice President Biden's son on -- and Burisma but you were trying to separate the two of them in your mind? Is that right?
VOLKER: Well I believe that they were separate, that -- and I -- this references the conversation I had with Mr. Giuliani as well, where I think the allegations against Vice President Biden are self-serving and not credible.
A separate question is whether it is appropriate for Ukraine to investigate possible corruption of Ukrainians that may have tried to corrupt things or buy influence. To me, they are very different things. As I said, I think the former is unacceptable, I think the latter in this case is ...
GOLDMAN: Understood but you -- you understood the relationship between Hunter Biden and Burisma? That's ...
VOLKER: I knew that he had been a board member of the company, yes.
GOLDMAN: Let's go back ...
VOLKER: That's why it was so important to maintain the distinction.
GOLDMAN: Let's focus on the -- the July 25th call for a moment. And Mr. Morrison, July 25th was day number what for you as the Senior Director overseeing Ukraine?
MORRISON: I -- I officially took over on the 15th, approximately 10 days, very few days actually in the office.
GOLDMAN: You testified in your deposition that you received an e-mail on the morning of July 25th from Ambassador Sondland shortly before the call. Is that right?
GOLDMAN: And I believe in that e-mail, Ambassador Sondland told you that he had briefed President Trump about the -- in advance of the call. Is that right?
GOLDMAN: And I -- you also testified that Ambassador Sondland had told you on another occasion that he could call the President whenever he wanted. Is that right?
MORRISON: I -- yes.
GOLDMAN: And on July 25th, did you in fact make an effort to confirm whether or not the phone call between Ambassador Sondland and President Trump actually occurred?
MORRISON: I did.
GOLDMAN: And did it -- did it happen?
GOLDMAN: On other occasions when Ambassador Sondland told you that he spoke with President Trump, did you -- on some other occasions, did you also seek confirmation of that fact?
MORRISON: On some, yes.
GOLDMAN: And on those occasions when you did seek to confirm that they had spoken, what did you find?
MORRISON: They had.
GOLDMAN: Now I want to pull up a text message on the morning of July 25th between -- well, it's -- should be another one. Oh yeah, sorry -- Ambassador Sondland with you, Ambassador Volker. And at 7:54, Ambassador -- in the morning, Ambassador Sondland says "call ASAP." Then at 9:35, Ambassador Volker, you respond. Is the screen working in front of you or just to the side?
GOLDMAN: So if you could go ahead and read what you said ...
GOLDMAN: ... at 9:35?
VOLKER: Yes, so I say "hi Gordon, got your message. Had a great lunch with Yermak and then passed your message to him. He will see you tomorrow, think everything is in place."
GOLDMAN: And who is Yermak?
VOLKER: Andriy Yermak is the Senior Advisor to President Zelensky of Ukraine.
GOLDMAN: Now what was the message that you had received?
VOLKER: That President Zelensky should be clear, convincing, forthright with President Trump about his commitment to fighting corruption, investigating what happened in the past, get to the bottom of things, whatever there is, and -- and if he does that, President Trump was prepared to be reassured, that he would say yes, come on, let's get this date for this visit scheduled.
GOLDMAN: And did you understand from that message that Ambassador Sondland had spoken to President Trump?
VOLKER: I wasn't sure whether he had or not. He, as Mr. Morrison just said, said that he does speak with President Trump. I knew that he had conversations in general. I didn't know specifically about one leading up to this.
GOLDMAN: Now on the screen in front of you is another text message from you that same morning ...
GOLDMAN: ... at 8:36 in the morning to Andriy Yermak.
VOLKER: Yes, I believe because of the time difference, this is actually in the afternoon in Ukraine.
GOLDMAN: In Ukraine so this is East Coast time. That's right. So this is slightly less than a half hour before the call between President Trump and President Zelensky.
VOLKER: Right. And...
GOLDMAN: And can you just read what you wrote there?
VOLKER: Yes. And just after the lunch that I had with Andriy Yermak, it was a good lunch thanks. I heard from the White House. Assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate and get to the bottom of what happened in 2016. We will nail down a date for a visit to Washington. Good luck. See you tomorrow. Kurt. GOLDMAN: And does this accurately relay the message that you had received from Ambassador Sondland?
GOLDMAN: Now Mr. Morrison, did the National Security Council also prepare talking points for President Trump for this call?
MORRISON: The NSC staff did, yes.
GOLDMAN: And per usual custom, were these talking points based on the official United States policy objectives?
MORRISON: They were.
GOLDMAN: And since there's been a little bit of dispute about what that means, can you explain how official U.S. policy is determined through the interagency process?
MORRISON: We operate under what's known as NSPM-4 - National Security Presidential Memorandum - 4. It's available on the internet. That lays out how the president wants to be provided options for his decision.
GOLDMAN: And there's an extensive process to finalize any policy. Is that right?
GOLDMAN: Did you, Mr. Morrison, you listened to this call on the 25th. Is that right?
MORRISON: I did.
GOLDMAN: Where did you listen from?
MORRISON: The White House Situation Room.
GOLDMAN: In your deposition you testified that the call was not what you were hoping to hear. What did you mean by that?
MORRISON: I was hoping for a more full-throated statement of support from the president concerning President Zelensky's reform agenda given where we were at the time with respect to the overwhelming mandate President Zelensky, servant of the party people had received in the Rada election.
GOLDMAN: And that Rada which is the Ukrainian Parliament. That election had occurred four days earlier.
MORRISON: That sounds right.
GOLDMAN: And President Zelensky's party won in a landslide. Is that right?
MORRISON: They received more than a majority in their own right.
GOLDMAN: So at least in Ukraine there was tremendous support for Zelensky's anticorruption agenda. Is that right?
MORRISON: At the time.
GOLDMAN: And within the interagency, within the National Security Agency's here in the United States, was there broad support for President Zelensky?
MORRISON: There was broad support for getting President Zelensky a chance.
GOLDMAN: And to that point he had shown that he was - he had at least put his money where his mouth was for the three months that he had been in office. Is that right?
MORRISON: Approximately three months, yes.
GOLDMAN: Now I want to show a couple of excerpts from this call record to each of you. The first is President Trump responding to a comment by President Zelensky related to defense support from the United States and the purchase of Javelins and President Trump then says I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine. They say crowd strike. I guess you have one of your wealthy people, the server, they say Ukraine has it.
And if we could go to the next excerpt where President Trump says the other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it, it sounds horrible to me.
Now Mr. Morrison, were these references to crowd strike the server in 2016 election and to Vice President Biden and his son were included in the president's talking points?
MORRISON: They were not.
GOLDMAN: And were they consistent with what you understood at that time to be official U.S. policy. I was not aware of any of much of this at the time. And in fact, subsequent to this call, you did nothing to implement the - the investigations that President Trump -- implement the request for the investigations that President Trump asked for. Is that right?
MORRISON: I did not understand any instruction to do so.
GOLDMAN: And you didn't - you were not aware of anyone else within your - you coordinate the interagency process and you were not aware of anyone else who was doing that either. Is that right?
[16:25:00] GOLDMAN: Now you testified in your deposition, hearing this call confirmed what you call the parallel process that your predecessor Fiona Hill had warned you about. What did you mean by that?
MORRISON: During the period in which Dr. Hill and I were conducting handoff meetings so that I could be up to speed on the various things that were occurring in the portfolio at the time. She mentioned the traditional NSPM-4 process and the parallel process and in the context of discussing the parallel process she mentioned she was like Burisma, which were noteworthy to me at the time because I had never heard of them before and upon hearing them in the call it wound up confirming, OK there's something here.
GOLDMAN: And who did she inform you was involved in this parallel process?
MORRISON: As I recall, it was definitely Ambassador Sondland and I believe Mr. Giuliani.
GOLDMAN: And after she informed you of this company Burisma, what if anything did you do to determine what that was?
MORRISON: After that particular handoff meeting I proceeded to look it up on the internet; I Googled it.
GOLDMAN: And did you find that it had some association with Hunter Biden.
GOLDMAN: Now Ambassador Volker, you did not listen to this call but you testified that you were surprised and troubled when you read the call record after it was released on September 25th and you also said that after reading the call record, it was clear to you that the Biden, Burisma and the 2016 election investigations that President Trump discussed on the call were designed to serve the president's political interests not the national interests. What did you mean when you said that?
VOLKER: Sir, I don't recall that language from my testimony - from my October 3rd testimony.
GOLDMAN: Yes it was.
VOLKER: Thank you. Well what I do mean by that and I'd like to phrase it in my own words now is I don't think that raising 2016 elections or Vice President Biden or these things I consider to be conspiracy theories that have been circulated by the Ukrainians particularly the former prosecutor general are - they're - they're not things that we should be pursuing as part of our national security strategy with Ukraine. We should be supporting Ukraine's democracy, reforms, it's own fight against corruption domestically, its struggle against Russia, its defense capabilities. These are the heart of what we should be doing and I don't think pursuing these things serves a national interest. GOLDMAN: Mr. Morrison, shortly after you heard the July 25th call, you testified that you alerted the NSC legal adviser John Eisenberg pretty much right away. Is that right?
GOLDMAN: And you indicated in your opening statement, at least from your deposition, that you went to Mr. Eisenberg out of concern over the potential political fallout if the call record became public, not because you thought it was illegal. Is that right?
GOLDMAN: But you would agree, right, that asking a foreign government to investigate a domestic political rival is inappropriate, would you not?
MORRISON: It's not what -- it's not what we recommended the president discuss.
GOLDMAN: Now, in a second meeting with Mr. Eisenberg, what did you recommend that he do to prevent the call record from leaking?
MORRISON: I recommended we restrict access to the package.
GOLDMAN: Had you ever asked the NSC legal advisor to restrict access before?
GOLDMAN: Did you speak to your supervisor, Dr. Kupperman, before you went to speak to John Eisenberg?
GOLDMAN: Did you subsequently learn that the call record had been put in a highly classified system?
MORRISON: I did.
GOLDMAN: And what reason did Mr. Eisenberg give you for why the call record was put in the highly classified system?
MORRISON: It was a mistake.
GOLDMAN: He said it was just a mistake?
MORRISON: It was an administrative error.
GOLDMAN: Now, isn't it also true, though, that you had authority to restrict access on the regular system if you wanted to?
MORRISON: I believe I could have instructed the appropriate staff to do so, yes.
GOLDMAN: So why did you go to the NSC legal advisor to recommend that? MORRISON: Well, I was also concerned that, based on the participants in the listening room that day, I did not then -- and I do not now -- recall any representatives from the NSC legal advisor's office, as they were often on head of state calls but not always. And I wanted to make sure that John Eisenberg as the legal advisor and his deputy were aware to -- to review this particular transcript.
GOLDMAN: And you wanted them to review it because you were concerned about the political -- potential political consequences, not because of -- it was -- anything was wrong?
MORRISON: Correct. And political consequences is -- was an umbrella term I used in my statement to describe a series of effects I feared about what would happen if and when the content of the transcript or the content of the MemCon leaked.
GOLDMAN: So just to make sure I understand this correctly, Mr. Morrison, you heard the call, you recognized that President Trump was not discussing the talking points that the NSC had prepared based on official U.S. policy and was instead talking about the investigations that Fiona Hill had warned you about. And then you reported it immediately to the NSC legal advisor, is that the -- the correct chain of events here?
MORRISON: That's correct.
GOLDMAN: Now, Ambassador Volker, in the July 25th call, President Zelensky volunteers to President Trump that Rudy Giuliani had already spoken with one of this associates and that President Zelensky hopes Giuliani will come to Ukraine. And in response, President Trump proceeds to mention Mr. Giuliani on three separate occasions during this call.
You testified about a May 23rd meeting in the Oval Office where the president spoke quite negatively about Ukraine and how it would -- tried to take him down, and that he also repeated some of the allegations that Mr. Giuliani was making. Is that correct?
GOLDMAN: OK. And those allegations were in the media, were they not?
GOLDMAN: And during that meeting, President Trump told you and Ambassador Sondland and Secretary Perry to talk to Giuliani, isn't that correct?
MORRISON: He -- I didn't take it as an instruction, I want to be clear about that. He said, that's not what I hear. You know, when we were giving him our assessment about President Zelensky and where Ukraine is headed (ph), he said, that's not what I hear. I hear terrible things, he's got terrible people around him. Talk to Rudy.
And I understood in that context, him just saying, that's where he hears it from. I didn't take it as an instruction.
GOLDMAN: So when he said, talk to Rudy, you didn't take it -- him to mean to -- for you to talk to Rudy?
MORRISON: No, I didn't take it that way. I took it as -- that just -- just part of the dialogue that I hear to -- I hear other things, I hear them from Rudy, John (ph), I hear them from other people. That's not what's going on, he's surrounded by terrible people. Talk to Rudy. You know, it just seemed like part of the dialogue.
GOLDMAN: Well, after that meeting, did you in fact talk to Rudy?
MORRISON: After that meeting, not immediately, no. Remember, this was May 23rd. And we continued to proceed with our effort to get the White House visit for President Zelensky scheduled, and to keep ramping up our support for the new Ukrainian president and ultimately, the new Ukrainian government.
I -- I did however, on July 2nd, as I was becoming concerned that we were not succeeding at this, tell President Zelensky, I think we have a problem. And that problem being this negative feed of information from Mr. Giuliani.
GOLDMAN: And ultimately, I think as you testified in your opening statement, you introduced Mr. Yermak to Mr. Giuliani and they eventually met, is that right?
MORRISON: That is correct.
GOLDMAN: Now, during this whole time in July and after the call into early August when they met, Ukraine still desperately wanted that Oval Office meeting for President Zelensky, correct?
MORRISON: That is correct.
GOLDMAN: And you also wanted that for President Zelensky, is that right?
MORRISON: That is correct.
GOLDMAN: Why was that Oval Office meeting so important to President Zelensky?
MORRISON: I think that he felt that he was not well-understood by President Trump. He is a charismatic leader who ran a remarkable campaign in Ukraine against the legacy of corruption and political malaise that had been there. He had a massive showing in the presidential election, 73 percent support. He believed he was leading a movement of major change in Ukraine, and that President Trump was -- did not see that or didn't appreciate that.
But if he had a chance to sit down and speak with President Trump face-to-face, he believed that he could be very convincing about that and I agree with him.
GOLDMAN: That certainly was your assessment, right? MORRISON: It was my assessment, and I believe it was also what President Zelensky believed.
GOLDMAN: And certainly you understood from your experience in Ukraine, that there would be a significant boost in legitimacy at home for President Zelensky if there were photos of him in the Oval Office, et cetera, right?
MORRISON: Yes, that is correct.
GOLDMAN: Now, you knew -- you testified in your -- your opening statement that Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Yermak, Zelensky's aide, met on August 2nd. Where did they meet?
MORRISON: They met in Madrid.
GOLDMAN: And what -- did you learn that Mr. Giuliani requested anything of the Ukrainians at that meeting?
MORRISON: Only when I spoke with Mr. Giuliani afterwards. He said that he thought Ukraine should issue a statement. And then I spoke with Mr. Yermak after that and he said yes, and we are prepared to make a statement. And that then kicked off the series of discussions that I said (ph) in my testimony.
GOLDMAN: We'll get into that in a second. But Mr. Giuliani did not explain to you what needed to be included in that statement, in that call you had?
MORRISON: He said something more general as I recall. I recall him saying, fight corruption, that -- their commitment to being different. Mr. Yermak told me when I spoke with him, as I recall, that the statement would include specific mention of Burisma and 2016.
GOLDMAN: Right. Let's go through some of the text messages so we know exactly who said what. And first, let's start on August 9th. This is a text exchange between you and Ambassador Sondland, where Ambassador Sondland writes at the top, Morrison ready to get dates as soon as Yermak confirms. And what did you respond?
VOLKER: I said, "excellent!!" with two exclamation points, "How did you sway him with?" with a smile afterwards.
GOLDMAN: Ambassador Sondland responded "not sure I did, I think POTUS really wants the deliverable." What did you say to that?
VOLKER: "But how does he know that?"
GOLDMAN: And Ambassador Sondland says, "Yep, clearly lots of convos going on." Now, Mr. Morrison you're referenced in this text message, have you discussed confirming a date for a White House visit for President Zelensky with Ambassador Sondland around this time?
MORRISON: I likely would have. GOLDMAN: And did you have any discussions with him about a statement for -- that Ukraine was -- that they were trying to get Ukraine to make?
MORRISON: I did not.
GOLDMAN: Were you aware that -- do you yourself know what Ambassador Sondland meant by "the deliverable"?
MORRISON: I did not at the time, I think I have an understanding now.
GOLDMAN: And what is your understanding now?
MORRISON: There seems to have been discussions about a statement, various drafts of which have been discussed in various proceedings.
GOLDMAN: But this, to your knowledge was part of that parallel process you were talking about?
GOLDMAN: If we can now go to the next exhibit which is another text exchange a little -- a few minutes later between Ambassador Sondland and you, Ambassador Volker. Where Ambassador Sondland says, "to avoid misunderstandings, might be helpful to ask Andriy for a draft statement embargoed so that we can see exactly what they propose to cover even though Ze -- Zelensky, does a live press survey (ph) so they can still summarize in a brief statement. Thoughts, and how did you respond?
GOLDMAN: And this relates to the statement that Mr. Giuliani wanted, is that right Ambassador Volker?
VOLKER: It relates to the statement that he and Mr. Yermak had discussed.
GOLDMAN: Right. And now to the next day, on August 10 there's another text exchange between you and Mr. Yermak, whose the same aid that Mr. Giuliani had met in Madrid.
And if you could read what you wrote at the top at 5:02 P.M. I wrote, "I agree with your approach. Let's iron out statement and use that to get date, and then President Zelensky can go forward with it."
GOLDMAN: And Mr. Yermak responds, "once we have a date we will call for a press briefing announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of U.S.-Ukraine relationship including, among other things Burisma and election meddling in investigations.
And what did you respond?
VOLKER: "Sounds great!!"
GOLDMAN: Now the date that he's referring to, that is the date for the White House visit?
VOLKER: That is correct.
GOLDMAN: Now two days later on August 12, you receive another text message from Mr. Yermak which reads -- special attention should be paid to the problem of interference in the political processes of the United States, especially with the alleged involvement of some Ukrainian politicians. I want to declare that this is unacceptable, we intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, which in turn will prevent the recurrence of this problem in the future.
Now, Ambassador Volker, this was a draft, was it not -- of the statement that you and Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Yermak, and Ambassador Sondland had been discussing?
VOLKER: This is the first draft of that, from Mr. Yermak after the conversations that we had.
GOLDMAN: And it does not mention Burisma or the 2016 election interference, correct?
VOLKER: It does not.
GOLDMAN: And you testified in your deposition that you and Ambassador Sondland and Mayor Giuliani had a conversation about this draft after you received it, is that right?
VOLKER: That is correct.
GOLDMAN: And Mr. Giuliani said that if the statement did not include Burisma and 2016 election it would not have any credibility, is that right?
VOLKER: That's correct.
GOLDMAN: Now, this was the same Rudy Giuliani that President Trump was discussing in that May 23 meeting, and asked you to -- you and the others to talk to, correct?
VOLKER: That is the same Mr. Giuliani.
GOLDMAN: And even at that point on May 23, you were aware of these investigations that he was publicly promoting, correct?
VOLKER: I knew that he had adopted, or was interested in all of those conspiracy theories that had come from (inaudible) --
GOLDMAN: Back in May you knew that?
VOLKER: Back in May.
GOLDMAN: Now he was insisting from a public commitment from President Zelensky to do these investigations, correct? VOLKER: Now, what do we mean by these investigations?
GOLDMAN: Burisma and the 2016 election.
VOLKER: Burisma and 2016, yes.
GOLDMAN: And, at the time that you were engaged in coordinating for this statement, did you find it unusual that there was such an emphasis on a public statement from President Zelensky to carry out the investigations that the president was seeking?
VOLKER: I didn't find it that unusual. I think when you're dealing with a situation where, I believe the president was highly skeptical about President Zelensky being committed to really changing Ukraine after this entirely negative view of the country, that he would want to hear something more from President Zelensky to be convinced that -- OK, I'll give this guy a chance.
GOLDMAN: And he -- perhaps he also wanted a public statement because it would lock President Zelensky in to do these investigations that he thought might benefit him?
VOLKER: Well again, we're -- when we say these investigations what I understood us to be talking about was Ukrainian corruption.
GOLDMAN: Well, what we're talking about is Burisma and the 2016 election, let's just --
VOLKER: Correct, correct -- yes, right.
GOLDMAN: We can agree on that, and so when we're talking about these investigations, isn't it clear that a public statement would be important to Mr. Giuliani because it was politically useful to the president?
VOLKER: The way I saw it as that it would be helpful. It would be a way of convincing to Mayor Giuliani and also the president that this team in Ukraine is serious about fighting corruption reform, that they are different.
And if that would be helpful in getting a more positive attitude and the White House meeting scheduled, then that would be useful.
GOLDMAN: And that would be helpful to get that White House meeting --
GOLDMAN: In fact, it was a necessary condition as you understood at that point, right?
VOLKER: I wouldn't have called it a necessary condition. And in fact when it became clear later that we were not able to agree on an agreement that the Ukrainians were comfortable with -- I agree with the Ukrainians just to drop it, it's not worth it.
GOLDMAN: No, I understand that -- but you're -- is it your testimony, that based on the text that you wrote linking the investigations, and the 2016 election on July 25 to the White House Meeting. You're saying that by this point in August with this back and forth that you were unaware that this public statement was a condition for the White House meeting?
VOLKER: I wouldn't call it a condition, it's a nuance, I guess. But I viewed it as very helpful. If we could get this done it would help improve the perception that President Trump and others had, and then we would get the date for a meeting. If we didn't have a statement I wasn't giving up and thinking that oh well then, we'll never get a meeting.
GOLDMAN: Let's go to the next day where there's another text exchange, and at the top could you just read the first text there/?
VOLKER: Yes. It says, "Hi Andriy, good talking. Following is text with insert at the end for the two key items. We will work on on official request."
GOLDMAN: And then you'll see the highlighted portion of the next text -- the other is identical to your previous one and then it just adds including --
VOLKER: It includes that -- correct.
GOLDMAN: Including those involving Burisma and the 2016 elections, is that right?
VOLKER: That is correct.
GOLDMAN: And that was what Mr. Giuliani insisted on adding to the statement?
VOLKER: That is what he said would be necessary for that to be credible.
GOLDMAN: And the Ukrainians ultimately did not issue the statement, is that right?
VOLKER: That is correct.
GOLDMAN: And President Zelensky ultimately did not get the Oval Office meeting either, did he.
VOLKER: Not yet.
GOLDMAN: Now I'm going to move forward to September, in early September when the security assistance begins to more overtly be used as leverage to pressure the Ukrainians to conduct these investigations that President Trump wanted. Mr. Morrison, you accompanied Vice President Pence to Warsaw when he met with President Zelensky, is that right?
MORRISON: I was in Warsaw when the vice president was designated as the president's representative. I was accompanying Ambassador Bolton.
GOLDMAN: Understood, but you were at the bilateral meeting with the vice president and President Zelensky, correct?
MORRISON: I was.
GOLDMAN: And in that meeting, were the Ukrainians concerned about the hold on security clearance -- security clearance, military assistance, rather?
GOLDMAN: What did they say?
MORRISON: It was the first issue that President Zelensky raised with Vice President Pence. They were very interested. They talked about its importance to Ukraine, its importance to the relationship.
GOLDMAN: And what was Vice President Pence's response?
MORRISON: The vice president represented that it was a priority for him and that we were working to address. And he characterized President Trump's concerns about the state of corruption in Ukraine and the president's prioritization of getting the Europeans to contribute more to security sector assistance.
GOLDMAN: And did he directly explain to the Ukrainians that those were the actual reasons for the holds or was he just commenting on general concerns of the president?
MORRISON: I don't know that he necessarily acknowledged a hold. We -- he mentioned that we were reviewing the assistance. And that's the way I heard it. That's the way I would characterize it. And those were the points he raised to help President Zelensky understand where we were in our process.
GOLDMAN: And to your knowledge, though, on sort of the staff level, as the coordinator of all the inter-agency process, you were not aware of any review of the Ukraine security assistance money, were you?
MORRISON: Well, we were -- we had been running a review. We had been running an inter-agency process to provide the president the information that I had been directed to generate for the president's consideration as to the state of inter-agency support for continuing Ukraine security sector assistance.
GOLDMAN: And the entire inter-agency supported the continuation of the security assistance, isn't that right?
MORRISON: That is correct.
GOLDMAN: Now, after this larger meeting with the Vice President Pence and President Zelensky, you testified at your deposition that you saw Ambassador Sondland immediately go over and pull Andriy Yermak aside and have a conversation, is that right? MORRISON: I mean, it was President Zelensky left the room, Vice President Pence left the room, and then in sort of an anteroom Ambassador Sondland and presidential adviser Yermak had this discussion, yes.
GOLDMAN: And what did Ambassador Sondland tell you that he told Mr. Yermak?
MORRISON: That the Ukrainians would have to have the prosecutor general make a statement with respect to the investigations as a condition of having the aid lifted.
GOLDMAN: You testified that you were not comfortable with what Ambassador Sondland had told you, why not?
MORRISON: Well, I was concerned about what I saw as essentially an additional hurdle to accomplishing what I had been directed to help accomplish, which was giving the president the information he needed to determine that the security sector assistance can go forward.
GOLDMAN: So now there's a whole other wrinkle to it, right?
MORRISON: There was the appearance of one based on what Ambassador Sondland represented.
GOLDMAN: And you told Ambassador Taylor about this conversation as well, is that right?
MORRISON: I promptly reached out to Ambassador Taylor to schedule a secure phone call.
GOLDMAN: And in your deposition, you testified that his testimony, other than one small distinction between President Zelensky and the prosecutor general, was accurate as to what you told him, is that correct?
MORRISON: About that conversation, yes.
GOLDMAN: And generally speaking, you confirmed everything that Ambassador Taylor told you except for that one thing and a small other ministerial matter relating to the location of a meeting, is that correct?
GOLDMAN: Now, did you tell Ambassador Bolton about this conversation as well?
MORRISON: I reached out to him as well and requested his availability for a secure phone call.
GOLDMAN: And what was his response when you explained to him what Ambassador Sondland had said?
MORRISON: Tell the lawyers.
GOLDMAN: Did you go tell the lawyers?
MORRISON: When I returned to the States, yes.
GOLDMAN: Did he explain to you why he wanted you to tell the lawyers?
MORRISON: He did not.
GOLDMAN: Now a few days later, on September 7th, you spoke again to Ambassador Sondland who told you that he had just gotten off the phone with President Trump, isn't that right?
MORRISON: That sounds correct, yes.
GOLDMAN: What did Ambassador Sondland tell you that President Trump said to him?
MORRISON: If I recall this conversation correctly, this was where Ambassador Sondland related that there was no quid pro quo, but President Zelensky had to make the statement and that he had to want to do it.
GOLDMAN: And by that point, did you understand that the statement related to the Biden and 2016 investigations?
MORRISON: I think I did, yes.
GOLDMAN: And that that was essentially a condition for the security assistance to be released?
MORRISON: I understood that that's what Ambassador Sondland believed.
GOLDMAN: After speaking with President Trump.
MORRISON: That's what he represented.
GOLDMAN: Now you testified that hearing this information gave you a sinking feeling, why was that?
MORRISON: Well, I believe if we're on September 7th, end of the fiscal year is September 30th, these are one-year dollars. The DoD and the Department of State funds. So we only had so much time and in fact because Congress imposed a 15-day notification requirement on the State Department funds, September 7th, September 30th, that really means September 15th in order to secure a decision from the president to allow the funds to go forward.
GOLDMAN: Did you tell Ambassador Bolton about this conversation as well?
MORRISON: I did, yes.
GOLDMAN: And what did he say to you?
MORRISON: He said to tell the lawyers. GOLDMAN: And why did he say to tell the lawyers?
MORRISON: He did not explain his instruction.
GOLDMAN: But he is not going to -- he doesn't tell you to go tell the lawyers because you are running up on the eight-day deadline there, right?
MORRISON: Again, I don't know why he directed that, but it seems reasonable and is consistent with what I was going to do anyway.
GOLDMAN: Because -- and you weren't going to go tell them because of that concern, right? You were concerned about what you were hearing Ambassador Sondland relay to you, correct?
GOLDMAN: So, just so we are clear, you reported two concerning conversations that you had with Ambassador Sondland to the lawyers in early September in which you understood from him that the president was withholding security assistance as additional leverage to get Ukraine to publicly announce the specific political investigations that President Trump had discussed on the July 25th call, is that accurate?
MORRISON: I was concerned about what Ambassador Sondland was saying were requirements, yes.
GOLDMAN: Right. And you understood though that the investigations that Ambassador Sondland was referring to were the two that President Trump referenced on the July 25th call, correct?
MORRISON: By this point, yes.
GOLDMAN: During this early September time period, Mr. Morrison, did you have conversations with Ambassador Volker about any of this?
MORRISON: I believe we had one conversation.
GOLDMAN: And what do you recall about that conversation?
MORRISON: I believe on or about September 6th, Ambassador Volker was in town to provide an update on some of his activities and he provided that update and then we had a one-on-one conversation about this -- this track, this separate process.
GOLDMAN: And what do you recall saying to him about the separate process?
MORRISON: I -- I think I was interested in understanding his -- his understanding of events.
GOLDMAN: Did you explain to him what your understanding of events was?
MORRISON: I think I was primarily on receive mode.
GOLDMAN: Okay. Ambassador Volker, do you recall this conversation?
VOLKER: Thank you. I -- I do remember a conversation with Tim. I'm not sure about the timing. I left around that time to go on a trip and so it may have been a little bit earlier. I'm not sure about the timing. And what I do remember the discussion being is Tim asking me what is my impression of the role that Ambassador Sondland plays? And my response to that was -- well, I find it helpful that he has political contacts in the White House. I don't have those contacts. I'm working the national security, the diplomatic front and I don't have the political contacts, and so if he's able to use those to support the same goals that we are working toward then I view that as helpful.
GOLDMAN: Well, that's a good segue to the next exhibit, which is the September 8th text exchange between you and Ambassador Taylor and Ambassador Sondland. And at the top Ambassador Sondland says, guys are multiple convos with Z, that's Zelensky, period POTUS, period, let's talk. And then Ambassador Taylor about 15, 16 minutes later, Gordon and I just spoke. I can brief you, meaning you Ambassador Volker, if you and Gordon don't connect. Approximately one hour later, Ambassador Taylor says the nightmare is they give the interview and don't get the security assistance. The Russians love it, and I quit. and then at the bottom about five hours later. How do you respond?
VOLKER: I said, I'm not in the loop. Talk Monday?
GOLDMAN: So you were not in the loop in terms of all of these conversations that Ambassador Taylor, Mr. Morrison and Ambassador Sondland were having?
VOLKER: Yes, that's correct.
GOLDMAN: Now ultimately the hold was lifted on September 11th, is that right, Ambassador Volker?
VOLKER: That's my understanding.
GOLDMAN: Mr. Morrison, were you aware that prior to September 11th that the White House -- that there was a whistle-blower complaint circulating around the White House?
MORRISON: I don't believe so. No.
GOLDMAN: But you were aware of a request to preserve records, were you not?
MORRISON: I -- we -- we received a number of those requests. I have a general recollection as one related to Ukraine.
GOLDMAN: One final question. When was the hold lifted?
MORRISON: As I understand it, the president gave that direction the evening of September 11th.
GOLDMAN: Which was two days after Congress announced the investigation? Were you aware of that?
MORRISON: I believe I was familiar with the letter from the three- committee chairman.
GOLDMAN: I yield.
SCHIFF: That concludes the majority 45 minutes. Before I turn to the minority, are you both and your counsel okay, or do you need a break? Okay. Ranking member Nunes, you're recognized for 45 minutes.
NUNES: Well, ambassador and Mr. Morrison, I have some bad news for you. TV ratings are way down, way down. Don't hold it personally, I don't think it's you guys. But whatever drug deal the Democrats are cooking up here on the dais, the American people aren't buying it. I know you both answered this in your opening statement, but I just want to bring a little more clarity to it. Mr. Morrison, I'll start with you. Did anyone ever ask you to bribe or export anyone at any time during your time in the White House?
MORRISON: No, sir.
NUNES: And you were the top person for Ukraine in the White House, correct? At the NSC level?
MORRISON: I would argue Ambassador Bolton would be.
NUNES: Reporting to Ambassador Bolton.
MORRISON: I was senior official. Yes, sir.
NUNES: Ambassador Volker, toy have a storied career. We're very thankful for your service and you were the special envoy to Ukraine?
VOLKER: That's correct.
NUNES: Did anyone at the White House ever ask you to bribe or extort anything out of anyone at any time?
VOLKER: No, sir.
NUNES: Thank you. I want to thank you both for being here and I'll yield to Mr. Caster.
CASTER: Thank you, Mr. Nunes. Thank you both for being here today and also for participating in the lengthy depositions. Ambassador Volker, you were the first one on October 3rd and Mr. Morrison you were with us on Halloween. So thank you for your participation. Mr. Morrison, I also want to thank you, you were a longtime Hill staffer. I certainly have appreciation for that, nearly 20 years. So thank you, and Ambassador Volker, a Hatboro, Pennsylvania resident?
CASTER: That's an incredible part of the country. Very proud of it. I'm from nearby. I just want to walk through some of your positions. You were a Senate confirmed ambassador to NATO, for a stint? VOLKER: That is correct.
CASTER: And you were at State Department and your portfolio spanned much of what I believe George Kent has currently?
VOLKER: I was the principal deputy assistant secretary, so I had -- working for the assistant secretary and had all of Europe and Eurasia, and particular responsibility for NATO, Western Europe and the European Union.
CASTER: And you were involved with the national Security Council. You were the director for NATO of Western Europe?
VOLKER: That is correct.
CASTER: And then you were the senior director for European and Eurasian affairs?
VOLKER: I was acting for several months, six months or so in that capacity.
CASTER: Mr. Morrison had -- and we'll note that all of the witnesses that we've interacted with have heaped praise on you. Ambassador Yovanovitch has said you're a career diplomat and has had very high praise. And for over two years, you served as the special representative for our Ukraine negotiations?
VOLKER: That is correct.
CASTER: And you served for free?
VOLKER: That is correct.
CASTER: You served on a voluntary basis?
VOLKER: I did.
CASTER: And you put a lot of time and effort into that job, didn't you?
VOLKER: Yes, I did.
CASTER: The taxpayers certainly got their money's worth, didn't they?
VOLKER: Not for me to say.
CASTER: And you believe America's policy for Ukraine has been strengthened during your tenured as the special representative?
VOLKER: Absolutely. When I look back at the record, I think we did an awful lot to support Ukraine.
CASTER: Is it fair to say that's in part due to President Trump? VOLKER: President Trump approved each of the decisions made along the way, providing lethal defensive equipment and the non-recognition statement with Crimea, I think being two of the most important ones.
CASTER: And for many years there had been an initiative in the inner agency to advocate for lethal defensive weaponry for Ukraine, is that correct?
VOLKER: That is correct.
CASTER: And it wasn't until President Trump and his administration came in, that that went through?
VOLKER: That is correct.
CASTER: The delegation to President Zelensky's inauguration in May, I believe you testified it was one of the largest delegations?
VOLKER: I believe it was. I can't be 100 percent sure, but I believe it was the largest the national delegation.
CASTER: OK, and included in the delegation was Secretary Perry.