Two National Security Council experts told House investigators that they had serious concerns about Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to affect U.S. policy in Ukraine, according to transcripts released by House Democrats Friday.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an expert on Ukraine who still works in the White House, and Fiona Hill, an expert on Russia who left her post in July, voiced similar concerns about the demands that Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, was making in Ukraine and how to work with — or around — him.
“My worst nightmare is the politicization of the relationship between the US and Ukraine and, also, the usurpation of authorities, you know, for other people’s personal vested interests,” Hill, former Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Europe and Russia, testified on Oct. 14 during a House impeachment inquiry.
Many of the highlights of Hill’s and Vindman’s testimony — including her assertion that then-National Security Adviser John Bolton had called Giuliani a ”hand grenade that’s going to blow everybody up” — have already been reported.
But the transcripts provide more details about their concerns over Giuliani as well as Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which he asked him to open investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden, Burisma Holdings and Ukraine’s purported role in the 2016 US election.
Hill testified that she was shocked by Giuliani’s bad-mouthing of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump recalled in May, months before his call to Zelensky, in which he described Yovanovitch as “bad news.”
“There was no basis for her removal. The accusations against her had no merit whatsoever. This was a mishmash of conspiracy theories that, again, I’ve told you, I believe firmly to be baseless, an idea of an association between her and George Soros,” Hill said, referring to the billionaire liberal financier.
“I understood this to be the result of the campaign that Mr. Giuliani had set in motion.”
Hill also described a heated confrontation at the White House in early July after Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the EU, told visiting Ukrainian officials that Zelensky had to carry out the probes Trump wanted in order to score a White House meeting.
“Ambassador Sondland blurted out: Well, we have an agreement with the chief of staff for a meeting if these investigations in the energy sector start,” Hill testified, referring to Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Hill told Bolton about Sondland’s statement, and he stiffened, she said.
“His reaction was pained. And he basically said — in fact, he directly said: Rudy Giuliani is a hand grenade that is going to blow everybody up. He made it clear that he didn’t feel that there was anything that he could personally do about this,” Hill continued.
“Ambassador Bolton asked me to go over and report this to our NSC counsel, to John Eisenberg. And he told me, and this is a direct quote from Ambassador Bolton: ‘You go and tell Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this,’” she said.
“So I went over to talk to John Eisenberg about this. … I told him exactly, you know, what had transpired and that Ambassador Sondland had basically indicated that there was agreement with the chief of staff that they would have a White House meeting or, you know, a Presidential meeting if the Ukrainians started up these investigations again. And the main thing that I was personally concerned about, as I said to John, was that he did this in front of the Ukrainians.”
Vindman, a decorated Army officer who received a Purple Heart in Vietnam, was also disturbed by the July 10 meeting.
“The meeting proceeded well until the Ukrainians broached the subject of a meeting between the two presidents. The Ukrainians saw this meeting as critically important in order to solidify the support for their most important international partner,” he testified.
“Ambassador Sondland started — when Ambassador Sondland started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the president, Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short,” he continued.
“Following the meeting – this meeting – there was a scheduled debriefing during which Ambassador Sondland emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigation into the 2016 elections, the Bidens and Burisma,” Vindman said.
“I stated to Ambassador Sondland that the statements — that his statements were inappropriate and that the request to investigate the Bidens and his son had nothing to do with national security and that such investigations were not something that the NSC was going to get involved in or push.”
Hill also contended that Giuliani and his two Soviet-born and since-indicted associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were conducting a shadow policy in Ukraine that contradicted official US policy.
“The most obvious explanation at that point, I have [sic] to be said, seemed to be business dealings of individuals who wanted to improve the investment positions inside of Ukraine itself,” she said.
Hill also testified that the president’s apparent belief that Ukraine and not Russia had hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails was a debunked conspiracy theory.
They wanted “ to deflect … on the findings of not just the [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller report on Russian interference but what’s also been confirmed by your own Senate report, and what I know myself to be true as a former intelligence analyst and somebody who has been working on Russia for more than 30 years.”
“It is a fiction that the Ukrainian Government was launching an effort to upend our election, upend our election to mess with our Democratic systems,” she said.
Hill also told lawmakers she was shocked when she read the transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky, in which he said Yovanovitch was “going to go through some things.”
“I was actually shocked. Ambassador Yovanovitch is a great American, and I don’t think any American citizen should be disparaged by their President, just put it out there,” she said.
Vindman was also troubled by the phone call, which he said undermined US policy toward Ukraine as it battled Russian-backed separatists, as the president was at the time withholding nearly $400 million in security aid.
“I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a US citizen, and I was worried about the implications to the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” he told lawmakers.
“I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would be interpreted as a partisan play, which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine US national security. Following the call, I again reported my concerns to NSC’s legal counsel.”
A whistleblower’s complaint about that call triggered the impeachment probe.
Trump insisted earlier Friday he has not been damaged by testimony detailing efforts by him and his administration to pressure Ukraine.
Speaking to reporters as he left on a campaign trip to Atlanta, Trump said he was “not concerned about anything” that has been disclosed so far in the proceedings.
With Post wires
The post Transcripts detail officials’ concern over Giuliani role in Ukraine policy appeared first on New York Post.