A senior White House official who listened to President Trump’s controversial phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky testified Thursday in a closed-door impeachment hearing that the White House did not omit any key details of the conversation from the publicly-released transcript.
The official, Tim Morrison, also told House lawmakers he did not think Trump discussed anything illegal on the call.
“I want to be clear, I was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed,” Morrison said in remarks to Congress.
Morrison’s testimony contradicts that of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, who testified on Tuesday that he believes the White House omitted from the transcript Trump’s claim that recordings of vice president Joe Biden existed that implicated him in corrupt dealings.
During a July 25 phone call with Zelensky, Trump asked the Ukrainian president to help the U.S. investigate allegations that Biden used his position as vice president to help Ukrainian natural-gas company Burisma Holdings avoid a corruption probe soon after his son, Hunter Biden, was appointed to its board of directors. That phone conversation has become the crux of House Democrats’ formal impeachment inquiry against Trump.
Vindman added that he was concerned enough by Trump’s call with Ukraine that he reported it to one of his superiors.
“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” Vindman said, according to his prepared testimony. “I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.”
Morrison also disputed the account of a conversation that Ambassador Bill Taylor described in his testimony to Congress last week. Taylor recalled Morrison telling him about a separate conversation between U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and one of Zelensky’s top advisers, in which Sondland told the adviser that the military aid was contingent on Zelensky’s willingness to publicly announce a probe into Burisma.
“My recollection is that Ambassador Sondland’s proposal to Yermak was that it could be sufficient if the new Ukrainian prosecutor general, not President Zelensky, would commit to pursue the Burisma investigation,” Morrison told lawmakers.
The House voted Thursday along party lines to pass a resolution advancing the impeachment inquiry against President Trump.