Kurt Volker, a former envoy to Ukraine, testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday afternoon that he should have realized President Trump’s true motives in demanding that Ukraine investigate Burisma, a natural gas company that employed former vice president Joe Biden’s son Hunter.

Volker testified alongside Tim Morrison, a former senior National Security Council official, as Democrats press forward with their impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Their remarks came after Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, another NSC official, and Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Vice President Pence, testified earlier Tuesday.

Vindman, a key witness in the impeachment inquiry, said he was alarmed by Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which Vindman called “improper.” Democrats are seeking to prove that Trump leveraged military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for investigations of the Bidens and other Democrats.

●Vindman reveals in testimony that he told an intelligence official about Trump’s call with the Ukrainian leader.

●The House is investigating whether Trump lied to then-special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, its general counsel told a federal appeals court.

●Attacking witnesses is Trump’s core defense strategy in fighting impeachment.

November 19, 2019 at 9:30 PM EST
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The five questions Gordon Sondland needs to answer

By Amber Phillips

At the very least, Gordon Sondland’s diplomatic inexperience and tendency to go rogue threatened to muddle U.S. policy toward Ukraine. A number of people who have testified in the impeachment inquiry have said or hinted as much about the ambassador to the European Union.

Another possibility is that Sondland was acting at the direction of Trump to pressure Ukrainians to investigate his political rivals.

Either way, he is one of the few witnesses in the impeachment inquiry who is in a position to confirm what Trump wanted out of Ukraine in exchange for holding up its military aid. He’s testifying publicly Wednesday.

Read more here.

November 19, 2019 at 8:50 PM EST
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Trump campaign says Democrats want to ‘impeach first and find a reason later’

By Felicia Sonmez

The Trump campaign blasted Democrats in a statement after the hearing, arguing that they “are looking to impeach first and find a reason later, as these latest witnesses clearly illustrate.”

“Tim Morrison was actually on the Ukraine phone call, testified that he had no concerns about it, and confirmed that the transcript of the call is accurate,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said. “Ambassador Kurt Volker’s testimony merely rehashed information we already knew from the transcript, which everyone in the world can already read for themselves. . . . The Democrats’ entire premise has fallen apart for the entire nation to see.”

The White House issued a statement, as well, declaring that Democrats’ “central allegation in this impeachment sham has again been completely debunked.”

“With the Democrats’ poll-tested ‘quid-pro-quo’ and ‘bribery’ narratives in shambles, the American public should not be forced to endure this charade for one more second,” press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.

November 19, 2019 at 8:30 PM EST
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Republicans are only upset because Trump got caught, Schiff says

By Felicia Sonmez

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) delivered a scathing critique of Republicans in his closing statement, arguing that Trump’s allies are angry not that the president engaged in alleged wrongdoing, but that he got caught.

“Now, my Republican colleagues, all they seem to be upset about with this is not that the president sought an investigation of his political rival, not that he withheld a White House meeting and $400 million in aid,” Schiff said.

He continued: “Their objection is that someone blew the whistle, and they would like this whistleblower identified, and the president wants this whistleblower punished. That’s their objection. Not that the president engaged in this conduct, but that he got caught.”

Before Schiff spoke, the top Republican on the panel, Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), reiterated several of the points he made in his opening statement opposing to the way Democrats have conducted the impeachment inquiry. “Good night; see you in the morning,” Nunes said.

And with that — more than 11 hours after the day’s proceedings began — the hearing was adjourned.

November 19, 2019 at 8:10 PM EST
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Bondi to make TV rounds Tuesday, Wednesday

By Felicia Sonmez

Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general, will appear on TV on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in her first appearances since joining Trump’s impeachment messaging team.

Bondi is expected to appear on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” on Tuesday night and on CBS’s “This Morning” on Wednesday, CBS News reported.

November 19, 2019 at 8:05 PM EST
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Morrison says no bribery or extortion on Trump call

By Mike DeBonis

Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.) asked Morrison a litany of questions about the July 25 Trump-Zelensky call, to which Morrison had listened.

“Did you hear President Trump make a demand of anything that would constitute a crime?”

“No, sir,” Morrison said.

“Is it fair to say that as you were listening to the call, you weren’t thinking, ‘Wow, the president is bribing the president of Ukraine?’ That never crossed your mind?” Ratcliffe asked.

“It did not, sir,” Morrison said.

“Or that he was extorting the president of Ukraine or doing anything improper?” Ratcliffe continued.

“Correct, sir,” Morrison said.

November 19, 2019 at 8:00 PM EST
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Morrison, Volker say it’s inappropriate for a president to ask a foreign country to investigate a U.S. citizen

By Felicia Sonmez and Elise Viebeck

In response to questioning by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), both Morrison and Volker said they believe it’s inappropriate for a U.S. president to ask a foreign country to investigate an American citizen.

The exchange marked the clearest instance of the officials denouncing such a move.

“I don’t believe it is appropriate for the president to do that,” Volker said. “If we have law enforcement concerns with a U.S. citizen generally, there are appropriate channels for that.”

Morrison said he agreed with the ambassador.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) later raised the question in a different way, offering a hypothetical scenario in which a mayor, governor or member of Congress withheld public funds unless law enforcement investigated their political rival.

“Would you agree that the president has the same obligation as the mayor, as the governor, as the member of Congress to not withhold aid unless he gets an investigation into a political rival?”

“Yes, sir, I would agree with that hypothetical,” Morrison said.

“I would agree,” Volker said.

“Isn’t the principle that no person, including the president, is above the law absolutely essential?” Welch asked later.

“Yes,” Volker said.

“The rule of law is central to our democracy,” Morrison said.

November 19, 2019 at 7:50 PM EST
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Democrats press Volker about Zelensky aide’s comment

By Mike DeBonis

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) asked Volker about a Sept. 14 meeting he attended with William B. Taylor Jr., the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and Andriy Yermak, a top Zelensky aide.

Taylor told Congress that Yermak made a telling comment when the Americans pressed to prevent Zelensky from investigating his predecessor, Petro Poroshenko.

“You mean the type of investigations you’re pushing for us to do on Biden and Clinton?” Yermak said, according to an Oct. 15 deposition from State Department official George Kent, who was told about the meeting by Taylor.

Quigley pressed Volker on why he didn’t mention the meeting in his own deposition, the week before Kent’s.

“I didn’t quite understand what he was referring to, because, to my knowledge, we weren’t asking to investigate Clinton or Biden, and so I was kind of puzzled by the remark,” Volker said Tuesday.

The remark from Yermak, though made shortly after military aid was released, undermines the GOP assertion that Ukrainian leaders never perceived any pressure to conduct the investigations Trump was seeking.

Schiff later jumped in to ask Volker whether Yermak’s comment “makes a little more sense” after having seen the rough transcript of the July 25 Trump-Zelensky call.

“Yes,” Volker said.

November 19, 2019 at 7:45 PM EST
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Morrison defends view of Trump request on Biden investigation; Swalwell expresses disbelief

By Michael Kranish

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) pressed Morrison on why he did not think that Trump’s request in his July 25 phone call to Zelensky to investigate the Bidens was improper. By contrast, Vindman, who worked under Morrison, did think it was improper.

Explaining why he didn’t think it was improper or illegal, Morrison said, “It was not a policy objective that I was aware of.” Asked whether he ever followed up by asking Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens, he responded, “Never, sir.”

Swalwell expressed disbelief. “I believe you knew that what the president asked the Ukrainians to do was wrong,” Swalwell said. “I don’t think you believed that was a lawful order, and that’s why did not follow up on those priorities.”

November 19, 2019 at 7:40 PM EST
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House tells U.S. judge it seeks December testimony by former Trump White House counsel

By Spencer S. Hsu

The House Judiciary Committee asked a federal judge Tuesday to accelerate a final ruling on whether former White House counsel Donald McGahn must testify under subpoena, arguing that it seeks to call him once the current round of public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry is finished in December.

In a court filing, House General Counsel Douglas N. Letter cited last week’s opening of public impeachment hearings before the House Intelligence Committee as grounds for urgency.

Read more here.

November 19, 2019 at 7:35 PM EST
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Morrison stands by comment about Vindman

By Michael Kranish

Morrison, who said earlier that he was told that some NSC officials suspected Vindman of leaking information, stood by his comment despite being reminded by a Democratic lawmaker that Vindman had denied under oath that he had leaked.

Morrison said he “didn’t believe or disbelieve” those who said Vindman was a leaker but was “merely relating what they told me.”

“I didn’t take them at face value. . . . I was on alert, but I formed my own judgments. I took no actions of the statements of someone else that I could not validate,” he said.

November 19, 2019 at 7:30 PM EST
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‘I don’t know if you understood what you were getting yourself into,’ Sewell tells Volker

By Elise Viebeck

Volker reiterated that he did not realize when discussing potential investigations into Burisma that such a probe might target or involve the Biden family and, in that way, represent a political favor for Trump from the Ukrainians.

“Ambassador Volker, I don’t know if you understand what you were getting yourself into,” Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.) said.

November 19, 2019 at 7:10 PM EST
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Schiff grills Volker over inconsistencies in testimony

By Ellen Nakashima

Schiff prodded Volker on inconsistencies in his earlier testimony with respect to his characterization of a dramatic July 10 White House meeting between senior U.S. and Ukrainian officials.

Then-U.S. national security adviser John Bolton ended that meeting abruptly after Sondland raised the issue of investigations.

Bolton later told Fiona Hill, an NSC official specializing in Russian and European affairs, to tell the NSC lawyers that he was not part of “whatever drug deal” acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and Sondland were cooking up with regard to investigations.

“We asked you about that meeting during your deposition and you told us nothing about this,” Schiff said.

It was only after reading the statement by Vindman that Volker remembered.

In his written testimony Tuesday, Volker also amended his story somewhat, saying he now saw the mention of investigations as inappropriate.

“I thought it was . . . something of an eye-roll moment,” he said.

He said it was not appropriate because the meeting with the Ukrainians and the White House officials was not the “place or time” to bring up such matters. Rather, the meeting should have focused on the bilateral relationship.

Schiff also noted that Volker said in updated testimony that it was “inappropriate and objectionable” to ask a foreign government to investigate a political rival.

“I don’t think we should be asking foreign governments to do that,” Volker said.

Schiff asked Volker whether, once he read the transcript of the July 25 phone call, that’s what he realized what took place. “That’s correct,” Volker said.

November 19, 2019 at 6:45 PM EST
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Turner claims Volker ‘took apart their entire case’ for impeachment

By Mike DeBonis

Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio) declared the case closed on impeachment, citing Volker’s personal view that there was no clear connection between the delivery of Ukraine aid and the investigations Trump demanded.

“Besides all these people talking to each other and all their feelings and all of their thoughts and understandings, it really only comes down to: What did the president of the United States intend, and what did he say, and what did the Ukrainians understand or hear?” Turner said.

He then asked Volker: “Did the president of the United States ever say to you that he was not going to allow aid from the United States to go to the Ukraine unless there were investigations into Burisma, the Bidens or the 2016 elections?”

“No, he did not,” Volker said.

“Ambassador Volker, you just like took apart their entire case,” Turner said.

November 19, 2019 at 6:30 PM EST
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Morrison says Hill spoke to him about the ‘Gordon problem’

By Elise Viebeck

Morrison testified that his predecessor warned him about the “Gordon problem,” referring to Sondland, and that he responded by tracking Sondland’s efforts in the context of Ukraine without necessarily participating in or endorsing them.

“I decided to keep track of what Ambassador Sondland was doing. I didn’t always act on things Gordon suggested, that he believed were important,” Morrison told lawmakers.

He added that Sondland “wanted to get a meeting [between Trump and Zelensky]. I understood that the president wanted to do and had agreed to a meeting.”

Morrison said he had not endorsed the “notion of President Zelensky sending a message about investigations,” in the words of Democratic lawyer Daniel S. Goldman.

Morrison’s predecessor, Hill, is scheduled to testify Thursday.