WASHINGTON (AP) — From front-row seats at the White House, two government officials are providing impeachment panels vivid testimony of the Trump administration’s efforts pushing Ukraine to investigate Democrats and Joe Biden.
According to transcripts released Friday in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, Fiona Hill, a former White House Russia adviser, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an Army officer assigned to the National Security Council, both described extraordinary scenes during meetings at the White House.
In one, Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton “immediately stiffened” as Ambassador Gordon Sondland “blurted out: Well, we have an agreement” with Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, “for a meeting if these investigations in the energy sector start” — a reference to the firm, Burisma, where Biden’s son was on the board.
And then? Hill said Bolton abruptly ended the meeting.
In another episode, Vindman testified that Sondland told Ukrainians they would need to investigate the Bidens if they hoped to have a coveted meeting with Trump.
“He was calling for something, calling for an investigation that didn’t exist into the Bidens and Burisma,” Vindman said. “The Ukrainians would have to deliver an investigation into the Bidens.”
Into the Bidens? the investigators asked.
“My visceral reaction to what was being called for suggested that it was explicit,” he said. “There was no ambiguity.”
House Democrats released new transcripts of Trump officials’ testimony Friday as they pushed their impeachment inquiry toward next week’s public hearings.
Investigators in the inquiry into Trump’s actions released hundreds of pages of testimony. Both officials testified about their concerns as Trump pressed Ukraine to investigate Democrats.
Vindman alerted superiors on two occasions, including after he listened to the July call in which Trump personally appealed to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate political rival Joe Biden and the outlier theory of a Ukrainian role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
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.
House investigators are releasing key transcripts from days of closed-door interviews in the impeachment inquiry as they prepare for public sessions with witnesses next week.
Associated Press writers Colleen Long, Matthew Lee, Andrew Taylor, Matthew Daly and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.