(Bloomberg) -- National Security Adviser John Bolton cut short a July meeting between White House and Ukrainian officials after President Donald Trump’s envoy set out demands for investigations as the price of an Oval Office meeting for Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, according to transcripts released Friday.
Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council staffer, and former NSC aide Fiona Hill both testified to House committees conducting an impeachment inquiry that Bolton ended the meeting after U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland began discussing the “deliverable” the White House wanted from Ukraine.
“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,” Vindman said according to the transcripts.
In a debriefing afterward, Sondland said he had been told by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney “this is what was required in order to get a meeting,” Vindman testified.
“He was talking about the 2016 elections and an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma,” Vindman said.
Trump has contended Joe Biden, a potential Trump 2020 challenger, as vice president pushed for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor who wanted to investigate Burisma Holdings, where his son Hunter Biden had served on the board. He has also promoted an unsubstantiated theory that Ukraine was involved in the hacking of Democratic National Committee computers in 2016, which sparked an investigation into Russian election interference.
July 10 Meeting
Hill also was present at the July 10 meeting, where Ukrainian officials were attempting to set up a face-to-face session for Zelenskiy with Trump, which she described as a matter of some importance in Ukraine.
Amid the discussions about issues that might be discussed, Hill said, “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.”
She said Bolton “immediately stiffened and ended the meeting.”
Vindman and Hill also talked about their discomfort with the role Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had taken in directing the U.S. relationship with Ukraine and how they became aware of it.
Hill said Giuliani started popping up on Fox News last spring talking about Ukraine, and that neither Bolton nor State Department officials were aware of his role.
“He had been given some authority over matters related to Ukraine, and if that was the case, we hadn’t been informed about that,” Hill told lawmakers, according to the transcript.
“Everyone was completely unaware of any direct official role that Mr. Giuliani had been given on the Ukraine account,” she said. “And, at that particular juncture, no one that I had been in contact with had actually spoken to him.”
Vindman said about the same time a “narrative” about Ukraine and then-U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch began to develop.
“It became clear that it had to do with the 2016 elections and Ukrainian - - supposed Ukrainian involvement in partisan support of candidate Clinton and in opposition to President Trump,” he said, referring to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. It also came to include claims of corruption involving Hunter Biden’s association with Burisma and allegations of Yovanovitch’s opposition to Trump.
Yovanovich was recalled from her post in May. Hill said that when she spoke about Yovanovich’s ouster with Bolton, “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,” Hill told lawmakers, adding that Bolton didn’t think there was anything he could do about the situation.
Bolton left the White House in September after a series of policy disagreements with Trump.
Vindman served as the director for European affairs and a Ukraine expert under Hill, another specialist on the region who reported to Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser who left the administration in a dispute over policy in September.
Hill left her job at the White House in July, a few days before Trump’s call with Zelenskiy that is at the center of the impeachment probe. Vindman is still assigned to the White House.
To contact the reporters on this story: Billy House in Washington at email@example.com;Josh Wingrove in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at email@example.com, Laurie Asséo
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.