Pence Aide Tells Lawmakers Trump Ukraine Call was ‘Unusual and Inappropriate’

Jennifer Williams, special adviser for Europe and Russia in the Office of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arrives on Capitol Hill for a closed-door hearing in Washington, U.S., November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The phone call between President Donald Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart at the center of Congress’ impeachment investigation was “inappropriate,” an aide to Vice President Mike Pence told lawmakers, according to a transcript released on Saturday.

Jennifer Williams, a foreign policy aide to Pence who was listening to the call on July 25, testified that Trump’s insistence that Ukraine carry out politically sensitive investigations “struck me as unusual and inappropriate.”

She said the discussion was “more political in nature” than phone calls with other foreign leaders, and included what she viewed as specific references to the president’s “personal political agenda.”

Trump’s call is at the heart of the Democratic-led inquiry into whether the Republican president misused U.S. foreign policy to undermine former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his potential opponents in the 2020 election.

The House of Representatives on Saturday also released a transcript of an earlier closed-door deposition by Tim Morrison, a former White House aide with the National Security Council focusing on Europe and Russia policy, who was also on the call.

Morrison, who resigned a day before his deposition last month, and Williams both expressed concerns about Trump’s remarks to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Williams and Morrison are scheduled to testify publicly next week.

“I was not comfortable with any idea that President Zelenskiy should allow himself to be involved in our politics,” Morrison told lawmakers. He also said found Zelenskiy’s tone in the call with Trump to be “obsequious.”

Morrison declined to say he thought the call was illegal or improper, stressing instead that he thought it would leak, damaging relations with Ukraine. He said he only learned later that the aid to Ukraine was conditioned on the investigations.

In the first public hearing last week, acting ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor pointed to Trump’s keen interest in getting the eastern European ally to investigate Biden and reiterated his understanding that $391 million in U.S. security aid was withheld from Kiev unless it cooperated.

Morrison said he had reviewed Taylor’s testimony and did not dispute it on any significant points.

House investigators on Saturday also heard closed-door testimony from a White House budget official about the holdup of military aid to Ukraine. Mark Sandy, a career official of the Office of Management and Budget, was the first person from OMB to testify before the inquiry after three political appointees defied congressional subpoenas to appear.

Sandy spoke about how unusual it was to have a political appointee come in and place a hold on military aid to Ukraine, CNN quoted a source familiar with the testimony as saying.

Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin, a member of the Judiciary and Oversight Committees, said Sandy was brought in to shed light on whether military aid was held up for political reasons.

“This is a technical part of our investigation,” Raskin told reporters outside the interview room.

“We want to know exactly how the president translated his political objective to shake down the Ukrainian government for the favors he wanted (into) the budget process.”

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Phyllis Softa
Member

General Confusion: Banastan has brought to my attention that the word “confusion” belongs to you. I was previously unaware of your exclusive rights. I have promised him that I will be using batsh-t crazy until I have obtained your permission to use YOUR word—which I read in your posts as a euphemism for batsh-t crazy.

Michael
Member

Banstan, you do seem confused. This is about the corrupt use of the office of the presidency. Whether or not a crime was committed is beside the point. Your attempt at minimizing Trump’s actions to the firing of an ambassador shows your limited understanding. Here is the story that is coming out: “The president, proceeding on the basis of conspiracy theories and falsehoods fed to him by his personal lawyer and consistent in his elevation of his own personal and political interests over the national interest, did not just specifically request wildly inappropriate investigations of his political opponents. His administration… Read more »

William Conley
Member

Should have taken a page out of Obama’s playbook and cleaned house the day he was officially in office. People didn’t so much as mention it then, but I feel like if Trump had done it there would have been outrage.

banstan
Member

softy-“You appear confused. ” I guess you have run out of things to say since you are now repeating genital contusion (not the first or even second time you have used someone else’s words here). Funny thing though, neither one of you can tell us what crime Trump committed other than he pissed off a lot of entrenched (deep state) personnel who think THEY should be running the government. You seem to forget that obummer fired EVERY ONE of Bush”s diplomats on his FIRST day in office. Where was your outrage then? Just plain hilarious that you want Trump impeached… Read more »

General Confusion
Member

Are you of the mindset that foreign policy experts are not necessary?” Phyllis

Apparently the recent heads of the State Dept. are of that mindset because they have cut that Department into, what, HALF? Sure seems like it.

Pete Kneeland
Guest
Pete Kneeland

Now a “former” aide!

Friend
Member

I think this is all total bullshit and orchestrated by a bunch of Dem holdovers or RINO”s that act more like Dems ask Joe Biden.

Friend
Member

I think it is all total bullshit at it’s highest level more like something the Dems would do and have done ask Joe Biden.

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