Nov. 8 (UPI) — National Security Council official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman said acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney helped coordinate a quid pro quo with Ukraine, a transcript of his House testimony released Friday indicates.
Vindman, a Ukraine policy expert for the NSC, gave a deposition Oct. 29 to House committees in charge of an impeachment inquiry to President Donald Trump. The panels released the transcript from that closed-door hearing, along with that of Fiona Hill, former senior director for Europe and Russia at the NSC, on Friday.
Vindman told House lawmakers he learned from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland that the Trump administration expected Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in order for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to receive a meeting with Trump.
“I heard [Sondland] say that this had been coordinated with White House chief of staff Mr. Mick Mulvaney,” Vindman said.
He added that during a July 10 meeting between U.S. and Ukrainian officials, Sondland said “the Ukrainians would have to deliver an investigation into the Bidens.”
Vindman said Sondland asked the Ukrainian officials to leave the meeting when he realized Vindman thought the request for investigations into the Bidens was “inappropriate.” Vindman explained to the lawmakers he found it concerning because if a more powerful United States asked Ukraine to investigate a private U.S. citizen, Kiev may think it’s in its national security interests to do so and deliver results favorable to Washington.
“They’re going to do what they need to to protect and advance their own national security interests,” he said.
“If they chose to do it, they could potentially tip the scales, and this would not be a fair investigation, and it would provide … compromising or maybe even fabricated information, if need be.”
During her testimony, Hill said former national security adviser John Bolton was upset about the alleged quid pro quo with Ukraine. She said he told her to tell NSC counsel John Eisenberg.
“And he told me, and this is a direct quote from Ambassador Bolton: ‘You go and tell Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this,'” Hill said.
Mulvaney was scheduled to testify Friday in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump — but like several other administration officials, he disregarded a subpoena to appear for the congressional hearing.
Mulvaney was set to give a deposition before the three investigating House committees as a witness to Trump’s Ukraine policy.
The White House had said Mulvaney wouldn’t participate in what it called a “ridiculous, partisan, illegitimate proceeding.” The House issued a subpoena for Mulvaney on Thursday.
Mulvaney and other White House officials have said they are immune to congressional subpoenas — a claim now being examined by federal courts.
State Department official Catherine Croft testified last week that Mulvaney had put a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine four months ago — before Trump’s phone call with Zelensky that spawned a whistle-blower report, and the impeachment investigation.
House investigators are trying to determine whether the Congress-approved military aid was tied to Trump’s request for a personal political favor.
At a news conference last month, Mulvaney said Trump withheld the aid over concerns of corruption in the Ukrainian government and how the money would be spent. That claim is contradicted by the whistle-blower report and Sondland, who said in supplemental testimony this week the withholding of aid was directly tied to the president’s pressure for a Biden investigation.
Associate White House budget director Mark Sandy is also scheduled to testify Friday — but like Mulvaney, he is not expected to appear.
Bolton defied the investigation Thursday by failing to appear for a deposition. His attorney threatened legal action if Bolton is subpoenaed.
Bolton’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, sent a letter to the House’s general counsel explaining his client’s absence this week. He said Bolton needs a court order to be able to testify because he “was personally involved in many of the events, meetings and conversations about which you have already received testimony, as well as many relevant meetings and conversations that have not yet been discussed in the testimonies thus far.”
Cooper said much of the information Bolton has concerns “national security and foreign affairs” that hasn’t been spoken about publicly.
The Trump administration’s refusal to cooperate with House Democrats is no longer limited to the Ukraine scandal. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has also refused to testify as scheduled on Nov. 19, as part of a separate investigation involving student loans by the House education and labor committee.
That inquiry is examining the Education Department’s refusal to provide debt relief to students “defrauded” by the defunct for-profit Corinthian Colleges. DeVos was held in contempt of court and fined $100,000 last month for violating an order to stop issuing collections to former Corinthian students. The department acknowledged it wrongly collected on loans of 16,000 borrowers.