Former national security adviser ‘cautioned diplomat about Giuliani and Ukraine’

Former national security adviser ‘cautioned diplomat about Giuliani and Ukraine’
File photo of Rudy Giuliani.

A State Department foreign service officer will tell impeachment investigators former national security adviser John Bolton cautioned him that Rudy Giuliani “was a key voice with the president on Ukraine”, which could complicate US goals in the Eastern European country.

The testimony from Christopher Anderson makes clear administration officials were concerned about Mr Giuliani’s back-channel involvement in Ukraine policy, and his push for investigations of Democrats, even before the July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and his Ukraine counterpart at the centre of the House impeachment inquiry.

Mr Anderson will describe a June meeting in which he said Mr Bolton expressed support for the administration’s goals of strengthening energy co-operation between the US and Ukraine and getting new Ukraine leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy to undertake anti-corruption reforms.

“However, he cautioned that Mr Giuliani was a key voice with the president on Ukraine which could be an obstacle to increased White House engagement,” Mr Anderson will say, according to a copy of his prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press.

Mr Giuliani is Mr Trump’s personal lawyer.

Another foreign service officer set to give evidence, Catherine Croft, will say that during her time at the National Security Council (NSC), she received multiple phone calls from lobbyist Robert Livingston telling her that the then ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch should be fired.

“He characterised Ambassador Yovanovitch as an ‘Obama holdover’ and associated with George Soros. It was not clear to me at the time – or now – at whose direction or at whose expense Mr Livingston was seeking the removal of Ambassador Yovanovitch,” she will say.

Their testimony follows that of Alexander Vindman, an army officer with the National Security Council who said that he twice raised concerns over the administration’s push to have Ukraine investigate Democrats and Joe Biden.

Mr Vindman, a lieutenant colonel who served in Iraq and later as a diplomat, was the first official to testify who actually heard Mr Trump’s July 25 call with Mr Zelenskiy.

He reported his concerns to the NSC’s lead counsel.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff arrives at the Capitol to oversee depositions in the impeachment inquiry today.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff arrives at the Capitol to oversee depositions in the impeachment inquiry today.

Mr Vindman also told investigators that he tried to change the White House’s rough transcript of the call by filling in at least one of the omitted words, “Burisma”, a reference to the company linked to Mr Biden and his son, according to people familiar with his testimony.

But Mr Vindman was unsuccessful.

His concerns, though, were far bigger than the transcript.

And politicians said his failed effort to edit it did not significantly change their understanding of what transpired during Mr Trump’s call that sparked the impeachment inquiry.

Mr Vindman’s arrival in military blue, with medals, created a striking image at the Capitol as the impeachment inquiry reached deeper into the White House. He testified for more than 10 hours.

“I was concerned by the call,” Mr Vindman said, according to prepared remarks.

“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a US citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the US government’s support of Ukraine.”

Mr Vindman, a 20-year military officer, added to the mounting evidence from other witnesses – diplomats, defence and former administration officials – who are corroborating the initial whistleblower’s complaint against Mr Trump and providing new details ahead of a House vote in the impeachment inquiry.

The inquiry is looking into Mr Trump’s call, in which he asked Mr Zelenskiy for a “favour” – to investigate Democrats – that the Democrats say was a quid pro quo for military aid and could be an impeachable offence.

With the administration directing staff not to appear, Mr Vindman was the first current White House official to testify before the impeachment panels.

He was issued a subpoena to appear.

The testimony came the day after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House would vote on a resolution to set rules for public hearings and a possible vote on articles of impeachment.

Thursday’s vote would be the first on the impeachment inquiry and aims to nullify complaints from Mr Trump and his allies that the process is illegitimate and unfair.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the resolution merely “confirms that House Democrats’ impeachment has been an illegitimate sham from the start as it lacked any proper authorisation by a House vote”.

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