House impeachment investigators on Friday released two more transcripts of closed-door depositions before the first public hearings in the inquiry begin next week. The transcripts include the testimonies of Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former adviser on Russia and Europe, and Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman of the Army, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council.
Significant portions of what they had to say have already been reported, but the transcripts offer a fuller picture of what they knew about an apparent effort by the president and his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to pressure Ukraine to conduct investigations of political rivals.
Bolton called Giuliani a ‘hand grenade’ during a discussion of attacks on the U.S. ambassador in Kiev.
Hill transcript, Page 45: “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. He made it clear that he didn’t feel that there was anything that he could personally do about this.”
Ms. Hill testified that she spoke with her boss, John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, about the unsubstantiated attacks on Marie L. Yovanovitch, the United States ambassador to Ukraine. Ms. Hill later testified that Mr. Bolton urged her to report another troubling meeting they both took part in related to Ukraine, but in this case, he appears to wash his hands of what happened to the American ambassador, who was recalled from her post abruptly in May.
— Nicholas Fandos
Ukrainians were aware of what Mr. Trump meant by ‘do us a favor.’
Vindman transcript, Page 228: “It was a demand that the Ukrainians deliver these investigations in order to get what they have been looking for which is the presidential meeting.”
Colonel Vindman told impeachment investigators that there was little ambiguity about what Mr. Trump was conveying on a July 25 call with Ukraine’s president when he asked for a “favor.” Mr. Trump and his allies have defended the call as “perfect” and have regularly pointed to the transcript as evidence. Colonel Vindman also told investigators that specific words in the transcript were deliberately omitted from the version shared with the public.
— Eileen Sullivan
Hill said she was the subject of right-wing smears and death threats.
Hill transcript, Page 41: “I had had accusations similar to this being made against me as well. My entire first year of my tenure at the National Security Council was filled with hateful calls, conspiracy theories, which has started again, frankly, as it’s been announced that I’ve been giving this deposition, accusing me of being a Soros mole in the White House, of colluding with all kinds of enemies of the president, and, you know, of various improprieties.”
Ms. Hill, a longtime Russia expert and hawk, said that from the moment she started working on Mr. Trump’s National Security Council in 2017, she was subject to the same kind of “mishmash of conspiracy theories” that targeted Ms. Yovanovitch. She was called an ally of George Soros, the liberal billionaire philanthropist whose work to promote democracy in Europe and the United States had made him reviled by some on the right, and her loyalty to Mr. Trump was doubted, Ms. Hill testified. At points, she received death threats and calls to her home.
The question is by whom? Ms. Hill said it was clear to her that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s private lawyer, and other American and Ukrainians working with him on business dealings were behind the smears on Ms. Yovanovitch. But she speculates that there were other, larger interests that were threatened by American officials advocating anticorruption and a tough stance against Russia.
— Nicholas Fandos
Trump thought a former Nunes aide oversaw Ukraine issues for the N.S.C.
Hill transcript, Page 209: “I basically didn’t engage any further because I was wondering to myself: That’s very strange. And I went to talk to Charlie Kupperman, who was going to be taking part on our behalf sitting in on the debriefing for the president. And I said: Apparently, the president may think that Kash Patel is our Ukraine director, and I just want to make sure there’s no embarrassment here. I’m not quite sure why that might be, but I want to flag for you that this is the case. And I related what I related to you. And I said: That probably means that Alex Vindman, our Ukraine director who had actually been on the presidential delegation, probably shouldn’t go into the debrief from the delegation.”
Ms. Hill recounts being told that Mr. Trump wanted to speak to the Ukraine director for the National Security Council whom he apparently believed, incorrectly, was Kash Patel, an official for the council who formerly worked as a top Intelligence Committee staff aide to Representative Devin Nunes, a key Trump ally in trying to discredit the Russia investigation. The Times reported last month that impeachment investigators are trying to understand whether Mr. Patel played in a role in the parallel foreign policy toward Ukraine.
According to Page 312, Ms. Hill said she was “alarmed” and found it a “red flag” that Mr. Patel was apparently providing materials directly to the president that she did not know about, and took his name off a distribution list for Ukraine-related matters.
— Charlie Savage
Hill said she did not believe that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Hill transcript, Page 168: “I am very confident based on all of the analysis that has been done — and, again, I don’t want to start getting into intelligence matters — that the Ukrainian government did not interfere in our election in 2016.”
Ms. Hill appears to be referring to an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory pushed by Mr. Giuliani that Ukraine had some involvement in the emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee.
— Adam Goldman