What to know about Tuesday’s impeachment hearings
- The second impeachment hearing of the day features testimony by Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison.
- At the first hearing, Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council expert on Ukraine, said they found President Trump’s call with the president of Ukraine “unusual” and “improper.”
- Read and watch highlights of the first hearing here.
- Download the free CBS News app to stream live coverage of all the impeachment hearings.
Washington — The second impeachment hearing of the day is underway, featuring appearances by two officials heavily involved in U.S. dealings with Ukraine.
Kurt Volker, the former special representative to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, an outgoing National Security Council official and a deputy assistant to the president, are appearing before the House Intelligence Committee to detail their knowledge of the events at the center of the impeachment inquiry.
Volker is one of the central players in the alleged effort to use military aid and a White House meeting as leverage against the Ukrainian government. Morrison was on the July 25 call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and told the committee in closed-door testimony that he didn’t think “anything illegal was discussed.”
Volker denied knowing the effort to pressure Ukraine to open investigations was connected to former Vice President Joe Biden, whose son Hunter had served on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, which would have been the focus of one of the potential investigations.
“At no time was I aware of, or knowingly took part in, any effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden,” Volker said.
Morrison says call summary was moved to secure server by mistake
4:30 p.m.: Morrison said he reported his concerns about the July 25 call to the NSC legal counsel immediately, and said access to the call record should be restricted.
Morrison said he was not concerned about the content of the call, but worried there would be “political consequences” if more people had access to the call summary. Morrison said NSC legal counsel John Eisenberg subsequently told him the call had been placed in a highly secure server, which Eisenberg said was the result of an “administrative error” and a “mistake.”
“Had you ever asked the NSC legal adviser to restrict access before?” the Democratic counsel asked.
“No,” Morrison said. — Grace Segers
Volker now says investigations came up at July 10 meeting
4:19 p.m.: In his closed-door testimony, Volker said “investigations” weren’t discussed at a contentious July 10 meeting between U.S. and Ukrainian officials, replying “no” to a question about whether they came up.
But his opening statement Tuesday, Volker revised that account, and said they had been raised, corroborating the accounts of other participants.
“As I remember, the meeting was essentially over when Ambassador Sondland made a generic comment about investigations,” Volker said in his statement, referring to Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the EU. “I think all of us thought it was inappropriate. The conversation did not continue and the meeting concluded.” — Stefan Becket
Volker says he would have objected to investigation into Joe Biden
4:16 p.m.: Volker said he would have “objected” to Ukraine opening an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden. He said he did not realize Mr. Trump saw the request to investigate Burisma as the same as investigating Biden until the July 25 call.
“I think the allegations against Vice President Biden are self-serving and not-credible,” Volker said. Volker reiterated that he saw the investigations into Burisma and into Biden as separate, but that in retrospect, he understood how Ukrainian officials could be confused. — Grace Segers
Volker says he viewed Joe Biden’s involvement in Ukraine and Hunter Biden’s work as “separate” issues
4:10 p.m.: Schiff asked Volker about former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko. Volker said he had concerns about the former prosecutor’s credibility, who had wrongly smeared former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Volker said he and others have strong confidence in Yovanovitch’s integrity.
Volker also expressed his confidence in the integrity of former Vice President Joe Biden, calling him an “honorable man.” He said he viewed Hunter Biden’s involvement on the board of Burisma as a separate issue.
“I believe that they were separate,” Volker testified. — Kathryn Watson
Volker says he didn’t know of link between military aid and investigations
4:04 p.m.: Volker said he was not aware of any connection in a delay in U.S. military aid to Ukraine and the country announcing investigations.
I opposed the hold on U.S. security assistance as soon as I learned about it on July 18, and thought we could turn it around before it the Ukrainians ever knew or became alarmed about it,” Volker said. He added that he viewed the delay “as a U.S. policy problem that we needed to fix internally.”
Volker said he first discussed the delay with the Ukrainians at the end of August, after Politico reported the aid was on hold.
“Instead of telling them that they needed to do something to get the hold released, I told them the opposite – that they should not be alarmed, it was an internal U.S. problem, and we were working to get it fixed,” he said. “I did not know others were conveying a different message to them around that same time.” — Stefan Becket
Volker insists he was working through “official channel” for Ukraine policy
3:45 p.m.: Volker strongly defended himself in his prepared opening statement, denying that he, U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry formed a separate “irregular” channel informing Ukraine policy, an effort for which they were known as the “three amigos.” Volker, who has a long career in foreign service, also denied he had any knowledge of Mr. Trump asking Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
“At no time was I aware of or knowingly took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden,” Volker said. He added that his role was “not some irregular channel, but the official channel.”
Volker expressed concern that the ongoing discussion about Ukraine had impacted American efforts in Ukraine, saying “it is a tragedy for the United States and for Ukraine that our efforts in this area, which were bearing fruit, have now been thrown into disarray.”
Volker said he connected Zelensky’s adviser, Andriy Yermak, with Rudy Giuliani in an attempt to convince Giuliani that the Ukrainian government was not against Mr. Trump. He said he never considered Giuliani “to be speaking on the president’s behalf.”
Volker consulted with Yermak in August about a statement Zelensky would give to say that Ukraine was opening investigations. The statement did not mention Burisma or the Bidens. Volker said he was unaware at the time of any connection between the hold on security and the release of a statement.
Finally, Volker said, he never used the term “three amigos,” and added, “I frankly cringe when I hear it.” He also said he was unaware of any call between Sondland and Mr. Trump on July 26. — Grace Segers
Morrison says his fears over disclosure of call “have been realized”
3:42 p.m.: In his brief opening statement, Morrison said he is there not to determine whether Mr. Trump’s decisions amount to impeachable offenses, only to lay out facts.
“Whether the conduct that is the subject of this inquiry merits impeachment is a question for the U.S. House of Representatives; I appear here today only to provide factual information based upon my knowledge and recollections of events,” Morrison said.
Morrison went on to say he doesn’t view any differences he and colleagues might have as “the result of an untoward purpose.”
“My recollections and judgments are my own,” Morrison said. “Some of my colleagues’ recollections of conversations and interactions may differ from mine, but I do not view those differences as the result of an untoward purpose.”
Morrison recalled how he feared the disclosure of Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky “would play in Washington’s political climate.”
“My fears have been realized,” he said.
The former National Security Council official made a point that he “left the NSC completely of my own volition,” a decision he says he made before he decided to testify. — Kathryn Watson and Stefan Becket
Schiff sets scene for hearing, which Nunes decries as a “circus”
3:37 p.m.: Schiff began his opening statement by recapping many of the events leading to this day, outlining involvement by Volker and Morrison. Republicans requested the testimony of these two officials. Schiff declined to grant a number of Republicans’ requests for other witnesses, including Hunter Biden.
“I appreciate the minority’s request for these two important witnesses,” Schiff said.
Nunes declared the hearing is “act two of today’s circus,” following Tuesday morning’s testimony.
The top Republican on the committee decried Democrats’ decision not to allow Hunter Biden to testify.
Schiff and Nunes have both used new opening statements for each new hearing. — Kathryn Watson
How to watch Tuesday’s second impeachment hearing
Who is Kurt Volker?
Volker was the special representative to Ukraine until stepping down as the impeachment inquiry ramped up.
He largely defended the president’s actions in his closed-door testimony. He said the Ukrainians “never communicated a belief [to him] that there was a quid pro quo” and that he doesn’t think they were immediately aware of the suspended aid “so there was no leverage implied.”
But Volker’s text messages do reveal that Ukrainian officials pushed hard for a meeting at the White House between Mr. Trump and Zelensky. On July 25, the day of the now-infamous call, Volker implied in a text that Zelensky’s White House visit was conditioned upon whether he investigated the 2016 election.
“Heard from white house – assuming president Z convinces trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016 we will nail down date for visit to Washington,” he wrote.
Mr. Trump and his allies claim that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, even though the U.S. intelligence community has concluded it was Russia. The national security officials who already testified, including George Kent, said there is “no factual basis” for the Ukraine claim.
Volker said he resigned because he “could see this coming,” alluding to the impeachment inquiry, and wanted to “provide testimony … with as much candor and integrity as I possibly could.” — Caroline Cournoyer
Who is Tim Morrison?
Tim Morrison is the NSC’s outgoing senior director of European and Russian affairs and a deputy assistant to the president. He was also on the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Ukraine’s president.
The committees leading the impeachment probe released a transcript of his closed-door testimony last week.
Although the July 25 phone call concerned him, he did not think “anything illegal was discussed.” Morrison said the summary released by the White House of the call between Mr. Trump and Zelensky accurately reflects his memory and understanding of the call, but he said he had three concerns in the event the summary became public.
“[F]irst, how it would play out in Washington’s polarized environment; second, how a leak would affect the bipartisan support our Ukrainian partners currently experience in Congress; and third, how it would affect the Ukrainian perceptions of the U.S.-Ukraine relationship,” Morrison, who was in the Situation Room for the call, told lawmakers. “I want to be clear, I was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed.”
He did, however, corroborate the central allegation that Sondland told a high-ranking Ukrainian official that the release of military aid was contingent on an investigation into the Bidens. But he had a different recollection than Taylor about two details: who was asked to announce the investigation and where a conversation about it happened. — Caroline Cournoyer