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Westlake Legal Group > Pence, Mike

3 Hours From Alert to Attacks: Inside the Race to Protect U.S. Forces From Iran Strikes

Westlake Legal Group 08dc-reconstruct-1-facebookJumbo 3 Hours From Alert to Attacks: Inside the Race to Protect U.S. Forces From Iran Strikes United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Pompeo, Mike Pence, Mike National Security Council Military Bases and Installations Iraq Iran House of Representatives Haspel, Gina Espionage and Intelligence Services Defense Department central intelligence agency

WASHINGTON — The alert came to the White House shortly after 2 p.m. on Tuesday, a flash message from American spy agencies that officials sometimes call a “squawk.” In the coming hours, it warned, an Iranian attack on American troops was almost certain.

A blizzard of potential threats had already come throughout the day — of attacks with missiles and rockets, of terrorist strikes against Americans elsewhere in the Middle East, even one warning that hundreds of Iran-backed militia fighters might try to assault Al Asad Air Base, a sprawling compound in Iraq’s western desert.

But the specificity of the afternoon’s latest warning sent Vice President Mike Pence and Robert C. O’Brien, the White House national security adviser, to the basement of the West Wing, where aides were assembling in the Situation Room. President Trump joined shortly after wrapping up a meeting with the Greek prime minister.

Three hours later, a hail of ballistic missiles launched from Iran crashed into two bases in Iraq, including Al Asad, where roughly 1,000 American troops are stationed. The strikes capped a frenetic day filled with confusion and misinformation, where at times it appeared that a dangerous military escalation could lead to a broader war. Mr. Trump spent hours with his aides monitoring the latest threats. Military planners considered options to retaliate if Iran killed American troops.

The early warning provided by intelligence helps explain in part why the missiles exacted a negligible toll, destroying only evacuated aircraft hangars as they slammed into the desert sand in barren stretches of the base. No Americans or Iraqis were killed or wounded, and Mr. Trump, who indicated to advisers he would prefer to avoid further engagement, was relieved.

Afterward, the president and vice president spoke to Democratic and Republican congressional leaders, and some urged Mr. Trump to try to dampen the crisis.

This account of the tense hours surrounding Tuesday’s attacks is based on interviews with current and former American officials and military personnel in both Washington and Iraq.

As it turned out, the missile strikes might end up being a bloodless close to the latest chapter in America’s simmering, four-decade conflict with Iran. Mr. Trump declared on Wednesday that Iran “appears to be standing down” after days of heightened tensions since the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, although few who closely follow the dynamics of the United States’ relationship with Iran foresee a peaceful future.

“If this is indeed the sum total of Iran’s response, it is a big signal of de-escalation that we should gratefully receive,” said Kirsten Fontenrose, who handled Middle East issues on the National Security Council earlier in the Trump administration.

Hours before officials at the White House and Pentagon arrived at their desks on Tuesday, American troops in Iraq were preparing for Iran’s retaliation to avenge the death of the general.

Spy satellites had been tracking the movements of Iran’s arsenal of missile launchers, and communications among Iranian military leaders intercepted by the National Security Agency had indicated that the response to General Suleimani’s killing might come that day.

Al Asad base in Iraq’s Anbar Province was the focus of numerous vague threat reports, including one warning that hundreds of fighters from Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi militia trained and equipped by Iran, might launch a frontal assault on the base.

The base was relatively vulnerable; no Patriot antimissile systems protected it, according to an American military official. They had been deployed to other countries in the Middle East deemed more susceptible to Iranian missile attacks. So American commanders prepared to partly evacuate the base and assigned most other remaining forces to hardened shelters to ride out whatever attack would come.

By morning in Washington, the intelligence was still vague enough that White House officials decided to keep Mr. Trump’s planned schedule, including the meeting with the prime minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Administration officials resumed their defense of General Suleimani’s killing amid increasing criticism that they lacked, or were unwilling to share, the intelligence that they said prompted the strike. At the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters at a packed news conference that killing General Suleimani “was the right decision.”

Days earlier, he had said the killing had been necessary to prevent “imminent” attacks. On Tuesday morning, he gave a different message, citing the death of an American contractor killed in late December when Iranian-backed Shiite militias fired rockets at a military base in Iraq.

“If you’re looking for imminence, you need to look no further than the days that led up to the strike that was taken against Suleimani,” Mr. Pompeo said.

Hours later, as Mr. Trump met with Mr. Mitsotakis, the White House received the squawk alert about a likely missile strike. Mr. Pence and Mr. O’Brien led the initial discussion in the Situation Room about how to confront the threat, assessing the intelligence about the Iranians’ most likely targets.

Upstairs inside the Oval Office, Mr. Trump sat beside Mr. Mitsotakis as reporters peppered him with questions about the Iran crisis. The president hedged about threats he had made days earlier that the United States might consider targeting Iranian cultural sites — but he maintained a menacing tone.

“If Iran does anything that they shouldn’t be doing, they’re going to be suffering the consequences, and very strongly,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re totally prepared.”

After the brief news conference ended, Mr. Trump descended several flights of stairs to the Situation Room.

With sandwiches piled on a sideboard in the room, the group that advised the president there at different times throughout the day included a handful of seasoned national security officials, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, an Army veteran of nearly 40 years; Keith Kellogg, a retired Army lieutenant general who serves as national security adviser to Mr. Pence; and Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence.

It also included Mr. Pompeo, who has become a driving force in the Trump administration’s Iran policy and an advocate of what he often calls “restoring deterrence” against Tehran’s aggression in the Middle East. As a forceful proponent of the Jan. 3 strike that killed General Suleimani, Mr. Pompeo had played an instrumental role in bringing Mr. Trump to the crisis point.

But others around the long, rectangular table in the Situation Room had only modest foreign policy experience — including Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff and a former congressman from South Carolina, and Mr. O’Brien, who was a Los Angeles lawyer before spending two and a half years as Mr. Trump’s chief hostage negotiator and assumed the post of national security adviser in September.

Appearing on a video screen was Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, who was monitoring the crisis from the agency’s headquarters in Northern Virginia. In the days before General Suleimani’s death, Ms. Haspel had advised Mr. Trump that the threat the Iranian general presented was greater than the threat of Iran’s response if he was killed, according to current and former American officials. Indeed, Ms. Haspel had predicted the most likely response would be a missile strike from Iran to bases where American troops were deployed, the very situation that appeared to be playing out on Tuesday afternoon.

Though Ms. Haspel took no formal position about whether to kill General Suleimani, officials who listened to her analysis came away with the clear view that the C.I.A. believed that killing him would improve — not weaken — security in the Middle East.

But at that moment days after General Suleimani’s death, the president and his aides were confronting a flurry of conflicting information. Around 4 p.m., reports came in that a training camp north of Baghdad might have been hit. Officials at the White House and the State Department waited anxiously for the Pentagon to provide damage reports about the camp, Taji air base, where American troops are stationed. It was a false alarm, though American officials said on Wednesday that they believed that several missiles fired in the barrage a day earlier were intended for the base.

As the reports about Taji came in, loudspeakers at the American Embassy in Baghdad announced that an attack could be imminent. As they had in the previous days, American and Iraqi personnel inside the compound raced toward bomb shelters.

Roughly one hour later, the first missiles bound for Al Asad streaked over their heads.

Around 5:30 p.m. in Washington, the Pentagon detected the first of what would be 16 short- and medium-range Fateh 110 and Shahab missiles, fired from three locations in Iran.

Several slammed into Al Asad but did only minimal damage. They hit a Black Hawk helicopter and a reconnaissance drone, along with parts of the air traffic control tower, according to a military official familiar with a battle damage assessment of the strike.

The attack also destroyed several tents.

Minutes later, a salvo of missiles hit an air base in Erbil, in northern Iraq, that has been a Special Operations hub for hundreds of American and other allied troops, logistics personnel and intelligence specialists throughout the fight against the Islamic State. The damage to that base was unclear, though no personnel were killed or wounded.

Why did the Iran strikes do such little damage? Mr. Trump attributed it to the “precautions taken, the dispersal of forces and an early warning system that worked very well.” A senior American military official dismissed the idea that Iran had intentionally avoided killing American troops by aiming instead for uninhabited parts of the two bases.

Still, American officials acknowledged that Iran’s leaders showed restraint in planning the missile strikes, especially after the fiery talk from Tehran after General Suleimani’s killing.

“We’re receiving some encouraging intelligence that Iran is sending messages to those very same militias not to move against American targets or civilians,” Mr. Pence said during an interview on Wednesday evening with CBS News. “And we hope that that message continues to echo.”

After the attacks subsided, Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence made a round of calls to congressional leaders, and even some of the president’s hawkish allies said that Mr. Trump should be measured in his response to the Iranian strikes.

Recounting his conversation with Mr. Trump, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said he told the president, “Let’s just stand down and see what happens for a few days.”

Advisers also discussed whether Mr. Trump should give an address, and several aides, including Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller, as well as Mr. Pence, worked on one on Wednesday morning in the hours before the president spoke on national television. More than a half-dozen drafts circulated as aides scrambled to prepare for the speech. One military official was given only 20 minutes’ notice to head to the White House to stand behind Mr. Trump as he spoke in the Grand Foyer of the White House in the late morning, and the president made edits right until he stepped up to the lectern.

Reporting was contributed by Julian E. Barnes, Catie Edmondson, Michael Crowley, Helene Cooper and John Ismay from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

3 Hours From Alert to Attacks: Inside the Race to Protect U.S. Forces From Iran Strikes

Westlake Legal Group 08dc-reconstruct-1-facebookJumbo 3 Hours From Alert to Attacks: Inside the Race to Protect U.S. Forces From Iran Strikes United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Pompeo, Mike Pence, Mike National Security Council Military Bases and Installations Iraq Iran House of Representatives Haspel, Gina Espionage and Intelligence Services Defense Department central intelligence agency

WASHINGTON — The alert came to the White House shortly after 2 p.m. on Tuesday, a flash message from American spy agencies that officials sometimes call a “squawk.” In the coming hours, it warned, an Iranian attack on American troops was almost certain.

A blizzard of potential threats had already come throughout the day — of attacks with missiles and rockets, of terrorist strikes against Americans elsewhere in the Middle East, even one warning that hundreds of Iran-backed militia fighters might try to assault Al Asad Air Base, a sprawling compound in Iraq’s western desert.

But the specificity of the afternoon’s latest warning sent Vice President Mike Pence and Robert C. O’Brien, the White House national security adviser, to the basement of the West Wing, where aides were assembling in the Situation Room. President Trump joined shortly after wrapping up a meeting with the Greek prime minister.

Three hours later, a hail of ballistic missiles launched from Iran crashed into two bases in Iraq, including Al Asad, where roughly 1,000 American troops are stationed. The strikes capped a frenetic day filled with confusion and misinformation, where at times it appeared that a dangerous military escalation could lead to a broader war. Mr. Trump spent hours with his aides monitoring the latest threats. Military planners considered options to retaliate if Iran killed American troops.

The early warning provided by intelligence helps explain in part why the missiles exacted a negligible toll, destroying only evacuated aircraft hangars as they slammed into the desert sand in barren stretches of the base. No Americans or Iraqis were killed or wounded, and Mr. Trump, who indicated to advisers he would prefer to avoid further engagement, was relieved.

Afterward, the president and vice president spoke to Democratic and Republican congressional leaders, and some urged Mr. Trump to try to dampen the crisis.

This account of the tense hours surrounding Tuesday’s attacks is based on interviews with current and former American officials and military personnel in both Washington and Iraq.

As it turned out, the missile strikes might end up being a bloodless close to the latest chapter in America’s simmering, four-decade conflict with Iran. Mr. Trump declared on Wednesday that Iran “appears to be standing down” after days of heightened tensions since the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, although few who closely follow the dynamics of the United States’ relationship with Iran foresee a peaceful future.

“If this is indeed the sum total of Iran’s response, it is a big signal of de-escalation that we should gratefully receive,” said Kirsten Fontenrose, who handled Middle East issues on the National Security Council earlier in the Trump administration.

Hours before officials at the White House and Pentagon arrived at their desks on Tuesday, American troops in Iraq were preparing for Iran’s retaliation to avenge the death of the general.

Spy satellites had been tracking the movements of Iran’s arsenal of missile launchers, and communications among Iranian military leaders intercepted by the National Security Agency had indicated that the response to General Suleimani’s killing might come that day.

Al Asad base in Iraq’s Anbar Province was the focus of numerous vague threat reports, including one warning that hundreds of fighters from Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi militia trained and equipped by Iran, might launch a frontal assault on the base.

The base was relatively vulnerable; no Patriot antimissile systems protected it, according to an American military official. They had been deployed to other countries in the Middle East deemed more susceptible to Iranian missile attacks. So American commanders prepared to partly evacuate the base and assigned most other remaining forces to hardened shelters to ride out whatever attack would come.

By morning in Washington, the intelligence was still vague enough that White House officials decided to keep Mr. Trump’s planned schedule, including the meeting with the prime minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Administration officials resumed their defense of General Suleimani’s killing amid increasing criticism that they lacked, or were unwilling to share, the intelligence that they said prompted the strike. At the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters at a packed news conference that killing General Suleimani “was the right decision.”

Days earlier, he had said the killing had been necessary to prevent “imminent” attacks. On Tuesday morning, he gave a different message, citing the death of an American contractor killed in late December when Iranian-backed Shiite militias fired rockets at a military base in Iraq.

“If you’re looking for imminence, you need to look no further than the days that led up to the strike that was taken against Suleimani,” Mr. Pompeo said.

Hours later, as Mr. Trump met with Mr. Mitsotakis, the White House received the squawk alert about a likely missile strike. Mr. Pence and Mr. O’Brien led the initial discussion in the Situation Room about how to confront the threat, assessing the intelligence about the Iranians’ most likely targets.

Upstairs inside the Oval Office, Mr. Trump sat beside Mr. Mitsotakis as reporters peppered him with questions about the Iran crisis. The president hedged about threats he had made days earlier that the United States might consider targeting Iranian cultural sites — but he maintained a menacing tone.

“If Iran does anything that they shouldn’t be doing, they’re going to be suffering the consequences, and very strongly,” Mr. Trump said. “We’re totally prepared.”

After the brief news conference ended, Mr. Trump descended several flights of stairs to the Situation Room.

With sandwiches piled on a sideboard in the room, the group that advised the president there at different times throughout the day included a handful of seasoned national security officials, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, an Army veteran of nearly 40 years; Keith Kellogg, a retired Army lieutenant general who serves as national security adviser to Mr. Pence; and Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence.

It also included Mr. Pompeo, who has become a driving force in the Trump administration’s Iran policy and an advocate of what he often calls “restoring deterrence” against Tehran’s aggression in the Middle East. As a forceful proponent of the Jan. 3 strike that killed General Suleimani, Mr. Pompeo had played an instrumental role in bringing Mr. Trump to the crisis point.

But others around the long, rectangular table in the Situation Room had only modest foreign policy experience — including Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff and a former congressman from South Carolina, and Mr. O’Brien, who was a Los Angeles lawyer before spending two and a half years as Mr. Trump’s chief hostage negotiator and assumed the post of national security adviser in September.

Appearing on a video screen was Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, who was monitoring the crisis from the agency’s headquarters in Northern Virginia. In the days before General Suleimani’s death, Ms. Haspel had advised Mr. Trump that the threat the Iranian general presented was greater than the threat of Iran’s response if he was killed, according to current and former American officials. Indeed, Ms. Haspel had predicted the most likely response would be a missile strike from Iran to bases where American troops were deployed, the very situation that appeared to be playing out on Tuesday afternoon.

Though Ms. Haspel took no formal position about whether to kill General Suleimani, officials who listened to her analysis came away with the clear view that the C.I.A. believed that killing him would improve — not weaken — security in the Middle East.

But at that moment days after General Suleimani’s death, the president and his aides were confronting a flurry of conflicting information. Around 4 p.m., reports came in that a training camp north of Baghdad might have been hit. Officials at the White House and the State Department waited anxiously for the Pentagon to provide damage reports about the camp, Taji air base, where American troops are stationed. It was a false alarm, though American officials said on Wednesday that they believed that several missiles fired in the barrage a day earlier were intended for the base.

As the reports about Taji came in, loudspeakers at the American Embassy in Baghdad announced that an attack could be imminent. As they had in the previous days, American and Iraqi personnel inside the compound raced toward bomb shelters.

Roughly one hour later, the first missiles bound for Al Asad streaked over their heads.

Around 5:30 p.m. in Washington, the Pentagon detected the first of what would be 16 short- and medium-range Fateh 110 and Shahab missiles, fired from three locations in Iran.

Several slammed into Al Asad but did only minimal damage. They hit a Black Hawk helicopter and a reconnaissance drone, along with parts of the air traffic control tower, according to a military official familiar with a battle damage assessment of the strike.

The attack also destroyed several tents.

Minutes later, a salvo of missiles hit an air base in Erbil, in northern Iraq, that has been a Special Operations hub for hundreds of American and other allied troops, logistics personnel and intelligence specialists throughout the fight against the Islamic State. The damage to that base was unclear, though no personnel were killed or wounded.

Why did the Iran strikes do such little damage? Mr. Trump attributed it to the “precautions taken, the dispersal of forces and an early warning system that worked very well.” A senior American military official dismissed the idea that Iran had intentionally avoided killing American troops by aiming instead for uninhabited parts of the two bases.

Still, American officials acknowledged that Iran’s leaders showed restraint in planning the missile strikes, especially after the fiery talk from Tehran after General Suleimani’s killing.

“We’re receiving some encouraging intelligence that Iran is sending messages to those very same militias not to move against American targets or civilians,” Mr. Pence said during an interview on Wednesday evening with CBS News. “And we hope that that message continues to echo.”

After the attacks subsided, Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence made a round of calls to congressional leaders, and even some of the president’s hawkish allies said that Mr. Trump should be measured in his response to the Iranian strikes.

Recounting his conversation with Mr. Trump, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said he told the president, “Let’s just stand down and see what happens for a few days.”

Advisers also discussed whether Mr. Trump should give an address, and several aides, including Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller, as well as Mr. Pence, worked on one on Wednesday morning in the hours before the president spoke on national television. More than a half-dozen drafts circulated as aides scrambled to prepare for the speech. One military official was given only 20 minutes’ notice to head to the White House to stand behind Mr. Trump as he spoke in the Grand Foyer of the White House in the late morning, and the president made edits right until he stepped up to the lectern.

Reporting was contributed by Julian E. Barnes, Catie Edmondson, Michael Crowley, Helene Cooper and John Ismay from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Behind the Ukraine Aid Freeze: 84 Days of Conflict and Confusion

Westlake Legal Group 28dc-omb1-facebookJumbo Behind the Ukraine Aid Freeze: 84 Days of Conflict and Confusion Zelensky, Volodymyr Vought, Russell T Volker, Kurt D United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Taylor, William B Jr State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Presidential Election of 2020 Presidential Election of 2016 Portman, Rob Pompeo, Mike Pence, Mike Office of Management and Budget (US) National Security Council Mulvaney, Mick Johnson, Ron (1955- ) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Giuliani, Rudolph W Duffey, Michael Defense Department Defense and Military Forces Cipollone, Pat A Bolton, John R Biden, Joseph R Jr

WASHINGTON — Deep into a long flight to Japan aboard Air Force One with President Trump, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, dashed off an email to an aide back in Washington.

“I’m just trying to tie up some loose ends,” Mr. Mulvaney wrote. “Did we ever find out about the money for Ukraine and whether we can hold it back?”

It was June 27, more than a week after Mr. Trump had first asked about putting a hold on security aid to Ukraine, an embattled American ally, and Mr. Mulvaney needed an answer.

The aide, Robert B. Blair, replied that it would be possible, but not pretty. “Expect Congress to become unhinged” if the White House tried to countermand spending passed by the House and Senate, he wrote in a previously undisclosed email. And, he wrote, it might further fuel the narrative that Mr. Trump was pro-Russia.

Mr. Blair was right, even if his prediction of a messy outcome was wildly understated. Mr. Trump’s order to hold $391 million worth of sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, night vision goggles, medical aid and other equipment the Ukrainian military needed to fight a grinding war against Russian-backed separatists would help pave a path to the president’s impeachment.

The Democratic-led inquiry into Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine this spring and summer established that the president was actively involved in parallel efforts — both secretive and highly unusual — to bring pressure on a country he viewed with suspicion, if not disdain.

One campaign, spearheaded by Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, aimed to force Ukraine to conduct investigations that could help Mr. Trump politically, including one focused on a potential Democratic 2020 rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The other, which unfolded nearly simultaneously but has gotten less attention, was the president’s demand to withhold the security assistance. By late summer, the two efforts merged as American diplomats used the withheld aid as leverage in the effort to win a public commitment from the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to carry out the investigations Mr. Trump sought into Mr. Biden and unfounded or overblown theories about Ukraine interfering in the 2016 election.

Interviews with dozens of current and former administration officials, congressional aides and others, previously undisclosed emails and documents, and a close reading of thousands of pages of impeachment testimony provide the most complete account yet of the 84 days from when Mr. Trump first inquired about the money to his decision in September to relent.

What emerges is the story of how Mr. Trump’s demands sent shock waves through the White House and the Pentagon, created deep rifts within the senior ranks of his administration, left key aides like Mr. Mulvaney under intensifying scrutiny — and ended only after Mr. Trump learned of a damning whistle-blower report and came under pressure from influential Republican lawmakers.

In many ways, the havoc Mr. Giuliani and other Trump loyalists set off in the State Department by pursuing the investigations was matched by conflicts and confusion in the White House and Pentagon stemming from Mr. Trump’s order to withhold the aid.

Opposition to the order from his top national security advisers was more intense than previously known. In late August, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper joined Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser at the time, for a previously undisclosed Oval Office meeting with the president where they tried but failed to convince him that releasing the aid was in interests of the United States.

By late summer, top lawyers at the Office of Management and Budget who had spoken to lawyers at the White House and the Justice Department in the weeks beforehand, were developing an argument — not previously divulged publicly — that Mr. Trump’s role as commander in chief would simply allow him to override Congress on the issue.

And Mr. Mulvaney is shown to have been deeply involved as a key conduit for transmitting Mr. Trump’s demands for the freeze across the administration.

The interviews and documents show how Mr. Trump used the bureaucracy to advance his agenda in the face of questions about its propriety and even legality from officials in the White House budget office and the Pentagon, many of whom say they were kept in the dark about the president’s motivations and had grown used to convention-flouting requests from the West Wing. One veteran budget official who raised questions about the legal justification was pushed aside.

Those carrying out Mr. Trump’s orders on the aid were for the most part operating in different lanes from those seeking the investigations, including Mr. Giuliani and a number of senior diplomats, including Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt D. Volker, the State Department’s special envoy for Ukraine and Russia.

The New York Times found that some key players are now offering a defense that they did not know the diplomatic push for the investigations was playing out at the same time they were implementing the aid freeze — or if they were aware of both channels, they did not connect the two.

Mr. Mulvaney is said by associates to have stepped out of the room whenever Mr. Trump would talk with Mr. Giuliani to preserve Mr. Trump’s attorney-client privilege, leaving him with limited knowledge about their efforts regarding Ukraine. Mr. Mulvaney has told associates he learned of the substance of Mr. Trump’s July 25 call weeks after the fact.

Yet testimony before the House suggests a different picture. Fiona Hill, a top deputy to Mr. Bolton at the time, told the impeachment inquiry about a July 10 White House meeting at which Mr. Sondland said Mr. Mulvaney had guaranteed that Mr. Zelensky would be invited to the White House if the Ukrainians agreed to the investigations — an arrangement that Mr. Bolton described as a “drug deal,” according to Ms. Hill.

Along with Mr. Bolton and others, Mr. Mulvaney and Mr. Blair have declined to cooperate with impeachment investigators and provide information to Congress under oath, an intensifying point of friction between the two parties as the Senate prepares for Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial.

At the center of the maelstrom was the Office of Management and Budget, a seldom-scrutinized arm of the White House that during the Trump administration has often had to find creative legal reasoning to justify the president’s unorthodox policy proposals, like his demand to divert Pentagon funding to his proposed wall along the border with Mexico.

In the Ukraine case, however, shock about the president’s decision spread across America’s national security apparatus — from the National Security Council to the State Department and the Pentagon. By September, after the freeze had become public and scrutiny was increasing, the blame game inside the administration was in full swing.

On Sept. 10, the day before Mr. Trump changed his mind, a political appointee at the budget office, Michael P. Duffey, wrote a lengthy email to the Pentagon’s top budget official, with whom he had been at odds throughout the summer about how long the agency could withhold the aid.

He asserted that the Defense Department had the authority to do more to ensure that the aid could be released to Ukraine by the congressionally mandated deadline of the end of that month, suggesting that responsibility for any failure should not rest with the White House.

Forty-three minutes later, the Pentagon official, Elaine McCusker, hit send on a brief but stinging reply.

“You can’t be serious,” she wrote. “I am speechless.”

For top officials inside the budget office, the first warning came on June 19.

Informed that the president had a problem with the aid, Mr. Blair called Russell T. Vought, the acting head of the Office of Management and Budget. “We need to hold it up,” he said, according to officials briefed about the conversation.

Typical of the Trump White House, the inquiry was not born of a rigorous policy process. Aides speculated that someone had shown Mr. Trump a news article about the Ukraine assistance and he demanded to know more.

Mr. Vought and his team took to Google, and came upon a piece in the conservative Washington Examiner saying that the Pentagon would pay for weapons and other military equipment for Ukraine, bringing American security aid to the country to $1.5 billion since 2014.

The money, the article noted, was coming at a critical moment: Mr. Zelensky, a onetime comedian, had called ending the armed conflict with Russia in eastern Ukraine his top priority — a move that would likely only happen if he could negotiate from a position of strength.

The budget office officials had little idea of why Mr. Trump was interested in the topic, but many of the president’s more senior aides were well aware of his feelings about Ukraine. Weeks earlier, in an Oval Office meeting on May 23, with Mr. Sondland, Mr. Mulvaney and Mr. Blair in attendance, Mr. Trump batted away assurances that Mr. Zelensky was committed to confronting corruption.

“They are all corrupt, they are all terrible people,” Mr. Trump said, according to testimony in the impeachment inquiry.

The United States had been planning to provide $391 million in military assistance to Ukraine in two chunks: $250 million allocated by the Pentagon for war-fighting equipment — from sniper rifles to rocket-propelled grenade launchers — and $141 million controlled by the State Department to buy night-vision devices, radar systems and yet more rocket-grenade launchers.

With the money having been appropriated by Congress, it would be hard for the administration to keep it from being spent by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

The task of dealing with the president’s demands fell primarily to a group of political appointees in the West Wing and the budget office, most with personal and professional ties to Mr. Mulvaney. There was no public announcement that Mr. Trump wanted the assistance withheld. Neither Congress nor the Ukrainian government was formally notified.

Mr. Mulvaney had first served in the administration as the budget director, after three terms in the House, where he earned a reputation as a firebrand conservative.

The four top political appointees helping Mr. Mulvaney execute the hold — Mr. Vought, Mr. Blair, Mr. Duffey and Mark Paoletta, the budget office’s top lawyer — all had extensive experience in either congressional budget politics or Republican and conservative causes.

Their efforts would cause tension and at times conflict between officials at the budget office and the Pentagon, some of whom watched with growing alarm.

The single largest chunk of the federal government’s annual discretionary budget, some $800 billion a year, goes to the Pentagon, spy agencies and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The career official in charge of managing the flow of all that money for the budget office is an Afghanistan war veteran named Mark Sandy.

After learning about the president’s June 19 request, Mr. Sandy contacted the Pentagon to learn more about the aid package. He also repeatedly pressed Mr. Duffey about why Mr. Trump had imposed the hold in the first place.

“He didn’t provide an explicit response on the reason,” Mr. Sandy testified in the impeachment inquiry. “He simply said we need to let the hold take place — and I’m paraphrasing here — and then revisit this issue with the president.”

From the start, budget office officials took the position that the money did not have to go out the door until the end of September, giving them time to address the president’s questions.

It was easy enough for the White House to hold up the State Department portion of the funding. Since the State Department had not yet notified Congress of its plans to release the money, all it took was making sure that the notification did not happen.

Freezing the Pentagon’s $250 million portion was more difficult, since the Pentagon had already certified that Ukraine had met requirements set by Congress to show that it was addressing its endemic corruption and notified lawmakers of its intent to spend the money.

So on July 19, Mr. Duffey proposed an unusual solution: Mr. Sandy should attach a footnote to a routine budget document saying the money was being temporarily withheld.

Approving such requests is routine; Mr. Sandy processed hundreds each year. But attaching a footnote to block spending that the administration had already notified Congress was ready to go was not. Mr. Sandy said in testimony that he had never done it before in his 12 years at the agency.

And there was a problem with this maneuver: Mr. Sandy was concerned it might violate a law called the Impoundment Control Act that protects Congress’s spending power and prohibits the administration from blocking disbursement of the aid unless it notifies Congress.

“I asked about the duration of the hold and was told there was not clear guidance on that,” Mr. Sandy testified. “So that is what prompted my concern.”

Mr. Sandy sought advice from the top lawyers at the budget office.

For a full month, the fact that Mr. Trump wanted to halt the aid remained confined primarily to a small group of officials.

That ended on July 18, when a group of top administration officials meeting on Ukraine policy — including some calling in from Kyiv — learned from a midlevel budget office official that the president had ordered the aid frozen.

“I and the others on the call sat in astonishment,” William B. Taylor Jr., the top United States diplomat in Ukraine, testified to House investigators. “In an instant, I realized that one of the key pillars of our strong support for Ukraine was threatened.”

That same day, aides on the House Foreign Affairs Committee received four calls from administration sources warning them about the hold and urging them to look into it.

A week later came Mr. Trump’s fateful July 25 call with Mr. Zelensky. Mr. Bolton, the national security adviser, had recommended the call take place in an effort to end the “incessant lobbying” from officials like Mr. Sondland that the two leaders connect.

Some of Mr. Trump’s aides had thought the call might lead Mr. Trump to lift the freeze. But Mr. Trump did not specifically mention the hold, and instead asked Mr. Zelensky to look into Mr. Biden and his son and into supposed Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election. Among those listening on the call was Mr. Blair.

Mr. Blair has told associates he did not make much of Mr. Trump’s requests during the call for the investigations. He saw the aid freeze not as a political tool, but as an extension of Mr. Trump’s general aversion to foreign aid and his belief that Ukraine is rife with corruption.

Just 90 minutes after the call ended, and following days of email traffic on the topic, Mr. Duffey, Mr. Sandy’s boss, sent out a new email to the Pentagon, where officials were impatient about getting the money out the door. His message was clear: Do not spend it.

“Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute the direction,” Mr. Duffey wrote in his note, which was released this month to the Center for Public Integrity.

This caused immediate discomfort at the Pentagon, with a top official there noting that this hold on military assistance was coming on the same day Ukraine announced it had seized a Russian tanker — a potential escalation in the conflict between the two nations.

On that same day, Mr. Sandy, having received the go-ahead from the budget office’s lawyers, took the first official step to legally impose what they called a “brief pause,” inserting a footnote into the budget document that prohibited the Pentagon from spending any of the aid until Aug. 5.

By that point, officials in Ukraine were getting word that something was up. At the same time, the effort to win a commitment from the Ukrainians for the investigations sought by Mr. Trump was intensifying, with Mr. Giuliani and a Zelensky aide, Andriy Yermak, meeting in Madrid on Aug. 2 and the diplomats Mr. Sondland and Mr. Volker also working the issue.

And inside the intelligence community, a C.I.A. officer was hearing talk about the two strands of pressure on Ukraine, including the aid freeze. Seeing how they fit together, he was alarmed enough that by Aug. 12 he would take the extraordinary step of laying them out in detail in a confidential whistle-blower complaint.

Keeping a hold on the assistance was now a top priority, so officials moved to tighten control over the money.

In a very unusual step, the White House removed Mr. Sandy’s authority to oversee the aid freeze. The job was handed in late July to Mr. Sandy’s boss, Mr. Duffey, the political appointee, the official ultimately responsible for apportionments but one who had little experience in the nuts and bolts of the budget office process.

As the debate over the aid continued, disagreements flared. Two budget office staff members left the agency after the summer. Mr. Sandy testified that their departures were related to the aid freeze, a statement disputed by budget office officials.

Pentagon officials, in the dark about the reason for the holdup, grew increasingly frustrated. Ms. McCusker, the powerful Pentagon budget official, notified the budget office that either $61 million of the money would have to be spent by Monday, Aug. 12 or it would be lost. The budget office saw her threat as a ploy to force release of the aid.

At the White House, which had been looped into the dispute by the budget office, there was a growing consensus that officials could find a legal rationale for continuing the hold, but with the Monday deadline looming, it was a “POTUS-level decision,” one official said.

Complicating matters, another budget battle was escalating. Mr. Vought was attempting to impose cuts of as much as $4 billion on the nation’s overall foreign aid budget. It was an entirely separate initiative from the Ukraine freeze, and was quickly abandoned, but helped the White House establish that its concern about aid was not limited to Ukraine.

By the second week of August, Mr. Duffey had taken to issuing footnotes every few days to block the Pentagon spending. Office of Management and Budget lawyers approved each one.

Mr. Trump spent the weekend before the Pentagon’s Aug. 12 deadline at Bedminster, his New Jersey golf resort.

In a previously unreported sequence of events, Mr. Mulvaney worked to schedule a call for that day with Mr. Trump and top aides involved in the freeze, including Mr. Vought, Mr. Bolton and Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel. But they waited to set a final time because Mr. Trump had a golf game planned for Monday morning with John Daly, the flamboyant professional golfer, and they did not know how long it would take.

Late that morning, Ms. McCusker checked in with the budget office. “Hey, any update for us?” she asked in an email obtained by Center for Public Integrity.

Mr. Duffey was still waiting for an answer as of late that afternoon. “Elaine — I don’t have an update,” he wrote back. “I am attempting to get one.”

The planned-for conference call with the president never happened. Budget office lawyers decided that Ms. McCusker had inaccurately raised alarms about the Aug. 12 date to try to force their hand.

In Bedminster with Mr. Trump, Mr. Mulvaney finally reached the president and the answer was clear: Mr. Trump wanted the freeze kept in place. In Washington, the whistle-blower submitted his report that same day.

Inside the administration, pressure was mounting on Mr. Trump to reverse himself.

Backed by a memo saying the National Security Council, the Pentagon and the State Department all wanted the aid released, Mr. Bolton made a personal appeal to Mr. Trump on Aug. 16, but was rebuffed.

On Aug. 28, Politico published a story reporting that the assistance to Ukraine had been frozen. After more than two months, the issue, the topic of fiery internal debate, was finally public.

Mr. Bolton’s relationship with the president had been deteriorating for months, and he would leave the White House weeks later, but on this front he had powerful internal allies.

On a sunny, late-August day, Mr. Bolton, Mr. Esper and Mr. Pompeo arrayed themselves around the Resolute desk in the Oval Office to present a united front, the leaders of the president’s national security team seeking to convince him face to face that freeing up the money for Ukraine was the right thing to do. One by one they made their case.

“This is in America’s interest,” Mr. Bolton argued, according to one official briefed on the gathering.

“This defense relationship, we have gotten some really good benefits from it,” Mr. Esper added, noting that most of the money was being spent on military equipment made in the United States.

Mr. Trump responded that he did not believe Mr. Zelensky’s promises of reform. He emphasized his view that corruption remained endemic and repeated his position that European nations needed to do more for European defense.

“Ukraine is a corrupt country,” the president said. “We are pissing away our money.”

The aid remained blocked. On Aug. 31, Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, arranged a call with Mr. Trump. Mr. Johnson had been told days earlier by Mr. Sondland that the aid would be unblocked only if the Ukrainians gave Mr. Trump the investigations he wanted.

When Mr. Johnson asked Mr. Trump directly if the aid was contingent on getting a commitment to pursue the investigations, Mr. Johnson later said, Mr. Trump replied, amid a string of expletives, that there was no such demand and he would never do such a thing.

Around the same time, White House lawyers informed Mr. Trump about the whistle-blower’s complaint regarding his pressure campaign. It is not clear how much detail the lawyers provided the president about the details of the complaint, which noted the aid freeze.

Mr. Trump was scheduled to travel to Poland on Sept. 1 to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, and had planned to get together with Mr. Zelensky. Some administration officials hoped meeting the new Ukrainian president in person would change Mr. Trump’s mind.

But a hurricane was bearing down on the United States, and Mr. Trump sent Vice President Mike Pence in his place. When Mr. Zelensky raised the issue with the vice president, Mr. Pence said he should speak with Mr. Trump.

Behind the scenes in Warsaw, Mr. Sondland, the American envoy who was Mr. Trump’s point person on getting the Ukrainians to agree to the investigations, had a blunter message. Until the Ukrainians publicly announced the investigations, he told Mr. Yermak, the Zelensky adviser, they should not expect to get the military aid. (Mr. Yermak has questioned Mr. Sondland’s account.)

By late summer, top lawyers at the budget office were developing a proposed legal justification for the hold, based in part on conversations with White House lawyers as well as the Justice Department.

Their argument was that lifting the hold would undermine Mr. Trump’s negotiating position in his efforts to fight corruption in Ukraine.

The president, the lawyers believed, could ignore the requirements of the Impoundment Control Act and continue to hold the aid by asserting constitutional commander in chief powers that give him authority over diplomacy. He could do so, they believed, if he determined that, based on existing circumstances, releasing the money would undermine military or diplomatic efforts.

But divisions within the administration continued to widen; Mr. Bolton was opposed to using an argument proffered by administration lawyers to block the funding. And pressure from Congress was intensifying. Mr. Johnson and another influential Republican, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, were both pushing for the aid to be released.

On a call with Mr. Portman on Sept. 11, Mr. Trump repeated his familiar refrain about other nations not doing enough to support Ukraine.

“Sure, I agree with you,” Mr. Portman responded, according to an aide who described the exchange. “But we should not hold that against Ukraine. We need to release these funds.”

Democrats in the House were gearing up to limit Mr. Trump’s power to hold up the money to Ukraine, and the chairmen of three House committees had also announced on Sept. 9 that they were opening an investigation.

Still, White House officials did not expect anything to change, especially since Mr. Trump had repeatedly rejected the advice of his national security team.

But then, just as suddenly as the hold was imposed, it was lifted. Mr. Trump, apparently unwilling to wage a public battle, told Mr. Portman he would let the money go.

White House aides rushed to notify their counterparts at the Pentagon and elsewhere. The freeze had been lifted. The money could be spent. Get it out the door, they were told.

The debate would now begin as to why the hold was lifted, with Democrats confident they knew the answer.

“I have no doubt about why the president allowed the assistance to go forward,” said Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “He got caught.”

Adam Goldman, Edward Wong and Peter Baker contributed reporting.

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Trump, Unbowed, Uses Rally to Strike Back Against Impeachment Vote

Westlake Legal Group 18dc-trump-2-facebookJumbo-v4 Trump, Unbowed, Uses Rally to Strike Back Against Impeachment Vote Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Republican Party Pence, Mike Michigan House of Representatives

Describing the impeachment vote as an attempt to “nullify the ballots of tens of millions of patriotic Americans,” President Trump struck a defiant tone on Wednesday night, lashing out at Democrats and saying he had done nothing wrong at all.

Moments after the House finished passing two articles of impeachment against him, Mr. Trump used a campaign rally in Battle Creek, Mich., to tout the strong economy, mock the Democratic presidential field, relive his 2016 victory and claim that Democrats made up the charges against him.

“They said there’s no crime,” he said. “There’s no crime. I’m the first person to ever get impeached and there’s no crime. I feel guilty. It’s impeachment lite.”

He paused before adding, “I don’t know about you, but I’m having a good time.”

His rejoinder created the remarkable image of a combative president — even as he was becoming the third to be impeached — standing unbowed before his core base of supporters heading into a year in which he will be seeking re-election.

Characteristically, there was no reflection about the gravity of the moment in his address, much less contrition about the pressure campaign he waged against Ukraine, seeking a commitment from the country’s new president to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and look into various allegations about the 2016 election, including an unfounded theory that Ukrainians rather than Russians had stolen emails from the Democrat National Committee.

Mr. Trump seemed intent at times on diverting attention from the impeachment proceedings unfolding back in Washington. His discursive remarks touched on everything from light bulbs to sinks, showers and toilets to Beto O’Rourke, the former Democratic presidential candidate who quit the race over a month ago.

“It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached,” Mr. Trump said. “The country is doing better than ever before. We did nothing wrong. We have tremendous support in the Republican Party like we’ve never had before.”

At the moment when the House approved the first article of impeachment against Mr. Trump, for abuse of power, about 17 minutes after he took the stage, he was bragging about how F-35 pilots were better looking than the actor Tom Cruise.

Mr. Trump’s decision to hold a rally and immerse himself in the warmth of an adoring crowd at the critical juncture in his presidency was an echo of how he handled his worst public humiliation — the revelation of the “Access Hollywood” tape on Oct. 7, 2016, during the final days of his 2016 presidential campaign.

After holing up at Trump Tower the day after that video was released, Mr. Trump emerged after seeing on television that a crowd supporters had gathered on Fifth Avenue. He walked through the glass doors, pumped his fist in the air, and then walked back into his building, clapping his hands as if cheering himself on.

On Wednesday night, Mr. Trump appeared to rally his own spirits by reminiscing about his 2016 victory in front of an adoring crowd, and taunting the 2020 Democratic presidential field. “She’s gasping for air,” he said of Senator Elizabeth Warren, while poking fun at the pronunciation of Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s name.

The rambling performance was vintage Trump, hitting on his favorite targets, like Lisa Page, the former F.B.I. lawyer, and James Comey, the former F.B.I. director. “Did I do a great job when I fired his ass?” he said.

But his anger at the House Democrats rang through his speech. At one point, Mr. Trump said that Americans would show up next year to “vote Pelosi the hell out of office.”

The crowd later seemed perplexed when he attacked Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan, who he noted voted for impeachment despite the fact that Mr. Trump lowered the flags for her late husband, longtime Representative John Dingell. “Maybe he’s looking up” instead of looking down, Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump, described by his aides as having been in a frustrated, snappish mood for days, traveled to the rally in an electorally vital state after watching the impeachment debate on television and tweeting or retweeting more than 50 times.

“They want to Impeach me (I’m not worried!),” he wrote in one post on Wednesday morning. “And yet they were all breaking the law in so many ways. How can they do that and yet impeach a very successful (Economy Plus) President of the United States, who has done nothing wrong? These people are Crazy!”

The first image of Mr. Trump on Wednesday came as he cut across the South Lawn, alone, dressed in a dark overcoat and prepared to depart for Michigan. Instead of making a beeline for the cameras and microphones gathered outside of the Oval Office, as he typically does, he silently trudged over to a small group of supporters before leaving without taking any questions from reporters.

Earlier, Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president, stood in the White House briefing room and said Mr. Trump was in good spirits. “The president is fine,” Ms. Conway said, “his mood is good.”

Trump campaign aides and White House officials like Ms. Conway have been projecting confidence that the impeachment inquiry has only served as fuel for the president’s campaign, bolstering its fund-raising efforts as well as its volunteer recruitment. But privately, people who know him said, Mr. Trump has been aware of the historic nature of a charge of “high crimes and misdemeanors” and has been aggrieved at what he views as a stain on his legacy, a desire by Democrats to harm him personally and what he sees as the failure of Republicans to state with more conviction that he did nothing wrong.

Some of that anger played out online on Wednesday as Mr. Trump watched cable news coverage of the impeachment debate. “SUCH ATROCIOUS LIES BY THE RADICAL LEFT, DO NOTHING DEMOCRATS. THIS IS AN ASSAULT ON AMERICA, AND AN ASSAULT ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!” he wrote on Twitter.

His all-caps burst of online frustration came minutes after the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, tried to convey a sense of business as usual in the West Wing, saying in a statement that the president would be “working all day” and catching some of the impeachment proceedings “between meetings.”

Other aides were also committed to a “just another Wednesday” narrative, noting that legislative affairs officials were busy on Capitol Hill working on the revised trade agreement with Mexico and Canada as well as two spending bills.

But Mr. Trump’s grievance-infused state of mind was laid out clearly in a six-page letter the White House sent on Tuesday to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!” he wrote. “By proceeding with your invalid impeachment, you are violating your oaths of office, you are breaking your allegiance to the Constitution, and you are declaring open war on American Democracy.”

Mr. Trump drafted the letter with the help of three aides: Stephen Miller, his top policy adviser; Eric Ueland, his legislative affairs director; and Mike Williams, a counselor to the acting chief of staff.

The president purposefully did not consult with the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, according to people involved with drafting the letter because he did not want to be told what he could and could not say — he simply wanted to vent.

In the audience in Battle Creek, Mr. Trump’s supporters were finally expressing the sentiments he had been wanting to hear more forcefully from Republican lawmakers.

“How they even have a right to say he did something wrong is baffling,” said Jonathan Anderson, a resident of nearby Portage.

Michigan promises to be crucial to Mr. Trump’s re-election fortunes, and will probably be tightly contested. Mr. Trump unexpectedly won Michigan by a fraction of a percentage point in 2016, or just over 10,000 votes more than Hillary Clinton. His final 2016 campaign stop, late at night, was in Grand Rapids. Battle Creek, a city of just over 50,000, is the hub of a county that voted for Mr. Trump but is surrounded by more liberal cities, including Kalamazoo and East Lansing. Residents still consider it an industrial town, even as empty storefronts dot the downtown. Kellogg’s, the major cereal producer, still employs thousands of people and churns out Raisin Bran and Rice Krispies at a plant that sends cereal scents into the city’s air.

Local officials said the arena would hold around 6,500 people. On Wednesday morning, a large screen in a plaza outside the building cycled through clips featuring Mr. Trump’s family, including his daughter-in-law Lara Trump, who interviewed Diamond and Silk, two pro-Trump internet personalities. Parka and scarf-wearing rally attendees lined up early in the morning, huddling in a parking garage to keep warm.

Annie Karni reported from Washington, Maggie Haberman from New York, and Michael Crowley and Noah Weiland from Battle Creek, Mich.

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The Impeachment Witnesses Not Heard

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-assess-facebookJumbo The Impeachment Witnesses Not Heard United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Pompeo, Mike Pence, Mike Mulvaney, Mick impeachment House Committee on the Judiciary House Committee on Intelligence Giuliani, Rudolph W Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — In recent days, lawmakers were told that when President Trump ramped up his campaign to pressure Ukraine into helping him against his domestic political rivals, he directed advisers to his personal lawyer. “Talk with Rudy,” he instructed. But one thing lawmakers will not do is talk with Rudy.

Rudolph W. Giuliani was hardly the only offstage character during two weeks of impeachment hearings that ended on Thursday. Lawmakers also heard that Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo were in the loop, that Mick Mulvaney organized the political equivalent of a “drug deal” and that John R. Bolton was adamantly against it.

But among those missing from the House Intelligence Committee’s witness list, besides Mr. Giuliani, are Mr. Pence, Mr. Pompeo, Mr. Mulvaney and Mr. Bolton. Not that the panel’s Democratic majority was unwilling to talk with the vice president, secretary of state, acting White House chief of staff or former national security adviser. Democratic leaders have decided not to wage a drawn-out fight to force them to testify over White House objections.

Instead, as the committee wrapped up its public hearings on Thursday, House Democrats have opted for expeditious over comprehensive, electing to complete their investigation even without filling in major gaps in the story. It is a calculated gamble that they have enough evidence to impeach Mr. Trump on a party-line vote in the House and would risk losing momentum if they took the time to wage a court fight to compel reluctant witnesses to come forward.

But it leaves major questions unresolved. Was Mr. Pence told about a suspected link between security aid and investigations of Mr. Trump’s political opponents, as one witness testified? Did Mr. Pompeo sign off on it? Did Mr. Mulvaney facilitate the scheme? Did Mr. Bolton ever bring his objections directly to the president? Several current and former officials rushed out statements through aides or lawyers taking issue with testimony about them, but none of them volunteered to offer their own versions of the truth under oath.

Democrats have concluded that in the face of White House refusal to cooperate, it is better to press ahead and simply address the refusal of witnesses like Mr. Mulvaney to testify as a plank in a possible article of impeachment alleging obstruction of Congress.

“They should be coming before us,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday. “They keep taking it to court, and no, we’re not going to wait until the courts decide. That might be information that’s available to the Senate, in terms of how far we go and when we go. But we can’t wait for that because, again, it’s a technique. It’s obstruction of justice, obstruction of Congress.”

Even some Republican strategists said she had a point. “As a political matter, the longer this goes, it is a real opportunity for Republicans to paint Democrats as unconcerned about the issues voters care more about, and I think Nancy Pelosi is well aware of that,” said Brendan Buck, who was counselor to former Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

But it leaves some frustrated about the missing pieces. “An impeachable offense should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear and unambiguous,” said Representative Will Hurd of Texas, one of the few Republicans willing to criticize the president and at one point seen as theoretically open to the possibility of impeachment. “And it’s not something to be rushed or taken lightly. I have not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion.”

With the White House defying the House, Mr. Mulvaney has refused to comply with a subpoena for his testimony while Mr. Pence and Mr. Pompeo have defied subpoenas for documents. Mr. Bolton has declined an invitation to testify and has not been subpoenaed but is awaiting the result of a lawsuit filed by his former deputy, Charles M. Kupperman, asking a judge to decide whether he should listen to the House or the White House.

That case is due for oral arguments in a Federal District Court in Washington on Dec. 10, but even if the judge rules quickly it could be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which would take time.

Another lawsuit seeking to force Donald F. McGahn II, the former White House counsel, to testify in response to an earlier House subpoena in a previous matter may be decided by a judge on Monday. But it too could be appealed, and Mr. Bolton’s lawyer has suggested that it might not apply to his client since there are separate national security concerns at stake.

None of which would suit the fast-track timetable envisioned by House Democrats. Although more witnesses could still be called, the Intelligence Committee concluded its scheduled public hearings after 12 witnesses and will now focus on drafting a report on the matter. It could also use the coming days to renew its press for the administration to turn over long-sought documents that have become more significant in light of the testimony.

From there, the committee’s report will go to the House Judiciary Committee, which traditionally handles impeachment and will then hold hearings of its own, but generally on constitutional and legal issues rather than fact-finding of its own. After it drafts articles of impeachment, the committee would vote on them and send them to the House floor, where Democrats anticipate a vote by Christmas.

In theory, if witnesses like Mr. Bolton do agree to testify or are compelled by a court, they could still be called before the Judiciary Committee. And for that matter, if the House does impeach Mr. Trump and sends the case to the Senate for a trial that would open sometime after the new year, additional witnesses could still be called then, too.

But the two weeks of public hearings showed how much remains fluid. Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union and a key figure in the pressure campaign, amended his original closed-door testimony after other witnesses contradicted him. Others like William B. Taylor Jr., the acting ambassador to Ukraine; Kurt D. Volker, the special envoy for Ukraine; and Laura K. Cooper, a Defense Department official, offered new information after their original interviews when reminded by their staff or other witnesses.

Some of those who have not testified are aggrieved at their portrayals over the last two weeks. Mr. Mulvaney protested testimony on Thursday by Fiona Hill, a former Bolton deputy, that put him at the center of the pressure campaign.

“Fiona Hill’s testimony is riddled with speculation and guesses about any role that Mr. Mulvaney played with anything related to Ukraine,” his lawyer, Robert N. Driscoll, said in a statement. But the statement did not explain what role he did play, leaving the committee to guess.

In Mr. Mulvaney’s case, he has made statements that Democrats, at least, will consider evidence even if it was not under oath. During a briefing for reporters last month, Mr. Mulvaney admitted that Mr. Trump suspended $391 million in American security aid to Ukraine in part to force Ukraine to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory involving Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr. Mulvaney later tried to take it back.

Those comments as well as statements by the offices of officials like Mr. Pence and Energy Secretary Rick Perry raise the question of whether they have effectively waived any claim of immunity from testifying because they have publicly addressed the matter, according to lawyers. But Democrats may not take the time to litigate the question.

Representative Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat who serves on the Foreign Affairs Committee that was involved in the Ukraine investigation at an earlier stage, pointed to Mr. Mulvaney’s public acknowledgment about the link between aid and an investigation as well as other testimony about figures like Mr. Bolton and Mr. Pompeo.

“I very much want to hear from them,” he said. “But if they lack the courage of their colleagues to testify under oath, we can assume that what we’ve learned about their views and actions is true.”

An impeachment proceeding is not the same as a criminal court process, of course, and the standard of evidence is not the same. The House can move forward with whatever evidence a majority considers sufficient. And to the extent that the processes can be compared, an impeachment would be the political equivalent of an indictment, signaling that there is enough evidence to merit a trial in the Senate, though not necessarily enough to convict.

Still, even in the relatively quick investigation conducted in the two months since Ms. Pelosi formally opened the impeachment inquiry, the basic facts of what happened have been established and to a greater or lesser degree verified by different witnesses.

“The reality is there’s not much ambiguity about what took place here,” Mr. Buck said. “We know what happened, and now members and voters have to decide whether it rises to the level of removing him.”

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Sondland Says He Followed Trump’s Orders to Pressure Ukraine

WASHINGTON — An ambassador at the center of the House impeachment inquiry testified on Wednesday that he was following President Trump’s orders, with the full knowledge of other top administration officials, when he pressured the Ukrainians to conduct investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals in what he called a clear “quid pro quo.”

Gordon D. Sondland, Mr. Trump’s envoy to the European Union, told the House Intelligence Committee that he reluctantly followed Mr. Trump’s directive. He testified that the president instructed him to work with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, as he pressured Ukraine to publicly commit to investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and an unsubstantiated theory that Democrats conspired with Kyiv to interfere in the 2016 election.

“We followed the president’s orders,” Mr. Sondland said.

His appearance amounted to an act of defiance by an official who has been described by other witnesses as a point man in the push to extract the investigations. In his testimony, Mr. Sondland linked the most senior members of the Trump administration to the effort — including the vice president, the secretary of state, the acting chief of staff and others. He said they were informed of it at key moments, an account that severely undercut Mr. Trump’s frequent claims that he never pressured Ukraine.

Instead, Mr. Sondland, a wealthy Republican megadonor, described an expansive effort to help the president do just that.

Later on Wednesday, a Defense Department official, Laura K. Cooper, testified that Ukrainian officials may have known as early as late July that a $391 million package of security assistance was being withheld by the Trump administration.

The testimony by Ms. Cooper called into question another central element of the president’s defense: that there was no pressure because Ukrainian officials were unaware that the money was frozen.

Two months into the investigation, Mr. Sondland’s account came as close as investigators have gotten to an admission from an official who dealt directly with Mr. Trump. But Mr. Sondland’s accounts have shifted since the committee first deposed him in October, opening him up to Republican criticism that he is not credible.

Mr. Sondland has repeatedly claimed not to have recalled key episodes, and he conceded during testimony on Wednesday that he did not record precisely what had happened. He blamed the State Department for not providing him with all his emails, call logs and other records.

Still, he offered revelations and had the evidence to corroborate them.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on parts of the pressure campaign, Mr. Sondland testified, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, was deeply involved. They understood, as he did, that there was a quid pro quo linking a White House meeting for President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to a promise by him to announce investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals, he said.

“I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a quid pro quo?” Mr. Sondland said. “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

“Everyone was in the loop,” he said. “It was no secret.”

Mr. Sondland testified that he came to believe that Mr. Trump was also linking congressionally approved military assistance to Ukraine with a public commitment by Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Trump’s political adversaries. Mr. Sondland said he informed Vice President Mike Pence of his concern about that connection during a Sept. 1 meeting in Warsaw.

Ms. Cooper testified that Ukrainian officials had reached out to the State and Defense Departments with questions about the status of the military funding on July 25, only hours after Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Zelensky during a phone call for the investigations. Republicans have insisted that Ukraine did not know that the aid had been held up until it was reported in the news media in late August.

Beyond the evolving timeline, Mr. Sondland’s testimony raised questions about whether the other top administration figures he mentioned — including Mr. Pompeo, Mr. Mulvaney and John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser — would come forward to testify.

The Trump administration tried to block the testimony of Mr. Sondland, Ms. Cooper and David Hale, the No. 3 State Department official, who also appeared on Wednesday, and refused to allow Mr. Sondland access to certain documents, he said, which it also withheld from the committee despite a subpoena.

Democrats pointed to the administration’s stonewalling as yet another piece of evidence for an impeachment article against Mr. Trump for obstruction of Congress.

“It goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery, as well as other potential high crimes and misdemeanors,” Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, told reporters during a brief break in the hearing.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_164733612_e5708ec4-1796-48de-86b5-683d6dc1b534-articleLarge Sondland Says He Followed Trump’s Orders to Pressure Ukraine United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Pompeo, Mike Perry, Rick Pence, Mike Mulvaney, Mick impeachment House Committee on Intelligence Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

Representatives Adam B. Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Devin Nunes, the panel’s top Republican, listening to Mr. Sondland’s testimony.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Republicans, moving to discredit Mr. Sondland, seized on his assertion that Mr. Trump never personally or explicitly told him about conditions on the White House meeting or the security assistance. Mr. Sondland said under questioning that he came to the conclusion on his own.

Representative Michael R. Turner, Republican of Ohio, hammered on the point, his voice rising as he sharply questioned the ambassador.

“No one told you? Not just the president — Giuliani didn’t tell you, Mulvaney didn’t tell you, nobody?” Mr. Turner demanded. “Pompeo didn’t tell you?

“No one on this planet told you that President Trump was tying aid to investigations,” he added. “Yes or no?”

“Yes,” Mr. Sondland responded.

The ambassador, who smiled often during his appearance and cheerfully admitted to a flair for colorful language and frequent use of “four-letter words” in his conversations with Mr. Trump, appeared to relish pulling other top officials into the spotlight. For weeks, Republicans had cast him as a rogue actor.

“The suggestion that we were engaged in some irregular or rogue diplomacy is absolutely false,” he said, pointing to messages and phone calls in which he kept the White House and the State Department informed of his actions.

Some of the senior officials who figured prominently in Mr. Sondland’s testimony quickly challenged his account, and Mr. Trump tried to distance himself from the ambassador.

“I don’t know him very well — I have not spoken to him much,” Mr. Trump told reporters before leaving for Texas on Wednesday afternoon.

Holding a page of notes scrawled in marker in large block letters, Mr. Trump quoted Mr. Sondland’s closed-door deposition in which the ambassador described a phone call in which the president had told him he did not want a quid pro quo.

Before boarding Marine One, Mr. Trump shouted, “This is the final word from the president of the United States.”

The White House press secretary later put out a statement saying that Mr. Sondland’s testimony “completely exonerates President Trump of any wrongdoing.”

Through an aide, Mr. Pence denied that the two men had spoken one-on-one.

“There was never a time when Sondland was alone with the vice president in Warsaw, and if he’s recalling the pre-briefing, I was in that, and he never said anything in that venue either,” said Marc Short, Mr. Pence’s chief of staff.

Defying the State Department’s wishes, Mr. Sondland shared previously unseen emails and texts that demonstrated how he kept Mr. Pompeo and other administration officials apprised of his efforts to push the Ukranians. In one of them, Mr. Sondland tells Mr. Pompeo about a draft statement in which the Ukranians would commit to the investigations, and about a plan to have Mr. Zelensky speak directly with Mr. Trump about the matter.

“The contents will hopefully make the boss happy enough to authorize an invitation,” Mr. Sondland wrote in an email to Mr. Pompeo.

A week and a half later, Mr. Sondland sent Mr. Pompeo another email asking whether he should arrange a meeting in Warsaw for Mr. Trump where Mr. Zelensky would “look him in the eye” and promise him the investigations, breaking a “logjam.”

Mr. Pompeo issued a statement that appeared intended to deny Mr. Sondland’s testimony, but that did not directly address the ambassador’s assertion that the secretary of state knew and approved of his efforts.

“Gordon Sondland never told Secretary Pompeo that he believed the president was linking aid to investigations of political opponents,” according to the statement from Morgan Ortagus, the State Department spokeswoman.

Mr. Sondland even took shots at Mr. Bolton, who other witnesses have said harbored deep concerns over the ambassador’s actions and repeatedly instructed subordinates to report them to White House lawyers.

“Curiously — and this was very interesting to me — on Aug. 26, shortly before his visit to Kyiv, Ambassador Bolton’s office requested Mr. Giuliani’s contact information from me,” said Mr. Sondland, who repeated himself and then paused to smirk before continuing with his testimony.

One of the more dramatic moments of the day occurred in the final hour in an exchange between Mr. Sondland and Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, Democrat of New York, who elicited a grudging admission from the ambassador that the investigations that Mr. Trump wanted would benefit him politically.

“See? It didn’t hurt a bit,” Mr. Maloney said, drawing a testy response from Mr. Sondland, who said he was trying to be “forthright.”

“It didn’t work so well the first time, did it?” Mr. Maloney shot back, referring to the multiple changes Mr. Sondland has made to his story.

“We appreciate your candor,” Mr. Maloney said, “but let’s be really clear on what it took to get it out of you.”

Reporting was contributed by Michael D. Shear, Emily Cochrane, Maggie Haberman and Zach Montague.

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Sondland, in Act of Defiance, Says He Followed Trump’s Orders in Ukraine Pressure Scheme

WASHINGTON — An ambassador at the center of the House impeachment inquiry testified on Wednesday that he was following President Trump’s orders with the full knowledge of several other top administration officials when he pressured the Ukrainians to conduct investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals, detailing a “clear quid pro quo” directed by the president.

Gordon D. Sondland, a wealthy Republican megadonor appointed by Mr. Trump as the United States ambassador to the European Union, told the House Intelligence Committee in sworn testimony that he reluctantly followed Mr. Trump’s directive to work with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, as he pressured Ukraine to publicly commit to investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and an unproven theory that Democrats conspired with Kyiv to interfere in the 2016 election.

“We followed the president’s orders,” Mr. Sondland said.

In explosive testimony that amounted to an act of defiance by an official who has been described by other witnesses as a point man in the effort to extract from Ukraine the investigations Mr. Trump wanted, Mr. Sondland tied the senior-most members of the administration to the effort — including the vice president, the secretary of state, the acting chief of staff and others — saying they were informed of it at key moments.

Yet as striking as his account was, Mr. Sondland appeared on Wednesday as a highly problematic witness, one who has had to revise his account several times based on testimony from others, repeatedly claimed not to have recalled key episodes, and conceded before the committee that he did not take notes that could give him certainty about precisely what happened. Still, the revelations he offered were stunning.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on parts of the pressure campaign, Mr. Sondland testified, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, was deeply involved. They understood, as he did, that there was a “clear quid pro quo” linking a White House meeting for President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to a promise by him to announce investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals, he said.

“I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a quid pro quo?” Mr. Sondland said. “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

“Everyone was in the loop,” he said. “It was no secret.”

And Mr. Sondland testified that he grew to believe that there was another linkage being made by Mr. Trump, between vital military assistance approved by Congress for Ukraine and a public commitment by its president to investigate Mr. Trump’s political adversaries. Mr. Sondland said he informed Vice President Mike Pence of his concern about that connection during a Sept. 1 meeting in Warsaw.

Almost two months after House Democrats began their impeachment inquiry, Mr. Sondland’s account came as close as investigators have gotten to an admission from an official who dealt directly with Mr. Trump. But it came with the blemishes of Mr. Sondland’s shifting accounts that have evolved since the committee first deposed him in October, opening him up to criticism from Republicans who claimed he was unreliable and not credible.

Still, Democrats quickly seized on Mr. Sondland’s testimony as a bombshell.

“It goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery, as well as other potential high crimes and misdemeanors,” Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, told reporters during a brief break in the hearing.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_164733612_e5708ec4-1796-48de-86b5-683d6dc1b534-articleLarge Sondland, in Act of Defiance, Says He Followed Trump’s Orders in Ukraine Pressure Scheme United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Pompeo, Mike Perry, Rick Pence, Mike Mulvaney, Mick impeachment House Committee on Intelligence Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

Representative Adam B. Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Devin Nunes, the ranking member, listening to Mr. Sondland’s testimony.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Mr. Sondland, who smiled often during his appearance in the stately committee room, cheerfully admitting to a flair for colorful language and frequent use of “four-letter words” in his conversations with Mr. Trump, appeared to relish pulling other top officials into the spotlight with him after weeks of being cast by Republicans as a lone, rogue actor. If he was uneasy about wreaking havoc on the defense of a president for whom he still works, Mr. Sondland did not show it.

“The suggestion that we were engaged in some irregular or rogue diplomacy is absolutely false,” he said, pointing to messages and phone calls in which he kept the White House and the State Department informed of his actions. “Any claim that I somehow muscled my way into the Ukraine relationship is simply false.”

Mr. Sondland’s appearance was the centerpiece of a crammed week of testimony before the Intelligence Committee. Wednesday afternoon, two more officials — Laura Cooper of the Defense Department and David Hale of the State Department — were expected to deliver accounts related to the suspension of the security aid for Ukraine.

It could create new legal and political pressure on senior officials who either have refused to testify in the inquiry or have not yet been called, including Mr. Pompeo, Mr. Mulvaney and John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser.

Standing on the South Lawn of the White House while Mr. Sondland was still at the witness table, Mr. Trump tried to distance himself from the ambassador.

“I don’t know him very well — I have not spoken to him much,” Mr. Trump told reporters before departing on a trip to Texas.

Holding a page of notes scrawled in marker in large block letters, Mr. Trump read aloud from a section of Mr. Sondland’s closed-door deposition in which the ambassador described a phone call in which the president had told him he did not want a quid pro quo.

“This is the final word from the president of the United States,” Mr. Trump said, shouting to be heard over the hum of helicopter rotors. “‘I want nothing.’”

That conversation occurred after the White House was aware that a whistle-blower had filed a complaint alleging that Mr. Trump was abusing his power to try to enlist Ukraine to help him in the 2020 presidential election.

Through an aide, Mr. Pence denied that the two men had spoken as Mr. Sondland recounted.

“Ambassador Gordon Sondland was never alone with Vice President Pence on the Sept. 1 trip to Poland,” Marc Short, his chief of staff, said in a statement. “This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened.”

In the hearing room, Republicans tried to push past many of Mr. Sondland’s conclusions about the pressure campaign. They defended Mr. Trump’s interest in the Biden and 2016 investigations and focused their attention on Mr. Sondland’s assertion that Mr. Trump never personally or explicitly told Mr. Sondland about preconditions on the White House meeting or the security assistance being released.

“President Trump never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on the investigations,” Mr. Sondland said under questioning. “The aid was my own personal guess based, again, on your analogy, two plus two equals four.”

Mr. Sondland would not say whether he believed the president when he said no quid pro quo on a September phone call.

At times, representatives of both parties grew frustrated with Mr. Sondland, who has already significantly revised his earlier accounts and repeatedly pleaded a faulty memory as his interrogators tried to clarify particulars. Republicans, though, were eager to highlight Mr. Sondland as unreliable.

“You don’t have records,” said Steve Castor, Republicans’ staff lawyer. “You don’t have your notes because you didn’t take notes. You don’t have a lot of recollections. I mean, this is like the trifecta of unreliability.”

Still, on matters at the heart of the inquiry, Mr. Sondland’s account was singularly damning. He confirmed the contents of a July 26 phone call with Mr. Trump described by an official from the American Embassy in Kyiv and other witness testimony that Mr. Sondland had conveyed to Ukrainian officials that they would need to announce the investigations Mr. Trump wanted if they had hopes of getting a White House meeting or the $391 million in aid Mr. Trump held up.

Mr. Sondland said that he, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Kurt D. Volker, the special envoy for Ukraine, grudgingly worked with Mr. Giuliani on a pressure campaign “at the express direction of the president of the United States.” From his perch outside the White House, Mr. Giuliani was pushing for investigations into Mr. Biden and unproven theories that Ukraine aided the Democrats in the 2016 election.

“Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt,” Mr. Sondland said. “We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the president’s orders.”

At another point, explaining how he came to understand that the United States relationship with Ukraine was contingent on the announcement of the investigations, Mr. Sondland said that “Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the president.”

Mr. Giuliani defied a subpoena from the House for written records in his possession related to his work in Ukraine, but Democrats never called him to testify because they did not want to give him a platform he would surely use to defend Mr. Trump and malign Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether Mr. Giuliani broke lobbying laws in his dealings with Ukraine. They are scrutinizing Mr. Giuliani’s role in the recall of the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, as part of a broader campaign Mr. Giuliani waged to pressure the Ukranians.

Defying the State Department’s wishes, Mr. Sondland shared previously unseen emails and texts that demonstrated how he kept Mr. Pompeo and other administration officials apprised of his efforts to push the Ukranians. Mr. Sondland told Mr. Pompeo about a statement the Ukranians were considering putting out that would commit them to the investigations and a plan to have Mr. Zelensky speak directly with Mr. Trump about the matter.

Mr. Sondland and Mr. Volker had “negotiated a statement from Zelensky to be delivered for our review in a day or two,” Mr. Sondland said in the email. “The contents will hopefully make the boss happy enough to authorize an invitation.”

Mr. Sondland said that Mr. Zelensky was prepared to hold a news conference to make a public commitment to the investigations Mr. Trump sought.

A week and a half later, Mr. Sondland sent Mr. Pompeo another email that laid out a way they could satisfy Mr. Trump and break the “logjam” in relations between the Trump administration and the Ukrainians. Mr. Sondland believed that if Mr. Zelensky told Mr. Trump in a face-to-face meeting that he would conduct the investigations, Mr. Trump may release the aid.

“Should we block time in Warsaw for a short pull-aside for Potus to meet Zelensky?” Mr. Sondland wrote, referring to the president. He added that he wanted Mr. Zelensky “to look him in the eye.”

“Yes,” Mr. Pompeo said in an email response.

Mr. Trump later called off the meeting because of Hurricane Dorian.

In another email, Mr. Sondland showed that he informed Mr. Trump’s top aides that Mr. Zelensky was likely to commit to the investigations when he and Mr. Trump spoke by phone in July. The call that eventually took place, on July 25, is the heart of the House inquiry and includes Mr. Trump asking Mr. Zelensky to investigate the 2016 issue and the Bidens.

“I talked to Zelensky just now. He is prepared to receive Potus’ call,” Mr. Sondland wrote, in advance in an email to Mr. Pompeo, Mr. Mulvaney and other senior aides. “Will assure him he intends to run a fully transparent investigation and will ‘turn over every stone.’”

Mr. Mulvaney responded by saying he had asked the National Security Council to set up the call for the next day.

Mr. Sondland even took shots at Mr. Bolton, who other witnesses have said harbored deep concerns over the ambassador’s actions and repeatedly instructed subordinates to report them to White House lawyers.

“Before his visit to Kyiv, Ambassador Bolton’s office requested Mr. Giuliani’s contact information,” said Mr. Sondland, who repeated himself and then paused to smirk before continuing with his testimony.

Mr. Sondland sought to play down his own possible legal exposure created by the evolution of his testimony. He said he had not been allowed to have access to his State Department records or employ department personnel to prepare for his testimony. He also described how frequent contacts with foreign leaders clouded his memories of specific conversations.

Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

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A White House Now ‘Cannibalizing Itself’

WASHINGTON — As Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman sat in a stately chamber testifying on Tuesday, the White House posted on its official Twitter account a message denouncing his judgment. His fellow witness, Jennifer Williams, had barely left the room when the White House issued a statement challenging her credibility.

In President Trump’s Washington, where attacks on his enemies real or perceived have become so routine that they now often pass unnoticed, that might not seem all that remarkable — but for the fact that Colonel Vindman and Ms. Williams both still work for the very same White House that was publicly assailing them.

With the president’s allies joining in, the two aides found themselves condemned as nobodies, as plotting bureaucrats, as traitors within and, in Colonel Vindman’s case, as an immigrant with dual loyalties. Even for a president who rarely spares the rhetorical howitzer, that represents a new level of bombardment.

Mr. Trump has publicly disparaged cabinet secretaries, former aides and career officials working elsewhere in the government, but now he is taking aim at people still working for him inside the White House complex by name.

“This White House appears to be cannibalizing itself,” said William C. Inboden, a former national security aide to President George W. Bush. “While many previous White House staffs have feuded with each other and leaked against each other, this is the first time in history I am aware of a White House openly attacking its own staff — especially for merely upholding their constitutional duties.”

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transcript

Day 3: Trump Impeachment Hearings Highlights

Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee today were: Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert for the National Security Council; Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence; Tim Morrison, a senior national security aide and Trump loyalist; and Kurt D. Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine.

“On July 25th, along with several of my colleagues, I listened to a call between President Trump and President Zelensky, the content of which has since been publicly reported. I found the July 25th phone call unusual because in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, It involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.” “Dad, I’m sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol talking to our elected professionals — talking to our elected professionals, is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry. I will be fine for telling the truth. It was improper for the president to request an — to demand an investigation into a political opponent, especially a foreign power where there is at best dubious belief that this would be a completely impartial investigation.” “What is it about the relationship between the president of the United States and the president of Ukraine that leads you to conclude that when the president of the United States asks a favor like this, it’s really a demand?” “Chairman, the culture I come from, the military culture, when a senior asks you to do something, even if it’s polite and pleasant, it’s not — it’s not to be taken as a request. It’s to be taken as an order. In this case, the power disparity between the two leaders — my impression is that in order to get the White House meeting, President Zelensky would have to deliver these investigations.” “In no way shape, or form in either readouts from the United States or Ukraine did you receive any indication whatsoever or anything that resembled a quid pro quo — is that correct?” “That’s correct.” “And the same would go for this new allegation of bribery?” “I’ve only seen an allegation of bribery in the last week.” “It’s the same common set of facts — it’s just instead of quid pro quo, now it’s bribery.” “I was never involved in anything that I considered to be bribery at all.” “O.K. Or extortion?” “Or extortion.” “O.K.” “Ambassador Volker thinks it’s inappropriate to ask a foreign head of state to investigate a U.S. person, let alone a political rival. But you’ve said you had no concern with that. Do you think that’s appropriate?” “As a hypothetical matter, I do not.” “Well I’m not talking about a hypothetical matter. Read the transcript — in that transcript, does the president not ask Zelensky to look into the Bidens?” “Mr. Chairman, I can only tell you what I was thinking at the time. That is not what I understood the president to be doing.” “But nonetheless, this was the first and only time where you went from listening to a presidential call directly to the national security lawyer, is it not?” “Yes, that’s correct.” “Ms. Williams, on Sunday the president personally targeted you in a tweet. This is after he targeted Ambassador Yovanovitch during her hearing testimony. I’d like to show and read you the tweet. It reads: ‘Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read both transcripts of the presidential calls and see the just-released statement from Ukraine. Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know and mostly never even heard of, and work out a better presidential attack.’ Did that tweet make an impression on you when you read it?” “It certainly surprised me. I was not expecting to be called out by name.” “Lt. Col. Vindman, did you discuss the July 25th phone call with anyone outside the White House on July 25th or the 26th? And if so, with whom?” “Yes, I did. I spoke to two individuals.” “And what agencies were these officials with?” “Department of State, and an individual in the intelligence community.” “What agency was this individual from?” “If I could interject here. We don’t want to use these proceedings —” “It’s our time, Mr. Chairman —” “I know, but we need to protect the whistle-blower.” “Lt. Col. Vindman, you testified in the deposition that you did not know who the whistle-blower was or is.” “I do not know who the whistle-blower is. That is correct.” “So how is it possible for you to name these people and then out the whistle-blower?” “Per the advice of my counsel, I’ve been advised not to answer specific questions about members of the intelligence community.” “You’re here to answer questions and you’re here under subpoena. So you can either answer the question or you can plead the Fifth.” “Excuse me. On behalf of my client, we are following the rule of the committee, the rule of the chair with regard to this issue. And this does not call for an answer that is invoking the Fifth or any theoretical issue like that. We’re following the ruling of the chair.” “What — counselor, what ruling is that?” “If I could interject: Counsel is correct. The whistle-blower has the right, statutory right to anonymity. These proceedings will not be used to out the whistle-blower.”

Westlake Legal Group 19dc-impeach-hilights-sub-videoSixteenByNine3000-v4 A White House Now ‘Cannibalizing Itself’ Williams, Jennifer (Foreign Service Officer) Vindman, Alexander S United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Pence, Mike impeachment Government Employees

Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee today were: Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert for the National Security Council; Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence; Tim Morrison, a senior national security aide and Trump loyalist; and Kurt D. Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

In part, that reflects the challenge for a president facing an impeachment inquiry where every witness called so far either currently or previously worked in the government over which he presides. To defend against potential charges of high crimes and misdemeanors, Mr. Trump evidently feels he must undercut the believability of the witnesses testifying about his pressure campaign on Ukraine for help against his domestic rivals.

It also reflects the president’s longstanding distrust of the career professionals who populate his White House, just as they have every other. While such officials characterize their work as nonpartisan in service of presidents of either party, Mr. Trump has felt burned since the early days of his administration when internal documents were leaked, including transcripts of two of his phone calls with foreign leaders.

“Nothing is the same anymore,” said Ari Fleischer, a White House press secretary for Mr. Bush. “Clearly, when the staff leaks presidential phone calls with foreign leaders the first week of the president’s job, the staff is not what the staff used to be. It taints everyone, even good and loyal staffers.”

All three witnesses who testified publicly last week still work for the State Department, and Mr. Trump directly denigrated one of them, Marie L. Yovanovitch, who was recalled as ambassador to Ukraine. But Colonel Vindman, the top Ukraine policy official on the National Security Council staff, and Ms. Williams, a national security aide to Vice President Mike Pence, were the first to appear before the House Intelligence Committee while still working in the White House.

Even before raising his hand to take the oath on Tuesday, Colonel Vindman had come under particularly sharp fire. Mr. Trump’s allies on Fox News and elsewhere have questioned his patriotism by noting that he was born in Ukraine, a critique the naturalized citizen rebutted by showing up Tuesday in his Army dress uniform with Combat Infantry Badge and a Purple Heart from his service in Iraq.

Colonel Vindman opened his testimony by deploring smears on government officials who have been subpoenaed to testify in the inquiry. “The vile character attacks on these distinguished and honorable public servants is reprehensible,” he said.

Amid the threats, the Army has been assessing potential security threats to Colonel Vindman and his brother Yevgeny, who also works at the National Security Council. There have also been discussions about moving the Vindmans and their families onto a military base for their protection, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.

The committee’s Republican counsel questioned Colonel Vindman on Tuesday about an offer from Ukraine’s new government to become defense minister, a proposal he said he dismissed out of hand and reported to his superiors and counterintelligence officials. Fox News quickly picked up on the issue, sending out a news alert moments later: “Vindman says Ukrainian official offered him the job of Ukrainian defense minister.”

Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, grilled Colonel Vindman about comments by two former bosses at the National Security Council, Tim Morrison and Fiona Hill, raising questions about his judgment.

Colonel Vindman replied by pulling out a copy of a performance evaluation that Ms. Hill wrote in July and read it aloud. “Alex is a top 1 percent military officer and the best Army officer I have worked with in my 15 years of government service,” Colonel Vindman read.

The White House nonetheless posted a Twitter message: “Tim Morrison, Alexander Vindman’s former boss, testified in his deposition that he had concerns about Vindman’s judgment.”

Speaking with reporters, Mr. Trump seemed to scorn Colonel Vindman for appearing in uniform. “I never saw the man,” the president said. “I understand now he wears his uniform when goes in. No, I don’t know Vindman at all.”

Democratic lawmakers responded angrily to attacks on Colonel Vindman. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, Democrat of New York, accused Republicans of trying to “air out some allegations with no basis and proof, but they just want to get them out there and hope maybe some of those strands of spaghetti I guess will stick on the wall if they keep throwing them.”

As for Ms. Williams, the president tweeted about her over the weekend. “Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just released ststement from Ukraine,” he wrote, misspelling “statement.” “Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!”

Ms. Williams, a career official who got her start under Mr. Bush and called former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “a personal hero of mine,” denied that she was a “Never Trumper.” So did Colonel Vindman. “I’d call myself Never Partisan,” he said.

Asked her reaction to the president’s tweet, Ms. Williams said: “It certainly surprised me. I was not expecting to be called out by name.”

But she would be again before the day was out. Mr. Pence’s two most senior aides pushed back against her after she testified that she considered Mr. Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukraine’s president “unusual” because of the president’s request that the Kyiv government investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats.

“I heard nothing wrong or improper on the call,” retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, the vice president’s national security adviser, said in a written statement released after her testimony. “I had and have no concerns. Ms. Williams was also on the call, and as she testified, she never reported any personal or professional concerns to me, her direct supervisor, regarding the call.

“In fact,” he added, “she never reported any personal or professional concerns to any other member of the vice president’s staff, including our chief of staff and the vice president.”

Marc Short, the vice president’s chief of staff, went on Fox News to make the same point. “She said she found the call unusual, yet she never raised any concerns with her supervisor, General Kellogg, she never raised any concerns with the chief of staff, she never raised any concerns with the vice president,” he said.

He added, “We have impeachment in pursuit of a crime.”

Neither Ms. Williams nor Colonel Vindman weighed in on whether Mr. Trump should be impeached. As career officials, they generally stuck to factual accounts of their experiences and gave dispassionate though at times pointed assessments of what they saw while clearly trying to avoid being drawn into the larger political debate about what Congress should do about the situation.

But they presumably will have to return to work at some point, back to the same White House complex where they have served knowing that the president they serve blames them for his political troubles.

Charles A. Kupchan, who was President Barack Obama’s Europe adviser, said it should come as no surprise that Colonel Vindman and Ms. Williams would be targeted from within. “It is quite unusual for a White House to eat its young,” he said. “But Trump is a president who seems unable to tolerate dissent.”

Andrew Weiss, who was President Bill Clinton’s Russia adviser, said the attacks on Colonel Vindman “must be incredibly demoralizing for career people” still at the National Security Council. “During my time at the N.S.C., there was a bright red line between national security and domestic politics,” he said. “Under Trump, that line has completely disappeared.”

Even some more supportive of Mr. Trump suggested on Tuesday that he stop going after witnesses. “The president should just ignore this whole thing,” Brian Kilmeade, a host on “Fox and Friends,” one of Mr. Trump’s favorite shows, said before the day’s hearings got underway. “Don’t tweet during it. Don’t get outraged over it. It ticks you off.”

That was advice the president did not take.

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Trump Takes Aim at His Own White House Aides

WASHINGTON — As Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman sat in a stately chamber testifying on Tuesday, the White House posted on its official Twitter account a message denouncing his judgment. His fellow witness, Jennifer Williams, had barely left the room when the White House issued a statement challenging her credibility.

In President Trump’s Washington, where attacks on his enemies real or perceived have become so routine that they now often pass unnoticed, that might not seem all that remarkable — but for the fact that Colonel Vindman and Ms. Williams both still work for the very same White House that was publicly assailing them.

With the president’s allies joining in, the two aides found themselves condemned as nobodies, as plotting bureaucrats, as traitors within and, in Colonel Vindman’s case, as an immigrant with dual loyalties. Even for a president who rarely spares the rhetorical howitzer, that represents a new level of bombardment.

Mr. Trump has publicly disparaged cabinet secretaries, former aides and career officials working elsewhere in the government, but now he is taking aim at people still working for him inside the White House complex by name.

“This White House appears to be cannibalizing itself,” said William C. Inboden, a former national security aide to President George W. Bush. “While many previous White House staffs have feuded with each other and leaked against each other, this is the first time in history I am aware of a White House openly attacking its own staff — especially for merely upholding their constitutional duties.”

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Day 3: Trump Impeachment Hearings Highlights

Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee today were: Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert for the National Security Council; Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence; Tim Morrison, a senior national security aide and Trump loyalist; and Kurt D. Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine.

“On July 25th, along with several of my colleagues, I listened to a call between President Trump and President Zelensky, the content of which has since been publicly reported. I found the July 25th phone call unusual because in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, It involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.” “Dad, I’m sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol talking to our elected professionals — talking to our elected professionals, is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry. I will be fine for telling the truth. It was improper for the president to request an — to demand an investigation into a political opponent, especially a foreign power where there is at best dubious belief that this would be a completely impartial investigation.” “What is it about the relationship between the president of the United States and the president of Ukraine that leads you to conclude that when the president of the United States asks a favor like this, it’s really a demand?” “Chairman, the culture I come from, the military culture, when a senior asks you to do something, even if it’s polite and pleasant, it’s not — it’s not to be taken as a request. It’s to be taken as an order. In this case, the power disparity between the two leaders — my impression is that in order to get the White House meeting, President Zelensky would have to deliver these investigations.” “In no way shape, or form in either readouts from the United States or Ukraine did you receive any indication whatsoever or anything that resembled a quid pro quo — is that correct?” “That’s correct.” “And the same would go for this new allegation of bribery?” “I’ve only seen an allegation of bribery in the last week.” “It’s the same common set of facts — it’s just instead of quid pro quo, now it’s bribery.” “I was never involved in anything that I considered to be bribery at all.” “O.K. Or extortion?” “Or extortion.” “O.K.” “Ambassador Volker thinks it’s inappropriate to ask a foreign head of state to investigate a U.S. person, let alone a political rival. But you’ve said you had no concern with that. Do you think that’s appropriate?” “As a hypothetical matter, I do not.” “Well I’m not talking about a hypothetical matter. Read the transcript — in that transcript, does the president not ask Zelensky to look into the Bidens?” “Mr. Chairman, I can only tell you what I was thinking at the time. That is not what I understood the president to be doing.” “But nonetheless, this was the first and only time where you went from listening to a presidential call directly to the national security lawyer, is it not?” “Yes, that’s correct.” “Ms. Williams, on Sunday the president personally targeted you in a tweet. This is after he targeted Ambassador Yovanovitch during her hearing testimony. I’d like to show and read you the tweet. It reads: ‘Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read both transcripts of the presidential calls and see the just-released statement from Ukraine. Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know and mostly never even heard of, and work out a better presidential attack.’ Did that tweet make an impression on you when you read it?” “It certainly surprised me. I was not expecting to be called out by name.” “Lt. Col. Vindman, did you discuss the July 25th phone call with anyone outside the White House on July 25th or the 26th? And if so, with whom?” “Yes, I did. I spoke to two individuals.” “And what agencies were these officials with?” “Department of State, and an individual in the intelligence community.” “What agency was this individual from?” “If I could interject here. We don’t want to use these proceedings —” “It’s our time, Mr. Chairman —” “I know, but we need to protect the whistle-blower.” “Lt. Col. Vindman, you testified in the deposition that you did not know who the whistle-blower was or is.” “I do not know who the whistle-blower is. That is correct.” “So how is it possible for you to name these people and then out the whistle-blower?” “Per the advice of my counsel, I’ve been advised not to answer specific questions about members of the intelligence community.” “You’re here to answer questions and you’re here under subpoena. So you can either answer the question or you can plead the Fifth.” “Excuse me. On behalf of my client, we are following the rule of the committee, the rule of the chair with regard to this issue. And this does not call for an answer that is invoking the Fifth or any theoretical issue like that. We’re following the ruling of the chair.” “What — counselor, what ruling is that?” “If I could interject: Counsel is correct. The whistle-blower has the right, statutory right to anonymity. These proceedings will not be used to out the whistle-blower.”

Westlake Legal Group 19dc-impeach-hilights-sub-videoSixteenByNine3000-v4 Trump Takes Aim at His Own White House Aides Williams, Jennifer (Foreign Service Officer) Vindman, Alexander S United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Pence, Mike impeachment Government Employees

Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee today were: Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert for the National Security Council; Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence; Tim Morrison, a senior national security aide and Trump loyalist; and Kurt D. Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

In part, that reflects the challenge for a president facing an impeachment inquiry where every witness called so far either currently or previously worked in the government over which he presides. To defend against potential charges of high crimes and misdemeanors, Mr. Trump evidently feels he must undercut the believability of the witnesses testifying about his pressure campaign on Ukraine for help against his domestic rivals.

It also reflects the president’s longstanding distrust of the career professionals who populate his White House, just as they have every other. While such officials characterize their work as nonpartisan in service of presidents of either party, Mr. Trump has felt burned since the early days of his administration when internal documents were leaked, including transcripts of two of his phone calls with foreign leaders.

“Nothing is the same anymore,” said Ari Fleischer, a White House press secretary for Mr. Bush. “Clearly, when the staff leaks presidential phone calls with foreign leaders the first week of the president’s job, the staff is not what the staff used to be. It taints everyone, even good and loyal staffers.”

All three witnesses who testified publicly last week still work for the State Department, and Mr. Trump directly denigrated one of them, Marie L. Yovanovitch, who was recalled as ambassador to Ukraine. But Colonel Vindman, the top Ukraine policy official on the National Security Council staff, and Ms. Williams, a national security aide to Vice President Mike Pence, were the first to appear before the House Intelligence Committee while still working in the White House.

Even before raising his hand to take the oath on Tuesday, Colonel Vindman had come under particularly sharp fire. Mr. Trump’s allies on Fox News and elsewhere have questioned his patriotism by noting that he was born in Ukraine, a critique the naturalized citizen rebutted by showing up Tuesday in his Army dress uniform with Combat Infantry Badge and a Purple Heart from his service in Iraq.

Colonel Vindman opened his testimony by deploring smears on government officials who have been subpoenaed to testify in the inquiry. “The vile character attacks on these distinguished and honorable public servants is reprehensible,” he said.

Amid the threats, the Army has been assessing potential security threats to Colonel Vindman and his brother Yevgeny, who also works at the National Security Council. There have also been discussions about moving the Vindmans and their families onto a military base for their protection, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.

The committee’s Republican counsel questioned Colonel Vindman on Tuesday about an offer from Ukraine’s new government to become defense minister, a proposal he said he dismissed out of hand and reported to his superiors and counterintelligence officials. Fox News quickly picked up on the issue, sending out a news alert moments later: “Vindman says Ukrainian official offered him the job of Ukrainian defense minister.”

Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, grilled Colonel Vindman about comments by two former bosses at the National Security Council, Tim Morrison and Fiona Hill, raising questions about his judgment.

Colonel Vindman replied by pulling out a copy of a performance evaluation that Ms. Hill wrote in July and read it aloud. “Alex is a top 1 percent military officer and the best Army officer I have worked with in my 15 years of government service,” Colonel Vindman read.

The White House nonetheless posted a Twitter message: “Tim Morrison, Alexander Vindman’s former boss, testified in his deposition that he had concerns about Vindman’s judgment.”

Speaking with reporters, Mr. Trump seemed to scorn Colonel Vindman for appearing in uniform. “I never saw the man,” the president said. “I understand now he wears his uniform when goes in. No, I don’t know Vindman at all.”

Democratic lawmakers responded angrily to attacks on Colonel Vindman. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, Democrat of New York, accused Republicans of trying to “air out some allegations with no basis and proof, but they just want to get them out there and hope maybe some of those strands of spaghetti I guess will stick on the wall if they keep throwing them.”

As for Ms. Williams, the president tweeted about her over the weekend. “Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just released ststement from Ukraine,” he wrote, misspelling “statement.” “Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!”

Ms. Williams, a career official who got her start under Mr. Bush and called former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “a personal hero of mine,” denied that she was a “Never Trumper.” So did Colonel Vindman. “I’d call myself Never Partisan,” he said.

Asked her reaction to the president’s tweet, Ms. Williams said: “It certainly surprised me. I was not expecting to be called out by name.”

But she would be again before the day was out. Mr. Pence’s two most senior aides pushed back against her after she testified that she considered Mr. Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Ukraine’s president “unusual” because of the president’s request that the Kyiv government investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats.

“I heard nothing wrong or improper on the call,” retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, the vice president’s national security adviser, said in a written statement released after her testimony. “I had and have no concerns. Ms. Williams was also on the call, and as she testified, she never reported any personal or professional concerns to me, her direct supervisor, regarding the call.

“In fact,” he added, “she never reported any personal or professional concerns to any other member of the vice president’s staff, including our chief of staff and the vice president.”

Marc Short, the vice president’s chief of staff, went on Fox News to make the same point. “She said she found the call unusual, yet she never raised any concerns with her supervisor, General Kellogg, she never raised any concerns with the chief of staff, she never raised any concerns with the vice president,” he said.

He added, “We have impeachment in pursuit of a crime.”

Neither Ms. Williams nor Colonel Vindman weighed in on whether Mr. Trump should be impeached. As career officials, they generally stuck to factual accounts of their experiences and gave dispassionate though at times pointed assessments of what they saw while clearly trying to avoid being drawn into the larger political debate about what Congress should do about the situation.

But they presumably will have to return to work at some point, back to the same White House complex where they have served knowing that the president they serve blames them for his political troubles.

Charles A. Kupchan, who was President Barack Obama’s Europe adviser, said it should come as no surprise that Colonel Vindman and Ms. Williams would be targeted from within. “It is quite unusual for a White House to eat its young,” he said. “But Trump is a president who seems unable to tolerate dissent.”

Andrew Weiss, who was President Bill Clinton’s Russia adviser, said the attacks on Colonel Vindman “must be incredibly demoralizing for career people” still at the National Security Council. “During my time at the N.S.C., there was a bright red line between national security and domestic politics,” he said. “Under Trump, that line has completely disappeared.”

Even some more supportive of Mr. Trump suggested on Tuesday that he stop going after witnesses. “The president should just ignore this whole thing,” Brian Kilmeade, a host on “Fox and Friends,” one of Mr. Trump’s favorite shows, said before the day’s hearings got underway. “Don’t tweet during it. Don’t get outraged over it. It ticks you off.”

That was advice the president did not take.

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Kurds Reported to Be Pulling Out of Syria ‘Safe Zone’ as Fighting Eases

ISTANBUL — Kurdish forces began pulling out of a 20-mile buffer zone in northern Syria as fighting eased on Friday, Turkish and American officials said, signaling that a cease-fire announced a day before by Vice President Mike Pence between Turkish and Kurdish forces was going into force.

Early Friday, the Kurdish leadership in northern Syria accused the Turkish military and its proxies of violating the terms of the truce, but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey denied that any fighting was continuing.

Mr. Erdogan said his military commander had reported everything was going as planned. The onus, he added, remained with the United States to ensure the Kurdish militias withdrew within the agreed five-day period.

“If the United States can keep its promise, in 120 hours the issue of the safe zone will be resolved,” he told Western reporters at a news briefing in Istanbul. “If not the operation will continue where we left off.”

Gunfire and artillery could be heard in the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain, the scene of the heaviest fighting for the last few days, by journalists just across the border in Turkey Friday morning and afternoon. But the town stood silent by Friday evening.

Mr. Erdogan hailed the withdrawal as a victory over a “terrorist organization,” and said that Turkey would establish 12 observation points in 20-mile deep buffer zone along a 400 kilometer stretch of the border east of the Euphrates River.

American troops would remain in southeastern Syria and would maintain control of the airspace of the entire northeastern zone, said Ibrahim Kalin, national security adviser to Mr. Erdogan.

Mr. Trump posted on Twitter Friday evening that Mr. Erdogan had told him in a phone call that “there was minor sniper and mortar fire that was quickly eliminated.”

“He very much wants the cease-fire, or pause, to work. Likewise, the Kurds want it,’’ Mr. Trump wrote. “Too bad there wasn’t this thinking years ago.”

“There is good will on both sides & a really good chance for success. The U.S. has secured the Oil, & the ISIS Fighters are double secured by Kurds & Turkey.”

He added, “I have just been notified that some European Nations are now willing, for the first time, to take the ISIS Fighters that came from their nations. This is good news, but should have been done after WE captured them. Anyway, big progress being made!!!!”

Responding to the claims that Turkey had violated the truce, Mr. Erdogan told a reporter after leaving Friday prayers at a mosque in Istanbul: “I do not know where you get your information from. Conflict is out of the question.”

In a speech later on Friday, Mr. Erdogan said Turkish forces had stopped fighting and would begin again only if Kurdish troops had not retreated by Tuesday night from Kurdish-run areas in northern Syria that have been occupied by Turkish forces in the past week.

Military positions in northern Syria as of Oct. 18

Turkish Army and Syrian opposition Syrian Army deployed Closing U.S. military bases and outposts Russian bases

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Sources: Control areas as of Oct. 16 via Conflict Monitor by IHS Markit; Military positions for Russia are from the Institute for the Study of War. | By Allison McCann, Sarah Almukhtar, Anjali Singhvi and Jin Wu

On Thursday, Mr. Trump described the deal during a speech in Dallas as “an incredible outcome,” and wrote on Twitter that it was “great for everyone!”

But the lapse in the cease-fire represents a further failure for Mr. Trump, who had pressed Mr. Erdogan not to invade Syria in the first place, in a private letter sent to the Turkish president on the day the invasion began.

“Don’t be a tough guy,” Mr. Trump wrote, in a letter characterized by informal language rarely seen in diplomatic communications.

Mr. Erdogan responded publicly to the letter for the first time on Friday, saying that his country “cannot forget” the harshly worded letter since it was “not in harmony with political and diplomatic niceties.”

“We do not consider it as a current issue and a priority,” Mr. Erdogan added, however. “We also want it to be known that, when the time comes, the necessary response will be taken.’’

Responding to the delayed cease-fire, a White House spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, told Fox News that such conflicts “take time” to wind down and that the agreement remained a success.

Gunfire continued to be heard in Ras al-Ain midafternoon by members of a civilian convoy attempting to reach the city, according to Robin Fleming, an American researcher traveling with the convoy.

Watching the town from a nearby hilltop shortly before 1 p.m., Ms. Fleming said she could see smoke rising from the town and hear gunshots, but no artillery.

The convoy ultimately turned back before reaching the town because of fears of attack by Turkish-led Arab militias.

Turkish-led forces also prevented a convoy of international aid workers from gaining access to Ras al-Ain to treat people wounded in the fighting, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an independent war monitor based in Britain.

Ras al-Ain has been the site of the fiercest clashes since Turkish troops invaded Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria early last week.

On Friday, Kurdish health officials said they were investigating whether six civilians in the town had been hit by chemical weapons during Turkish airstrikes. Photographs shared by the Kurdish Red Crescent, a medical charity working in the area, showed at least two children with burns on their faces.

Mr. Erdogan denied the claim and said the Turkish Army had no chemical weapons in its inventory. He accused the Kurdish militia, the Y.P.G., of sowing disinformation also about civilian casualties and accusation of war crimes committed by Turkish-backed Syrian forces.

But Amnesty International, a global rights watchdog, accused the Turkish military and Arab militias fighting under its command of carrying out “serious violations and war crimes, including summary killings and unlawful attacks that have killed and injured civilians.”

In a statement, Amnesty’s secretary general, Kumi Naidoo, added: “Turkish military forces and their allies have displayed an utterly callous disregard for civilian lives, launching unlawful deadly attacks in residential areas that have killed and injured civilians.”

At least 218 civilians in northern Syria have died since the invasion began, according to the Kurdish authorities. A further 20 have been killed in Turkey by Kurdish mortar attacks, Mr. Erdogan said.

Turkey wants to force out the Syrian Kurdish militia that has used the chaos of the conflict to establish an autonomous region across roughly a quarter of Syrian territory. The militia is an offshoot of a guerrilla group that has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey. The Turks view the group as a terrorist organization.

Since 2014, the group had operated under the protection of the United States military, which partnered with the Kurdish fighters to help sweep the Islamic State from the region and, in the process, allowed the Kurdish militia to control most of the land lining the Turkish-Syrian border.

But after Mr. Trump abruptly ordered the withdrawal of United States troops from the border this month, ending their protection of the Kurdish fighters, Turkish forces invaded with the aim of establishing a Turkish-friendly zone, roughly 20 miles deep, along the border.

By Friday, the Turkish troops had captured around 850 square miles of Syrian territory, Mr. Erdogan said in his speech.

The deal announced on Thursday by Mr. Pence and Mr. Pompeo effectively gave American assent to Turkish territorial ambitions in part of the area, handing Turkey a huge diplomatic victory and completing the sudden reversal of a central plank of American policy in the Middle East.

It was sealed without the involvement of the Syrian or Russian governments, to whom the Kurdish authorities turned for protection after the American evacuation and the onslaught of Turkish-led forces.

On Friday, Mr. Erdogan said he would discuss the future of the rest of northeastern Syria with Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at a meeting in Sochi on Tuesday.

“Our aim is to reach a reconciliation with Russia about those matters that are reasonable and acceptable to everyone,” Mr. Erdogan said.

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon and Lara Jakes from Jerusalem.

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