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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 131)

Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-hilights-vid-facebookJumbo Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — David Holmes, a career diplomat and political counselor to the United States embassy in Ukraine, and Fiona Hill, a former Europe and Russia expert at the White House, schooled lawmakers on Thursday on the United States’ geopolitical relationship with Ukraine and provided some new details about the efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into President Trump’s political rivals.

They both highlighted their apolitical and nonpartisan expertise and experience in foreign policy, a direct contrast to the witness a day earlier, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union — a wealthy Republican donor with no diplomatic experience before his 2018 appointment to the plum post in Brussels.

Here are some key points from the testimony so far.

Holmes: “This was a very distinctive experience. I’ve never seen anything like this in my foreign service career, someone at a lunch in a restaurant making a call on a cellphone to the president of the United States, being able to hear his voice, very distinctive personality.”

Mr. Holmes provided more details on Thursday about the now infamous lunch he had with Mr. Sondland and two other State Department staffers on July 26 in Kyiv. It was at this lunch that Mr. Holmes overheard a phone call between Mr. Sondland and Mr. Trump — one in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland if the Ukrainian president planned “to do the investigation.”

Mr. Holmes described a relaxed setting at an outdoor terrace with the weather that day in the upper 70s. Mr. Sondland ordered a bottle of wine, he said, which the four of them shared, and discussed marketing strategies for Mr. Sondland’s boutique hotel business.

The additional details add more credibility to Mr. Holmes’s recollection, which Republicans have tried to diminish. Mr. Sondland on Wednesday told lawmakers that he did not remember all of the details of that conversation with Mr. Trump, but he agreed that a friendly comment recalled by Mr. Holmes — Mr. Sondland telling the president that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine “loves your ass” — sounded like something he would say.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said that what Mr. Holmes described — a conversation that was not on speaker phone but could still be overheard — was virtually impossible.

Holmes: “Specifically, the three priorities of security, economy, and justice, and our support for Ukrainian democratic resistance to Russian aggression, became overshadowed by a political agenda promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”

Mr. Holmes describes what other witnesses have disclosed — that the sudden involvement of President Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in foreign policy involving Ukraine was disruptive and damaging to the American goal of helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia. While Mr. Holmes described how the Giuliani-led campaign evolved starting in March, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the ranking member on the House Intelligence committee, focused on one date — July 25 — when Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky spoke to each other by phone. That call was at the center of the whistle-blower complaint that led to the current impeachment inquiry.

Hill: “Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Hill: “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”

Dr. Hill bluntly stated that Russia was behind the 2016 election interference and theft of Democrats’ emails. American intelligence agencies and congressional panels came to the same conclusion years ago. One of the investigations that Mr. Trump sought Ukraine to initiative was one looking into a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

Hill: “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016.”

One of the Republican defenses for Mr. Trump’s decision to place a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid is that he was always suspicious of Ukraine because of its systemic corruption. This, Republicans say, is why he wanted a commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue corruption investigations. Dr. Hill, in her opening remarks, attempted to shut down this and other theories, often promoted by the committee’s top Republican, Mr. Nunes, who described the impeachment hearings as “bizarre” on Thursday.

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

Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-hilights-vid-facebookJumbo Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — David Holmes, a career diplomat and political counselor to the United States embassy in Ukraine, and Fiona Hill, a former Europe and Russia expert at the White House, schooled lawmakers on Thursday on the United States’ geopolitical relationship with Ukraine and provided some new details about the efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into President Trump’s political rivals.

They both highlighted their apolitical and nonpartisan expertise and experience in foreign policy, a direct contrast to the witness a day earlier, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union — a wealthy Republican donor with no diplomatic experience before his 2018 appointment to the plum post in Brussels.

Here are some key points from the testimony so far.

Holmes: “This was a very distinctive experience. I’ve never seen anything like this in my foreign service career, someone at a lunch in a restaurant making a call on a cellphone to the president of the United States, being able to hear his voice, very distinctive personality.”

Mr. Holmes provided more details on Thursday about the now infamous lunch he had with Mr. Sondland and two other State Department staffers on July 26 in Kyiv. It was at this lunch that Mr. Holmes overheard a phone call between Mr. Sondland and Mr. Trump — one in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland if the Ukrainian president planned “to do the investigation.”

Mr. Holmes described a relaxed setting at an outdoor terrace with the weather that day in the upper 70s. Mr. Sondland ordered a bottle of wine, he said, which the four of them shared, and discussed marketing strategies for Mr. Sondland’s boutique hotel business.

The additional details add more credibility to Mr. Holmes’s recollection, which Republicans have tried to diminish. Mr. Sondland on Wednesday told lawmakers that he did not remember all of the details of that conversation with Mr. Trump, but he agreed that a friendly comment recalled by Mr. Holmes — Mr. Sondland telling the president that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine “loves your ass” — sounded like something he would say.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said that what Mr. Holmes described — a conversation that was not on speaker phone but could still be overheard — was virtually impossible.

Holmes: “Specifically, the three priorities of security, economy, and justice, and our support for Ukrainian democratic resistance to Russian aggression, became overshadowed by a political agenda promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”

Mr. Holmes describes what other witnesses have disclosed — that the sudden involvement of President Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in foreign policy involving Ukraine was disruptive and damaging to the American goal of helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia. While Mr. Holmes described how the Giuliani-led campaign evolved starting in March, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the ranking member on the House Intelligence committee, focused on one date — July 25 — when Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky spoke to each other by phone. That call was at the center of the whistle-blower complaint that led to the current impeachment inquiry.

Hill: “Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Hill: “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”

Dr. Hill bluntly stated that Russia was behind the 2016 election interference and theft of Democrats’ emails. American intelligence agencies and congressional panels came to the same conclusion years ago. One of the investigations that Mr. Trump sought Ukraine to initiative was one looking into a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

Hill: “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016.”

One of the Republican defenses for Mr. Trump’s decision to place a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid is that he was always suspicious of Ukraine because of its systemic corruption. This, Republicans say, is why he wanted a commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue corruption investigations. Dr. Hill, in her opening remarks, attempted to shut down this and other theories, often promoted by the committee’s top Republican, Mr. Nunes, who described the impeachment hearings as “bizarre” on Thursday.

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

Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-hilights-vid-facebookJumbo Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — David Holmes, a career diplomat and political counselor to the United States embassy in Ukraine, and Fiona Hill, a former Europe and Russia expert at the White House, schooled lawmakers on Thursday on the United States’ geopolitical relationship with Ukraine and provided some new details about the efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into President Trump’s political rivals.

They both highlighted their apolitical and nonpartisan expertise and experience in foreign policy, a direct contrast to the witness a day earlier, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union — a wealthy Republican donor with no diplomatic experience before his 2018 appointment to the plum post in Brussels.

Here are some key points from the testimony so far.

Holmes: “This was a very distinctive experience. I’ve never seen anything like this in my foreign service career, someone at a lunch in a restaurant making a call on a cellphone to the president of the United States, being able to hear his voice, very distinctive personality.”

Mr. Holmes provided more details on Thursday about the now infamous lunch he had with Mr. Sondland and two other State Department staffers on July 26 in Kyiv. It was at this lunch that Mr. Holmes overheard a phone call between Mr. Sondland and Mr. Trump — one in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland if the Ukrainian president planned “to do the investigation.”

Mr. Holmes described a relaxed setting at an outdoor terrace with the weather that day in the upper 70s. Mr. Sondland ordered a bottle of wine, he said, which the four of them shared, and discussed marketing strategies for Mr. Sondland’s boutique hotel business.

The additional details add more credibility to Mr. Holmes’s recollection, which Republicans have tried to diminish. Mr. Sondland on Wednesday told lawmakers that he did not remember all of the details of that conversation with Mr. Trump, but he agreed that a friendly comment recalled by Mr. Holmes — Mr. Sondland telling the president that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine “loves your ass” — sounded like something he would say.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said that what Mr. Holmes described — a conversation that was not on speaker phone but could still be overheard — was virtually impossible.

Holmes: “Specifically, the three priorities of security, economy, and justice, and our support for Ukrainian democratic resistance to Russian aggression, became overshadowed by a political agenda promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”

Mr. Holmes describes what other witnesses have disclosed — that the sudden involvement of President Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in foreign policy involving Ukraine was disruptive and damaging to the American goal of helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia. While Mr. Holmes described how the Giuliani-led campaign evolved starting in March, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the ranking member on the House Intelligence committee, focused on one date — July 25 — when Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky spoke to each other by phone. That call was at the center of the whistle-blower complaint that led to the current impeachment inquiry.

Hill: “Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Hill: “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”

Dr. Hill bluntly stated that Russia was behind the 2016 election interference and theft of Democrats’ emails. American intelligence agencies and congressional panels came to the same conclusion years ago. One of the investigations that Mr. Trump sought Ukraine to initiative was one looking into a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

Hill: “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016.”

One of the Republican defenses for Mr. Trump’s decision to place a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid is that he was always suspicious of Ukraine because of its systemic corruption. This, Republicans say, is why he wanted a commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue corruption investigations. Dr. Hill, in her opening remarks, attempted to shut down this and other theories, often promoted by the committee’s top Republican, Mr. Nunes, who described the impeachment hearings as “bizarre” on Thursday.

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

Republicans Seek to Muddy Impeachment Evidence as Their Defense of Trump

Westlake Legal Group 20DC-REPUBS-facebookJumbo Republicans Seek to Muddy Impeachment Evidence as Their Defense of Trump United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Schiff, Adam B Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Republican Party Nunes, Devin G impeachment House Committee on Intelligence Foreign Aid Ethics and Official Misconduct Biden, Hunter

WASHINGTON — Republicans mounted an array of defenses of President Trump at this week’s impeachment hearings — making arguments that at times seemed to conflict with one another logically, but that dovetailed in a key way: All served to undermine Democrats’ allegations that Mr. Trump abused his power.

In angry statements from the hearing dais, lines of questioning to witnesses and comments during breaks to reporters, Republicans sought to poke holes in the strength of evidence that Mr. Trump personally put a condition on the government committing official acts — namely, that Ukraine publicize investigations that could benefit him.

But at other times, Republicans suggested that Mr. Trump’s pursuit of those investigations was justified — reading into the record related facts and allegations about Ukrainian actions in 2016 and about the Ukrainian gas company Burisma and its decision to give Hunter Biden, the son of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a lucrative board seat.

Republicans’ tactics seemed geared to play to different audiences — independent voters, hard-core Trump supporters and the president himself. The approach underscored a political asymmetry about the proceedings: The Democrats are trying to paint a coherent picture, while Republicans need only muddy it — and they have lots of ways to do so.

Indeed, at still other times, Republicans dismissed the entire impeachment inquiry as a witch hunt and tried to associate it with the fact that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, found insufficient evidence of any criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia’s 2016 election manipulation operation.

“You have to keep that history in mind as you consider the Democrats’ latest catalog of supposed Trump outrages,” the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Devin Nunes of California, said on Wednesday.

The Republicans sharpened their counterarguments and defenses as Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, delivered damaging testimony about what he witnessed as one of the Trump proxies orbiting Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, as they pushed Ukraine to announce the investigations.

Mr. Sondland said there was a clear quid pro quo that attached a condition — a public announcement of the investigations — to a potential official action by Mr. Trump, inviting President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to the White House. But Mr. Sondland said no one told him that Mr. Trump was also holding up a package of military aid to Ukraine for the same purpose, though he assumed that was the explanation.

In opening questioning to Mr. Sondland, Mr. Nunes seemed to make the case that Mr. Trump had good reason to seek investigations. He asked Mr. Sondland whether he was aware of a series of facts and various allegations about Hunter Biden and Burisma, and about Ukrainians who expressed support for Hillary Clinton or opposition to Mr. Trump.

“So knowing all these facts from high-ranking Ukrainian officials, ambassador, it probably makes a little more sense now as to why the president may think that there’s problems with Ukraine and that Ukraine was out to get him?” Mr. Nunes asked Mr. Sondland.

“I understand your — I understand your point, yes, Mr. Chairman,” Mr. Sondland replied.

But if the premise of Mr. Nunes’s line of questioning was that it was righteous to seek the investigations, a line of questioning that followed, by the Republicans’ top staff lawyer, Stephen R. Castor, pointed to a different conclusion: The important point was that there was no clear proof that Mr. Trump himself was behind the pressure.

Mr. Castor marched Mr. Sondland through a lengthy series of questions to emphasize the point that Mr. Trump never personally told him there was any quid pro quo — highlighting that Mr. Sondland had no clear proof that the president was personally orchestrating anything untoward.

“So the president never told you about any preconditions for aid to be released?” Mr. Castor asked.

“No,” Mr. Sondland replied.

“The president never told you about preconditions for a White House meeting?” Mr. Castor followed up.

“Personally, no,” Mr. Sondland said.

Mr. Sondland said his understanding that Mr. Trump was offering a White House meeting to Mr. Zelensky on the condition that he announce investigations was based on what Mr. Giuliani told him. Pressed on how he could know that, Mr. Sondland replied that Mr. Trump had directed him to talk to Mr. Giuliani about the matter.

Other Republican lawmakers including, Elise Stefanik of New York, repeated Mr. Castor’s line of questioning and its implication that no direct evidence of Mr. Trump’s motivations had emerged.

Left unsaid was that Mr. Trump was keeping other potential witnesses whom he spoke to about Ukraine from testifying — including Mr. Giuliani; his former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, who was opposed to blocking the aid and met one on one with Mr. Trump about it in August; and his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who relayed the order to block the aid to the bureaucracy.

Later in the hearing, Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who leads the Intelligence Committee, pushed back against any suggestion that Mr. Trump’s proxies were carrying out a rogue Ukraine policy.

“I do not believe that the president would allow himself to be led by the nose by Rudy Giuliani or Ambassador Sondland or anybody else,” Mr. Schiff asserted. “I think the president was the one who decided whether a meeting would happen, whether aid would be lifted, not anyone who worked for him.”

Several Republicans pushed Mr. Sondland to reiterate his account of a conversation he had with Mr. Trump on Sept. 9. Mr. Sondland recounted that he directly asked Mr. Trump what he wanted from Ukraine, and the president, in a surly mood, responded that he wanted “nothing” from Mr. Zelensky, wanted no quid pro quo, and only wanted Mr. Zelensky to do “the right thing” that he had run for office on — apparently a reference to fighting corruption.

On Sept. 11, two days after that conversation, Mr. Trump finally released the aid to Ukraine. Because Mr. Zelensky had not announced any investigations, defenders of Mr. Trump have said that means there was no quid pro quo.

Critics have responded that Mr. Trump released the security assistance only after he learned that a whistle-blower was trying to tell Congress that the president was using his official powers to force Ukraine to do something for his own personal benefit, noting that someone who gets caught trying to commit a crime is still guilty even if the plot is discovered and thwarted.

But Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio and a fierce defender of Mr. Trump, tried that argument again on Wednesday. He thunderously demanded that Mr. Sondland tell him when Mr. Zelensky made an announcement of investigations as part of the quid pro quo, leading Mr. Sondland to reply that it never happened.

“They didn’t have to do anything,” Mr. Jordan said in disgust. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

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

Fiona Hill Viewed Serving Trump as Risky. Now She’s an Impeachment Witness.

Westlake Legal Group 20DC-HILL-facebookJumbo Fiona Hill Viewed Serving Trump as Risky. Now She’s an Impeachment Witness. United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry National Security Council impeachment House Committee on Intelligence Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Brookings Institution Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — Fiona Hill knew she was taking a risk in going to work for President Trump.

A British-born coal-miner’s daughter with a Ph.D. from Harvard, Ms. Hill is a respected Russia expert, former intelligence analyst and co-author of a 500-page book analyzing the psyche of its president, Vladimir V. Putin. So the prospect of working for a president who speaks admiringly of Mr. Putin and has expressed doubts that Russia interfered in the 2016 election gave her pause.

Her decision to join the National Security Council in April 2017 — and to stay for more than two years after Mr. Trump cozied up to Mr. Putin and publicly disparaged the nation’s intelligence agencies — strained friendships and made her a target of right-wing conspiracy theorists who spread rumors that she was a Democratic mole.

Now, it has landed her near the center of the impeachment inquiry into whether Mr. Trump abused his power to enlist a foreign leader to help him in the 2020 presidential election. Her planned appearance before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday represents the fulfillment of Ms. Hill’s worst fears about what could happen if she swallowed her reservations and went to work for Mr. Trump.

“The risk was what we see playing out in front of us — that something wrong would happen, that she would do the right thing and other people wouldn’t, and there would be a reckoning,” said Tom Wright, a former colleague and friend of Ms. Hill’s. “And afterward there could be hearings — with, at worst case, the fate of the presidency riding on it.”

On Thursday, Ms. Hill will take her turn as the latest in a series of witnesses to testify publicly before Congress. Many have been nonpartisan diplomats and national security experts who went to work for the president thinking they might be the proverbial “adults in the room” checking Mr. Trump’s impulses, only to find themselves caught up in a mess of his making, and in danger of being attacked.

Ms. Hill called her gripping account “my worst nightmare” in closed-door testimony. In it, she revealed how she and her boss at the time, John R. Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, was alarmed at a rogue effort by allies of Mr. Trump, led by his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to deliver on the president’s desire for Ukraine to announce investigations into his political rivals.

In testimony on Wednesday, one of those allies — Gordon D. Sondland, a Trump megadonor turned ambassador to the European Union — turned on the president and top administration officials. He told lawmakers that he was only doing Mr. Trump’s bidding in pressing Ukraine for the investigations, and that Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, were among those well aware of it.

In Mr. Sondland’s telling during a private interview with impeachment investigators last month, Ms. Hill was furious to the point of shaking when he stopped by her office to say goodbye to her before she left the White House, about a week before the now-infamous July 25 telephone in which Mr. Trump pressed President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter. (Ms. Hill had argued against the call, saying she did not understand its purpose.)

“She was pretty upset about her role in the administration, about her superiors, about the president,” Mr. Sondland recalled in a closed-door deposition. “She was sort of shaking. She was pretty mad.”

A lawyer for Ms. Hill, Lee Wolosky, has disputed that characterization, writing on Twitter that Mr. Sondland “fabricated communications with Dr. Hill.”

Ms. Hill is neither pro-Trump nor a “Never Trumper,” and she was always circumspect in talking about Mr. Trump, friends said. She refused speaking invitations of the sort that would be routine for top advisers in past administrations — even at the Brookings Institution, where she was on leave as director of the Center on the United States and Europe.

But her own closed-door testimony reveals how fraught her time in the administration was.

In it, she described a tense White House meeting with Mr. Sondland, Mr. Bolton, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Ukrainian officials in which it became apparent that Mr. Mulvaney was working with Mr. Sondland and Mr. Giuliani to execute the president’s plan.

Ms. Hill described her horror that the Ukranians — foreign nationals — were hanging around the West Wing, outside the Situation Room, one of the most secure and sensitive spots in the White House. When Mr. Sondland moved the meeting down to a room in the White House basement, Mr. Bolton instructed her to follow them to find out what was going on.

She did so, and confronted Mr. Sondland, cutting him off when he dangled the prospect of a White House meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky.

“It has to go through proper procedure,” Ms. Hill insisted. Then she reported back to Mr. Bolton, who told her to report it to the National Security Council’s top lawyer, John A. Eisenberg.

“You go and tell Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this,” she recalled Mr. Bolton saying.

Friends said that sounded like the Ms. Hill they know: straight, to the point, unafraid to push back.

“Fiona has served impeccably in the executive branch,” said Strobe Talbott, the former president of the Brookings Institution, “and, now, she’s helping Congress understand the disaster Trump has visited on the country and the world.”

Republicans view her as suspect because she worked with Christopher Steele, who later wrote an infamous dossier on Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia, when she was an intelligence officer and he was her British counterpart. And her time as an unpaid adviser to the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Foundation, founded by the Democratic philanthropist George Soros, fueled rumors spread by the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

“My entire first year of my tenure at the National Security Council was filled with hateful calls, conspiracy theories, which has started again,” she told House investigators, saying her attackers accused her “of being a Soros mole in the White House, of colluding with all kinds of enemies of the president.”

Ms. Hill, 54, had an unusual path to academia. The daughter of a coal miner and a midwife, she had a hardscrabble childhood in northeast England — a childhood that bred toughness, her friends say. Once, when she was 11, a boy in her class set one of her pigtails on fire while she was taking a test. She put the fire out with her hands, and finished the test.

She learned to speak Russian and eventually made her way across the Atlantic to Harvard for a fellowship, where she studied under the scholar Richard Pipes, known for his hard-line views about what was then the Soviet Union.

Ms. Hill’s own views are more nuanced, friends and colleagues say; she is not so much a Russia hawk as a cleareyed realist. She was also very clear about the threat Russia posed to Ukraine.

“She comes from this realist tradition where you start with the proposition that this other actor is capable of killing me,” said Graham Allison, a Harvard political scientist who worked with Ms. Hill on an initiative to teach foreign governments about democracy. “I can’t figure out how to kill them without committing suicide, so now I have to find a way to live with them.”

In 2006, Ms. Hill joined the National Intelligence Council as national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia, a job that required her to assess the Russian threat. In 2009, she rejoined Brookings, where she had previously been a fellow. In 2013, she and Clifford Gaddy published “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin.”

“She confirmed what I thought, which is what I’ve said very publicly for a long time: He’s the most dangerous guy on Earth,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who got to know Ms. Hill when she was an intelligence analyst.

Yet for all of her scholarly work, it was an appearance on television that landed Ms. Hill her White House job. After Mr. Trump was elected, K.T. McFarland, a Fox News commentator, recommended her to Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser.

General Flynn, whose tenure ended in scandal after 24 days, offered her the job as the National Security Council’s senior director for Europe and Russia, though she came on after he left. Some friends warned her against it. Among them was Marvin Kalb, a senior fellow at Brookings, who thought Ms. Hill might have trouble in part because she was an immigrant.

“I was concerned that she might run into problems that others might not run into, and I thought that her judgment of Putin might not sit well with the president,” he said, adding: “My recommendation to her was to stay away. But she believed very strongly in the opportunity to serve.”

She got off to an uncertain start; Mr. Trump once mistook her for a low-level member of support staff. And if there was any doubt that the president had little interest in national security protocol and would rely on no one but himself, it was erased when he took notes away from his interpreter during a private meeting with Mr. Putin in Hamburg, Germany, in 2017.

Then came the disastrous Helsinki, Finland, summit in 2018, where Mr. Trump accepted the Russian president’s denial that his country had interfered in the 2016 race. In a stunning break with protocol, he also told Mr. Putin that he might let Russia interrogate a former American ambassador, Michael A. McFaul, a staunch critic of Russia’s record on human rights.

Mr. McFaul visited her at the White House to complain.

“I thought they were going to clean it up when they got back to Washington, and they didn’t,” Mr. McFaul said. “They just doubled down.”

Some colleagues of Ms. Hill’s wondered why she did not quit then. Others, like Angela Stent, a Russia expert at Georgetown University and mentor to Ms. Hill, said she contemplated leaving at times, but stayed because she wanted “to minimize the damage of some things that were happening with Russia.”

When she left the White House in July, it was as planned; she wanted to spend more time with her husband and 12-year-old daughter and her mother, who is ill. If she had been frustrated there, Mr. Wright said, she kept it to herself.

“This exit was not what she had planned,” Mr. Wright said. “I don’t think she was thinking, ‘I’m going to go out in a blaze of glory, take a moral stand and testify.’ That was definitely not her intention. She just wanted to her job with no fuss or drama.”

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

Fiona Hill Viewed Serving Trump as Risky. Now She’s an Impeachment Witness.

Westlake Legal Group 20DC-HILL-facebookJumbo Fiona Hill Viewed Serving Trump as Risky. Now She’s an Impeachment Witness. United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry National Security Council impeachment House Committee on Intelligence Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Brookings Institution Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — Fiona Hill knew she was taking a risk in going to work for President Trump.

A British-born coal-miner’s daughter with a Ph.D. from Harvard, Ms. Hill is a respected Russia expert, former intelligence analyst and co-author of a 500-page book analyzing the psyche of its president, Vladimir V. Putin. So the prospect of working for a president who speaks admiringly of Mr. Putin and has expressed doubts that Russia interfered in the 2016 election gave her pause.

Her decision to join the National Security Council in April 2017 — and to stay for more than two years after Mr. Trump cozied up to Mr. Putin and publicly disparaged the nation’s intelligence agencies — strained friendships and made her a target of right-wing conspiracy theorists who spread rumors that she was a Democratic mole.

Now, it has landed her near the center of the impeachment inquiry into whether Mr. Trump abused his power to enlist a foreign leader to help him in the 2020 presidential election. Her planned appearance before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday represents the fulfillment of Ms. Hill’s worst fears about what could happen if she swallowed her reservations and went to work for Mr. Trump.

“The risk was what we see playing out in front of us — that something wrong would happen, that she would do the right thing and other people wouldn’t, and there would be a reckoning,” said Tom Wright, a former colleague and friend of Ms. Hill’s. “And afterward there could be hearings — with, at worst case, the fate of the presidency riding on it.”

On Thursday, Ms. Hill will take her turn as the latest in a series of witnesses to testify publicly before Congress. Many have been nonpartisan diplomats and national security experts who went to work for the president thinking they might be the proverbial “adults in the room” checking Mr. Trump’s impulses, only to find themselves caught up in a mess of his making, and in danger of being attacked.

Ms. Hill called her gripping account “my worst nightmare” in closed-door testimony. In it, she revealed how she and her boss at the time, John R. Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, was alarmed at a rogue effort by allies of Mr. Trump, led by his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to deliver on the president’s desire for Ukraine to announce investigations into his political rivals.

In testimony on Wednesday, one of those allies — Gordon D. Sondland, a Trump megadonor turned ambassador to the European Union — turned on the president and top administration officials. He told lawmakers that he was only doing Mr. Trump’s bidding in pressing Ukraine for the investigations, and that Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, were among those well aware of it.

In Mr. Sondland’s telling during a private interview with impeachment investigators last month, Ms. Hill was furious to the point of shaking when he stopped by her office to say goodbye to her before she left the White House, about a week before the now-infamous July 25 telephone in which Mr. Trump pressed President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter. (Ms. Hill had argued against the call, saying she did not understand its purpose.)

“She was pretty upset about her role in the administration, about her superiors, about the president,” Mr. Sondland recalled in a closed-door deposition. “She was sort of shaking. She was pretty mad.”

A lawyer for Ms. Hill, Lee Wolosky, has disputed that characterization, writing on Twitter that Mr. Sondland “fabricated communications with Dr. Hill.”

Ms. Hill is neither pro-Trump nor a “Never Trumper,” and she was always circumspect in talking about Mr. Trump, friends said. She refused speaking invitations of the sort that would be routine for top advisers in past administrations — even at the Brookings Institution, where she was on leave as director of the Center on the United States and Europe.

But her own closed-door testimony reveals how fraught her time in the administration was.

In it, she described a tense White House meeting with Mr. Sondland, Mr. Bolton, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Ukrainian officials in which it became apparent that Mr. Mulvaney was working with Mr. Sondland and Mr. Giuliani to execute the president’s plan.

Ms. Hill described her horror that the Ukranians — foreign nationals — were hanging around the West Wing, outside the Situation Room, one of the most secure and sensitive spots in the White House. When Mr. Sondland moved the meeting down to a room in the White House basement, Mr. Bolton instructed her to follow them to find out what was going on.

She did so, and confronted Mr. Sondland, cutting him off when he dangled the prospect of a White House meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky.

“It has to go through proper procedure,” Ms. Hill insisted. Then she reported back to Mr. Bolton, who told her to report it to the National Security Council’s top lawyer, John A. Eisenberg.

“You go and tell Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this,” she recalled Mr. Bolton saying.

Friends said that sounded like the Ms. Hill they know: straight, to the point, unafraid to push back.

“Fiona has served impeccably in the executive branch,” said Strobe Talbott, the former president of the Brookings Institution, “and, now, she’s helping Congress understand the disaster Trump has visited on the country and the world.”

Republicans view her as suspect because she worked with Christopher Steele, who later wrote an infamous dossier on Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia, when she was an intelligence officer and he was her British counterpart. And her time as an unpaid adviser to the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Foundation, founded by the Democratic philanthropist George Soros, fueled rumors spread by the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

“My entire first year of my tenure at the National Security Council was filled with hateful calls, conspiracy theories, which has started again,” she told House investigators, saying her attackers accused her “of being a Soros mole in the White House, of colluding with all kinds of enemies of the president.”

Ms. Hill, 54, had an unusual path to academia. The daughter of a coal miner and a midwife, she had a hardscrabble childhood in northeast England — a childhood that bred toughness, her friends say. Once, when she was 11, a boy in her class set one of her pigtails on fire while she was taking a test. She put the fire out with her hands, and finished the test.

She learned to speak Russian and eventually made her way across the Atlantic to Harvard for a fellowship, where she studied under the scholar Richard Pipes, known for his hard-line views about what was then the Soviet Union.

Ms. Hill’s own views are more nuanced, friends and colleagues say; she is not so much a Russia hawk as a cleareyed realist. She was also very clear about the threat Russia posed to Ukraine.

“She comes from this realist tradition where you start with the proposition that this other actor is capable of killing me,” said Graham Allison, a Harvard political scientist who worked with Ms. Hill on an initiative to teach foreign governments about democracy. “I can’t figure out how to kill them without committing suicide, so now I have to find a way to live with them.”

In 2006, Ms. Hill joined the National Intelligence Council as national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia, a job that required her to assess the Russian threat. In 2009, she rejoined Brookings, where she had previously been a fellow. In 2013, she and Clifford Gaddy published “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin.”

“She confirmed what I thought, which is what I’ve said very publicly for a long time: He’s the most dangerous guy on Earth,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who got to know Ms. Hill when she was an intelligence analyst.

Yet for all of her scholarly work, it was an appearance on television that landed Ms. Hill her White House job. After Mr. Trump was elected, K.T. McFarland, a Fox News commentator, recommended her to Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser.

General Flynn, whose tenure ended in scandal after 24 days, offered her the job as the National Security Council’s senior director for Europe and Russia, though she came on after he left. Some friends warned her against it. Among them was Marvin Kalb, a senior fellow at Brookings, who thought Ms. Hill might have trouble in part because she was an immigrant.

“I was concerned that she might run into problems that others might not run into, and I thought that her judgment of Putin might not sit well with the president,” he said, adding: “My recommendation to her was to stay away. But she believed very strongly in the opportunity to serve.”

She got off to an uncertain start; Mr. Trump once mistook her for a low-level member of support staff. And if there was any doubt that the president had little interest in national security protocol and would rely on no one but himself, it was erased when he took notes away from his interpreter during a private meeting with Mr. Putin in Hamburg, Germany, in 2017.

Then came the disastrous Helsinki, Finland, summit in 2018, where Mr. Trump accepted the Russian president’s denial that his country had interfered in the 2016 race. In a stunning break with protocol, he also told Mr. Putin that he might let Russia interrogate a former American ambassador, Michael A. McFaul, a staunch critic of Russia’s record on human rights.

Mr. McFaul visited her at the White House to complain.

“I thought they were going to clean it up when they got back to Washington, and they didn’t,” Mr. McFaul said. “They just doubled down.”

Some colleagues of Ms. Hill’s wondered why she did not quit then. Others, like Angela Stent, a Russia expert at Georgetown University and mentor to Ms. Hill, said she contemplated leaving at times, but stayed because she wanted “to minimize the damage of some things that were happening with Russia.”

When she left the White House in July, it was as planned; she wanted to spend more time with her husband and 12-year-old daughter and her mother, who is ill. If she had been frustrated there, Mr. Wright said, she kept it to herself.

“This exit was not what she had planned,” Mr. Wright said. “I don’t think she was thinking, ‘I’m going to go out in a blaze of glory, take a moral stand and testify.’ That was definitely not her intention. She just wanted to her job with no fuss or drama.”

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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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U.S. Bill Supporting Hong Kong Rights Heads to Trump’s Desk

Westlake Legal Group merlin_164755011_9f8a49f6-c42d-4b24-854b-03aff7c34856-facebookJumbo U.S. Bill Supporting Hong Kong Rights Heads to Trump’s Desk United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Senate Law and Legislation International Trade and World Market House of Representatives Hong Kong Embargoes and Sanctions

A bill compelling the United States to support pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong could arrive on President Trump’s desk as soon as Thursday morning, potentially complicating the administration’s talks with China to end the trade war.

The bill, passed by the Senate on Tuesday, would require the government to impose sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for human rights abuses in the territory. On Wednesday, the House passed the Senate version 417-1, sending it to the White House.

If signed into law by Mr. Trump, the bill will also require the State Department to annually review the special autonomous status it grants Hong Kong in trade considerations. That status is separate from the relationship with mainland China, and a revocation of the status would mean less favorable trade conditions between the United States and Hong Kong.

The Senate passed the bill, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, by unanimous consent. The House had previously passed its own version unanimously, but gave assent to the Senate version in order to expedite the legislation. On the House floor on Wednesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out on human rights elsewhere.”

Because the bill, in theory, has the support of a veto-proof majority in Congress, it could be enacted even if Mr. Trump vetoes it. And its enactment would most likely strain relations with China at a delicate moment in the trade negotiations.

Eswar Prasad, the former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China division, said the injection of Hong Kong into the trade process could derail the talks with China, which is notoriously sensitive about outside political interference.

“The legislation will further fuel the narrative in Chinese domestic policy circles that the U.S. is attempting to infringe on the sovereignty of China in terms of its internal economic and political affairs,” Mr. Prasad said.

Although Mr. Trump announced last month that the United States and China had reached a “historic” so-called phase one trade agreement, signing a deal has proved elusive. The two sides continue to negotiate and could achieve a deal in the next few weeks. But Mr. Trump has given mixed signals about whether he wants a deal.

“I haven’t wanted to do it yet because I don’t think they’ve stepped up,” Mr. Trump said on Wednesday afternoon while touring an Apple manufacturing facility in Texas.

The United States and China have been grappling over the fate of tariffs that Mr. Trump imposed on $360 billion of Chinese imports and additional tariffs that are due to be imposed on Dec. 15. China wants all of the tariffs rolled back as part of an agreement in which it would buy as much as $50 billion of American agricultural products a year and begin to open its markets to American companies.

Mr. Trump, however, is reluctant to scale back all the tariffs, and his advisers remain skeptical that China will live up to its commitments.

Henrietta Treyz, director of economic policy at the investment firm Veda Partners, said that the Hong Kong legislation raised the odds that the December tariffs will be imposed. She pointed to a series of caustic posts on Twitter written by the editor of The Global Times, a Chinese state-controlled publication, warning American farmers that the deal Mr. Trump promised them was not yet complete.

“Tensions are rising between the two nations, not dissipating,” Ms. Treyz said. “The prospect of not reaching a deal and requiring escalation from here remains quite real.”

The possibility that the Hong Kong bill could be signed into law has shaken the confidence of Wall Street analysts who had become increasingly optimistic in recent weeks that tariffs could be rolled back as part of the first phase of a trade deal.

Economists at Goldman Sachs said in a note to clients this week that the Hong Kong legislation was a potential “complication,” warning that China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had promised “strong countermeasures” if such a bill were enacted.

Still, the trade talks have continued over the last year despite several spikes in tension between the United States and China, including the arrest of the Huawei executive Meng Wangzhou in Canada and the sale of 66 F-16s to Taiwan this summer.

Mr. Trump, who rarely talks about human rights, has not spoken about the bill, nor has he made consistently strong statements in support of the Hong Kong activists. In June, he told China’s president, Xi Jinping, that he would not publicly back the protesters as long as trade talks were progressing.

While Mr. Trump’s advisers debate how much tariff relief to offer in the first phase of a trade deal, similar debates are playing out in China. The fact that the United States is weighing in so forcefully on Hong Kong is most likely exacerbating that internal tension.

“There’s an ongoing debate in Beijing between reformers who would like phase one and hard-liners who see themselves surrounded by hostile forces led by the United States, including in Hong Kong,” said Michael Pillsbury, a China scholar at the Hudson Institute who advises the Trump administration.

Ed Wong and Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

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Pompeo Emerges as a Major Trump Enabler in Ukraine Affair

Westlake Legal Group 20dc-POMPEO1-facebookJumbo Pompeo Emerges as a Major Trump Enabler in Ukraine Affair Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Schiff, Adam B Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Pompeo, Mike

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has for months deflected questions about whether the Trump administration demanded political favors from Ukraine in exchange for military aid. He has refused to explain why he recalled the American ambassador, declared that it was “inappropriate” for his diplomats to testify before Congress and declined to hand over documents to impeachment investigators.

On Wednesday, Gordon D. Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union, filled in the blanks: He said Mr. Pompeo and his top aides “knew what we were doing, and why,” and recited emails he wrote to Mr. Pompeo about the quid pro quo demanded by President Trump. “Everyone was in the loop,” Mr. Sondland said.

Mr. Sondland’s testimony has undercut any notion that Mr. Pompeo, the administration’s most powerful national security official, was not a participant in Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine. It also firmly places him at the center of one of the nation’s biggest foreign policy controversies in nearly two decades, since the debate over the intelligence that led to the war in Iraq.

Whatever Mr. Pompeo’s future plans, Mr. Trump’s secretary of state is now tied intimately to the Ukraine controversy. Even before Mr. Sondland’s testimony, Mr. Pompeo was rumored to be seeking an exit from the State Department, perhaps to run for a Senate seat in Kansas, his adopted home state, with an eye toward a presidential bid once Mr. Trump leaves the stage.

No matter what he does, Mr. Pompeo will almost certainly face charges that, at best, he abetted Mr. Trump in enlisting a foreign nation to help his 2020 campaign as the price for aid in a grinding war involving Russia in eastern Ukraine. At worst, Mr. Pompeo will be seen as coordinating and approving the demands that Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, announce investigations into dubious claims about the Biden family and 2016 election interference as the price for an Oval Office meeting and a resumption of American military aid.

Speaking before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, Mr. Sondland said that the State Department had not given him access to his own emails and telephone logs to prepare for his testimony, which would have allowed him to refresh his memory.

Mr. Pompeo was criticized by the chairman of the House panel, Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, in the opening moments of the hearing. Mr. Pompeo, he said, was engaged in a Watergate-style “obstruction of this investigation.”

“We have not received a single document from the State Department, and as Ambassador Sondland’s opening statement today will make clear, those documents bear directly on this investigation and this impeachment inquiry,” Mr. Schiff said. He added: “The knowledge of this scheme was far and wide. And included, among others, Secretary of State Pompeo.”

Mr. Schiff then issued a direct warning to Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo: “I will just say this, they do so at their own peril. I remind the president that Article 3 of the impeachment articles drafted against President Nixon was his refusal to obey the subpoenas of Congress.”

Mr. Pompeo admitted last month that he took part in the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky, but has refused to talk in detail about his involvement in the matter. Yet several of his top diplomats have gone to Congress to pull back the curtains on Mr. Trump’s efforts, infuriating the president. State Department employees privately have cheered on those diplomats while criticizing Mr. Pompeo for what they call a failure of leadership.

Mr. Sondland noted that Mr. Pompeo and several of the secretary’s top aides received his emails about Ukraine. “On Aug. 22, I emailed Secretary Pompeo, directly copying Secretariat Kenna,” he said of one instance, referring to Lisa Kenna, the executive secretary. He also said Ms. Kenna would sometimes print out his emails on Ukraine addressed to Mr. Pompeo and “put them in front of him.”

Mr. Pompeo has told associates that he believes the impeachment testimonies are partly aimed at forcing him to play a Washington game that would end with him turning on the president to save his own career. And he refuses to participate, Mr. Pompeo has said.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sondland painted a picture of an activist secretary of state who was informed of attempts to force Mr. Zelensky to announce opening the investigations. Replying to the Aug. 22 email from Mr. Sondland, Mr. Pompeo even approved a plan to have Mr. Zelensky tell Mr. Trump at a scheduled meeting in Warsaw that Mr. Zelensky would pledge to move forward “on those issues of importance” to the president, Mr. Sondland said.

“We kept the leadership of the State Department and the N.S.C. informed of our activities,” Mr. Sondland said, referring to Mr. Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser at the time who oversaw the National Security Council staff. “They knew what we were doing and why.”

He added, “State Department was fully supportive of our engagement in Ukraine efforts, and was aware that a commitment to investigations was among the issues we were pursuing.”

Mr. Pompeo appears to have kept his Ukraine and Russia policy staff in the dark on those efforts. In effect, that means diplomats outside the executive offices were trying to carry out the traditional American policy to support Ukraine against Russia — and get the military aid flowing — while Mr. Pompeo was involved in Mr. Trump’s efforts.

After helping Mr. Trump and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, remove Marie L. Yovanovitch as ambassador of Ukraine — she championed anticorruption measures — Mr. Pompeo failed to inform the veteran diplomat he picked to succeed her, William B. Taylor Jr., of the political demands being made of Mr. Zelensky.

In testimony, Mr. Taylor described slowly uncovering the plan, and sending Mr. Pompeo a cable on Aug. 29 saying that withholding the aid was “folly.”

Even then, Mr. Taylor did not appear to know of Mr. Pompeo’s role.

“The Ukraine scandal is a great microcosm of how this administration’s real foreign policy machinery operates,” said Andrew S. Weiss, a former senior official at the National Security Council, State Department and Pentagon who advised on Russia and Ukraine. “Our allies and adversaries all know about this. Yet it’s just so dysfunctional to have people like Marie Yovanovitch and Bill Taylor spinning their wheels out in Kyiv while Pompeo and Giuliani indulged the president’s affection for baseless conspiracy theories and hand-to-hand political combat.”

In Brussels on Wednesday, Mr. Pompeo said he had not seen Mr. Sondland’s testimony. Under questioning by reporters, he also said he would not recuse himself from any decisions by the State Department to release documents related to the impeachment inquiry.

Mr. Pompeo repeated a broad answer he has given on questions about Ukraine. “I know precisely what American policy was with respect to Ukraine,” he said. “I was working on it, and I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished.”

Morgan Ortagus, a spokeswoman for the department, later disputed parts of Mr. Sondland’s testimony. “Gordon Sondland never told Secretary Pompeo that he believed the president was linking aid to investigations of political opponents,” she said. “Any suggestion to the contrary is flat-out false.”

On Wednesday evening, a Pentagon official provided new details about when the Ukrainians might have learned about the hold on military aid. Laura K. Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, told Congress that officials in Ukraine may have been aware by July 25 that security aid had been frozen — much earlier than previously known. That was the same day Mr. Trump talked on the phone with the president of Ukraine.

She said the Ukrainian Embassy asked her staff about the aid on July 25, and also cited emails from that day between members of her staff and State Department officials in which diplomats said the embassy knew about the hold.

As Mr. Sondland testified, Mr. Pompeo’s future came up at a separate congressional session, the Senate confirmation hearing of Stephen E. Biegun, the envoy on North Korea nominated to be deputy secretary of state. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat in the hearing, said Mr. Biegun could end up as acting secretary of state “for quite some time” given expectations that Mr. Pompeo would resign early next year to run for Senate.

He added that Mr. Pompeo could soon realize it is “untenable to continue making decisions” on agency documents related to impeachment, so Mr. Biegun might assume that responsibility.

Private testimony by David Hale, the third-ranking State Department official, has also implicated Mr. Pompeo. In spring 2019, Mr. Hale said, Mr. Pompeo looked into a right-wing campaign against Ms. Yovanovitch that had been orchestrated by Mr. Giuliani and his associates. Mr. Pompeo even called up Sean Hannity, the Fox News personality who is a Trump ally, to ask for details of wrongdoing by Ms. Yovanovitch, but concluded “there was no evidence,” Mr. Hale said, according to a transcript. (Mr. Hannity has denied any such call.)

Yet, in April, Mr. Pompeo complied with Mr. Trump’s demand to oust Ms. Yovanovitch. After she was suddenly ordered to fly back to Washington that month for meetings, Mr. Pompeo’s deputy delivered the news of her professional future. Mr. Pompeo has refused to defend her and the other top diplomats now under attack by Mr. Trump, leading to a quiet revolt against him by career officials and denunciations by former officials.

For many in the diplomatic corps, the latest testimonies confirm the troubling portrait of Mr. Pompeo that has emerged this year. Some say he should resign, to restore leadership and correct the agency’s direction.

“People are deeply concerned about the future of professional diplomacy,” said Virginia Bennett, a former acting assistant secretary of state. She said a former colleague had told her that “you can see it across the building, this kind of degradation of capability.”

Michael Crowley contributed reporting.

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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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