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New testimonies show concerns over White House pressure on Ukraine

New testimonies show concerns over White House pressure on Ukraine

DPA
Washington
Additional testimony by two White House staffers released on Saturday shows concerns that security assistance to Ukraine was being made conditional on investigations into President Donald Trump’s domestic political rival, Joe Biden.
The testimonies of Timothy Morrison, from the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, who worked in the vice president’s office, were released by the House Intelligence Committee, which is leading the impeachment inquiry into Trump.
Much of Morrison’s testimony will increase the pressure on US ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, who will testify in public on Wednesday and is being placed at the centre of the scandal.
“What could help them move the aid was if the prosecutor general would to go the mike and announce that he was opening the Burisma investigation,” Morrison quoted Sondland as telling the Ukrainians, referring to a company where Biden’s son, Hunter, was on the board.
Morrison said Sondland told him he was acting on behalf of the president.
In recent weeks Trump has tried to distance himself from Sondland, a wealthy political appointee who was a major donor to the president and appears to have spoken with him regularly.
Morrison said he was not specifically concerned about anything illegal or improper during a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, breaking with testimony from other officials.
In the coming weeks, Morrison realised there was a parallel diplomatic channel, involving Sondland, leaning on Ukraine for a probe which was problematic.
Morrison’s statement about the call itself will likely be highlighted by Trump’s Republican supporters, who say he did nothing wrong.
Democrats will latch onto the other aspects, including the unclear concerns by Morrison that if the call leaked, it would be damaging and he had it restricted and the underlying issue of pressure on Ukraine to get at Biden.  Williams more bluntly says she was concerned the pressure in the call with Zelensky amounted to Trump being “unusual and inappropriate” with his demands that Ukraine probe Biden and this may have been to benefit his political campaign.
The two latest transcripts being released come following the first week of public testimonies in the impeachment inquiry, in which three diplomats testified.
The combined testimony of the three paints a picture of pressure on Ukraine to investigate Biden, led in part by a back-door diplomatic channel which was led, in part, by Trump’s private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Trump jumped into a hearing on Friday to bash ousted ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich via Twitter as she was testifying, raising concern about Democrats that the president was engaging in witness intimidation.

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