/The Impeachment Hearings: What You Need to Know
The Impeachment Hearings: What You Need to Know

The Impeachment Hearings: What You Need to Know

Here’s what we learned in a week of extraordinary testimony.

Our reporters in Washington spent the week covering and making sense of the latest developments in the impeachment inquiry. If you didn’t have time to watch the hearings on Capitol Hill, here are some articles to quickly catch you up.

Keep up with impeachment news by signing up for our daily briefing here.




Trump Impeachment Hearings: Sondland Testimony Highlights

Gordon D. Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, appeared before the House Intelligence Committee.

“Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the president of the United States. We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose a very important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election D.N.C. server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew these investigations were important to the president. Members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.” “One of the things that you now remember is the discussion that you had with President Trump on July 26 in that restaurant in Kyiv, right? You confirmed to President Trump that you were in Ukraine at the time and that President Zelensky quote, ‘loves your ass.’ Do you recall saying that?” “It sounds like something I would say.” “You said President Trump had directed you to talk — you and the others — to talk to Rudy Giuliani at the Oval Office on May 23.” “If we wanted to get anything done with Ukraine, it was apparent to us we needed to talk to Rudy.” “Right, you understood that Mr. Giuliani spoke for the president, correct?” “That’s correct.” “You testified that Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president, correct?” “That’s our understanding, yes.” “But how did you know that? Who told you?” “Well, when the president says talk to my personal attorney, and then Mr. Giuliani as his personal attorney makes certain requests or demands, we assume it’s coming from the president.” “You don’t have records, 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. Isn’t that true?” “What I’m trying to do today is to use the limited information I have to be as forthcoming as possible with you and the rest of the committee.” “Your testimony is just simply in a pre-meeting with a group of Americans before the bilateral meeting. You referenced the fact that Ukraine needed to do these investigations in order to lift the aid.” “I think I referenced — I didn’t say that Ukraine had to do the investigations. I think I said that we heard from Mr. Giuliani that that was the case.” “So it wasn’t really a presumption. You heard from Mr. Giuliani.” “No one told me directly that the aid was tied to anything. I was presuming it was.” “You testified that pretty much everyone could put two and two together and make four and understood that the military assistance was also conditioned on the public announcement of these two investigations, correct?” “That was my presumption.” “Now you’re capable of putting two and two together. And so are the Ukrainians. Because you told them in Warsaw they were going to need to make that public statement — likely to get that aid released as I said.” “I said I presumed that might have to be done in order to get the aid released.” “Because we’ve had a lot of argumentation here. Well, the Ukrainians didn’t know the aid was withheld. But the Ukrainians found out. And then it was made abundantly clear, if they hadn’t put two and two together themselves, that if they wanted that aid they were going to have to make these statements, correct?” “Correct.” “When did President Zelensky announce that the investigation was going to happen? On page 14 you said this: ‘Was there a quid pro quo’ — today’s, your opening statement? ‘As I testified previously with regard to requested White House call, White House meeting the answer is yes,’ that there needed to be a public statement from President Zelensky. When the chairman asked you about the security assistance dollars, you said there needed to be a public announcement from Zelensky. So I’m asking you a simple question: When did that happen?” “Never did.” “Never did.” “Who would benefit from an investigation of the Bidens?” “I assume President Trump would benefit.” “There, we have it!” “Mr. Maloney, excuse me. I’ve been very forthright and I really resent what you’re trying to do.” “Fair enough. You’ve been very forthright. This is your third try to do so, sir. Didn’t work so well the first time, did it? We had a little declaration coming after you, remember that? And now we’re here a third time. And we’ve got a doozy of a statement from you this morning. There’s a whole bunch of stuff you don’t recall. So all due respect, sir. We appreciate your candor, but let’s be really clear on what it took to get it out of you.” “The question is not what the president meant. The question is not whether he was responsible for holding up the aid — he was. The question is not whether everybody knew it — apparently they did. The question is, what are we prepared to do about it? Is there any accountability? Or are we forced to conclude that this is just now the world that we live in?”

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Gordon D. Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, appeared before the House Intelligence Committee.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“Clear quid pro quo”: Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, testified on Wednesday. Mr. Sondland, a wealthy hotelier from Oregon, told the committee that President Trump directed the Ukraine pressure campaign, that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off, and that Vice President Mike Pence was told about an apparent link between Ukraine’s military aid and the investigations the president desired. He confirmed that there was a “clear quid pro quo” for a White House meeting between Mr. Trump and Ukraine’s president.




Day 3: Trump Impeachment Hearing Highlights

Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday were Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, Jennifer Williams, Tim Morrison and Kurt D. Volker.

“On July 25, 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 25 phone call with anyone outside the White House on July 25 or the 26? 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.”

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Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday were Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, Jennifer Williams, Tim Morrison and Kurt D. Volker.CreditCredit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

An “unusual and inappropriate” call: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, testified jointly on Tuesday. They were the first witnesses in the public hearings who listened in to President Trump’s July 25 phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. Ms. Williams called the conversation “unusual and inappropriate,” while Colonel Vindman said it was “wrong.”

“Fictional narrative”: That’s what Fiona Hill, Mr. Trump’s former top adviser on Russia and Europe, called the story that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election. She criticized Republicans on Thursday for propagating that line of thinking, telling the House panel that the story — which Mr. Trump has embraced — was planted by Russia and dangerously played into Moscow’s hands, by sowing political divisions in the United States that adversaries are eager to exploit. She and David Holmes, the political counselor to the American ambassadors in Ukraine, testified on Thursday.

“Three Amigos”: Kurt D. Volker, the president’s former special envoy for Ukraine, has been referred to as one of the “three amigos,” along with Mr. Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. But, when he testified on Tuesday, he bristled at being lumped together with the other two men. “I’ve never used that term and frankly cringe when I hear it,” he said. He also told the panel he was not part of an irregular foreign policy channel with Ukriane.


Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times

If you want to know more about any of this week’s witnesses, we’ve got you covered. Here are profiles of them.

  • Gordon Sondland, United States ambassador to the European Union

  • Fiona Hill, president Trump’s former top adviser on Russia and Europe

  • Kurt Volker, pictured above, former special envoy to Ukraine

  • David Holmes, an official from the American Embassy in Ukraine

  • Laura Cooper, the Pentagon’s Russia-Ukraine expert

  • David Hale, a top State Department official

Of Tuesday’s testimony from Colonel Vindman and Ms. Williams, Peter Baker, our chief White House correspondent writes:

“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.

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