NSA adviser Timothy Morrison testified on the Donald Trump impeachment inquiry. Here are 4 takeaways
WASHINGTON – Halloween proved to be a busy day regarding the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
In addition to the House passing a resolution on the rules going forward in the public phase of the inquiry, National Security Council official Timothy Morrison testified for 8 1/2 hours.
According to his opening statement, obtained first by CBS News and confirmed by Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Morrison confirmed the "substance" of Ambassador William Taylor's Oct. 22 opening statement to the committees.
Here are four key takeaways from Morrison’s opening statement before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Intelligence Committees on Thursday:
Timothy Morrison backs up William Taylor's quid pro quo testimony
Morrison, the top Russia and European adviser on the National Security Council, said the "substance" of Ambassador William Taylor's statement to the committees was correct, though he disagreed with Taylor on a few of the details.
Last week, Taylor told the committees about a conversation Morrison had relayed to him between European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Andriy Yermak, adviser to the Ukrainian president.
Sondland had told Yermak that aid would be conditioned on a commitment to investigations, according to Taylor's account of Morrison's description.
"Ambassador Sondland told Mr. Yermak that the security assistance money would not come until President Zelenskyy committed to pursue the Burisma investigation," Taylor had said of Morrison’s narration of the conversation.
"I reviewed the statement Ambassador Taylor provided this inquiry on October 22, 2019. I can confirm that the substance of his statement, as it relates to conversations he and I had, is accurate," Morrison said Thursday to lawmakers.
He was 'not concerned' about illegality of Donald Trump-Ukraine phone call
Morrison testified that he notified the National Security Council's lawyers about the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky but stated he “was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed."
Morrison listened to the call, and said, ”To the best of my recollection, the MemCon accurately and completely reflects the substance of the call," using the acronym for the summary of the call released by the White House.
Morrison said he was concerned about the implications of a leak of the call with regards to how it would be viewed in "Washington's polarized environment," potential effects on the "bipartisan support" for Ukraine, and impacts on Ukrainian perceptions of the U.S.-Ukraine relationship.
He notes, "I want to be clear, I was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed."
He was told by Fiona Hill to stay away from Rudy Giuliani's Ukraine policy
In his opening statement, Morrison describes how Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council expert on Russia who testified earlier this month, advised him to stay away from the Ukraine policy being pursued by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer.
Taylor's testimony described how John Bolton, the former national security adviser, had concerns about the push to solicit help from Ukraine. Taylor described a conversation with Hill and Alexander Vindman, another national security council official who testified last Tuesday.
"They told me that Ambassador Sondland had connected 'investigations' with an Oval Office meeting for President Zelensky, which so irritated Ambassador Bolton that he abruptly ended the meeting, telling Dr. Hill and Mr. Vindman that they should have nothing to do with domestic politics," Taylor said in his opening statement. "He also directed Dr. Hill to 'brief the lawyers.' Dr. Hill said that Ambassador Bolton referred to this as a 'drug deal' after the July 10 meeting."
What he said:Key takeaways from Ukraine diplomat Bill Taylor's 'explosive' opening statement
Morrison testified, “As Dr. Fiona Hill and I prepared for me to succeed her, one of the areas we discussed was Ukraine. In that discussion, she informed me of her concerns about two Ukraine processes that were occurring: the normal interagency process led by the NSC with the typical department and agency participation and a separate process that involved chiefly the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.”
“Dr. Hill told me that Ambassador Sondland and President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, were trying to get President Zelensky to reopen Ukrainian investigations into Burisma. At the time, I did not know what Burisma was or what the investigation entailed. After the meeting with Dr. Hill, I googled Burisma and learned that it was a Ukrainian energy company and that Hunter Biden was on its board,” he continued.
Bolton has been scheduled to testify in the inquiry next week, though it is unclear whether he will show up.
How Republicans, Democrats will spin Timothy Morrison's testimony
Unsurprisingly, Republicans and Democrats had different reactions to Morrison’s testimony.
Republicans came out of the secure hearing room claiming victory, though they declined to discuss details.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Oversight Committee, said Morrison's testimony was "really positive."
"I think it was a great day for American, a great day for the president, and if any witness would suggest that the impeachment resolution was passed earlier today should come to a screeching halt, it is this witness," said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.
The GOP will likely seize on the fact Morrison didn’t think Trump and Zelensky discussed anything illegal on the July 25 call. Trump has repeatedly said the summary of the call exonerated him of wrongdoing.
Democrats, however, said Morrison confirmed the details discussed by previous witnesses.
Rep. Ted Lieu tweeted that "the facts that Morrison confirmed are devastating to @realDonaldTrump and his GOP enablers."
Contributing: Christal Hayes and Bart Jansen, USA TODAY