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  • Jennifer Williams, special adviser for Europe and Russia in the Office of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arrives on Capitol Hill for a closed-door hearing in Washington, U.S., November 7, 2019.

    Jennifer Williams, special adviser for Europe and Russia in the Office of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence arrives on Capitol Hill for a closed-door hearing in Washington, U.S., November 7, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 16 November 2019

The government official testified that Trump’s insistence that Ukraine carry out politically sensitive investigations “struck me as unusual and inappropriate.”

As public hearings continue part of the Congress’ impeachment inquiry, a foreign policy aide to Vice President Mike Pence told lawmakers, according to a transcript released Saturday that the phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart was “inappropriate.”

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Jennifer Williams, who was listening to the call on July 25, testified that Trump’s insistence that Ukraine carry out politically sensitive investigations “struck me as unusual and inappropriate.”

The Democratic-led House of Representatives also released a transcript of an earlier closed-door deposition by White House aide with the National Security Council focusing on Europe and Russia policy, Tim Morrison.

“I was not comfortable with any idea that President Zelenskiy should allow himself to be involved in our politics,” Morrison stated.

The Ukraine scandal is the result of a whistleblower from within the U.S. intelligence community lodging a complaint with an internal watchdog about Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

The July 25 call, which was later released by the White House, confirmed that the U.S. president asked Zelenskiy to investigate his political rival in coordination with the U.S. attorney general and Trump’s personal lawyer,  which in turn occurred after Trump had ordered a freeze of nearly US$400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine, which the administration only later released.

Trump has denied he did this to get leverage or blackmail Zelenskiy. Federal election law prohibits candidates from accepting foreign help in an election.

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Meanwhile on Friday, as former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was testifying before the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Trump tweeted a message mentioning her, which may be considered an act of "witness intimidation" in the context of investigations before a possible impeachment process.

Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell told reporters this attack could be considered for a separate article of impeachment against Trump for obstruction of justice.

As the impeachment inquiry enters a new phase, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, admitted in a revised version of his earlier testimony that in fact, he told a Ukrainian official the U.S. would withhold aid unless they pursued investigations against Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden demanded by Trump.

The updated version of Sondland’s testimony came as the diplomat, who initially testified in October to the Democratic-led congressional inquiry, offered new details to lawmakers after his memory was “refreshed.”

The details now appear to reinforce the initial whistleblower complaint that led to the investigation by three U.S. House of Representatives committees. The testimony also corroborates other witnesses who said Trump sought to pressure the Ukrainians into conducting investigations that appeared to be aimed at helping his re-election campaign.

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