Overnight Defense: New transcripts tie Mulvaney to quid pro quo effort | Mulvaney defies House subpoena | Trump rails against public impeachment hearings

Overnight Defense: New transcripts tie Mulvaney to quid pro quo effort | Mulvaney defies House subpoena | Trump rails against public impeachment hearings

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

 

THE TOPLINE: Two White House witnesses in the Democrats' impeachment inquiry implicated acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyFox's Napolitano says obstruction 'easiest' impeachment offense for Democrats The key impeachment hearings are before an appeals court, not the House Judiciary panel Schiff says investigators seeking to identify who Giuliani spoke to on unlisted '-1' number MORE in an alleged effort to press Ukraine for investigations sought by President TrumpDonald John TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Iran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report MORE's personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiPoll: 46 percent of voters say Trump's Ukraine dealings constitute impeachable offense GOP member urges Graham to subpoena Schiff, Biden phone records Giuliani meets with fired Ukrainian prosecutor who pushed Biden, 2016 claims: report MORE, according to transcripts of their private testimony released Friday.

Former National Security Council (NSC) official Fiona Hill described a meeting with Ukrainian officials on July 10 during which U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said he had an agreement with Mulvaney that a White House meeting with Ukraine's president would be contingent on Kiev launching investigations.

What Hill said: "Sondland, in front of the Ukrainians, as I came in, was talking about how he had an agreement with Chief of Staff Mulvaney for a meeting with the Ukrainians if they were going to go forward with investigations. And my director for Ukraine was looking completely alarmed," Hill told three House committees on Oct. 15, according to the 446-page transcript of her closed-door deposition.

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Hill said that then-national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonThe key impeachment hearings are before an appeals court, not the House Judiciary panel Beyond the myth of Sunni-Shia wars in the Middle East The Hill's Morning Report - Impeachment of Trump resumes MORE was so alarmed by what transpired during the meeting, where Mulvaney was not present, that he directed her to report it to NSC's lawyer, John Eisenberg.

"He made it clear that he believed that they were making, basically, an improper arrangement to have a meeting in the White House, that they were predicating the meeting in the White House on the Ukrainians agreeing, in this case, based on the meeting on July 10th, to restart investigations that had been dropped in the energy sector," Hill testified.

"You go and tell Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this, and you go and tell him what you've heard and what I've said," Hill said, quoting Bolton.

Other accounts: Another NSC official, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, also tied Mulvaney to the effort to push Kiev to commit to the investigations, according to the transcript of his Oct. 29 testimony that was also released on Friday.

Vindman said Sondland spoke of a conversation with Mulvaney during which they agreed the investigations were "required in order to get a meeting."

A refresher: Testimony from Hill and others have illuminated the unusual role played by Giuliani and other Trump officials in crafting U.S. policy toward Ukraine. Giuliani had been pushing for investigations by Kiev into 2016 election interference as well as Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that employed Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenGabbard moves to New Hampshire ahead of primary Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Trump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans MORE, as a board member.

Trump raised investigations into the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) server and the Bidens during a July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky -- a phone conversation that triggered an intelligence community whistleblower complaint that's at the center of Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

Trump has maintained he did nothing wrong on the call and described it as "perfect," accusing Democrats of a partisan effort to overturn the results of the 2016 presidential election and damage him politically. The White House has also insisted there was no quid pro quo in the president's interactions with Ukraine, pointing to the rough transcript released of the call.

The testimony of Hill, who stepped down as Trump's top analyst on Russia on the NSC staff in August, contributes to a body of evidence that the administration sought to dangle a White House meeting as a way to press Ukraine to pursue investigations.

What else Hill said: Hill also said that based on the White House transcript and other details of her interactions, it appeared that administration officials were trying to turn "a White House meeting into some kind of asset."

Hill's testimony paints a picture of Sondland operating under the blessing of Mulvaney, inserting himself in Ukraine foreign policy and elevating his position as acting chief of staff as he sought to secure commitments from Kiev before granting a White House meeting.

Hill recalled an occasion in which Sondland raised Mulvaney's name during a "testy exchange," while also claiming that he was "filling in" for Bolton, who was serving as Trump's national security adviser at the time.

Hill also described Sondland as meeting regularly with Mulvaney. She said that Mulvaney's office made sure Sondland was on the list to attend Zelensky's May 20 inauguration, despite him not being put on the original list compiled by staff at the NSC.

Trump's reaction: Trump on Friday sought to distance himself from Sondland, telling reporters at the White House: "I hardly know the gentleman."

More on Mulvaney: The deposition transcripts cast further scrutiny on Mulvaney just hours after he defied a House subpoena to testify in connection with the impeachment inquiry.

An official working on the inquiry said Mulvaney's outside counsel informed House investigators "one minute" before his scheduled deposition that he would not appear, citing White House claims of immunity from compelled congressional testimony.

Mulvaney is viewed as a key witness in the impeachment inquiry for various reasons, including his involvement in decisions about $400 million in military aid to Ukraine that was held up over the summer as Trump administration officials pushed for the investigations.

The aid was eventually released, and Kiev never made a public statement about pursuing investigations as Sondland and others had pushed for, allegedly at the direction of Giuliani.

 

Read more impeachment coverage from The Hill:

-- Democrats aim to impeach Trump by Christmas

-- READ: Transcript of testimony by Trump security official Alexander Vindman

-- READ: Transcript of testimony by former Trump Russia adviser Fiona Hill

-- Ex-Trump Russia expert told lawmakers she's gotten death threats

-- Democrats release transcripts from Hill, Vindman depositions in impeachment probe

-- Trump says he's open to releasing memo of another Ukraine call

-- The Hill: Trump rails against impeachment: 'They shouldn't be having public hearings'

  

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

President Trump will speak at the opening ceremony of the New York City Veterans Day Parade at 10:30 a.m. in New York City. 

 

ICYMI

-- The Hill: Pompeo in Berlin speech stresses democracies must work together: 'Doing it alone is impossible'

-- The Hill: Pompeo to speak in South Carolina on Veterans Day

-- The Hill: Giuliani associates urged Ukraine's prior president to open Biden probe in exchange for state visit: WSJ

-- The Hill:  GOP senator wants to know whistleblower identity if there's an impeachment trial

-- The Hill: Top diplomat says Giuliani's 'campaign of lies' took down veteran ambassador

-- The Hill:  GOP senators press State Department for Hunter Biden, Burisma records