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World

AFP
November 17, 2019

Trump aide curbed access to Ukraine call, fearing fallout

World

AFP
Sun, Nov 17, 2019
Trump aide curbed access to Ukraine call, fearing fallout. Photo: Yahoo News

A top US official restricted access to the summary of Donald Trump's Ukraine call that triggered an impeachment probe, fearing it would damage the president, testimony released Saturday showed.

White House Ukraine expert Timothy Morrison told House investigators he knew immediately how sensitive the call was when he heard Trump press Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former US vice president Joe Biden.

"I recommended... that we restrict access to the package," said Morrison, who left the National Security Council the day before testifying.

The conversation, which took place on July 25 while the White House was withholding military aid to Ukraine, is central to the House impeachment inquiry into Trump.

Democrats leading the probe say the call summary shows the president abused his office by bullying a vulnerable ally into interfering on his behalf in the 2020 US election.

"The testimony released today shows that President Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky immediately set off alarm bells throughout the White House," Adam Schiff, the congressman leading the inquiry, said in a statement released jointly with other senior Democrats.

Morrison said however the summary had been placed on a highly classified system due to a "mistake" by White House staff — casting doubt on allegations that it was squirreled away as part of a deliberate cover-up.

He also broke with other witnesses who have spoken out against the call, telling House investigators he heard nothing wrong.

"In your view there was nothing improper that occurred during the call?" the Republican's lead counsel asked Morrison.

"Correct," he replied.

House investigators also released testimony from Jennifer Williams, Vice President Mike Pence's special advisor for Europe and Russia, who told lawmakers Trump's push for Ukraine to open investigations was "unusual and inappropriate."

Williams listened in on the July 25 call and said the requests appeared to have been made to further Trump's "personal political agenda" rather than US foreign policy goals.