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READ: Tim Morrison’s opening statement before House impeachment investigators

(CNN)A top National Security Council official testified Thursday that he was told President Donald Trump wanted a top Ukrainian official to announce an investigation that would help the President politically before US security aid to Ukraine would be released, corroborating a key part of US diplomat Bill Taylor’s testimony that’s central to the Democrats’ impeachment…

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READ: Tim Morrison’s opening statement before House impeachment investigators

(CNN)A top National Security Council official testified Thursday that he was told President Donald Trump wanted a top Ukrainian official to announce an investigation that would help the President politically before US security aid to Ukraine would be released, corroborating a key part of US diplomat Bill Taylor’s testimony that’s central to the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, according to sources familiar with the testimony.CNN has obtained the text of Morrison’s opening statement, which you can read below. Opening Statement of Timothy Morrison Before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform October 31, 2019 Chairman Schiff and Members of the Committees, I appear today under subpoena to answer your questions about my time as Senior Director for European Affairs at the White House and the National Security Council (“NSC”). I will give you the most complete information I can, consistent with my obligations to the President and the protection of classified information. I do not know who the whistleblower is, nor do I intend to speculate as to who it may be. Before joining the NSC in 2018, I spent 17 years as a Republican staffer, serving in a variety of roles in both houses of Congress. My last position was Policy Director for the then-Majority Staff of the House Armed Services Committee. I. The Role of the National Security Council From July 9, 2018 to July 15, 2019, I served as a Special Assistant to the President for National Security and as the NSC Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Biodefense. In that role, I had limited exposure to Ukraine, focusing primarily on foreign military sales and arms control. On July 15, 2019, I became Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security. In this role, I serve as the lead interagency coordinator for national security issues involving Europe and Russia. It is important to start with the role of the NSC. Since its creation by Congress in 1947, the NSC has appropriately evolved in shape and size to suit the needs of the President and the National Security Advisor it serves at the time. But its mission and core function has fundamentally remained the same: to coordinate across departments and agencies of the Executive Branch to ensure the President has the policy options he needs to accomplish his objectives and to see that his decisions are implemented. The NSC staff does not make policy. NSC staff are most effective when we are neutral arbiters, helping the relevant Executive Branch agencies develop options for the President and implement his direction. In my current position, I understood our primary U.S. policy objective in Ukraine was to take advantage of the once-in-a-generation opportunity that resulted from the election of President Zelensky and the clear majority he had gained in the Ukrainian Rada to see real anti-corruption reform take root. The Administration’s policy was that the best way for the United States to show its support for President Zelensky’s reform efforts was to make sure the United States’ longstanding bipartisan commitment to strengthen Ukraine’s security remained unaltered, it is easy to forget here in Washington, but impossible in Kyiv, that Ukraine is still under armed assault by Russia, a nuclear-armed state. We also tend to forget that the United States had helped convince Ukraine to give up Soviet nuclear weapons in 1994. United States security sector assistance (from the Departments of Defense and State) is, therefore, essential to Ukraine. Also essential is a strong and positive relationship with Ukraine at the highest levels of our respective governments. In my role as Senior Director for European Affairs, I reported directly to former Deputy National Security Advisor, Dr. Charles Kupperman, and former National Security Advisor, Ambassador John Bolton. I kept them fully informed on matters that I believed merited their awareness or when I felt I needed some direction. During the time relevant to this inquiry, I never briefed the President or Vice President on matters related to Ukrainian security. It was my job to coordinate with the U.S. Embassy Chief of Mission to Ukraine William Taylor, Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker, and other interagency stakeholders in the Departments of Defense and State of Ukrainian matters. My primary responsibility has been to ensure federal agencies had consistent messaging and policy guidance on national security issues involving European and Russian affairs. 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. I also did not understand why Ambassador Sondland would be involved in Ukraine policy, often without the involvement of our duly-appointed Chief of Mission, Ambassador Bill Taylor. My most frequent conversations were with Ambassador Taylor because he was the U.S. Chief of Mission in Ukraine and I was his chief conduit for information related to White House deliberations, including security sector assistance and potential head-of-state meetings. This is a normal part of the coordination process. II. Review of Open Source Documents in Preparation for Testimony In preparation for my appearance today, 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. My recollections differ on two of the details, however. I have a slightly different recollection of my September 1, 2019 conversation with Ambassador Sondland. On page 10 of Ambassador Taylor’s statement, he recounts a conversation I relayed to him regarding Ambassador Sondland’s conversation with Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Yermak. Ambassador Taylor wrote: “Ambassador Sondland told Mr. Yermak that security assistance money would not come until President Zelensky committed to pursue the Burisma investigation.” My recollection is that Ambassador Sondland’s proposal to Mr. Yermak was that it could be sufficient if the new Ukrainian prosecutor general—not President Zelensky—would commit to pursue the Burisma investigation. I also would like to clarify that I did not meet with the Ukrainian National Security Advisor in his hotel room, as Ambassador Taylor indicated on page 11 of his statement. Instead, an NSC aide and I met with Mr. Danyliuk in the hotel’s business center. I also reviewed the Memorandum of Conversation (“MemCont’) of the July 25 phone call that was released by the White House. I listened to the call as it occurred from the Situation Room. To the best of my recollection, the MemCon accurately and completely reflects the substance of the call. I also recall that I did not see anyone from the NSC Legal Advisor’s Office in the room during the call. After the call, I promptly asked the NSC Legal Advisor and his Deputy to review it. I had three concerns about a potential leak of the MemCon: first, how it would play out in Washington’s polarized environment; second, how a leak would affect the bipartisan support our Ukrainian partners currently experience in Congress; and third, how it would affect the Ukrainian perceptions of the U.S.-Ukraine relationship. I want to be clear, I was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed. III. White House Hold on Security Sector Assistance I was not aware that the White House was holding up the security sector assistance passed by Congress until my superior, Dr. Charles Kupperman, told me soon after I succeeded Dr. Hill. I was aware that the President thought Ukraine had a corruption problem, as did many others familiar with Ukraine. I was also aware that the President believed that Europe did not contribute enough assistance to Ukraine. I was directed by Dr. Kupperman to coordinate with the interagency stakeholders to put together a policy process to demonstrate that the interagency supported security sector assistance to Ukraine. I was confident that our national security principals—the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the head of the National Security Council—could convince President Trump to release the aid because President Zelensky and the reform-oriented Rada were genuinely invested in their anti-corruption agenda. Ambassador Taylor and I were concerned that the longer the money was withheld, the more questions the Zelensky administration would ask about the U.S. commitment to Ukraine. Our initial hope was that the money would be released before the hold became public because we did not want the newly constituted Ukrainian government to question U.S. support. I have no reason to believe the Ukrainians had any knowledge of the review until August 28, 2019. Ambassador Taylor and I had no reason to believe that the release of the security sector assistance might be conditioned on a public statement reopening the Burisma investigation until my September 1, 2019 conversation with Ambassador Sondland. Even then I hoped that Ambassador Sondland’s strategy was exclusively his own and would not be considered by leaders in the Administration and Congress, who understood the strategic importance of Ukraine to our national security. I am pleased our process gave the President the confidence he needed to approve the release of the security sector assistance. My regret is that Ukraine ever learned of the review and that, with this impeachment inquiry, Ukraine has become subsumed in the U.S. political process. IV. Conclusion After 19 years of government service, I have decided to leave the NSC. I have not submitted a formal resignation at this time because I do not want anyone to think there is a connection between my testimony today and my impending departure. I plan to finalize my transition from the NSC after my testimony is complete.During my time in public service, I have worked with some of the smartest and most self-sacrificing people in this country. Serving at the White House in this time of unprecedented global change has been the opportunity of a lifetime. I am proud of what I have been able, in some small way, to help the Trump Administration to accomplish. Thank you for your attention.
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A rare blue moon will light up the sky on Halloween

The night sky on Halloween will be illuminated by a blue moon, the second full moon in a month. The relatively rare occurrence happens once every two and a half years on average, according to NASA’s National Space Science Data Center.Every month has a full moon, but because the lunar cycle and the calendar year…

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A rare blue moon will light up the sky on Halloween
The night sky on Halloween will be illuminated by a blue moon, the second full moon in a month. The relatively rare occurrence happens once every two and a half years on average, according to NASA’s National Space Science Data Center.

Every month has a full moon, but because the lunar cycle and the calendar year aren’t perfectly synched, about every three years we wind up with two in the same calendar month.

The National Weather Service spotted a massive bat colony on its weather radar
October’s first full moon, also known as the harvest moon, will appear on the first day of the month. The second full moon, or blue moon, will be visible on October 31. It’s the first instance of a blue moon in the Americas since March 2018.
It’s also the first time a Halloween full moon has appeared for all time zones since 1944, according to Farmers’ Almanac. The last time a Halloween full moon appeared was for the Central and Pacific time zones in 2001.

The “once in a blue moon” phenomenon does not necessarily mean the moon will look blue on Halloween. While the dark blue tone of an evening sky can affect the coloring we see, Earth’s satellite will most likely not appear blue at all.

Typically, when a moon does take on a bluish hue, it is because of smoke or dust particles in the atmosphere, such as during a major volcanic eruption.

When the phrase “once in a blue moon” was coined, it meant something so rare you’d be lucky (or unlucky) to see in your lifetime, according to NASA.

So if anything unusual happens to you on Halloween, there might just be a good reason why.

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Analysis: Why it could be a Biden blowout in November

(CNN)Poll of the week: A new ABC News/Washington Post poll from Minnesota finds Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with a 57% to 41% lead over President Donald Trump among likely voters. Two other Minnesota polls released over the last few weeks by CBS News/YouGov and New York Times/Siena College have Biden up by nine points.…

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Analysis: Why it could be a Biden blowout in November

(CNN)Poll of the week: A new ABC News/Washington Post poll from Minnesota finds Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with a 57% to 41% lead over President Donald Trump among likely voters. Two other Minnesota polls released over the last few weeks by CBS News/YouGov and New York Times/Siena College have Biden up by nine points. What’s the point: The Trump campaign has made a significant investment into turning Minnesota red, after Trump lost it by 1.5 points in 2016. The polling shows his efforts are not working.They are part of a larger sign suggesting that Trump still has a ways to go to win not just in Minnesota but over the electoral map at-large. If his campaign was truly competitive at this point, he’d likely be closer in Minnesota. One day Trump may get there, and he definitely has a shot of winning with still over a month to go in the campaign. Yet, it should also be pointed out that despite folks like me usually focusing on how Trump can close the gap with Biden and put new states into play, there’s another side to this equation. There is also the distinct possibility that Biden blows Trump out. It’s something I’ve noted before, and the Washington Post’s David Byler pointed out a few weeks ago. If you were to look at the polling right now, there’s a pretty clear picture. Biden has leads of somewhere between five and eight points in a number of states Trump won four years ago: Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Those plus the states Hillary Clinton won get Biden to about 290 electoral votes. If you add on the other states where Biden has at least a nominal edge in the averages (Florida and North Carolina), Biden is above 330 electoral votes. That’s not quite at blowout levels, but look at the polling in places like Georgia, Iowa, Ohio and Texas. We’re not really talking about those places right now, even though one or both campaigns have fairly major advertising investments planned down the stretch in all four. The polling there has been fairly limited, but it’s been pretty consistent. Biden is quite competitive. If you were to do an aggregation of the polls that are available in those states, Biden’s down maybe a point or two at most. In other words, Biden’s much closer to leading in Georgia, Iowa, Ohio and Texas than Trump is in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, let alone Minnesota. Indeed, it’s quite possible he’s actually up in either Georgia, Iowa, Ohio or Texas, and we just don’t know it because there isn’t enough fresh data. For example, Clinton only lost in Georgia by five points in 2016, and Biden’s doing about five points better in the national polls than she did in the final vote. It would make sense, therefore, that Biden’s quite close to Trump there at this point. Wins in any of those states by Biden could push his Electoral College tally up to about 340 electoral votes or higher, depending on which states Biden wins. Victories in all four would push him well over 400 electoral votes.Models such as those produced by FiveThirtyEight show just how possible it is for Biden to blow Trump out of the water. The model actually anticipates a better chance of Trump closing his deficit than Biden expanding it. Even so, Biden has a better chance (about 45%) of winning 340 electoral votes than Trump has of winning the election (about 25%). Biden’s chance of taking 400 electoral votes is pretty much the same of Trump winning. Of course, the ramifications of a Biden blowout versus a small Biden win aren’t anywhere close to being the same as a small Biden win versus a small Trump win. It’s easy to understand why the focus of a potential error is on Trump benefiting from it. In 2012, however, we saw the leading candidate (Barack Obama) win pretty much all of the close states.In fact, there’s no reason to think that any polling error at the end of the campaign won’t benefit the candidate who is already ahead. That’s happened plenty of times. Whether it be Obama in 2012 or most infamously Ronald Reagan in 1980. The thing to keep in mind is that it is possible one candidate runs the board because polling errors are correlated across states. That’s exactly what happened in 2016, when Trump won most of the close states. This year we just don’t know how it’s going to play out. Just keep in mind that the potential change in this race could go to Biden’s benefit as well as Trump’s. Before we bid adieu: The theme song of the week is the closing credits to Murphy Brown.
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At least 40 rounds were fired during shooting that left two dead at a party in New York

(CNN)At least 40 rounds were fired during a shooting that left two people dead and over a dozen others injured at a house party in upstate New York, authorities said.The party in Rochester started early Saturday as an invite-only event before it eventually grew in size after two nearby parties “infiltrated” the house. Three or…

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At least 40 rounds were fired during shooting that left two dead at a party in New York

(CNN)At least 40 rounds were fired during a shooting that left two people dead and over a dozen others injured at a house party in upstate New York, authorities said.The party in Rochester started early Saturday as an invite-only event before it eventually grew in size after two nearby parties “infiltrated” the house. Three or four people had handguns, Capt. Frank Umbrino said. The two people killed and 14 wounded were in their late teens to early 20s. Police responded to calls of gunshots around 12:25 a.m. and were met with 100 to 200 people attempting to flee on foot and in vehicles, he said. Those killed did not live at the home and they were not the intended targets, Umbrino said. No suspects were in custody, and no motive was immediately known.”A number of our young people — babies — that came to just hang out a little while … left running for their lives. And that’s just something that we cannot have happen,” Mayor Lovely Warren said during a visit to the neighborhood Saturday. The party’s host told her she “invited a couple friends over, who invited a couple friends over who invited a couple friends over.””And it just got out of control. She’s just traumatized,” Warren said.Warren appealed for calm and healing in a city recently roiled by protests in a different high-profile case — the death of Daniel Prude after an encounter with police earlier this year.The party took place despite several restrictions on gatherings. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the city has told residents to limit social gatherings to household members and not to gather in groups.Additionally, since July, the city has banned gatherings of more than five people from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. to curb what the city said was a rise in violence.Police were not aware of the party beforehand, and had not received any calls for disturbance, Acting Police Chief Mark Simmons said.The shooting comes as the city and police department deal with the case of Prude, who died in March after Rochester police pinned him to the ground. The release of body camera footage this month led to protests and accusations that local leaders hid details about Prude’s death from the public.This week, Simmons succeeded the previous chief, who was fired over the fallout. A New York City law firm is leading an independent investigation into the city’s handling of the case. Also, New York ‘s attorney general has said she would empanel a grand jury to investigate Prude’s death.CNN’s Jason Hanna, Christina Maxouris, Alec Snyder and Alta Spells contributed to this report.
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