Former National Security Council official Tim Morrison will testify at the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday in the third public hearing in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.
Morrison’s testimony on October 31 behind closed doors generated excitement among Republicans, who could not reveal specifics but said he had undermined Democrats’ case against the president.
The transcript, released on Saturday, lived up to the hype — though Democrats spun it against Trump, and the mainstream media dutifully complied, as they typically do.
Morrison was, until recently, the lead advisor to the president for European affairs. He is leaving his post, for reasons that have nothing to do with Ukraine — but the news of his departure caused Democrats and the media to speculate that he was about to turn on the president. The opposite happened: Morrison supported Trump’s case.
He told the committee that he was not concerned that anything that happened on the July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was illegal. Nor did he think anything was improper. In a comical exchange with committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Morrison even said he did not even think what the president asked Ukraine to do — namely, investigating interference in the 2016 election, and allegations of past corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son — would help him in his 2020 re-election campaign.
Morrison did confirm that U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland claimed to have told the Ukrainians that some aid would depend on announcing the investigations. But Morrison suggested that was Sondland’s own project. He also cast doubt on the credibility of testimony by Lt. Col Alexander Vindman, as well as Morrison’s predecessor, Dr. Fiona Hill. He came across as a straight shooter, a policy wonk and manager who was largely uninterested in politics, and loyal to his commander-in-chief and the prerogatives of the president in carrying out foreign policy.
Notably, Morrison is the first witness from Republicans’ list to testify publicly. Under the lopsided rules of the House resolution authorizing the impeachment inquiry, Schiff can object to GOP witnesses, but not vice versa.
Democrats’ Key Talking Points
1. Democrats’ “key excerpts” from Tim Morrison’s testimony highlighted the fact that he confirmed that Sondland told him in September that he had told a Ukrainian official that “what could help them move the aid was if the prosecutor general would to go the mike and announce that he was opening the Burisma investigation.”
- What Democrats aren’t telling you: Morrison also confirmed that the Ukrainians did not even know that military aid had been held up until Politico reported it Aug. 28. He confirmed that the Javelin anti-missile system was not part of the aid that was being stalled. And Morrison also added a new piece of information: namely, that $4 billion in other foreign aid had also been under review. He did not approve of Sondland’s approach, which he thought could drag Ukraine into U.S. politics, but he did not think it was illegal.
2. Democrats point out that Morrison alerted legal counsel at the National Security Counsel about the July 25 Ukraine call, after which the transcript (or readout) of the conversation was placed on a more highly secure server.
- What Democrats aren’t telling you: Morrison never thought there was anything illegal, or even improper, about the call. “I want to be clear: I was not concerned that anything illegal was discussed,” he said. Nor did he even think that President Trump was trying to help his reelection campaign. His concern, rather, was that the call would leak, and that in “Washington’s polarized environment,” that would be used to make Ukraine into a partisan issue. In any case, the transcript was only placed on the highly secure system by “mistake.”
3. Democrats note that Morrison the skepticism of other witnesses about the “informal” policy channel, separate from the bureaucracy, and involving Sondland and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, among others.
- What Democrats aren’t telling you: Morrison testified that he had “no” concern about the president asking Giuliani to meet with foreign leaders. He did, however, have concern about some of the other witnesses. He praised Vindman’s patriotism, for instance, but contradicted his claim that Vindman’s proposed edits to the transcript had been rejected. He also questioned Vindman’s judgment, and Dr. Hill’s management practices.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.