Susan Walsh / AP
Tim Morrison, Russia's highest official with President Trump's National Security Council, testified to investigators from the house that Gordon Sondland, US ambassador to the United States, led an attempt to get Ukraine to open an investigation into a company with ties to his son Vice President Joe Biden.
Morrison said that Sondland had repeatedly contacted Trump and believed he had a mandate from the president to work on a second channel involving Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's personal lawyer, outside the normal interagency process that required the investigation. But Morrison also raised several questions about whether Trump himself did something wrong.
He remembers being warned by his predecessor, Fiona Hill, to stay away from the alternative track and everything to do with the investigation of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, where Biden's son, Hunter, sat on the board.
"How I remember I dealt with it was when I went out and I googled" What is Burisma? "And I saw Hunter Biden, I said, okay, it sounds like night, I'll stay away," testified Morrison.
Morrison is the latest witness to put Sondland at the center of the investigation into whether President Trump contained $ 400 million in U.S. military aid to pressure Ukraine to help Trump politically.
House investigators released the transcript Saturday for depositing closed doors just days before he will testify at the request of Republican lawmakers.
In a joint statement, the three said the presidents of the House committees that led the investigation, Rep. Adam Schiff, Rep. Eliot L. Engel, and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, that the testimony provides a first-hand account "as US military aid, not just a White House meeting, was conditional on their public announcement of political investigations that the president wanted. "
Morrison is one of few witnesses with direct knowledge of the president's interaction with his Ukrainian counterpart. The gun control expert listened to the July 25 telephone conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Almost immediately after the call, Morrison proposed to NSC's lawyers But he also said he did not think anything illegal or wrong was taking place in the conversation, but Morrison was worried that the transcript would leak and could eventually damage the bipartisan support of Ukraine.
Morrison told Jackie Speier, D-Calif., that he was so concerned about Sondland's actions at the time – and unsure of the president's involvement that he felt the need to keep a register to "protect" Trump.
"Congresswoman, I is still not entirely sure that this came from the president, "Morrison testified." I only get this fr than Ambassador Sondland. "
Republicans, for example Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio, seemed to explain that the support was simply a case of the White House size Zelenskiy to be sure he could trust. Successive US administrations, including Trumps, have raised concerns about Ukraine's perceived problems with corruption.
Morrison said he always hoped that help would be released, but did not expect it because of Trump's acknowledged skepticism toward foreign aid. He said his opinion was based on "the president's general antipathy to foreign aid, as well as his concern that the Ukrainians did not pay his fair share, as well as his concern when our aid would be abused due to the view that Ukraine has a significant corruption problem."  Morrison, however, said that the mention of the investigations during the July 25 conversation between the president and his Ukrainian counterpart "seemed unusual" compared to other presidential talks.
Morrison said he was very worried about the alternative foreign policy channel that Sondland was leading. He tried to keep himself and his office away from it.
"At some point I became worried that this parallel process would turn into something – and here we are," he said. "So I wanted to keep my people focused on their mission and not be drawn into anything if they could help it."
Sondland will testify publicly next week.
Earlier this month, the US ambassador to the EU revised his previous testimony admitting to investigators that he had told a high-ranking Ukrainian official that the Zelenski government would need to undertake an investigation to obtain millions in military aid.
On Friday, a Foreign Office official, David Holmes, testified that he was with Sondland in Ukraine the day after the July 25 call. The two were at a restaurant when Holmes heard a phone call between Sondland and Trump asking Trump about the status of the investigation. He also testified that Sondland said Trump cared more about an investigation of Bidens than about Ukraine.
Morrison said former security adviser John Bolton was also frustrated by Sondland's role. At Bolton's request, Morrison suggested William Taylor, the highest diplomat in Ukraine, tell the Ukrainians not to leave the investigations.
Morrison said he also spoke twice with the best White House lawyer, John Eisenberg, about his concerns, including about a possible leak of the July 25 call. But Morrison said the rough print of Trump's call was released on a highly classified system by mistake. Eisenberg agreed that access to the call would be restricted, but Morrison said Eisenberg later told him he asked for the call to be placed on the special server, but others misunderstood his request.