The GOP Has Found Its Star Witness*
Republicans have seized on a rare piece of good news. National Security Council Senior Director Tim Morrison, a former House GOP staffer, testified that Donald Trump's shakedown call with President Zelenskiy was not, in his opinion, ILLEGAL. So NO IMPEACHMENT, pack it in Shifty Schiff, Witch Huntghazi is DUNZO!!!!1!! Plus Morrison threw some dirt on Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Fiona Hill, so hey BONUS!
Sure Morrison hotfooted it directly to NSC lawyer John Eisenberg directly after the president's perfect, perfect July 25 phone call, but that was only because he was worried about it leaking. Not because he was alarmed that Trump was extorting a foreign head of state to frame his likely electoral opponent, of course, but because he was "concerned about how the Ukrainians would internalize that" and worried that "politicizing Ukraine" would "cost bipartisan support" for that country.
GOLDMAN: So your primary concern after this call occurred was that it would leak?
GOLDMAN: You weren't -- I understand that you didn't think that it was illegal, but did you think that it was appropriate or proper?
MORRISON: Did I think what was appropriate or proper?
GOLDMAN: President Trump's conversation. Do you think that President Trump's words were proper?
MORRISON: I did not have a view on that.
When asked how a leak would put the Ukrainians, who were after all on the call, in a worse position, Morrison opined that "there's one thing for what they hear firsthand from the president; there's another thing for how that then gets used in the political process." If we had to guess what the hell that means, it's a way of talking around the massive damage to Ukraine's position vis-à-vis the Russians if it got out that the US was cutting off military assistance. Morrison, who worked for Republicans in Congress for 17 years, is loath to give Democrats a reason to accuse Trump of helping Putin, but a vague allusion to "the political process" covers a multitude of sins.
Morrison wasn't worried AT ALL about the substance of Trump's shakedown call, but nonetheless he had two meetings with Eisenberg that very day where he recommended in the strongest terms that they "restrict access to the package" and make sure that Eisenberg himself looked at the call and didn't let it "fall to one of their deputies, one of the line attorneys." Which he'd never done before, but this call was ... extra perfect?
Furthermore, Morrison, who listened to the call in real time, swears that it never occurred to him that getting Ukraine to announce investigations of Joe and Hunter Biden, might help the president personally. In fact it was a freak accident that landed the transcript on the double-super-secret classified server! Morrison raced to Eisenberg's office and told him to lock that shit down ASAP, but it was only when he went looking for the transcript a month later that he realized it had been stashed in the no-no vault.
GOLDMAN: What did you do after you couldn't find it?
MORRISON: I called the NSC Executive Secretariate staff to say, essentially, what gives?
GOLDMAN: And what did they say?
MORRISON: They said John Eisenberg had directed it be moved to a different server.
GOLDMAN: What did you do next?
MORRISON: I talked to John.
GOLDMAN: And what did he say to you?
MORRISON: He said he did not.
GOLDMAN: What did you say back to him?
MORRISON: I said, well, that you need to talk to Exec Sec because they think you directed it.
GOLDMAN: And then what did he say to you? When did he say it was a mistake?
MORRISON: After he talked to—well, I don't recall if it was in that exact same conversation or a separate conversation, but at some point he checked in with the Exec Sec to find out why they thought he directed them to do that. And he came back and said, well, I agreed with you to restrict access. They took that as a direction to move it to a different server, which was not my—which was not his instruction nor my recommendation.
GOLDMAN: And so was it your understanding that at the point of that meeting the third week of August, Mr. Eisenberg was not aware that the transcript had been moved to the highly classified system?
MORRISON: That's my recollection, yes.
Morrison also claims not to remember if Vindman came to him with edits, particularly Zelenskiy himself bringing up Burisma, but says he would have included them if asked. Luckily Vindman will be testifying tomorrow with Pence's national security staffer Jennifer Williams, who does remember Zelenskiy naming the company that paid Hunter Biden. But he goes on to cast aspersions on Vindman's judgment, imply that he's a leaker, and sniff that Lt. Col. Vindman may have gone over his head to Eisenberg with his concerns because he picked up insubordinate habits under Fiona Hill. But Tim Morrison, the guy who never served and spent two decades in politics, runs a tight ship!
STAR WITNESS, right?
Well, maybe not. Morrison said Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the EU, was a blowhard who bragged constantly about his access to the president, but concedes that every time Sondland claimed to have spoken to Herr Orange, it turned out to be true. So much for pretending that Sondland was a rogue freelancer. And Morrison watched Sondland huddle up with Zelenskiy's aide Andrei Yermak on September 1 in Warsaw, then cheerfully bound over like a demented puppy to announce that he'd just laid down the law for the Ukrainians, telling them "what could help them move the aid was if the prosecutor general would go to the mike and announce that he was opening the Burisma investigation." Later Sondland told Morrison that WHOOPSIE, after further consultation with Trump, he realized that Zelenskiy himself had to make the announcement of the Burisma/Biden investigation -- delegating to a prosecutor wouldn't cut it.
And for a guy who thought there was nothing illegal going on, Morrison sure was in a hurry to alert the entire NSC, telling John Bolton within the hour of Sondland dropping that particular dead mouse in his lap, and briefing Eisenberg and the rest of the NSC legal staff as soon as he got back to Washington.
As for why the $391 million for Ukraine was frozen, Morrison can't say. But he does confirm that the Office of Management and Budget said the order came straight from the White House and was only released after he and his office were able to change Trump's mind with all their persuasive memos and PowerPoints, which he examined down to the last detail, and decided that Ukraine was no longer corrupt. You betcha!
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 even learned of the review and that, with this impeachment inquiry, Ukraine has become subsumed in the U.S. political process.
HAHAHAHA! That's ... not what happened. Here on Planet Earth, the entire NSC immediately freaked the fuck out over Trump's treason call, the Ukrainians knew about the hold in July, Donald Trump has never read a briefing memo in his life, and the only reason that money was shaken loose before the September 30 deadline was because the whistleblower complaint landed in Congress and Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee pulled the fire alarm and forced Trump's hand.
But thanks for playing, STAR WITNESS. Can't wait to see you give your speech about "accidental classification" on live television.
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.