Witnesses in the Impeachment Inquiry — Who They Are & What They Said

by Adrienne Kirschner

If you didn’t have time to watch the impeachment hearings or you just need help distilling it all down to the essential points, this guide is perfect for you. We’ve summarized the background of the witnesses, key points from their initial depositions, and highlights from their public testimony. 

Big Picture: What We Know So Far

Collectively, the witnesses told a clear and convincing story about a shadow Ukraine foreign policy directed by President Donald Trump and carried out through secret channels by his subordinates. Trump’s shadow policy was aimed at a singular goal: to coerce Ukraine to interfere in American elections to Trump’s personal and political benefit. 

Trump and his men dangled a White House meeting & the lifting of the illegal hold on security assistance to pressure Ukraine to publicly announced an investigation into Burisma (Biden) and the 2016 election. They painted a clear picture of bribery and high crimes committed by the President of the United States.

Week 1

Witness 1: William Taylor

Key takeaways from Taylor’s deposition:

  • Donald Trump & Gordon Sondland ordered the quid pro quo.
  • Ukraine understood why the aid was being withheld and what they were being asked to do in order to receive the aid.
  • The order came directly from Trump.
  • Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, was acting on Trump’s behalf when pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and 2016 election.

Highlights from Taylor’s public testimony:

  • Taylor relayed new information that was not in his deposition regarding a phone call between Sondland and Trump. A member of Taylor’s staff had overheard the call and reported that Trump could be heard asking about the status of the investigations.
  • Taylor’s testimony undermines the narrative that Trump didn’t know Sondland very well; It also undermines the argument that Trump was genuinely concerned about corruption.
  • Taylor confirmed many instances in which there was a clearly understood quid pro quo.

Witness 2: George Kent

Key takeaways from Kent’s deposition:

  • Rudy Giuliani led a campaign of slander against former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.
  • Ukrainian officials understood Giuliani represented Trump.
  • It was clear to Kent that Trump wanted Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky “to go to microphone & say investigations, Biden, and Clinton.”

Highlights from Kent’s public testimony:

  • Provided essential context on the strategic importance of Ukraine to U.S. foreign policy.
  • Made it clear that the investigations Giuliani and Trump were demanding were based on debunked conspiracy theories.
  • Testified that efforts by Giuliani to ‘gin up politically motivated investigations’ were ‘infecting’ U.S. policy on Ukraine.

Witness 3: Marie Yovanovitch

Key takeaways from Yovanovitch’s deposition:

  • Trump & Giuliani began targeting Yovanovitch in mid-2018.
  • She believed they were targeting her because she wouldn’t support their shadow campaign.
  • Yovanovitch felt threatened by Trump saying that she would “go through some things.”

Highlights from Yovanovitch’s public testimony:

  • Confirmed that she was targeted because of her role in fighting corruption in Ukraine.
  • Said she was devastated and felt threatened when she learned she was discussed on the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky. She expressed concern in particular about Trump saying that Yovanovitch would “go through some things.”
  • Trump verbally attacked Yovanovitch via Twitter while she was testifying.
  • Expressed grave concern about the low morale at the State Department, saying the department is in crisis and is being hollowed out from the inside.

Week 2

Witness #4: Jennifer Williams

Key takeaways from Williams’ deposition:

  • Felt the July 25 call was unusual & inappropriate because it was political in nature, but didn’t report it.
  • Confirmed that Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company for which Joe Biden’s son was on the board, was mentioned on the July 25 call but was missing from the publicly released White House summary of the call.
  • Testified that President Zelensky was clearly concerned about the aid being withheld.

Highlights from Williams’ public testimony:

  • Testified that it was inappropriate to ask Zelensky to investigate a U.S. citizen.
  • Indicated that she never learned the reason for the hold on aid to Ukraine.
  • Trump also tweeted verbal attacks on Williams in advance of her testimony appearing to be trying to challenge her credibility by accusing her of being a “Never Trumper.”

Witness #5: Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman

Key takeaways from Vindman’s deposition:

  • Was concerned by the July 25 call and immediately reported it to a top National Security Council lawyer.
  • Confirmed that Gordon Sondland told Ukraine that an investigation of the Bidens was required in order to get a meeting with Donald Trump.
  • Indicated that Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, was involved.

Highlights from Vindman’s public testimony:

  • Given the power difference between Trump and Zelensky, Vindman felt it was clear that Trump asking for a “favor” was really a demand.
  • Described Giuliani as a “disruptive actor” who was promoting false information and negatively impacting U.S. foreign policy towards Ukraine.
  • Testified that John Bolton cut short a meeting in which Gordon Sondland began to discuss the need for Ukraine to initiate investigations in order to secure a meeting with Trump.

Witness #6: Kurt Volker

Key takeaways from Volker’s deposition:

  • Provided text messages that he had exchanged with Rudy Giuliani and State Dept. officials.
  • Claims to have had no involvement in the scheme, but had texted with Ukranian officials about opening investigations related to Bidens.
  • His testimony is not consistent with the testimony of other witnesses.

Highlights from Volker’s public testimony:

  • Claimed he had no knowledge of any efforts to urge Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and didn’t realize Trump equated investigating Burisma with investigating the Bidens.
  • Stated that he would have opposed Ukraine opening an investigation into Biden, adding, “I think the allegations against Vice President Biden are self-serving and not credible.”
  • Stated that he opposed the withholding of aid to Ukraine, but viewed it as a U.S. policy problem, implying that he was unaware of any corrupt reasons for the hold on the aid.

Witness #7: Tim Morrison

Key takeaways from Morrison’s deposition:

  • Confirmed Gordon Sondland was acting outside of regular diplomatic channels.
  • Testified that Sondland had been in direct contact with Trump.
  • Testified that Sondland had told Ukraine that the military aid was contingent upon Ukraine publicly announcing investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 elections.

Highlights from Morrison’s public testimony:

  • Claimed he wasn’t worried about the contents of the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky, but expressed concern about “political consequences” if Trump’s comments were to be made public.
  • Expressed concerns that Lt. Col. Vindman may have inappropriately leaked information, but there is no evidence of this. Appeared to be attempting to attack Vindman’s credibility.
  • Did not present as a nonpartisan witness and made clear his personal opinion on Trump’s authority to do whatever he wanted with regards to foreign policy.

Witness #8: Gordan Sondland

Key takeaways from Sondland’s deposition:

  • Trump advised Sondland to work with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine.
  • Claimed he didn’t know Giuliani was pressing Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, but later admitted he delivered ‘quid pro quo’ message.
  • Discrepancies with his testimony still exist.

Highlights from Sondland’s public testimony:

  • Read a lengthy opening statement in which he corrected the record regarding a number of statements he had previously made that conflicted with the accounts of other witnesses.
  • Confirmed that he had direct access to Trump and regularly spoke with him on the phone, including the July 26 call on an unsecured cell phone in a public restaurant that was overheard by David Holmes.
  • Made the noteworthy statement, “They knew what we were doing and why. Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.”
  • Claimed he didn’t know that “Burisma” was code for investigating the Bidens.
  • Testified that he worked at the direction of Trump and was working directly with Giuliani and Mulvaney. Their goal was to secure a commitment from Ukraine to investigate Burisma and the 2016 election in exchange for a meeting with Trump.

Witness #9: Laura Cooper

Key takeaways from Cooper’s deposition:

  • Handling of Ukraine aid deviated from the normal process.
  • Learned from Kurt Volker that releasing the aid depended upon Ukraine publicly announcing investigations.
  • Told Trump officials that Trump must inform Congress of his reasons for withholding the aid, but Trump never did so.  

Highlights from Cooper’s public testimony:

  • Provided new information about when Ukraine found out the aid was being withheld, indicating that Ukraine officials had reached out to her staff on July 25 asking what was going on with the aid. 
  • Indicated that Ukraine knew much earlier than initially thought that the aid was being withheld, and possibly even as Trump and Zelensky spoke on July 25. 
  • Her testimony contradicts the testimony of other witnesses who indicated that Ukraine did not know until August.

Witness #10: David Hale

Key takeaways from Hale’s deposition:

  • Mike Pompeo wouldn’t defend Marie Yovanovitch because he felt it would hamper their efforts to free up the aid to Ukraine.
  • State Department officials were worried that defending Yovanovitch would anger Rudy Giuliani.
  • Giuliani wanted Yovanovitch removed from her position as ambassador to Ukraine.

Highlights from Hale’s public testimony:

  • Testified that Trump ordered the hold on Ukraine aid.
  • Confirmed that withholding aid to secure an investigation into a political rival was inappropriate and inconsistent with U.S. foreign policy.
  • Testified that he did not support the smear campaign against former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanoviych.
  • Testified that Mike Pompeo had been in contact with both Sean Hannity and Rudy Giuliani regarding the smear campaign against Yovanovitch.

Witness #11: Fiona Hill

Key takeaways from Hill’s deposition:

  • Reported wrongdoing with regards to Ukraine policy to National Security Council lawyer, John Eisenberg.
  • Gordon Sondland told her that Trump put him (Sondland) in charge of Ukraine .
  • Called the Ukraine effort led by Sondland & Mulvaney a “rogue operation.”
  • Sondland & Trump had been in direct contact regarding Ukraine.

Highlights from Hill’s public testimony:

  • Preemptively shut down any attempts to promote debunked conspiracy theories about Ukraine interfering in the 2016 elections, saying, “This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by Russian security services themselves.”
  • Described Sondland as being involved in a “domestic political errand” which “diverged” from U.S. national security foreign policy interests. And I did say to him, Ambassador Sondland — Gordon — I think this is all going to blow up. And here we are.”
  • Testified that John Bolton had asked her to stay behind during a July meeting between U.S. and Ukrainian representatives and report back to him. Upon doing so, he advised her to report it to NSC counsel, John Eisenberg, specifically stating, “You go and tell Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this.”
  • Stated that it is not credible that Sondland did not know that “Burisma” meant “Bidens.”

Witness #12: David Holmes

Key takeaways from Holmes’ deposition:

  • Confirmed William Taylor’s public testimony about Holmes overhearing the July 26 conversation between Sondland and Trump.
  • Overheard on the July 26 phone call Trump asking Sondland about the status of the investigations.
  • Heard Sondland tell Trump that Zelensky “loves your ass” & that Ukraine had agreed to Trump’s demands.

Highlights from Holmes’ public testimony:

  • Clearly described two corrupt quid pro quos: Both the military aid and a meeting with Trump were contingent upon Ukraine publicly announcing an investigation into the Bidens and the 2016 elections.
  • Confirmed his earlier testimony regarding the overheard between Trump and Sondland, in which he could hear Trump asking about the status of the investigations, and afterwards, Sondland told Holmes that Trump didn’t care about Ukraine, only about “big things” that affect Trump. 
  • Also testified that it was clear that “Burisma” was code for “Bidens.”

What Happens Next?

The witnesses were compelling and credible. They corroborated each other (except where specifically noted above). They told a consistent story of a foreign policy hijacked by a president to further his personal goals.

How you can help: Public opinion matters. Refer to this guide and familiarize yourself with the testimony of these key witnesses. Use this information to counter false narratives that will be injected into the national conversation. Contact your members of Congress and take action by participating in public rallies and demonstrations.

What happened is crystal clear. What this nation does about it is still to be determined. You can help write this chapter of American history.