Pence aide testified that Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine were ‘inappropriate’

Williams and Vindman are scheduled to testify side-by-side at a public hearing on Tuesday morning.

Williams, who defied the White House’s orders in agreeing to appear for her deposition, told investigators that she read a cable from the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor, outlining his concerns about the hold on military aid.

According to Williams, the cable detailed the “rationale on the importance of our U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, and why it was important for the security assistance to continue to flow.” Taylor referred to the decision to freeze the aid as “folly,” Williams added.

Like other witnesses who have testified about the abrupt hold on military aid to the besieged U.S. ally, Williams said she did not know the rationale or justification for it at the time.

She also said it was a mistake to withhold the assistance, telling investigators that “any signal of wavering U.S. support would send the wrong message to President Zelensky just as he was trying to implement his reform agenda,” and as Ukraine continues to fend off Russian aggression to its east.

Another key unanswered question in the impeachment probe has centered on Pence’s role in the Ukraine saga. Investigators have sought to learn whether — and when — Pence knew that Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani were specifically seeking investigations into the Bidens.

Pence ended up traveling to Warsaw for a Sept. 1 meeting with Zelensky in place of Trump. Williams, who accompanied the vice president to the meeting, told investigators that the very first question Zelensky asked was about the freeze on security assistance. Pence and his staff had anticipated and prepped for the question, since POLITICO had recently published an article on the hold.

Pence told Zelensky that the U.S. fully supports Ukraine, but said he wanted an update on corruption reform efforts “that he could then convey back to the president,” according to Williams. Pence also said he wanted to “hear if there was more that European countries could do to support Ukraine.”

Zelensky responded by saying that “any hold or appearance of reconsideration of such assistance might embolden Russia to think that the United States was no longer committed to Ukraine.”

Williams also testified about several phone calls between Pence and Zelensky. In one call on April 23, Pence congratulated Zelensky on his victory, talked about the importance of the U.S.-Ukraine relationship and said the U.S. was eager to see Zelensky implement the anti-corruption efforts.

The vice president also spoke to Zelensky by phone on Sept. 18, after the hold on aid had already been lifted, to follow up on the Warsaw meeting and reiterate the news that the security assistance had been released.