WASHINGTON, D.C. — Transcripts of the closed-door impeachment hearings have been released this past week, and as one of the 12 Congressmen allowed inside, Rep. Jim Jordan played a large role in the defense of President Donald Trump.
After reviewing the now-public documents, here is a recap of some of the exchanges Jordan had with witnesses.
Marie Yovanovitch, former ambassador to Ukraine
The brunt of Jordan’s questioning during Yovanovitch’s Oct. 11 deposition was spent asking why Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky agreed with President Donald Trump’s plans to remove the ambassador. During Ukraine’s election cycle, Zelensky campaigned widely on removing corruption.
“So he wins, he gets elected, and yet, when he’s having a call with the President of the United States, he says he’s glad you’re being recalled. And I’m wondering, like, how does that happen?” Jordan asked Yovanovitch.
Yovanovitch said she was the victim of a smear campaign to oust her from the position by the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Guiliani, who was at the center of the actions in Ukraine. The former ambassador also stated that she felt threatened by the president.
Michael McKinley, former top adviser to the Secretary of State
At one point, Jordan questioned McKinley about his intentions to secure outside counsel before attending the deposition.
McKinley seemed offended by the implication that he immediately sought out a lawyer.
“I didn’t want to deal with legal. My approach to coming to this was — I saw the request. I answered it before I even talked to any legal counsel to come here and talk about this? But that’s not the way Washington works, apparently,” McKinley responded.
Kurt Volker, former U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations
In multiple sections of the transcripts, Jordan and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff often disagree on the process of the impeachment proceedings. Prior to the House vote to clarify the process, Jordan and other Republicans made the point that Schiff’s depositions remained hidden from sight.
Early on in the transcript concerning Kurt Volker, Schiff said he would not prohibit representatives from asking questions, but the intention was to make it a staff-only interview.
“In the countless number of transcribed interviews I have participated in before, we have never seen the limitations placed on staff that you have done to the Oversight Committee and to the Foreign Affairs Committee,” Jordan said in response. “I have never seen a time where agency counsel was not allowed to be present. And I’ve certainly never seen an indication that you would prefer members not even participate in the interview.”
“I’m not going to prohibit you, Mr. Jordan, but we will expect you to treat the witness with respect,” Schiff later clarified.
Jordan’s name stayed off the record for the rest of the transcript as Republican staff lawyer Steve Castor questioned Volker.
Gordon Sondland, US ambassador to the European Union
Jordan led his remarks with a tribute to former co-chair of the Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, who died Oct. 17.
“I’m going to miss just debating with him, arguing with him. He was special,” Jordan said.
Sondland’s deposition is also the first transcript released with Jordan’s opening statement questioning the impeachment process before an official roll call vote was made. The same statement appears in three other transcripts.
“This seems to be nothing more than hiding this work from the American people,” Jordan said. “The 330 million people who are represented by members of Congress don’t get to see any of it.”
Transcripts of the closed-door depositions have been released with some redactions.
Schiff pointed out after Jordan’s statement that Republicans followed the same procedure during President Bill Clinton’s early impeachment proceedings.
Bill Taylor, U.S. diplomat
In Taylor’s transcript, Jordan gave the same opening statement seen in Sondland’s transcript. Republican members also complained about the availability of the transcripts at that time.
Schiff defended the moves to secure copies of the documents.
“The one transcript that the minority was able to download and print was leaked to the press promptly,” Schiff said.
Jordan’s next major back-and-forth with Taylor concerned a number of communications Taylor had with Tim Morrison, a National Security Council adviser. The two had multiple secured conversations in a five-week time period as Morrison briefed Taylor on conversations between the Trump administration and Ukraine.
“And the fact that you had three of those in this sort of time period, that’s not unusual?” Jordan asked.
“The unusual aspect of that is that there were meetings of the President of the United States with someone having to do with Ukraine in that short period of time,” Taylor replied.
George Kent, U.S. diplomat
During the questioning of George Kent, Jordan seemed unsurprised that the United States was trying to push for the ouster of Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Viktor Shokin. Trump alleges that Shokin had been fired and former Vice President Joe Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to do so due to an investigation of Burisma Holdings, which employed Biden’s son.
Jordan asked whether the United States or the International Monetary Fund had pushed for Shokin’s removal.
“I would say the U.S. has had more skin in the game on justice sector reform over the last five years,” Kent clarified.
Fiona Hill, former NSC official
Jordan played a small part in the arrival of Rep. Matt Gaetz, who entered the closed-door deposition to make a point about the private proceedings. Jordan defended Gaetz’s arrival and asked Schiff to allow the representative to stay.
“Mr. Gaetz. Why don’t you take your spectacle outside? This is not how we conduct ourselves in this committee,” Schiff said.
Later, Jordan again complained about no agency counsel being available, which Jordan said was unprecedented. Schiff’s reply is representative of the interplay between the two parties in Washington.
“Actually, Mr. Jordan, you were present at a deposition conducted by Chairman (Darrell) Issa without the presence of agency counsel, and you were perfectly copacetic with it at that time, so your statement is not accurate.”
When questioning Hill, Jordan did uncover news regarding the Steele dossier, which Freedom Caucus members allege started the Mueller investigation. Hill stated that she thought the dossier was a rabbit hole created by the Russians to spread disinformation. She later explained that spreading such information is a normal tactic by the Russians to corrupt American political discourse on both sides of the aisle, and that this type of infighting has been their goal.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, NSC official
Some of the more argumentative exchanges between Republicans and Democrats during the closed-door deposition occurred during Vindman’s hearing. At that time, Schiff and Democrats alleged Jordan and the other Republicans in the room were actively trying to figure out who the whistleblower was due to Republican members asking for the names of those Vindman contacted.
Trump has consistently pushed for the exposure of the whistleblower’s name.
“In fact, you’re the only one who knows who these people are who started this whole thing,” Jordan said to Schiff.
“You keep making that false statement, Mr. Jordan,” Schiff said.
“It isn’t false,” Jordan said.
“It doesn’t make it any more true the tenth time you said it than the first time, it just means you’re more willful about the false statement?” Schiff responded.
Throughout the interchange, both sides appear combative. Eventually, Vindman’s lawyer, Michael Volkov, refused to entertain any more questions about who Vindman contacted due to such information potentially being used to confirm the whistleblower’s identity.
“Okay. What I’m telling you right now is we’re not going to answer that question. If the chair wants to hold him in contempt for protecting a whistleblower, God be with you,” Volkov said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.