Hello goodbye: Key Bolton ally arrives for testimony as he leaves the NSC

Call this a preview of what the House might hear from John Bolton, and a valediction for Tim Morrison. The NSC official arrived this morning for a deposition into Ukraine-Gate, just a day after an announcement that he would be looking for greener pastures after this. CNN tells its viewers that Morrison will corroborate a quid pro quo demand described by other witnesses, but that’s not entirely clear:

If he appears before House investigators as expected Thursday, Morrison is expected to corroborate key elements of a top US diplomat’s account that Trump pressed for Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, using military aid the country sought to fight back against Russian aggression as leverage, sources told CNN. There is not evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden.

There’s no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens in the same way that there is no actual evidence of a quid pro quo demand from Trump. Yet, of course, but the latter has had a much closer look than the former. There is certainly a lot of indications of a quid pro quo approach, but then again, there are indications that Hunter Biden was peddling influence in Ukraine, China, and Romania, too. CNN just isn’t as interested in that story as they are in this one.

Morrison will also become the second White House official to testify who was on the July 25 phone call when Trump pressed his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate the Bidens, according to a rough transcript of the conversation released by the White House and witness testimony of officials familiar with the situation.

Morrison, a lawyer, joined the administration last July as the senior director of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Biodefense where he was intimately involved in the Russia and North Korea portfolios.

This summer, he was tapped by Bolton to replace Fiona Hill, who had been the White House’s top official on Russian affairs. Hill testified before the committees earlier this month.

Allahpundit offered a preview of Morrison’s potential testimony, which might consist of conceding a quid pro quo while either (a) not putting Trump in the middle of it, (b) arguing that it was appropriate, and/or (c) both at the same time. If it’s (b) or (c), House Democrats won’t buy it at all, but it would call into question whether calling Bolton would make much sense. Morrison and Hill were Bolton’s key allies on the NSC and would likely have informed Bolton of everything they were hearing. Bolton may have seen something on his own, but would Trump have made that kind of move in front of a man with whom he never seemed terribly comfortable — especially since it cut against his anti-Russian interests.

Morrison’s biggest value today to Adam Schiff is similar to that of Alexander Vindman yesterday — he was on the call with Zelensky, among other things. Vindman testified yesterday that the call transcript wasn’t entirely complete, but later information suggested that the omissions were minor and that Vindman didn’t hear an explicit quid pro quo. Morrison might also testify that he was uncomfortable with the implications of Trump’s mentions of the Bidens, although Allahpundit’s earlier post suggests that Morrison might have been less troubled than Vindman was about it.

This is one hell of a way to exit the Beltway madness, by the way. Morrison is exiting the NSC, a move which supposedly had been in the works since before his invitation to testify:

Tim Morrison, who is set to testify Thursday in the House impeachment inquiry about what he has witnessed as the senior National Security Council official handling Russian affairs, is leaving his White House post, according to people familiar with his plans.

Morrison has been on the job for about 15 months, having joined the security council during John Bolton’s tenure as national security adviser. Morrison could be a key witness in the inquiry into President Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

“After more than a year of service at the National Security Council, Mr. Morrison has decided to pursue other opportunities — and has been considering doing so for some time,” a senior administration official said in a statement Wednesday. “We wish him well.”

It’s probably been in the works at least since September 10, the day that Trump fired Bolton, if not before that when the writing was on the wall. That timing is interesting, too.  It’s noteworthy that neither Morrison nor Vindman resigned their posts over the Zelensky call or the reported shenanigans regarding Ukraine by Gordon Sondland and Rudy Giuliani, or thought to raise concerns outside the NSC about any of it. The same goes for another supposed star witness in this scenario, Ukraine charges d’affaires William Taylor, although he at least threatened to do so. Everyone stuck around, which suggests that while they may have strenuously disapproved of whatever was happening, no one saw this as illegal and felt the need to distance themselves from it — or bring it to anyone else’s attention.

Anyway, we’ll know more when the regularly scheduled 12:15 pm ET leak from the depositions takes place, followed by the counterleak at 2 pm ET.