Posted on November 17 2019
As DC insiders go, inarguably Tim Morrison ticks-off every box that you would expect from a DC insider. Mr. Morrison’s staff biography posted on the United States Regulatory Commission, last updated on March 30, 2019 - thusly you can infer that this is a relatively “fresh” biography, reads in part (archived)
“...serves as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Biodefense...he oversees and coordinates the development of national policies and programs to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons including biological threats from naturally occurring, deliberate or accidental sources; detect, identify, secure and eliminate nuclear materials; prevent proliferation; manage arms control; and, prevent the use of emerging technology for the development of WMD
In late Summer of 2018, then National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton tapped Morrison for the NSC. To be clear Morrison is a serious policy wonk, with hawkish views on nuclear weapons, nuclear proliferation and has earned a reputation of being a strident conservative that is unyielding to the prerequisite bipartisan approach as it relates to legislative endeavors. Before Morrison’s long career in Congress where served as the Policy Director on the House Armed Services Committee, prior to that Morrison was (then) Senator Jon Kyl’s National Security Advisor (See State Department’s FOIA email, found here)
As Senator Kyl’s assistant Tim Morrison said, the main purpose of the visit is to become familiarized with how the "reset" between the U.S. and Russia has influenced the security of U.S. allies in Eastern Europe.
According to Mr. Morrison’s LinkedIn profile, he earned his JD from The GW Law School, since 2011 he has also served Naval Reserve intelligence officer. This November 2018 Homeland Preparedness News - article provides the most detailed professional biography of Morrison, again it is pretty clear that he’s a serious Policy wonk - both in substance and style. For example on May 29, 2019 Mr. Morrison was a featured panelists for the Hudson Institute discussion on the State of Arms Control Landscape and current challenges...
I rarely say this about anyone in the Trump Administration because the revolving door and cast of “characters” coming in/out of the White House is literally the worst Presidential Administration turn-over in modern history. Notwithstanding it is pretty clear that Mr. Morrison isn’t a “flunky” or “bottom of the barrel” - “the best” Trump could find. Morrison is probably in the upper echelon and is unquestionably a subject matter expert, with a heavy focus on National Security. I found Morrison’s oration and command of both nuclear weapons and WMDs to be rather impressive. In short I suppose one could say that Tim Morrison is everything that Jared Kushner wants to be, but never will be because he married Ivanka. To that end no wonder Mr. Morrison tendered his resignation before his October 31, 2019 HPSCI- Impeachment Inquiry Deposition.
Hudson Institute hosted the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lieutenant General Robert P. Ashley, Jr., for a discussion on Russian and Chinese nuclear weapons. Lt. Gen. Ashley provided keynote remarks and engaged in a discussion with Hudson Senior Fellow Rebeccah Heinrichs
🌶SpicyFiles- John Bolton - Sidebar🌶
I’ve previously discussed, the curious case of John Bolton and his PAC and his SuperPAC, found here and here. Notwithstanding Bolton was one of the very first early adopters of Cambridge Analytica, as previously discussed here
And a subsequent follow up to John Bolton’s PAC and SuperPAC received millions of dollars in Donations from a one Mr Bob Mercer, as further discussed here. And a deeper dive in to Cambridge Analytica and Bolton and the Mercers found here. Because those of is in DC know the “real” John Bolton and how insane and what seemed utterly improbable that Trump had tapped Bolton as his third National Security Advisor in under three years, as previously discussed here.
Morrison’s HPSCI - Deposition Transcript
The deposition transcript of Timothy Morrison can be found here. At all relevant times I will indicate the page and line numbers of his October 31, 2019 Deposition Transcript. To start with on pages 11 and 12 - here Morrison speaks to his career and the “core” function of the National Security Council.
July 19, 2019, I became Deputy Assistant to the President for National Secunity. In this nole, I serve as the lead interagency coordination for National Security issues involving Europe and Russia....
The NSC staff does not make policy. NSC staff are most effective when we are neutral arbiters helping the relevant executive branch agencies develop options fon the Pnesident and implement his direction.
In my cunnent position, I understood our primary U.S. policy objective in Ukraine was to take advantage of the once-in-a-generation opportunity that resulted from the election of President Zelensky... (emphasis added)
Moving on to pages 13 and 14 - here we learn that Morrison literally “Googled” Burisma. I take one exception to Morrison’s opening statement, he infers, as in present tense that Hunter Biden is still on the Board. Perhaps a better way to have stated that sentence would have been “of which Hunter Biden previously served on its board” and yes I know, me of all people trying to correct someone else’s grammar is hilarious. Morrison also discloses the “two separate paths” and shared his befuddlement of Ambassador Sondland’s involvement in Ukraine matters while simultaneously cutting chargé d'affaires for Ukraine William Taylor out of communications. Which was/is highly unusual if you are a stickler for protocols and rules.
I googled "Burisma" and learned that it was an Ukrainian energy company and that Hunter Biden was on its board.
I also did not understand why Ambassador Sondland would be involved in Ukraine policy, often without the involvement of fun duly appointed Chief of Mission, Ambassador Bill Taylor.
What is somewhat interesting and it might not be all that relevant is in Mr. Morrison’s opening statement he uses a very specific abbreviation. You may not have caught it, but as you know I tend to be painfully obsessed with tiny tiny details. Morrison used MEMCOM - “Memorandum of Telephone Conversation” which can be used interchangeably with TELCON - but it is important to remember that these are not Transcript in the traditional sense of actual transcripts. That might not mean a lot to some - but in my line of work “Transcripts” are verbatim what was said both in questions and answers. Not to overload you with painfully boring minutia but both MEMCOMs and TELCONs rely on various note-takers who blend their notes in to one document. So you have a force multiplier of the finished “product” whereas transcripts usually tend to be untouched by multiple streams of in/out put. I hope that makes sense.
🌶SpicyFiles- the $10M Oxford Comma- Sidebar🌶
Well in my line of work those “tiny details” actually matter. To further validate my assertion about the tiny details, back in 2017 the “comma” vs “Oxford comma” - See First Circuit case, O’Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy, __ F.3d __ (1st Cir. 2017) (Case No. 16-1901)...
turned on a Maine statute that provides an exemption to otherwise required overtime pay for employees whose work involves the handling of certain expressly enumerated food products.
Leaks, illegality, Regular
To be clear on pages16 & 17 of Morrison’s Depo - starting on page 16 (lines 4 thru 10) he enumerated his concerns and unequivocally stated he “did not have concerns anything illegal was discussed” - Morrison goes on to explain (see page 17) what he was and was not aware of concerning why the Administration put a freeze on the aid to Ukraine. And perhaps this is overly simple but based on the growing deposition transcripts there’s a common drum beat - “the Trump administration” appears to be chaotic, victim to the whim of a pernicious “president” who repeatedly demonstrates how unqualified he is.
“...three concerns about a potential leak of the MEMCON:
first, how it would play out in Washington's polarized environment, second, how a leak would affect the bipartisan support our Ukrainian partners currently experience in Congress; and,
third, how it would affect the Ukrainian perceptions of the U.S.-Ukraine relationship...
I had no reason to believe that the release of the security-sector assistance might be conditioned on a public statement reopening the Burisma investigation until my Septemben 1, 2019, convensation with Ambassador Sondland.
Here’s an interesting disclosure - Morrison at the time of his October 31, 2019 HPSCI deposition had not tendered his resignation. As related on page 18 of his depo transcript
Moving on to pages 22 and 23 - Morrison provides additional details of the two channels, one being the regular channel (via State Department, NSC and DOD) and the second being irregular (Sondland, Volker, Giuliani, Pence, Trump)...
the normal process, where decisionmaking went through the duly appointed personnel, whether that’s the Chief of Mission, Ambassador Taylor, Envoy Volker, the appropriate personnel from the Departments of State and Defense and Energy and intelligence agencies and so forth, as we normally do business under the NSPM-4 process. And there was this second track, chiefly led by Ambassador Sondland, where Rudy Giuliani’s name would come up.
regarding questions about Dr Hill:
She mentioned Rudy—and I should say clearly for the record that, in some cases,I consider Burisma to sort of be a bucket of issues. Burisma is Burisma the company, Burisma is Hunter Biden on the board, and I sometimes lump together Burisma and the 2016 server in my head, chiefly because they are all issues I tried to stay away from.
When HPSCI Majority Counsel Dan Goldman asked Morrison direct and probative questions concerning the communications between Ambassador Sondland and Trump - Morrison disclosed both dates/time and substance. That YES Sondland had sent an email to Morrison (and “other White House Staff”) had direct communications with Trump concerning Burisma and (tax payer funded) aid to Ukraine
On the morning of July 25, 2019 based on the White House July 25, 2019 TELCON the actual call between Zelensky and Trump occurred at 9:03AM, local DC time. The timing here matters because it establishes a paper trail and conclusively links Sondland and Trump “pre-gaming” before his call with Zelensky. Most might overlook this but in my line of work this helps establish a predicate to shore up one’s state of mind. See page 30 lines 15 thru 30 of Morrison’s Depo Transcript which reads in part:
Ambassador Sondland emailed me and several other White House staff to inform us that he had spoken to the President that monning to bnief him on the caII.
On page 39 - lines 17 thru 19 this appears to be a more fulsome list of “participants” listening in from the Sit-Room during the July 25, 2019. Keep in mind this list isn’t all inclusive just from Morrison’s vantage point and the HPSCI attorney appears to have limited the scope of questions...
I found that Morrison’s uttering (see page 40, lines 19thru 35) interesting because he offered zero predicate why his counsel instructed him to not answer. One assumption is it may have been privileged but Morrison doesn’t hold the privilege - Trump does. So his innovation is - interesting and I’m curious why HPSCI didn’t press him. Moreover the most damning portion of Morrison’s deposition occurs on page 41, lines 1 thru 13
HPSCI Majority Counsel:: To youn knowledge, did President Trump follow the talking pointsthat you had prepared for him?
Morrison: On advice of counsel, I can't answer that question...would like to clarify, I was not the sole author of the briefing package. I was the final reviewing authority......
....So I was concenned about how Pnesident Zelensky was talking
to President Tnump. I found it obsequious..I heard issues related
to the server. And I was concerned that Dr. HiIl was correct about
thls parallel pnocess. And I grew concerned that the call was not the
full-throated endorsement of the Ukraine reform agenda that I was
hoping to hear.
On pages 42 and 43 - the focus appears to be that Morrison had concerns in the following order 1) no NSC Legal Team-member appeared to be “on the call” therefore Morrison wanted the NSC Legal Team to “have eyes on the MEMCOM”, and 2) he had concerns about Dr Hill’s primer where she warned Morrison about a second “irregular channel”, and 3) he heard (directly) that Trump repeatedly brought up the (actual Q-Anon) conspiracy theory about Ukraine had the servers, that Ukraine actually interfered in our 2016 election (not to belabor that point but it’s a straight up Q-Anon Conspiracy theory) and, 4) potential leaks of the MEMCOM. What bothers me is Morrison explicitly stated that he (almost) immediately went to the NSC Legal Advisor is John Eisenbeng. His deputy, Michael Ellis.
“._ but I recall him making an oblique reference that I later understood was AmbassadorYovanovitch....
“...so my initial concern was, as I said in my statement, there was nobody fnom the Legal Advisor's Office on the call. I wanted them to have eyes on it. I didn't want it to fall to one of their deputies, one of the line attonneys. I wanted them to put eyes on it.... was concenned about whether on not they would agree that it would be damaging for the reasons I outlined in my statement if the caII package if the call MEMCON on its contents leaked”
You can read the Key excerpts of Timothy Morrison’s testimony can be found here. I found the acknowledgment by Morrison that John Eisenberg plaiting the July 25, 2019 call record on the highly classified system “a mistake”...
NSC Legal Advisor John Eisenberg said the July 25 call record was placed on the highly classified system by “mistake,” but it nevertheless remained on the highly classified system
As the three chairs on the respective committees stated upon the release of Morrison’s (and Williams’) Deposition Transcript:
“The testimony released today shows that President Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky immediately set off alarm bells throughout the White House. Both witnesses provided the Committees with first-hand accounts after personally listening to the call in the White House Situation Room.
Mr. Morrison confirmed Ambassador Taylor’s testimony to the Committees that the Ukrainians were told that U.S. military assistance, not just the White House meeting, was conditioned on their public announcement of political investigations that the President wanted. Additionally, following the September 1 meeting between President Zelensky and Vice President Pence, Mr. Morrison confirmed that Ambassador Sondland informed one of President Zelensky’s top aides that American military aid was conditioned on the investigations. Mr. Morrison informed John Bolton of the meeting and was told by Mr. Bolton to go see the lawyers, which he did.
Not that this matters but I do find it curious that Trump’s released both TELCONs and the disparity in both substance - because common sense dictates the July 25, 2019 call which lasted 30 minutes would have far more “substance” versus 5 pages versus the April 21, 2019 call which was 16 minute long and output was 6 pages. It seems mathematically improbable
Also if you haven’t bookmarked the HPSCI - Impeachment Inquiry page, found here. I would strongly suggest you do, as that page has the witness transcripts. key takeaways and various underlying documents. It is updated on a rolling basis. And the reality is starting after Thanksgiving my bandwidth will be severely limited so I might be constrained to do future deep dives in to each witness’ depo transcripts.
In closing there’s nothing joyous about this Impeachment Inquiry. It is serious and sobering. And it is incumbent on all Americans to approach this process with the seriousness it deserves and to read original sourced documents. A better informed electorate is better for our Democracy. I’m still working on the Aramco FARA and my recently closed Fox News experiment. For 14 days I slowing increased my consumption of Fox News because I wanted to see the effects of being exposed to Fox News - aka Trump propaganda.
The reality is I had to come up with an intellectually stimulating activity that I could do in bed as I continue to convalesce. With any luck my drain ports come out on Tuesday and the Drs will give me the green light to return back to work. And return to my normal snarky self. -SpicyFiles out
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