Pence aide appears for impeachment interview after subpoena
An aide to Vice President Mike Pence was speaking to impeachment investigators Thursday as Democrats wrap up the closed-door phase of their inquiry.
Jennifer Williams, a career foreign service officer detailed to Pence’s office from the State Department, was subpoenaed to appear. She is one of several White House aides who were listening in on a July phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump asked the new leader to investigate Democrats, according to an administration official who requested anonymity to discuss the conversation.
That call is at the center of the Democrats’ impeachment probe.
Another witness called by Democrats, former national security adviser John Bolton, failed to show up for his scheduled interview. An attorney for Bolton, Charles Cooper, said his client has not received a subpoena. Cooper had previously said Bolton wouldn’t appear without one.
Investigators are wrapping up the private interviews as they prepare to start public hearings next week. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced Wednesday that three State Department witnesses will appear in two hearings next Wednesday and Friday: top Ukraine diplomat William Taylor, career department official George Kent and Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Yovanovitch was ousted in May on Trump’s orders, and Taylor replaced her; both have testified about their concerns with the administration’s policy on Ukraine.
Democrats scheduled 13 witnesses to testify behind closed doors this week, but so far only Williams and another State Department employee, David Hale, have shown up. Trump has directed his employees not to cooperate with the probe.
In addition to Bolton, Democrats had requested interviews from two other high-level Trump administration witnesses, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Perry did not show up for his Wednesday interview, and Mulvaney was not expected to appear for his scheduled deposition on Friday.
Still, Democrats have indicated that they already have ample testimony about Trump’s conduct on Ukraine. A slew of current and former officials from the State Department and White House have already appeared and largely corroborated the same narrative — that Trump had delegated his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to guide Ukraine policy and that the two men were focused on pressuring Ukraine as the administration withheld military aid from the country.
Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his family and also Ukraine’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Though Trump has said there was no “quid pro quo,” several of the witnesses, including Taylor, have testified that it was their understanding that Ukraine would not receive military assistance or a coveted Oval Office visit until it met the president’s demands.
Democrats say that witnesses like Bolton, Mulvaney and Perry — who did not appear under Trump’s orders —will just add fuel to their case that the president has obstructed justice. They say obstruction is likely to be an article of impeachment against Trump, when and if they are written.
Williams is the first person directly connected with Pence to testify in the probe. The vice president has strongly defended Trump, saying that the transcript of the call in which Trump asks Zelenskiy for a favor does not show a quid pro quo.
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