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The Trump Impeachment Inquiry: Latest Updates


John R. Bolton, President Trump’s former national security adviser, did not show up on Thursday for a voluntary interview as part of the House impeachment inquiry, but Democratic investigators said they would not subpoena him and would instead use his refusal to appear as evidence of Mr. Trump’s attempt to obstruct Congress.

Mr. Bolton, who regularly interacted with Mr. Trump directly as his top national security aide in the White House, would have been among the highest-profile advisers to testify in the impeachment inquiry. Several other witnesses have described Mr. Bolton as being angry about the idea of holding up military aid to Ukraine in exchange for the country opening an investigation into the president’s political rivals.

But an official with the House Intelligence Committee said Mr. Bolton’s lawyer had told them that the former national security adviser would file a lawsuit in federal court if he was subpoenaed, a legal challenge that would most likely take months to resolve. The official said that the committee did not want to allow the Trump administration to “play rope-a-dope with us” in the courts and slow down their inquiry.

In the first month of the impeachment investigation, Democrats made headway through the testimony of National Security Council officials and State Department diplomats who were involved in Ukraine policy. But unlike Mr. Bolton, those officials infrequently interacted with Mr. Trump.

Much of that testimony painted a damning picture of a president outsourcing America’s foreign policy to his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, but gave little insight into what Mr. Trump said behind closed doors.

Had the investigators decided to compel Mr. Bolton’s testimony with a subpoena, it probably would have set off a lengthy court battle similar to one initiated by Charles M. Kupperman, Mr. Bolton’s deputy, who filed a lawsuit last month when faced with a subpoena from the committee and an order from Mr. Trump to not cooperate with investigators. On Wednesday, House Democrats pulled their subpoena of Mr. Kupperman out of concern that the litigation would slow down the impeachment investigation.

Mr. Kupperman’s lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, also represents Mr. Bolton.
— Michael D. Shear and Michael S. Schmidt

Jennifer Williams, a national security aide to Vice President Mike Pence, appeared on Capitol Hill as planned on Thursday for a closed-door deposition in the House impeachment inquiry. Ms. Williams, a longtime State Department employee with expertise in Europe and Russia who is detailed to Mr. Pence’s national security staff, was among the officials listening to the July 25 call between President Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

Impeachment investigators were expected to press Ms. Williams about what she thought about the July 25 call, as well as details about how much Mr. Pence knew about it and the extent of his understanding about the president’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to commit to investigations of his political rivals. Her testimony could draw Mr. Pence, who has defended the July 25 call, further into the inquiry. House Democrats subpoenaed Ms. Williams this morning after the White House attempted to keep her from testifying, according to an official working on the inquiry.

According to her LinkedIn profile, Ms. Williams has spent most of her adult life in government service, including 13 years at the State Department.

Two of the witnesses who previously testified, Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, and Christopher J. Anderson, a Ukraine specialist who worked at the White House, were also at the Capitol for a routine review of the testimony transcripts. Impeachment investigators have been releasing transcripts of witness testimony in recent days, and are expected to continue on Thursday.

Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry officially invited Republicans on Thursday to request witnesses to appear in public hearings that will begin next week, but warned that witnesses must be directly relevant to the focus of the inquiry.

Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said witnesses could be called to address whether the president used the power of his office to pressure a foreign government for his own political gain, or to address whether there were attempts to conceal or obstruct evidence of the president’s actions.

Mr. Schiff gave Republicans three days to provide a list of witnesses they would like to appear. Under a resolution passed by the House in October, Republicans have the right to request witnesses to appear in the public phase of the impeachment inquiry, but the decision is subject to a vote of the committee, which is controlled by Democrats.

The resolution was accompanied by a report by the House Rule Committee, which set out guidelines for the relevance of witnesses.

Republicans have repeatedly complained that Mr. Schiff and the Democrats leading the inquiry have not been conducting a fair process as they interviewed current and former government officials behind closed doors. Democrats have countered that many Republican members of the committees conducting the inquiry have been part of the questioning. Some Republicans have suggested that they would request public testimony from the anonymous whistle-blower whose internal report first raised concerns about Mr. Trump’s July 25 call with the president of Ukraine and incited the Democratic impeachment inquiry.

Mr. Schiff is highly unlikely to agree to that request. He has accused Republicans of trying to reveal the name of the whistle-blower in violation of laws that are supposed to protect an individual’s identity if they come forward. In his letter to Republicans, Mr. Schiff said that Democrats did not intend to call all of the witnesses whom they interviewed behind closed doors.

Mr. Trump made his own witness request Thursday morning, declaring in a tweet that both former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden “must testify.”
Michael D. Shear

With the House Intelligence Committee preparing for the start of public impeachment hearings next week, Mr. Trump revived familiar complaints on Thursday aimed at portraying the investigative process as a “scam” denying him due process rights.

“I get NO LAWYER & NO DUE PROCESS,” Trump tweeted, describing the inquiry as a “Scam against the Republican Party and me” and some of those who have been interviewed as “Never Trumpers.”

Setting aside Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated claim about the political leanings of career foreign service officers whom Democrats have called as witnesses, the president’s representation of the process was highly misleading.

First, Mr. Trump’s complaints rest on the false claim that next week’s hearings constitute a “trial” and therefore he should be able to mount a defense. They do not. The impeachment process, as laid out in the Constitution, involves both chambers of Congress. The House initiates the process and determines whether to bring charges against the president, somewhat like a prosecutor in a criminal case. Only then does the Senate hold a trial to determine guilt or innocence.

Right now, the House is still in a fact-finding phase akin to a grand jury investigation. Democrats argue that just as someone under investigation would never be allowed into a grand jury, Mr. Trump and his legal representatives should not be allowed to influence the present stage of the inquiry. House Republicans who sit on one of the three committees conducting the inquiry have also been allowed to take part in the fact-finding phase, and some have.

The impeachment inquiry is about to undergo a significant shift starting with next week’s public hearings. Under rules adopted last week by the House to govern the inquiry’s public phase, the Intelligence Committee plans to write and present a report of its findings to the House Judiciary Committee, which will then decide whether to bring impeachment charges against Mr. Trump. The rules say that once the process reaches the Judiciary Committee, the president and his lawyers will be able to present his defense to lawmakers, including cross-examining witnesses and recommending their own witnesses to be called. If the House votes to impeach Mr. Trump, he will almost certainly be given the same rights in the Senate’s trial.
— Nicholas Fandos

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s responses on Thursday to questions about the impeachment inquiry were more notable for what he took pains to avoid saying than for what he ultimately did say.

At a news conference in Leipzig, Germany, Mr. Pompeo was asked why he did not issue a statement of support for Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, as the reasons for her being recalled as the American ambassador to Ukraine became public in September.

Testimony released this week showed that Michael McKinley, a career diplomat who has resigned as an adviser to Mr. Pompeo, had three times suggested such a statement to help bolster flagging morale at the State Department. Mr. McKinley told congressional investigators that his requests were ignored and played a role in his decision to quit.

On Thursday, Mr. Pompeo said only that Mr. McKinley did not raise concerns about Ms. Yovanovitch’s recall “in May” — immediately after the Trump administration ordered her to leave Ukraine.

Mr. McKinley “wasn’t particularly involved with the Ukraine file,” Mr. Pompeo said. “So it’s not surprising that when Ambassador Yovanovitch returned to the United States that he didn’t raise that issue with me. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that in May, when that took place, he didn’t say anything to me.”

Mr. Pompeo sought to focus on the $391 million in security aid that the United States provided to the government in Ukraine in September. However, that aid was initially withheld — a decision that is now at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

Later, Mr. Pompeo ignored a question about whether he had recalled Ms. Yovanovitch to protect her from critics — and who those critics may have been.

“You can see the media in Washington is fixated on a lot of things that you and I didn’t spend any time talking about today — things that actually make a difference about American people’s security and keeping the American people safe,” Mr. Pompeo told Foreign Minister Heiko Maas of Germany.

Mr. Pompeo did say that the State Department would soon announce a measure to help career diplomats facing huge legal fees that are “connected to all of this noise.” He did not provide details except to say that it “will make good sense and be consistent with what we’ve done previously.”

— Lara Jakes





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