Trump impeachment inquiry awaits key witnesses, but some will be
Send a link to a friend
[November 04, 2019]
By Patricia Zengerle, Karen Freifeld and Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S.
lawmakers leading an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump have
scheduled another crucial round of testimony this week, but several key
White House witnesses plan to defy them and some other administration
officials could follow suit.
Refusals by Trump loyalists to appear before Democratic-led committees
could set the stage for a battle between the White House and lawmakers
over their power to conduct the investigations. Some Democrats say
Trump, who has ordered administration officials not to cooperate, should
face an obstruction of justice charge among the impeachment counts they
plan to consider against him.
Three White House budget officials, including the acting budget
director, are already refusing to show up, a senior Trump administration
official said, citing the White House's opposition to the inquiry. Their
testimony is considered critical to helping determine whether Trump used
foreign aid as leverage to secure a political favor.
Another important witness slated for Monday is John Eisenberg, the top
lawyer for the White House National Security Council. Lawmakers are
especially interested in questioning him about a July 25 phone call in
which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate
Trump's political rival Joe Biden, a former vice president.
Eisenberg was involved in a decision to take the unusual step of moving
a transcript of the call into the White Houseís most classified computer
system, according to a person familiar with last weekís testimony by
Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman.
Eisenberg also told Vindman, who listened in on the call, not to discuss
the matter when the White House aide and several other National Security
Council officials reported to him their concerns about the conversation,
said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Vindman testified that he found it improper to demand a foreign
government investigate a U.S. citizen and was so worried about the
implications that he took the matter to Eisenberg.
TRUMP: DEMOCRATS TRYING TO 'FIX' PROCESS
The impeachment inquiry in the Democratic-led House of Representatives
focuses on Trump's request in the July phone call for Zelenskiy to
investigate the Bidens. Trump made his request after withholding $391
million in security aid approved by Congress to help Ukraine fight
Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The House investigation is probing whether Trump misused the power of
his office and, if so, whether that amounted to "high crimes and
misdemeanors" that merit impeachment and removal from office under the
[to top of second column]
President Donald Trump speaks to the media on the South Lawn of the
White House in Washington upon his return from New York, U.S.,
November 3, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing, accused the Democrats on
Twitter on Sunday of "working overtime to FIX the Impeachment
'Process' in order to hurt the Republican Party and me."
Democrats are expected to wrap up the closed-door testimony in
coming weeks and begin public hearings.
A parade of current and former U.S. officials have testified the
White House went outside normal diplomatic channels to pressure
Zelenskiy. Some appeared in defiance of Trumpís orders, while others
have resisted testifying, which critics have called an attempt to
stonewall the proceedings.
It was unclear whether Eisenberg - as well as his deputy, Michael
Ellis - would show up on Monday.
There were also questions whether Robert Blair, senior adviser to
Trumpís acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, would appear on Monday.
Media reports have said he would not testify. His lawyer did not
respond to a request for comment.
The White House declined to comment on whether Eisenberg and Blair
However, three other officials - the White House Office of
Management and Budget acting director Russ Vought and two of his
deputies, Michael Duffey and Brian McCormack - will not appear for
questioning scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, the administration
official said on condition of anonymity.
Democratic committee members have also asked former national
security adviser John Bolton, who Trump fired in September, to
appear on Thursday. Others have testified that Bolton was alarmed by
the effort to pressure Zelenskiy. Bolton's lawyer has said he is not
willing to testify unless a subpoena is issued.
Asked whether Bolton should testify, Trump told reporters on Sunday:
"That's up to him and up to the lawyers ... I like John Bolton, I
always got along with him."
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Jan Wolfe in Washington,
writing by Matt Spetalnick, editing by Lincoln Feast.)
[© 2019 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2019 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Thompson Reuters is solely responsible for this content.