As public hearings loom, U.S. House committees to hear from aide to Vice
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[November 07, 2019]
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. congressional
committees conducting an impeachment investigation of President Donald
Trump are due to hear for the first time on Thursday from a top adviser
to Vice President Mike Pence, one of the last witnesses to testify
behind closed doors before public hearings start next week.
The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight
committees have called Jennifer Williams, a career foreign service
officer and special adviser to Pence for Europe and Russia, to testify
behind closed doors on Thursday morning.
Lawmakers will look to Williams for information about how much Pence
knew about efforts by Trump and those around him to pressure Ukrainian
officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son
Hunter, and foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
Multiple sources said they expected Williams to appear as expected, even
though several other officials from the executive branch have defied
calls to testify this week, ratcheting up conflict between House
Democrats and Trump's Republicans over the probe.
Trump and his backers blast the House inquiry as a witch hunt and accuse
Democrats of unfairly targeting him in hope of reversing his surprise
election victory in 2016. In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump called the
probe a "phony scam."
Former national security adviser John Bolton, whom Trump fired in
September, was also called to appear on Thursday, but was not expected
to do so. Bolton's attorney said he would not appear voluntarily and he
has not yet been subpoenaed.
The House investigation is focused on a July 25 phone call in which
Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate
Biden, a leading Democratic rival as Trump seeks re-election in November
They are trying to determine whether Trump froze $391 million in U.S.
security assistance for Ukraine in order to put pressure on Zelenskiy to
conduct the investigation, misusing U.S. foreign policy for his personal
Democrats have been releasing transcripts of previous closed-door
interviews this week, as they prepare for next week, when they will hold
the first public hearings in the six-week-long probe.
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President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Monroe, Louisiana,
U.S., November 6, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the
Intelligence Committee, said on Wednesday his committee would hold
the first public sessions next week. [L2N27M0BD]
"Those open hearings will be an opportunity for the American people
to evaluate the witnesses for themselves, to make their own
determinations about the credibility of the witnesses, but also to
learn firsthand about the facts of the president's misconduct," he
told reporters during a break in closed-door testimony from David
Hale, the State Department's third-highest official.
Three U.S. diplomats who expressed alarm about Trump's dealings with
Ukraine and have already testified in private will serve as star
William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent,
another career diplomat with experience in the country, will testify
on Nov. 13. Marie Yovanovitch, who was abruptly pulled from her post
as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in May, will testify on Nov. 15.
Setting the stage for the public hearings, lawmakers have been
making public transcripts of the closed-door depositions this week.
Yovanovitch's testimony was released on Monday and Taylor's on
Sources familiar with the investigation said Kent's transcript would
be made public on Thursday.
If the Democratic-controlled House votes to impeach Trump, the
Republican-controlled Senate would then hold a trial on whether to
remove Trump from office.
Senate Republicans have so far shown little appetite for ousting the
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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