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House Dems announce more public hearings in Trump impeachment inquiry

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) hold a press conference on Oct. 2, 2019 on the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. (Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
November 13, 2019

The night before the first public hearings of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump begin, the House Intelligence Committee announced they will hold open hearings from eight more officials next week.

The committee will hear from Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the first official interviewed in the inquiry who listened to a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that is at the center of a whistleblower complaint, on Nov. 19.

Later that afternoon, Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, and National Security Council official Timothy Morrison are also scheduled to testify.

Then on Nov. 20, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is scheduled to appear before the committee in the morning. Sondland submitted an amendment last week to his original testimony that took place behind closed doors in October, adding that he had communicated a quid pro quo to a Ukraine official, linking a delay in military aid for Ukraine to a public statement committing to investigations sought by Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

That same afternoon, Defense official Laura Cooper and David Hale, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, have also been called to testify.

Finally, Fiona Hill, former National Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia, is scheduled to appear on Nov. 21. In her previous closed-door deposition in October, Hill, a fiery witness, outlined key players in a pressure campaign for Ukraine to open investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, as well as the 2016 presidential election.

“The Majority has accepted all of the Minority requests that are within the scope of the impeachment inquiry. Additional details will be released in the coming days,” the committee concluded in a statement.

Three of the witnesses called to testify publicly next week were requested by the GOP: Morrison, Volker and Hale.

It’s not yet clear whether the Republican’s other witness requests will also be accepted.

However, House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said recently in response to Republicans wanting Hunter Biden and the whisleblower to testify that “This inquiry is not, and will not serve, however, as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 that the President pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit, or to facilitate the President’s effort to threaten, intimidate, and retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously raised the initial alarm.”

Andrew Bakaj, one of the whistleblower’s attorneys, told USA TODAY his client was willing to answer questions from Republican lawmakers in writing but not in person.

“My client’s complaint has been largely corroborated. Nonetheless, I have offered to have my client respond in writing, under oath, and under penalty of perjury to Republican questions,” Bakaj told USA TODAY in a statement, adding that he feared the request to testify publicly, “was part of a larger effort to unmask my client’s identity.”

“The call to have my client’s identity disclosed will fundamentally harm a process that took decades to build. By extension, it will adversely impact Congressional oversight. These consequences, I fear, will be long-lasting,” he added.

The public phase of the inquiry begins Wednesday at 10 am ET with testimonies from two career diplomats: Bill Taylor, the current top American diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, a top State Department official. The committee will later hear from former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch on Friday at 9 am ET.


© 2019 USA Today