Trump impeachment inquiry enters Week 6: National Security Council officials to be questioned on Ukraine aid – USA TODAY
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WASHINGTON – National Security Council officials, who could provide greater detail about how President Donald Trump withheld military aid for Ukraine while urging the investigation of his political rival, are scheduled for depositions in Week 6 of the House impeachment investigation.
Timothy Morrison, the NSC senior director for Europe and Russia, was mentioned repeatedly in earlier testimony of security and diplomatic officials about Trump withholding nearly $400 million that Congress had approved, under the condition that Ukraine announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
But it’s not clear Morrison or other administration witnesses will appear for the private depositions before the three key committees investigating Trump’s dealings with Ukraine: Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform.
Former aides have testified and current administration officials have answered questions under subpoena. But the White House notified the House on Oct. 8 that the administration would no longer cooperate with the impeachment inquiry that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., declared Sept. 24. The witness scheduled for Monday, a former deputy national security adviser, filed a federal lawsuit Friday asking a judge to decide whether he should obey the president’s order not to testify or the House’s subpoena to appear.
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Testimony over the last three weeks described Trump delegating oversight of Ukraine to his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, in a back-channel to the State Department. Trump urged Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to declare an investigation of the Bidens while withholding aid.
Democrats conducting the investigation contend Trump could be impeached for abuse of power and obstruction of justice for the Ukraine trade-off. But Trump has insisted he was absolutely justified in urging Ukraine to conduct investigations because he didn’t want to waste money on a corrupt government. The president has called the impeachment inquiry led by Democrats a partisan “witch hunt” and compared it to a lynching.
Trump, for his part, will hold a political rally Friday for a gubernatorial candidate in Mississippi.
While more witnesses could still be scheduled, here is a summary of what is ahead in the impeachment inquiry in Week 6:
Monday: A departure from the NSC
Charles Kupperman, the former deputy national security adviser who left the White House in September, could potentially provide lawmakers with more information about the debate about Ukraine policy within the administration.
He has decades of national-security experience after serving in President Ronald Reagan’s administration and working for defense contractors before he became deputy in January to former National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Kupperman left the White House days after Bolton, who either resigned, according to his own account, or was fired, according to Trump, because he “disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions.” Bolton, who may also be called to testify, opposed Giuliani’s influence over Ukraine policy and urged other officials to report their concerns to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to House inquiry witnesses.
Kupperman filed a lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court asking a judge to decide whether he should testify because he worried any decision he makes “will inflict grave Constitutional injury on either the House or the President.”
Kupperman noted in the 17-page filing that if he defies Trump, he could hurt the president’s ability to receive confidential advice from top aides. But if he defies the House subpoena, he could impede their constitutional duty to investigate potential impeachment and could be subject to criminal penalties for contempt. Kupperman said he didn’t take a position on whether the executive or legislative branch should prevail, but that the judicial branch should resolve the dispute.
The chairmen of the three committees – Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., of Foreign Affairs; Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., of Intelligence; and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., of Oversight – wrote Kupperman a letter Saturday saying the lawsuit was meritless and warning that his defiance of the subpoena could be evidence of contempt. The three said the deposition would start on time and he should be there.
“Dr. Kupperman’s lawsuit – lacking in legal merit and apparently coordinated with the White House – is an obvious and desperate tactic by the President to delay and obstruct the lawful constitutional functions of Congress and conceal evidence about his conduct from the impeachment inquiry,” the chairmen wrote.
Tuesday: More from the NSC
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council director for European affairs, is scheduled Tuesday.
Wednesday: A view from Defense
Kathryn Wheelbarger, the acting assistant secretary of Defense for international security affairs, is scheduled Wednesday.
Thursday: Unraveling Ukraine policy
Morrison could provide more detail Thursday about what Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, told the House inquiry last week.
Taylor said Morrison told him during an August phone call that the “president doesn’t want to provide any assistance at all,” referring to nearly $400 million in military aid that Congress appropriated for Ukraine.
“That was extremely troubling to me,” said Taylor, who had warned Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that he would resign if the U.S. didn’t strongly support Ukraine.
Taylor’s Aug. 22 conversation with Morrison was sandwiched between Trump’s July 25 call to Zelensky, when the president urged an investigation of the Bidens, and the White House release of a summary of the call Sept. 25, when Taylor learned of its details.
Friday: Trump political rally
There are no planned depositions in the impeachment inquiry on Friday.
But Trump’s campaign has scheduled a Friday rally in Tupelo, Miss., to stump for Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, the Republican nominee for governor.