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House Intel panel announces additional witnesses for public impeachment hearings

POLITICO logo POLITICO 11/13/2019 By Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney
Adam Schiff wearing a suit and tie: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. © Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.

The House Intelligence Committee announced a new slate of hearings for the impeachment inquiry late Tuesday, scheduling eight witnesses for public appearances next week.

The hearings — scheduled for next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — will feature current and former senior officials from across the National Security Council, the State Department and the Pentagon. All of the scheduled witnesses have already been deposed behind closed doors, and several provided explosive evidence that could be featured in articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

Next Tuesday, the committee is expected to hear from Jennifer Williams, a national security aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a top Ukraine aide on the NSC.

Later that day, Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy for Ukraine negotiations, and Timothy Morrison, a Europe and Russia aide on the NSC, are also expected to testify.

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, is slated to appear next Wednesday morning. Later Wednesday, the committee is scheduled to hear from Laura Cooper, a senior Pentagon official who handles Russia and Ukraine matters, and David Hale, the under secretary of state for political affairs.

The marathon week of testimony is poised to conclude Thursday when Fiona Hill, the former Russia chief on the NSC, is expected to testify. It is unclear if additional witnesses will be added to the schedule.

Collectively, the witnesses described an effort by Trump and his associates to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son over spurious corruption allegations being pushed by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

The inquiry also focuses on the extent to which Trump allegedly conditioned critical military aid to Ukraine, as well as a coveted White House meeting between the two presidents, on Trump’s desire for Ukraine’s government to announce the investigations he was seeking.

The witnesses described an administration reeling in response to Trump’s and Giuliani’s pressure campaign, which roiled all levels of the State Department, NSC and other agencies tasked with implementing U.S. policy toward Ukraine. Their concerns were particularly acute because Ukraine is actively fending off Russian aggression from its east and is dependent on the U.S. security assistance that was delayed for weeks.

The slate of witnesses Democrats unveiled is particularly notable because it features three of the witnesses requested by Republicans: Volker, Hale and Morrison.

In a press release announcing the hearings, the committee’s Democratic majority said it had “accepted all of the [GOP] requests that are within the scope of the impeachment inquiry.”

The decision indicates that Democrats will exclude a host of other witnesses sought by the GOP that would steer the hearings away from the central thesis of Democrats’ allegations against Trump — that he abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to launch investigations of his political opponents.

It’s unclear if the schedule unveiled by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) will be expanded further in the days ahead or if other Republican-favored witnesses will be considered.

Republicans had requested that Schiff call Biden’s son Hunter, in addition to the whistleblower whose formal complaint set the impeachment inquiry into motion.

Schiff accused Republicans over the weekend of trying to use the committee to further Trump’s political interests.

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