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Trump Wants Defense on Substance, Not Process, of Impeachment

The Wall Street Journal. logo The Wall Street Journal. 10/28/2019 Rebecca Ballhaus, Andrew Restuccia, Vivian Salama
Carolyn Maloney, Jamie Raskin, Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell standing next to a person in a suit and tie © Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

WASHINGTON—President Trump said he has encouraged his Republican allies to defend him on the substance of the impeachment probe, instead of focusing on criticizing the process, ahead of another week of scheduled testimony from administration officials.

“I’d rather go into the details of the case rather than the process,” he told reporters on Monday morning before flying to Chicago, reiterating his stance that Democrats had no evidence of wrongdoing. “Process is wonderful.…But I think you ought to look at the case.”

House impeachment investigators have maintained a rapid clip of depositions in recent weeks as they investigate efforts by Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into Democrat Joe Biden and alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election just as aid to Ukraine was being held up.

Republicans last week escalated their complaints about the closed-door nature of the House’s impeachment inquiry, when GOP lawmakers—including many not on the investigating committees—stormed into a secure meeting room and delayed testimony for several hours. Democrats point to previous House investigations that used closed-door depositions and have said they intend to make transcripts of the testimony public. Multiple Republican lawmakers are part of the committees conducting the closed-door interviews.

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Top Democrats have said they hope to hold impeachment proceedings in public before Thanksgiving and that they hope to conclude the investigations before presidential primaries begin in January.

On Monday, Mr. Trump also defended Mr. Giuliani, whose business dealings in Ukraine are being investigated by federal prosecutors in New York, according to people familiar with the matter. Asked if he thought Mr. Giuliani was in trouble over his Ukraine efforts, Mr. Trump said of the former New York City mayor and federal prosecutor: “No, I think Rudy Giuliani is a great crime fighter.…He’s always looking for corruption, which is what more people should be doing. He’s a good man.”

Mr. Giuliani has denied wrongdoing.

Some of Mr. Trump’s allies have grown frustrated with Mr. Giuliani, warning the president that his public comments about Ukraine are complicating efforts to defend the president.

The House committees had scheduled a deposition on Monday for Charles Kupperman, Mr. Trump’s former deputy national security adviser, who listened in on the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky that sparked the impeachment inquiry. Mr. Kupperman late Friday asked a federal judge to rule on whether he must testify, after the White House has instructed him not to appear in response to a House subpoena. That ruling hasn’t yet been issued, and Mr. Kupperman didn’t testify Monday.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said that in instructing him not to appear, the White House “obstructed the work of a coequal branch of government.”

“If this witness had something to say that would be helpful to the White House, they would want him to come and testify,” Mr. Schiff told reporters Monday. “They plainly don’t.”

House panels are expected to hear from about a half dozen more witnesses in their inquiry this week, including a top White House official who has been mentioned in testimony linking a hold on aid to Ukraine to investigations Mr. Trump and his allies pressured the country to pursue.

Tim Morrison, the National Security Council’s Russia and Europe director, is to testify behind closed doors on Thursday, an official working on the impeachment inquiry said. The committees are also expected to hear this week from Alexander Vindman, the director of European affairs at the National Security Council who attended the Ukrainian president’s inauguration in May, and Kathryn Wheelbarger, the acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. Former Pentagon officials said she would have likely been involved in discussions about the freeze on security assistance to Ukraine this summer.

Two State Department officials are also set to testify this week: Catherine Croft, who served as special adviser for Ukraine, and Christopher Anderson, who was a special adviser to Kurt Volker, the former U.S. envoy for Ukraine negotiations who testified earlier this month.

Democrats say the president’s pressuring of a foreign leader to undertake a probe that would benefit him politically amounts to an abuse of power. Mr. Trump has said he acted appropriately.

Investigators have now heard from two current U.S. diplomats who say they understood there to be a quid pro quo related to the investigations Mr. Trump wanted Ukraine to pursue.

In testimony last week, Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Kyiv, said Mr. Morrison relayed to him conversations that suggested there was a link between the $400 million in Ukraine aid that was being held over the summer and the announcements of investigations.

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified earlier this month about a separate quid pro quo, telling House committees he believed Ukraine agreeing to open investigations into a company where Mr. Biden’s son served on the board and into election interference was a condition for a White House meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky, Mr. Sondland’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, said.

Mr. Trump’s ouster of the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, has also come under heightened scrutiny in recent weeks. On Saturday, a senior State Department official told House investigators that top officials stymied a show of solidarity for Ms. Yovanovitch after Mr. Trump had her removed, according to a person familiar with his closed-door testimony.

Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, was named to the job in March, around the time Mr. Trump ordered the removal of Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Mr. Giuliani and others had said Ms. Yovanovitch was obstructing efforts to persuade Kyiv to investigate Mr. Biden, which the envoy characterized as a “concerted campaign” against her in testimony this month.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at, Andrew Restuccia at and Vivian Salama at


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