GOP calls for Bi­den’s son to tes­tify

Whistle­blower is also on its im­peach­ment hear­ing wish list

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD - By Colby Itkowitz

WASHINGTON — House Repub­li­cans asked for their own im­peach­ment wit­nesses on Satur­day, send­ing In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a list that in­cludes for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den’s son Hunter Bi­den and the anony­mous whistle­blower who filed the ini­tial com­plaint against Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Also Satur­day, Trump told re­porters he’d re­lease on Tues­day the tran­script of an April call he made to con­grat­u­late Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy after he won his elec­tion.

The im­peach­ment probe moves from closed-door de­po­si­tions to open hear­ings this week, which Democrats hope will present a strong case to the Amer­i­can pub­lic that bol­sters sup­port for im­peach­ing the pres­i­dent.

Repub­li­cans and the pres­i­dent have com­plained that the Democrats’ in­quiry is un­fairly par­ti­san. Schiff is likely to re­ject many, if not all, of the wit­nesses from the Repub­li­cans’ wish list. When the Democrats deny them, the Repub­li­cans will present that as ev­i­dence of a one-sided process.

“We ex­pect that you will call each of the wit­nesses listed above to en­sure that the Democrats’ ‘im­peach­ment in­quiry’ treats the Pres­i­dent with fair­ness, as promised by Speaker Pelosi,” wrote Rep. Devin Nunes of Cal­i­for­nia, the rank­ing Repub­li­can on the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee. “Your fail­ure to ful­fill Mi­nor­ity wit­ness re­quests shall con­sti­tute ev­i­dence of your de­nial of fun­da­men­tal fair­ness and due process.”

Wit­nesses who tes­ti­fied out of pub­lic view have cor­rob­o­rated the crux of the case against Trump — that he pres­sured Ze­len­skiy in a July phone call to in­ves­ti­gate his po­lit­i­cal ri­vals — so the Democrats see no need for the whistle­blower, who heard the story sec­ond­hand, to tes­tify. Three ca­reer State Depart­ment of­fi­cials are re­turn­ing this week for the pub­lic hear­ings.

The re­lease of a tran­script of Trump’s ear­lier call with Ze­len­skiy ahead of the in­quiry’s first pub­lic hear­ing seems un­likely to have a ma­jor im­pact, as wit­nesses have de­scribed that call as friendly and non­con­tro­ver­sial, ac­cord­ing to tes­ti­mony tran­scripts.

“We have an­other tran­script com­ing up, which is very im­por­tant,” Trump said be­fore board­ing Air Force One to at­tend a col­lege foot­ball game in Alabama. “They asked for it and I will gladly give it. There has never been a pres­i­dent who has been so trans­par­ent.”

Repub­li­cans want to pub­licly ques­tion wit­nesses who would di­vert the con­ver­sa­tion away from ques­tions about Trump’s be­hav­ior to al­le­ga­tions only tan­gen­tially re­lated to the case, such as un­founded claims that Ukraine in­ter­fered in the 2016 elec­tion and that the Bi­dens acted ne­far­i­ously in their deal­ings with Ukraine.

Schiff said in a state­ment that the com­mit­tee would eval­u­ate the Repub­li­cans’ re­quests.

“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,” Schiff said.

In ad­di­tion to Hunter Bi­den, the Repub­li­cans said they also want to hear from Bi­den’s busi­ness part­ner, Devon Archer, who served with Bi­den on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian nat­u­ral gas com­pany.

Nunes writes that both Bi­den and Archer’s time with Burisma “can as­sist the Amer­i­can pub­lic in un­der­stand­ing the na­ture and ex­tent of Ukraine’s per­va­sive cor­rup­tion, in­for­ma­tion that bears di­rectly on Pres­i­dent Trump’s long­stand­ing and deeply-held skep­ti­cism of the coun­try.”

Bi­den’s work for Burisma is a cen­tral is­sue in the im­peach­ment in­quiry into whether Trump abused his power by ask­ing that Ukrainian lead­ers to in­ves­ti­gate the Bi­dens at the same time that he was with­hold­ing mil­i­tary aid from their coun­try.

As vice pres­i­dent, Joe Bi­den pres­sured Ukraine to fire its top pros­e­cu­tor, Vik­tor Shokin, be­cause Bi­den and other West­ern of­fi­cials said Shokin was not suf­fi­ciently pur­su­ing cor­rup­tion cases.

Pre­vi­ously, Burisma had been un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Ukrainian pros­e­cu­tors, but by 2016 when Bi­den was push­ing for Shokin to be fired, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Burisma was dor­mant, ac­cord­ing to for­mer Ukrainian and U.S. of­fi­cials.

There are other in­di­vid­u­als on the list who are linked to con­spir­acy the­o­ries that go be­yond Bi­den and the whistle­blower. Two wit­nesses are re­lated to Trump al­lies’ un­founded al­le­ga­tion that Democrats were get­ting dirt on Trump from Ukraine dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion.

They’ve asked for Nel­lie Ohr, a re­searcher for Fu­sion GPS, which com­mis­sioned the Steele dossier link­ing Rus­sia and Trump, as well as Alexan­dra Chalupa, a Ukrainian Amer­i­can who worked with the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee.

Nunes, in his re­quest that the anony­mous whistle­blower be asked to tes­tify pub­licly, ar­gued that Trump “should be af­forded an op­por­tu­nity to con­front his ac­cusers.” He also asked that all in­di­vid­u­als who pro­vided in­for­ma­tion to the whistle­blower be com­pelled to ap­pear.

TERESA KROEGER/GETTY

House Repub­li­cans called Satur­day for Hunter Bi­den and the whistle­blower to tes­tify in the im­peach­ment probe.

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