Bolton a no-show; Pence aide ap­pears

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Mary Clare Jalonick

WASH­ING­TON >> For­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton failed to ap­pear for an in­ter­view with impeachmen­t in­ves­ti­ga­tors Thurs­day, mak­ing it un­likely that he will pro­vide tes­ti­mony to the House about Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s han­dling of Ukraine.

Democrats in­di­cated they have no in­ter­est in a drawn-out court fight over Bolton’s tes­ti­mony or that of any oth­ers as they move into a more pub­lic phase of their impeachmen­t in­quiry. They say they will sim­ply use the no-shows as ev­i­dence of the pres­i­dent’s ob­struc­tion of Con­gress.

An at­tor­ney for Bolton, Charles Cooper, said his client had not re­ceived a sub­poena. Cooper had said Bolton wouldn’t ap­pear with­out one.

An aide to Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence did ap­pear un­der sub­poena Thurs­day to speak with impeachmen­t in­ves­ti­ga­tors and was de­posed for more than four hours.

Jennifer Wil­liams, a ca­reer for­eign ser­vice of­fi­cer de­tailed to Pence’s of­fice from the State Depart­ment, is one of sev­eral White House aides who were lis­ten­ing in on a July phone call between Trump and Ukraine Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Ze­len­skiy in which Trump asked the new leader to in­ves­ti­gate Democrats, ac­cord­ing to an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial who re­quested anonymity to dis­cuss the con­ver­sa­tion.

That call, in which Trump asked Ze­len­skiy to in­ves­ti­gate po­lit­i­cal ri­val Joe Bi­den and his fam­ily and also Ukraine’s role in the 2016 U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, is at the cen­ter of the Democrats’ impeachmen­t probe.

Though Trump has said there was no “quid pro quo,” sev­eral of the wit­nesses, in­clud­ing top Ukraine diplo­mat Wil­liam Taylor, have tes­ti­fied that it was their un­der­stand­ing that Ukraine would not re­ceive mil­i­tary as­sis­tance or a cov­eted Oval Of­fice visit un­til it met the pres­i­dent’s de­mands.

Democrats say the re­fusal of wit­nesses like Bolton, Mul­vaney and Perry to ap­pear — un­der Trump’s or­ders — will add fuel to their case that the pres­i­dent has ob­structed justice. They say ob­struc­tion is likely to be an ar­ti­cle of impeachmen­t against Trump, when and if they are writ­ten.

Law­mak­ers leav­ing the de­po­si­tion said that Wil­liams’ tes­ti­mony had lined up with the ac­counts of oth­ers.

“It just never ceases to amaze me how all of these peo­ple in ev­ery ma­te­rial as­pect cor­rob­o­rate one an­other,” said Wash­ing­ton Rep. Denny Heck,

a mem­ber of the House in­tel­li­gence panel, as he left the in­ter­view.

Re­pub­li­can Rep. Mark Mead­ows of North Carolina said that law­mak­ers were find­ing out more de­tails about Pence’s Septem­ber visit to War­saw, Poland, where he met Zelin­skiy. Pence has said that he and the Ukrainian pres­i­dent did not dis­cuss Bi­den dur­ing their closed-door meet­ing, but they had dis­cussed the White House’s de­ci­sion to halt se­cu­rity aid to the na­tion meant to counter Rus­sian ag­gres­sion.

Speak­ing to re­porters in New Hamp­shire, Pence stood by Trump and said if Amer­i­cans read the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s rough tran­script of the call they will find “there was no quid pro quo, the pres­i­dent did noth­ing wrong.” Pence called the impeachmen­t in­quiry a “dis­grace.”

In­ves­ti­ga­tors are wrap­ping up the pri­vate in­ter­views as they pre­pare to start pub­lic hearings next week. House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee Chair­man Adam Schiff an­nounced Wed­nes­day that three State Depart­ment wit­nesses will ap­pear in two hearings next Wed­nes­day and Fri­day: Taylor, ca­reer depart­ment of­fi­cial Ge­orge Kent and Marie Yo­vanovitch, the for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador to Ukraine. Yo­vanovitch was ousted in May on Trump’s or­ders and Taylor re­placed her; both have tes­ti­fied about their con­cerns with the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy on Ukraine.

Democrats sched­uled 13 wit­nesses to tes­tify be­hind closed doors this week as they have wrapped up the pri­vate phase of the probe, but so far only Wil­liams and an­other State Depart­ment em­ployee, David Hale, have shown up. Trump has di­rected his em­ploy­ees not to co­op­er­ate with the investigat­ion.

In ad­di­tion to Bolton, Democrats had re­quested in­ter­views from two other high-level Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion wit­nesses, act­ing White House Chief of Staff Mick Mul­vaney and En­ergy Sec­re­tary Rick Perry. Perry did not show up for his Wed­nes­day in­ter­view and Mul­vaney was not ex­pected to ap­pear for his sched­uled de­po­si­tion on Fri­day.

Still, Democrats have in­di­cated they think they al­ready have am­ple tes­ti­mony about Trump’s con­duct on Ukraine. The slew of cur­rent and for­mer of­fi­cials from the State Depart­ment and White House have ap­peared and largely cor­rob­o­rated the same nar­ra­tive — that Trump had del­e­gated his lawyer, Rudy Gi­u­liani, to guide U.S.-Ukraine pol­icy and that the two men were fo­cused on pres­sur­ing Ukraine as the ad­min­is­tra­tion with­held mil­i­tary aid from the coun­try.

Heck said there is “al­ready a moun­tain of ev­i­dence” in the probe.

“I think there’s more ev­i­dence to the ef­fect that the pres­i­dent shook down Ukraine, tried to cover it up, and threat­ened to and then with­held se­cu­rity as­sis­tance to Ukraine than there is ev­i­dence that the sun will come up in the East to­mor­row,” Heck said.

Wil­liams is the first per­son di­rectly con­nected with Pence to tes­tify in the probe.

Copyright 2019 The As­so­ci­ated Press. All rights re­served. This ma­te­rial may not be pub­lished, broad­cast, rewrit­ten or re­dis­tributed.

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