USA TODAY US Edition
Bolton ex-deputy defies subpoena for testimony
Kupperman wants to wait on judge’s ruling
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s former deputy national security adviser defied a subpoena Monday in the House impeachment inquiry, where he was expected to be asked about withholding military aid for Ukraine while the president urged that country to investigate his political rival.
An attorney for Charles Kupperman, who served as deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton before both men left the White House in September, sent a letter to the House Intelligence Committee’s counsel Sunday that Kupperman would wait for a court ruling in a lawsuit he filed before he would appear before the congressional panels.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court, asked a judge to decide whether he should testify because he’s 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.
“We want to assure your clients, again, that it is not Dr. Kupperman who contests your clients’ constitutional claim. It is President Trump,” Kupperman’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, wrote in the letter. “If your clients’ position on the merits of this issue is correct, it will prevail in court, and Dr. Kupperman, I assure you again, will comply with the Court’s judgment.”
Kupperman’s testimony could potentially provide lawmakers with more information about the debate over Ukraine
policy that other witnesses have said was guided by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
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.
“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.
On Monday, Schiff reiterated this point after Kupperman did not show up.
“The lawsuit that Dr. Kupperman filed in District Court has no basis in law. A private citizen cannot sue the Congress to try to avoid coming in when they’re served with a lawful subpoena,” Schiff said, adding that they would “not allow” the White House and others to drag out the impeachment inquiry — rather, his absence has provided “additional evidence of obstruction.”
But Republicans said the testimony has shown the president is innocent and impeachment unnecessary, in the words of Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.
“It’s time that we bring this charade to a close,” he said.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the Oversight panel, accused Democrats of leaking selective materials after holding closed meetings.
“The facts haven’t changed,” Jordan said. “We think this whole thing is a charade.”
Three key committees are investigating how Trump withheld nearly $400 million in military aid while also urging Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. An official impeachment inquiry of Trump began Sept. 24.
Democrats contend the effort could be an impeachable abuse of power. But House Republicans have accused Democrats of selectively leaking snippets of testimony from the closed-door sessions to make the president look bad. Trump has defended his authority to urge the investigation of corruption and called the inquiry a partisan “witch hunt.”
If Kupperman defies Trump, he could hurt the president’s ability to receive confidential advice from top aides.