World / Crime & Legal

Trump slams Mike Pence aide slated to testify at Tuesday impeachment hearing

Bloomberg

Donald Trump took to Twitter on Sunday to slam Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence who’s due to testify in the public impeachment inquiry into the president’s actions with Ukraine.

Trump called Williams a “Never Trumper.” The longtime State Department employee — currently a special adviser to Pence — was on the July 25 phone call that’s at the center of the inquiry, and said in closed-door testimony on Nov. 7 that she found some of the discussion between Trump and Ukraine’s president “unusual and inappropriate.”

She’s due to testify on Tuesday alongside Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the White House National Security Council. They are among eight witnesses to testify before the committee this week.

Trump’s tweet echoed one he sent on Friday about Marie Yovanovitch while the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was testifying before the panel. The tweet was described as witness intimidation by many Democratic lawmakers. The president has also tweeted about William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine and, indirectly, about Vindman.

Asked in an interview broadcast Sunday on the CBS show “Face the Nation” whether Trump was trying to intimidate Yovanovich, House Speaker Nancy Pelsoi said she doesn’t have time to pay attention to Trump’s tweets but “that was totally wrong and inappropriate and typical of the president.”

Pelosi also said Trump can make his case directly to the Intelligence Committee, but she vowed to protect the whistle-blower whose complaint triggered the impeachment inquiry of the president’s actions with Ukraine.

“The president could come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants if he wants — if he wants to take the oath of office or he could do it in writing,” Pelosi said in a interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “He has every opportunity to present his case.”

Trump and Republicans in Congress have demanded that the whistleblower be compelled to testify so that the president knows who made the accusations. Pelosi, in the interview recorded Friday, ruled out any steps that would expose the person who filed the complaint.

“I will make sure he does not intimidate the whistleblower,” the California Democrat said. “This is really important, especially when it comes to intelligence, that someone who would be courageous enough to point out truth to power and then through the filter of a Trump-appointed inspector general who found it of urgent concern … and then took it to the next steps.”

Pelosi headlined a group of Democratic and Republican lawmakers who appeared on Sunday morning political shows to argue, respectively, that the case for impeachment against Trump is building or to defend the president and criticize the way Democrats are conducting the inquiry.

Republican Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said last week’s testimony from witnesses including William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, that connected the withholding of military aid to Ukraine in exchange for political investigations didn’t implicate Trump.

“He offers nothing new — still no quid pro quo, still no smoking gun, still the same information,” Turner said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, another member of the Intelligence panel, said on ABC’s “This Week” that evidence of impeachable offenses against Trump is building. He criticized Republican efforts to dismiss it as “it happens all the time” and “so what?”

“I’m telling you, ‘so what?’ is where our democracy goes to die,” Maloney said.

Maloney urged fellow committee member Chris Stewart, a Republican of Utah also appearing on ABC, to join him in calling for the State Department to release all emails, notes, call records and calendar items that the committee has subpoenaed. Stewart replied, “You bet, because I don’t think there’s anything there at all that is going to implicate the president” — and that in return, the Democrats should call the whistle-blower and former Vice President Joe Biden to testify.

Republicans have said the fact military aid to Ukraine was released without an investigation is proof Trump did nothing wrong, but Pelosi said the money was released after the whistleblower complaint and “the whistle was blown.”

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a vocal Trump ally who was recently added to the Intelligence Committee, suggested on CBS that the aid was released after Trump and U.S. officials spoke with newly elected Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and became convinced he “was legit and he was worth the risk” of U.S. funding.

“So there was never this quid pro quo that the Democrats all promise existed,” Jordan said.

Trump had no public events Sunday but was active on Twitter. He criticized Democrats and said Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian foreign minister “both said there was no pressure placed on them whatsoever” and that “they didn’t even know the money wasn’t paid, and got the money with no conditions.”

Pelosi said the public phase of the House Intelligence Committee hearings would continue for another week, while additional depositions are taken from other witnesses. But she said she didn’t know how long the hearings would continue.

“I guess it depends on how many more witnesses they have,” she said. “That’s up to the committee. I don’t guide that.”

The schedule this week also includes public testimony on Wednesday from Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, who witnesses have said had a phone call with Trump they overheard, during which the president directly discussing Ukrainian investigations into Biden and his son and the 2016 presidential election.

Sondland will have to decide “whether his primary loyalty is to America or whether his primary loyalty is to president of the United States,” Democratic Sen.Chris Murphy of Connecticut said on CNN.

Pelosi invoked the name of Richard Nixon, the Republican president who resigned in 1974 after a House committee approved articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress tied to the Watergate burglary two years earlier — during his re-election campaign. He quit before the House voted.

“It’s really a sad thing,” Pelosi said. “I mean, what the president did was so much worse than even what Richard Nixon did, that at some point Richard Nixon cared about the country enough to recognize that this could not continue.”