0744 GMT February 18, 2020
The testimony from the witnesses, mainly officials from the State Department and other foreign policy posts, largely corroborated the account of the government whistleblower whose complaint first sparked the impeachment inquiry, according to lawmakers attending the closed-door interviews, AP reported on Wednesday.
One witness, former White House aide Fiona Hill, testified that former national security adviser John Bolton was so alarmed by Giuliani’s back-channel activities in Ukraine that he described him as a “hand grenade who is going to blow everybody up.”
Another, career State Department official George Kent, testified Tuesday he was told by administration officials to “lay low” on Ukraine as “three amigos” tied to the White House took over US foreign policy toward the Eastern European ally.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, despite intensifying calls from Trump and Republicans to hold a formal vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry, showed no indication she would do so. She said Congress will continue its investigation as part of the Constitution’s system of checks and balances of the executive.
Trump calls the impeachment inquiry an “illegitimate process” and is blocking officials from cooperating.
The inquiry is moving quickly as a steady stream of officials appears behind closed doors this week, some providing new revelations about the events surrounding the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. It is on that call that Trump urged Zelenskiy to investigate a firm tied to political rival Joe Biden’s family and Ukraine’s alleged involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
As White House lawyers now try to learn more about the handling of the Ukraine call, National Security Council lawyer John Eisenberg came under particular scrutiny, said one White House official. He was both the official who ordered that the memorandum of the call be moved to a highly-classified system, and the one who involved the Justice Department in a complaint from the CIA general counsel. The latter caught the attention of the president, according to the official.
Giuliani said he was “very disappointed” in Bolton’s comment. Bolton, Giuliani said, “has been called much worse.”
Giuliani acknowledged Tuesday he had received payments totaling $500,000 related to the work for a company operated by Lev Parnas — who, along with associate Igor Fruman, played a key role in Giuliani’s efforts to launch a Ukrainian corruption investigation against Biden and his son Hunter. The two men were arrested last week on campaign finance charges as they tried to board an international flight.
Trump’s team will not comply with the Democratic inquiry. Giuliani and Vice President Mike Pence became the latest officials refusing to cooperate, saying through their lawyers they would not provide information requested by House Democrats as part of the impeachment inquiry.
The chairman leading the impeachment investigation, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said the stonewalling simply bolsters the charge that Trump is obstructing Congress.
The interviews Monday and Tuesday, like the others conducted by House impeachment investigators, took place behind closed doors. Republican lawmakers have aimed their ire at the process, saying witnesses should be interviewed out in the open.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Democrats were trying to “cancel out” Trump’s election with the march toward impeachment.
Five more officials are scheduled this week, mostly from the State Department, though it is unclear if they will all appear.