The impeachment inquiry launched last month by Democrats in the House of Representatives has already turned up a trove of evidence suggesting the Trump administration offered a quid pro quo to Ukraine. No witness laid it out with more clarity than U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor did last week. In a gasp-inducing 15-page opening statement, Taylor cited several interactions that indicated U.S. military aid for Ukraine and President Volodymyr Zelensky’s invitation to the White House were both conditional on his administration launching investigations into both the 2016 election and the Biden family.
Trump and his allies responded by attacking both the impeachment inquiry itself, as well as Taylor, a Vietnam veteran and State Department veteran who has been described as a “man of honor,” “public servant,” and “role model.” Following his testimony Trump called Never Trump Republicans “human scum” before describing Taylor as a Never Trump diplomat.
This back-and-forth — in which corroborated testimony is given by a credible source who then becomes subject of an unfounded smear campaign from the president’s allies — isn’t going to let up anytime soon. House Democrats are gearing up for another busy week of impeachment-inquiring, headlined by a Thursday sit-down with Tim Morrison, the National Security Council’s Russia and Europe director. Not only will Morrison be the first currently-serving White House official to appear before the House Intelligence Committee, he’ll be the first person to go under oath who was actually on the now-infamous July 25th call between Trump and Zelensky that spurred the whistleblower complaint that spurred the inquiry.
Morrison won’t be the only official going under oath this week. National Security Council Director for European Affairs Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman will testify on Tuesday, followed by Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Kathryn Wheelbarger a day later. Former Deputy National Security Adviser Charles Kupperman, who served under former National Security Adviser John Bolton and was also on the July 25th call, was supposed to testify on Monday, but on Friday asked a federal judge to rule on whether he was obligated to appear considering the White House instructed him to not comply with subpoenas from House Democrats. “Plaintiff obviously cannot satisfy the competing demands of both the Legislative and Executive Branches,” Kupperman’s lawyer wrote.
But not everyone who was sent a subpoena is conflicted. On Friday, Morrison’s lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, told Politico her client plans to testify on Thursday regardless of whether the White House attempts to block him from doing so. Morrison’s testimony could be crucial: Taylor mentioned Morrison several times while testifying, including noting that Morrison had been told that Trump wanted Zelensky to announce publicly that Ukraine would investigate the 2016 election and the Bidens.
Damning as Morrison corroborating Taylor’s testimony would be, Trump-committed Republicans don’t appear to have any intention of taking it seriously, and appear poised to line up behind the president if and when he calls Morrison a third-rate NSC director, a biased Democrat, or worse. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) set the tone for the week on Sunday by tweeting another attack on the inquiry, particularly it’s “shadiness,” along with the hashtag #StopTheSchiffShow.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (R-Calif.), for his part, stressed over the weekend that his and the other Democratic committees conducting the inquiry are making “rapid progress,” and that the argument that the hearings shouldn’t be held behind closed doors is about to join a long list of GOP talking points regarding the inquiry that have been debunked.
“We will be doing public hearings,” Schiff said on ABC’s This Week, “and I think we’ll be doing them soon.”