Who’s Who of Witnesses Called to Testify in the Impeachment Inquiry
The trio of committees leading the House’s impeachment inquiry has unleashed a torrent of requests for documents and depositions from a cast of characters in the poorly scripted political thriller in which we are living. Among them are a pair of shady Soviet-born South Florida businessmen, several frustrated career civil servants, and the once beloved ex-mayor of New York City. Here’s who has been called, how they’ve responded and why:
State Department Inspector General Steve Linick
Met with investigators and provided records on October 2
Linick turned over documents President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani sent to the State Department in the Spring which reportedly included conspiracy theories about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Guiliani has said the State Department promised him they would look into the accusations. Democratic Reps. Eliot Engel, Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings, chairs of the three committees conducting the impeachment inquiry, said in a joint statement the documents “raise troubling questions about apparent efforts inside and outside the Trump Administration to target specific officials.”
Former U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker
Deposed on October 3
Volker, who was the president’s envoy to Ukraine before he resigned on September 27, gave Congressional investigators a trove of text messages between himself, E.U. ambassador Gordon Sondland and Bill Taylor, the U.S.’s top diplomat in Ukraine. Among the texts was the now-infamous exchange in which Taylor told Sondland, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson
Deposed on October 4
The details of Atkinson’s seven-hour closed-door testimony have not been released, but House Intel Chair Adam Schiff said in a statement that the inspector general explained to impeachment investigators why he found the whistle-blower complaint about Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian president Volodmyr Zelensky both urgent and credible.
Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent
Blocked from testifying on October 7
Kent, a State Department official who oversees Ukraine policy, was among a list of officials called to testify before the three impeachment committees. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo protested the requests, which he called an “attempt to intimidate, bully and treat improperly” state department officials. It’s unclear whether or not Pompeo’s opposition was the reason Kent did not appear as scheduled Monday; Bloomberg reports that the House committees are in discussions to reschedule Kent’s testimony.
E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland
Blocked from testifying on October 8; has refused to turn over documents
Sondland abruptly canceled plans to appear before Congressional investigators on Tuesday. In a statement, his lawyer blamed Pompeo, who has said State Department employees will not be allowed to testify. House Democrats responded by announcing they will issuing subpoenas for both Sondland’s testimony and additional text messages on his personal devices.
State Department counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl
Blocked from testifying on October 8
House investigators believe, based on the information contained in the whistle-blower complaint, that Brechbuhl listened in on the president’s July 25th phone call with President Zelensky. Pompeo has refused to make him available to testify before Congress.
Giuliani Associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman
Refused to turn over documents or appear by October 10
In a pair of letters on September 30, Reps. Schiff, Engel and Cummings asked South Florida GOP donors Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman to preserve and produce any personal communications or documents relate to efforts to “induce, compel, petition, press, solicit, suggest or otherwise pressure current or former Ukrainia government officials” to investigate the Bidens. The two men, who’s work with Rudy Giuliani was referenced in the whistleblower complaint, claimed to have dirt on the Bidens. John Dowd, the president’s former lawyer, now representing Parnas and Fruman, told the House committee chairmen in a letter that their requests were “overly broad and unduly burdensome,” and accuse the Democrats of attempting to “harass, intimidate and embarrass” his clients.
Former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch
Intends to testify on October 11
Yovanovitch is the former U.S. ambassador described as “bad news” by President Trump in his July 25 phone call with Zelensky. (Trump went on to say, ominously, “She’s going to go through some things.”) Yovanovitch was removed from her post in May, after reportedly hampering Rudy Giuliani’s backchannel efforts to pressure Ukraine to open investigations of the Bidens. She’s now diplomat-in-residence at Georgetown.
Giuliani Associate Sam Kislin
Has not responded to a request to appear by October 14
Kislin, who House investigators suspect may also have been involved in Giuliani’s efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government, has not yet responded to a letter requesting he turn over documents and appear for a deposition by October 14.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper
Subpoenaed to appear by October 15
The committee has subpoenaed Esper to appear before the impeachment committees and offer any information he has relating to the president’s decision to freeze hundreds of millions of dollars in Congressionally appropriated military aid to Ukraine. In a letter to Esper, the chairmen cite press reports indicating officials in the Pentagon were “puzzled and alarmed” by the White House’s request.
Office of Management and Budget Russell Vought
Subpoenaed to appear by October 15
The chairs of the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry subpoenaed Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, on Monday. In a letter virtually identical to the one sent to Pentagon chief Mark Esper, the chairmen refer to press reports about the president’s decision to withhold security assistance to Ukraine. According to the letter, investigators are interested in investigating whether the president’s orders were indeed conveyed, as reported, through the budget office, and if administration officials were actually “instructed to tell lawmakers that the delays were part of an ‘interagency process’ but to give them no additional information.”
Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani
Subpoenaed to turn over documents and appear by Oct. 15
The central figure in every story about the Trump Administration’s apparent efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, Rudy Giuliani was one of the first people subpoenaed by House Democrats. In a letter compelling him to appear before Congress, committee chairs cite Giuliani’s own press appearances: “During an interview on CNN, Chris Cuomo asked you, ‘So did you ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?’ You responded ‘Of course I did.'” They also want additional evidence Giuliani has publicly admitted to having, including “text messages, phone records, and other communications — indicating that you were not acting alone and that other Trump administration officials may have been involved in this scheme.” Giuliani has taken issue with the fact that the subpoena was only signed by the majority (which is, in fact, standard practice), and said he is weighing his options while deciding how he will respond.
Vice President Mike Pence
Asked to produce documents by October 15
On Friday, Democrats asked the Vice President to produce a long list of documents that could be relevant to their investigation of the president. In the letter, investigators note that press reports that suggest an aide to the Vice President was on the July 25th call. They also appear interested in the extent to which Pence might have been involved in lobbying the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens — Pence met with Zelensky at the President’s request in August, and also spoke to him by phone the day the whistleblower complaint became public.
Pence spokeswoman Katie Waldman dismissed the request as a publicity stunt. “The Office of the Vice President received the letter after it was released to the media and it has been forwarded to Counsel’s Office for a response,” Waldman said in a statement on Oct. 4. “Given the scope, it does not appear to be a serious request but just another attempt by the Do Nothing Democrats to call attention to their partisan impeachment.”