Thu, 12 Dec 2019

WASHINGTON - The U.S. House Intelligence Committee is set to hear impeachment inquiry testimony Tuesday from several top national security aides who listened in on a July phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, are scheduled to speak to lawmakers in morning session. Both expressed concerns about the phone call that is at the center of the investigation into Trump's alleged efforts to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate his political rivals.

In the afternoon, the committee is due to hear from Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, who served as the senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council before resigning last month.

The sessions are part of a busy week on Capitol Hill with a total of nine witnesses scheduled to appear in five hearings between Tuesday and Thursday.

Trump said Monday he would "strongly consider" testifying in writing to the House Intelligence Committee.

"Even though I did nothing wrong, and don't like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!" Trump tweeted.

The president was replying to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who told CBS television's Face the Nation, "The president could come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants ... or he could do it in writing. He has every opportunity to present his case."

She added if Trump "has information that is exculpatory - that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame - then we look forward to seeing it."

Almost two years ago, Trump said he was ready and willing to testify in person as special counsel Robert Mueller investigated Russia's meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, and whether as president, Trump had attempted to obstruct the probe.

Ultimately, he never testified face to face with investigators, preferring to only answer their questions in writing without cross-examination by prosecutors. In his written responses, Trump said more than 30 times he could not remember or recall an event.

The top House lawyer said Monday lawmakers are investigating whether Trump told the truth to Mueller and want the sealed material from the Mueller probe released.

Trump has said the Mueller investigation cleared him of allegations of obstruction of justice.

The impeachment inquiry centers on whether Trump withheld $400 million in badly needed military aid to Ukraine unless Zelenskiy publicly committed to investigating former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, whose son Hunter sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, and alleged Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election on behalf of the Democrats.

A whistleblower disturbed by a U.S. president appearing to ask a foreign government to dig up dirt on a political rival alerted the intelligence community's inspector general, leading to the current impeachment inquiry.

The impeachment inquiry centers on whether Trump withheld $400 million in badly needed military aid to Ukraine, unless Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy publicly committed to investigating Biden, whose son Hunter sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, and alleged Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election on behalf of the Democrats.

A whistleblower disturbed by a U.S. president appearing to ask a foreign government to dig up dirt on a political rival alerted the the intelligence community's inspector general, leading to the current impeachment inquiry.

No evidence of corruption by Joe and Hunter Biden has ever surfaced and the allegations of Ukrainian election interference are based on a debunked conspiracy theory.

Trump has described the July telephone call as "perfect " and strongly denies there was any quid pro quo with Ukraine. He has called the impeachment probe a "hoax" and a "witch hunt," He has also described some of the witnessed as "never Trumpers," including several career diplomats who have spent decades serving presidents of both parties in non-partisan roles.

The impeachment hearing "is a great fraud being played out against the American people by the Fake News Media & their partner, the Do Nothing Democrats," Trump tweeted Monday, claiming the hearing rules "are rigged" by Pelosi and Congressman Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence panel.

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