Ex-National Security Council official testifies before Congress
WASHINGTON — Fiona Hill, a former top National Security Council expert on Russia, was testifying to Congress behind closed doors Monday, the latest former Trump administration official to be subpoenaed as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Hill wouldn’t comment as she arrived on Capitol Hill, but the hearing was stretching beyond 10 hours in the closed session. Her attorney said she had received a congressional subpoena and would “comply and answer questions” from lawmakers. She resigned from the White House National Security Council over the summer.
She is the first White House official to appear as part of the House impeachment inquiry. Her appearance comes despite a White House vow to halt any and all cooperation with what it termed the “illegitimate” impeachment probe.
A former top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also been asked to appear for an interview this week, according to several officials familiar with the planning.
Michael McKinley, a career foreign service officer and Pompeo’s de facto chief of staff, resigned Friday, ending a 37-year career, as the impeachment probe turns its focus on the State Department in the Ukraine matter.
The sources were unauthorized to discuss the planning and granted anonymity.
House Democrats asked that McKinley appear for a closed-door interview Wednesday, the same day that George Kent, another State Department official, is scheduled. It is unclear if they will appear.
Call to release transcripts: Republicans called on Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, to release transcripts of the depositions to the public. The California Democrat said Sunday that having witnesses appear behind closed doors would prevent them from knowing what other witnesses said.
“We want to make sure that we meet the needs of the investigation and not give the president or his legal minions the opportunity to tailor their testimony and in some cases fabricate testimony to suit their interests,” Schiff said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House oversight committee, said he learned Monday morning that Schiff had subpoenaed Hill.
“She was going to come, she’d agreed to come, she was going to come voluntarily but he’s going to subpoena her, I believe, so he could ask certain questions and again keep those secret except for the certain things he wants to leak,” Jordan said. “The tragedy here and the crime here is that the American people don’t get to see what’s going on in these sessions.”
The subpoena was issued because of attempts by the Trump administration to direct witnesses not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry and to limit the testimony of witnesses, an official working on the impeachment inquiry told The Associated Press. Hill complied with the subpoena and was answering questions from both Democrats and Republicans, the official said.
Ambassador to appear: Later this week, U.S. ambassador Gordon
Sondland, Trump’s hand-picked
ambassador to the European Union, is expected to appear for a deposition against the wishes of the White House, after being subpoenaed.
Sondland’s appearance, set for Thursday, comes after a cache of text messages from top envoys provided a vivid account of their work acting as intermediaries around the time Trump urged Ukraine’s new president, Volodymr Zelenskiy, to start investigations into a company linked to the family of rival Joe Biden.
One witness who may not be called before Congress is the still-anonymous government whistleblower who touched off the impeachment inquiry.
Top Democrats say testimony and evidence coming in from other witnesses, and even the Republican president himself, are backing up the whistleblower’s account of what transpired during Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelenskiy. Lawmakers have grown deeply concerned about protecting the person from Trump’s threats and may not wish to risk exposing the whistleblower’s identity.
Schiff said on Sunday that Democrats “don’t need the whistleblower, who wasn’t on the call, to tell us what took place on the call.”
Schiff said it “may not be necessary” to reveal the whistleblower’s identity as the House gathers evidence. “Our primary interest right now is making sure that that person is protected,” he said.
Trump strongly objected.
“Adam Schiff now doesn’t seem to want the Whistleblower to testify. NO!” Trump tweeted Monday. “We must determine the Whistleblower’s identity to determine WHY this was done to the USA.”