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Impeachment Public Hearings: Week 2

Nov 18, 2019
Originally published on November 18, 2019 6:19 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We are entering Week 2 of public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry. This week includes a lineup of eight current and former officials. Two of them are expected to testify before the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow. But the impeachment inquiry didn't take the weekend off. There was a closed-door deposition, two newly released transcripts and a presidential tweet directed at a witness. Here's House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaking Sunday on CBS.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FACE THE NATION")

NANCY PELOSI: The words of the president weigh a ton. They are very significant. And he should not frivolously throw out insults. But that's what he does.

MARTIN: NPR's congressional reporter Claudia Grisales has been following all the developments and joins us this morning. Hi, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: Where do things stand? Get us caught up. What'd we learn over the weekend?

GRISALES: So yes, it was a busy weekend. They released transcripts for two closed-door depositions; this is for two witnesses set to testify this week - Tim Morrison, the former deputy assistant to the president and top Russia adviser at the National Security Council, as well as Jennifer Williams, the special adviser to the vice president on Europe and Russia.

According to the transcript, Morrison called the July 25 call between President Trump and Ukraine's leader, quote, "unusual." And he said he was concerned that its contents would leak, but he also said he didn't think anything illegal happened on the call. Williams, on the other hand, said she found the call both, quote, "unusual and inappropriate." Trump fired back on Sunday on Twitter. He called Williams a never-Trumper, said she should read the transcripts of the calls he has released and work out a better presidential attack.

MARTIN: All right. So tell us what we should be looking for this week - eight witnesses coming to testify publicly.

GRISALES: Yes, eight witnesses. Morrison and Williams are among those witnesses expected to testify at an open hearing. That will be a very busy day tomorrow because alongside them, former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, as well as Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who serves on the National Security Council, are also expected to testify.

On Wednesday - that's another high-profile day because we will finally see Sondland, a central figure in this saga, who will talk about his connection to this phone call and coordination, as well as Laura Cooper - she's a Pentagon official - and State Department Undersecretary David Hale, who are expected to testify. Then, finally, on Thursday, Fiona Hill, the former top Russia adviser on the National Security Council, will come before the House Intelligence Committee.

MARTIN: But we should just spend another minute here drilling down on Gordon Sondland because he does have some explaining to do, does he not? I mean, he totally revised a central part of his original testimony in his transcript, yeah.

GRISALES: Yeah, he did. He sure did. He initially had said he wasn't aware of military aid being withheld in exchange for these investigations. He had to revise that testimony. And in the days since, his name has come up frequently, including in a new phone call, a July 26 phone call between the president and Sondland, where the president was heard talking about the investigations.

MARTIN: And just briefly - there are those who've been invited to testify and have said, no, thank you - people who would be key to the committee's investigation; in particular, I'm thinking about John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney. Where do those requests stand?

GRISALES: Correct. So both have attempted to go through legal processes, if you will, to consider whether they can testify, even though there's been this directive from the White House not to testify. For example, with Bolton, who's the former national security adviser, he has said he has, quote, "additional information" to share with the committee. However, he is awaiting a response from the courts in order to decide if he's going to proceed forward.

MARTIN: Although, we should point out other White House officials have defied the White House order not to testify and have done so anyway. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Thanks.

GRISALES: Thanks so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.