White House officials refusing to testify Monday

The Hill 2 weeks ago

Two White House officials subpoenaed to testify as part of the Democrats' impeachment inquiry declined to appear at the Capitol on Monday morning, and two others are also expected to be no shows later in the day.

John Eisenberg, senior attorney at the National Security Council (NSC), and Robert Blair, senior adviser to acting White House chief of staff , were scheduled to testify at 9 a.m as part of the ongoing investigation into 's dealings with Ukraine.

Democrats had also sought the testimony of two other figures Monday afternoon: Michael Ellis, one of Eisenberg's deputies, and Brian McCormack, associate director for natural resources energy and science at the Office of Management and Budget.

Lawmakers leaving the closed-door deposition room in the Capitol said they were informed by staff that none of the figures will likely appear.

"It seems like a blanket position that they're taking," Rep. (D-Mass.), a member of the  Oversight and Reform Committee. "They will notify us, but right now it's our expectation that no one will show today."

The no shows come at the start of the sixth week of the Democrats' impeachment probe, which was launched following allegations from a government whistleblower that Trump had withheld U.S. military aid to Ukraine as leverage to secure political favors from that country's leaders.

In a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — a rough transcript of which was released by the White House, Trump had asked Zelensky to launch an anti-corruption investigation into former Vice President and his son. Biden is among the leading presidential contenders in 2020, and the whistleblower voiced concerns that Trump was seeking to enlist foreign help to boost his reelection chances.

Eisenberg was reportedly the figure responsible for moving the transcript of the July 25 call to a classified server after hearing concerns from another figure in the Ukraine saga, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the NSC's director for European affairs.

Vindman, who was on the controversial phone call, testified privately last week that he felt it was inappropriate for Trump to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival. Along with his twin brother, another NSC official, Vindman took those concerns to Eisenberg. Ellis sat in on that meeting, according to various reports.

As the investigation has evolved, Trump and his GOP allies in the Capitol are increasingly calling for the identity of the whistleblower to be revealed, voicing concerns — without providing any evidence — that the figure is an anti-Trump Democrat motivated more by politics than patriotism.

"The Whistleblower gave false information & dealt with corrupt politician Schiff," Trump tweeted.

"He must be brought forward to testify. Written answers not acceptable! Where is the 2nd Whistleblower? He disappeared after I released the transcript. Does he even exist? Where is the informant? Con!"

The whistleblower's lawyers have offered their client's testimony in written form, but Republicans are so far cold to the idea.

"Why should get to call his witnesses and have them come in and testify within a back-and-forth dialog, and yet the whistleblower is supposedly only going to answer questions in a written format?" Rep. (R-N.C.), a member of the Oversight panel, told repeaters in the Capitol Monday morning. "The statute does not provide for the whistleblower to remain anonymous." 


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