Former national security adviser John Bolton failed to show up for an interview with impeachment investigators Thursday, making it unlikely that he will provide any testimony to the House about President Donald Trump’s handling of Ukraine.
An attorney for Bolton, Charles Cooper, said his client had not received a subpoena. Cooper had previously said Bolton wouldn’t appear without one.
A House intelligence committee official said the panel has no interest in engaging in a drawn-out court fight over a subpoena for Bolton and will simply add the White House’s instructions against testifying as evidence of the president’s obstruction of Congress. The person wasn’t authorized to discuss the situation publicly and was granted anonymity.
Even as Bolton was a no-show, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence came to the Capitol to speak with impeachment investigators.
Jennifer Williams, a career foreign service officer detailed to Pence’s office from the State Department, was subpoenaed to appear. She is one of several White House aides who were listening in on a July phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump asked the new leader to investigate Democrats, according to an administration official who requested anonymity to discuss the conversation.
That call is at the center of the Democrats’ impeachment probe.
Williams told investigators she found the Trump’s July call with Zelenskiy unusual because it was political, not diplomatic in nature, CNN reported, citing an unnamed source. But she did not raise concerns about the call with her superiors and, when asked what Pence knew, said she never heard him mention anything about investigation of the 2016 elections, Burisma or the Bidens.
Speaking to reporters in New Hampshire, Pence stood by Trump and said if Americans read the administration’s rough transcript of the call they will find “there was no quid pro quo, the president did nothing wrong.”
Pence called the impeachment inquiry a “disgrace.”
Investigators are wrapping up the private interviews as they prepare to start public hearings next week. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced Wednesday that three State Department witnesses will appear in two hearings next Wednesday and Friday: top Ukraine diplomat William Taylor, career department official George Kent and Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Yovanovitch was ousted in May on Trump’s orders and Taylor replaced her; both have testified about their concerns with the administration’s policy on Ukraine.
Democrats scheduled 13 witnesses to testify behind closed doors this week, but so far only Williams and another State Department employee, David Hale, have shown up. Trump has directed his employees not to cooperate with the probe.
In addition to Bolton, Democrats had requested interviews from two other high-level Trump administration witnesses, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Perry did not show up for his Wednesday interview and Mulvaney was not expected to appear for his scheduled deposition on Friday.
Still, Democrats have indicated they think they already have ample testimony about Trump’s conduct on Ukraine. A slew of current and former officials from the State Department and White House have appeared and largely corroborated the same narrative — that Trump had delegated his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to guide U.S.-Ukraine policy and that the two men were focused on pressuring Ukraine as the administration withheld military aid from the country.
Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his family and also Ukraine’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Though Trump has said there was no “quid pro quo,” several of the witnesses, including Taylor, have testified that it was their understanding that Ukraine would not receive military assistance or a coveted Oval Office visit until it met the president’s demands.
Democrats say the refusal of witnesses like Bolton, Mulvaney and Perry to appear — under Trump’s orders — will add fuel to their case that the president has obstructed justice. They say obstruction is likely to be an article of impeachment against Trump, when and if they are written.
Williams is the first person directly connected with Pence to testify in the probe.
Updated Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 6:11 pm Added Statements by Williams