Ex-National Security Council Figure Opens Up in Impeachment Probe

WASHINGTON (CN) – A former member of President Donald Trump’s national-security team is testifying before the committees marshaling the House’s impeachment inquiry on Monday, beginning a whirlwind week of subpoena deadlines and testimony from people at the center of the probe.

Fiona Hill, who until this summer served as a top adviser on Russia and Europe on the White House National Security Council, appeared for closed-door testimony before lawmakers on Monday and will testify that she and others within the administration opposed the decision to recall the former ambassador to Ukraine, according to The New York Times.

Hill’s testimony comes days after the former ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, told lawmakers in her own testimony that Trump worked for more than a year to have her removed from her post. Yovanovitch was recalled from her position in Kiev in May.

The administration has fought against the House’s impeachment probe, telling House Democrats it does not recognize the investigation as valid without a vote of the full House authorizing it. The White House tried to block Yovanovitch from testifying in the probe, but she appeared in response to a subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee.

The New York Times reported the White House did not try to block Hill from appearing, citing a person familiar with her account, though White House lawyers have discussed principles supporting the confidentiality of presidential communications with her attorney.

The White House’s recalcitrance will be tested this week, as Hill’s appearance on Capitol Hill kicks off a busy stretch of testimony and deadlines for documents subpoenaed by House Democrats as part of the impeachment inquiry.

In addition to Hill’s testimony, Monday is the deadline for Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, to turn over documents about his efforts to have Ukraine publicly announce it was investigating Vice President Joe Biden’s son. Sondland has told lawmakers through his attorneys that he turned over relevant documents to the State Department, and the State Department has in turn refused to send documents to the committees.

Trump’s request that Ukraine open an investigation into Biden’s family launched the impeachment inquiry, and Sondland emerged as a key figure in the probe after texts released earlier this month revealed his role in the pressure campaign.

Sondland is also set to appear before the committee for testimony on Thursday. The Washington Post reported over the weekend that he will tell lawmakers Trump directed him to tell other diplomats in one text that there was no quid pro quo in Trump’s efforts to have Ukraine investigate his chief political rival in the 2020 election.

Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper also face a Tuesday deadline to turn over documents related to the administration’s efforts to have Ukraine open the investigation, as does Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer who is said to have been pushing the investigation at the front lines.

Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has until Friday to turn over his own tranche of documents, as does Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, whom Trump has reportedly blamed for the July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump requested Ukraine investigate Biden.

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