Ex-Trump Aide Blames National Security for Impeachment Probe No-Show

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., second from right, speaks with members of the media after former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman signaled that he would not appear as scheduled for a closed door meeting to testify as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Standing with Schiff are Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., from left, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The former deputy to ex-national security adviser John Bolton told House impeachment investigators Friday through court papers that national security concerns prevented him from complying with a subpoena.

In the letter on behalf of Charles Kupperman, attorney Charles Cooper references an earlier assertion made by the House Judiciary Committee when it demanded an appearance by Don McGahn, President Donald Trump’s former White House counsel.

Cooper said the House showed in a federal court brief that testimonial immunity “could apply to an exceedingly narrow category of ‘aides entrusted with discretionary authority in such sensitive areas as national security or foreign policy.’”

“Here, unlike McGahn, information concerning national security and foreign affairs is at the heart of the Committees’ impeachment inquiry, and it is difficult to imagine any question that the Committees’ [sic] might put to Dr. Kupperman that would not implicate these sensitive areas,” the letter continues.

Kupperman filed suit to challenge his subpoena last month, asking a federal judge in Washington to sort out the White House’s instructions that he not cooperate with proceedings. House lawmakers have described the suit as a delay tactic engineered to obstruct the committees’ inquiries into Trump’s conduct. 

But Cooper’s letter pushes back against this assertion, saying the suit was in no way coordinated with White House direction. Cooper said both Bolton and Kupperman will testify in the inquiry if the Judiciary Committee resolves the conflicting claims.

“If the House chooses not to pursue through subpoena the testimony of Dr. Kupperman and Ambassador Bolton, let the record be clear: that is the House’s decision,” wrote Cooper, who is also Bolton’s attorney.

House Democrats on Wednesday withdrew their subpoena of Kupperman, which sought records relating to a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — the central focus of the impeachment investigation. In a 4-page notice, lawmakers said they did not plan to refile their subpoena and would dismiss their case completely if the U.S. District Court reinstated the summons.

Cooper’s letter today also says that Trump has neither asserted testimonial immunity over witnesses that have chosen to testify before House committees nor has he instructed those individuals not to appear. None of these witnesses qualified for immunity or provided direct advice to the president, Cooper wrote.

Providing advice to the president over national security policies toward Ukraine, including reporting information about the Ukraine to Bolton, was one of Kupperman’s many duties. Kupperman was made acting national security adviser for eight days before the appointment of Robert O’Brien after Bolton resigned his position in September.

Kupperman was reportedly on the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky, when the president allegedly pressured Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. Only a summary of this call has been made public, though other former Trump administration officials – like Lieutenant Colonel Alex Vindman – have testified the synopsis omits references to Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian energy organization where Hunter Biden was formerly a board member.

Bolton first joined the administration in April 2018, the longest tenured national security adviser of the three appointed by Trump, lasting a year and five months. Trump and Bolton reportedly clashed over numerous policy decisions, including those related to Taliban leader negotiations and ending the war in Afghanistan.

Cooper did not immediately respond to a message for comment Friday.

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