A senior State Department official arrived in the Capitol on Wednesday to testify in the Democrats’ impeachment investigation, bucking a White House that has vowed to offer no cooperation in the fast-moving inquiry.
David Hale, the under secretary of State for political affairs, is expected to provide insights into the campaign by President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill Interview: DNC chair calls Latinos ‘imperative’ to winning in battleground states Democrats give Warren’s ‘Medicare for All’ plan the cold shoulder Senate Republicans struggle to coalesce behind an impeachment strategy MORE and some of his allies to remove Marie Yovanovitch from her post as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine — a move that infuriated many department veterans, who have expressed concerns that the agency’s top brass did too little to protect a career diplomat from White House interference.
Hale, a career dilplomat, arrived in the Capitol shortly before the start of Wednesday’s 9 a.m. deposition in the Capitol basement, where the three House committees leading the impeachment investigation — Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs — have been conducting their closed-door interviews.
Democrats leading the inquiry have invited three other administration officials to testify on Wednesday: Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryOvernight Energy: Trump formally pulls out of landmark Paris climate pact | EPA to ease rules on waste from coal-fired power plants | States, green groups sue to save Obama lightbulb rules Five takeaways from the first Trump impeachment deposition transcripts States, green groups challenge rollback of Obama-era lightbulb rules MORE; State Department counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl, a top adviser to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoFive things to know about the Sondland, Volker transcripts GOP chairman: Hearing on delayed Ukraine aid should wait until after House inquiry wraps The Hill’s 12:30 Report: What we learned from first impeachment transcripts MORE; and Russell Vought, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
None of the other three are expected to testify.
Brechbuhl boarded a plane heading to Germany with Pompeo earlier Wednesday. Last week, an Energy Department spokeswoman said Perry would not cooperate with the inquiry. And Vought had previously indicated that he did not plan to comply with the House inquiry with a tweet.
And Hale is the first witness to give a deposition this week after a series of witnesses refused to testify, offering various reasons.
Hale’s testimony comes as Democrats are shifting their impeachment investigation — which has been conducted in private for the six weeks since it launched — into the public realm.
As part of that transition, Democrats this week have released the verbatim transcripts of the testimony from some of the previous witnesses. That list includes Yovanovitch; Michael McKinley, a former top advisor to Pompeo; Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerSondland changes quid pro quo story Overnight Defense: Top diplomat changes testimony to indicate quid pro quo | Dem offers measure on Turkish human rights abuses in Syria | Warren offers plan to address veteran suicide rates Graham says he won’t read the Trump impeachment transcripts MORE, former special envoy to Ukraine; and Gordon Sondland, a Trump ally and U.S. ambassador to the European Union.
Most of those witnesses have painted a damning picture of a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine — led by Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiSenate Republicans struggle to coalesce behind an impeachment strategy Sondland changes quid pro quo story Five things to know about the Sondland, Volker transcripts MORE, Trump’s personal lawyer — to pressure Ukrainian leaders to open investigations into Trump’s political opponents. A government whistleblower has taken the narrative a step further, alleging that Trump threatened to withhold U.S. military aid to Ukraine unless the country’s leaders launched those investigations — the accusation at the root of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
Sondland, in his initial deposition on Oct. 17, had denied such a quid pro quo had occurred. On Monday, however, he revised his testimony to acknowledge that he, himself, had delivered the message to Ukrainian leaders that the military aid was “likely” contingent on Ukraine’s willingness to open the investigations Trump had sought.
Democrats have pointed to the revision as new evidence that Trump had abused his office in potentially impeachable ways. The president’s GOP allies, though, have dismissed Sondland’s addendum as the opinion of one witness — and not reflective of Trump’s foreign policy in Ukraine.
They’re pointing to the account of Volker, who told lawmakers that the hold on military aid was “not significant” to U.S.-Ukrainian relations.
Rep. Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryUS diplomat William Taylor willing to testify publicly: report Sondland emerges as key target after Vindman testimony State Dept. official broached Pompeo’s role in Ukraine in new testimony MORE (R-Pa.) suggested Wednesday that Volker is the only truly reliable witness lawmakers have heard from so far. The multiple other witnesses claiming a quid pro quo, he said, were either biased or ill-informed.
“Some were leaving, some were about to leave, some had just come into the situation, some had preconceived notions regardless,” Perry said, as he and Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanRepublicans consider putting Jordan, Meadows on Intelligence for impeachment Republicans look to expand impeachment strategy amid release of transcripts First transcripts reveal deep concern over Giuliani pressure campaign MORE (R-Ohio) headed into Hale’s deposition. “He seems to be the one honest broker in this whole thing.”
Updated at 9:57 a.m.