Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives have submitted a list of witnesses they want to testify in the Democrat-led House impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, and it includes former Vice President Joe Biden’s son and the anonymous whistleblower whose allegations triggered the inquiry.
The ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes of California, sent the list Saturday to committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California, who is unlikely to approve all of the witnesses on it.
Investigators enter a new phase next week when they begin publicly questioning witnesses after weeks of closed-door testimony.
Schiff said three State Department witnesses are scheduled to appear in two hearings next week. U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor and career department official George Kent are to testify Wednesday, and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is to appear Friday.
The Republican request to have Biden’s son Hunter, the whistleblower and six other people testify intensifies the political battle between Republicans and Democrats to shape the narrative of the probe.
In the past week alone, a dozen Trump administration figures, including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, declined to appear before congressional investigators.
Democrats want to know if Trump withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to get President Volodomyr Zelenskiy to publicly commit himself to investigating Joe Biden, a potential Trump rival in the 2020 presidential election, for corruption. Trump also has repeated an unfounded claim that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Democrats and their candidate, Hillary Clinton.
The whistleblower complaint alleges Trump pressured Zelenskiy, during a July 25 phone call, to investigate Biden and his son.
Trump said Saturday that he would likely release a transcript of a second call with Zelenskiy on Tuesday.
“We have another transcript coming out which is very important,” Trump said. “I will give you a second transcript, because I had two calls with the president of Ukraine.”
Trump said Friday that he was “not concerned about anything” when asked about the impeachment inquiry.
Trump’s comments came hours after House Democrats released new transcripts from two national security officials who testified last month behind closed doors about the president, offering new details beyond what had previously been disclosed.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine expert on the National Security Council who listened to Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelenskiy, said “there was no doubt” that Trump wanted Ukraine to launch investigations into political rivals, according to a transcript of his deposition.
House investigators also released a transcript of the deposition of former National Security Council official Fiona Hill, who also voiced concerns about the Republican president’s efforts to prod Ukraine to investigate Democrats.
Hill described Bolton as being angry about the administration’s political maneuvers, and she told of his efforts to distance himself from them.
On Thursday, House investigators released the transcript of the deposition of Kent. In his closed-door testimony, the deputy assistant secretary of state said Trump wanted Zelenskiy to stand at a microphone and say three words: investigations, Biden and Clinton.
Kent said the words Trump wanted to hear from Zelenskiy were relayed to Kent by others in the administration who dealt directly with Trump.
“That was the message — Zelenskiy needed to go to a microphone, and basically there needed to be three words in the message, and that was the shorthand,” Kent was quoted as saying.
Trump has described his telephone call with Zelenskiy as “perfect,” and has accused Democrats of conducting a witch hunt, calling the impeachment inquiry a hoax.
The president fiercely denies seeking any quid pro quo with Ukraine.
While some of Trump’s Republican supporters are finding it hard to defend his actions, they say they do not believe his request for an investigation into the Bidens is an impeachable offense that could lead to his removal from office.