- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2019

House Democrats embark Tuesday on a busy three days of impeachment hearings, bringing nine key players to Capitol Hill in hopes of eliciting damning evidence against President Trump.

Testimony that is billed as the most consequential yet in the impeachment probe will kick off with four officials facing the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that is conducting the hearings.

Alexander Vindman, a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who serves as the director for European Affairs on the National Security Council, will testify Tuesday morning.

He has voiced concerns about Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which was the impetus for the whistleblower’s complaint that launched the impeachment inquiry.

Lt. Col Vindman, a decorated soldier, is viewed by Democrats as adding military credibility to allegations that Mr. Trump risked national security for political gain when he pushed for a corruption probe targeting political rival Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

“I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications to the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine,” he said in his closed-door deposition. “This would all undermine U.S. national security.”

Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, is scheduled to testify alongside Lt. Col. Vindman. She was on the July 25 call and has told lawmakers she thought it was “inappropriate” and politically motivated for Mr. Trump to seek an investigation of the Bidens and their connections to Burisma Holdings, a Ukraine energy company allegedly involved in corruption.

Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, is scheduled to testify Tuesday afternoon. He is a witness Republican lawmakers are eager to hear from because he was advising Ukrainian officials about how to navigate the president’s request.

Alongside Mr. Volker, Tim Morrison also will appear as a witness requested by Republicans. Mr. Morrison served as an adviser to Mr. Trump on Russian and European matters. He said in closed-door testimony to the inquiry that he did not see anything illegal with the president’s July 25 call, though he worried about political consequences in Washington if it leaked.

The week’s blockbuster hearing is expected on Wednesday when Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland faces the inquiry.

Mr. Sondland is at the center of the case that Mr. Trump withheld $391 million of military aid withheld from Ukraine until its leaders opened a probe of the Bidens — an alleged quid pro quo deal Democrats say amounts to bribery.

The ambassador is a key go-between for Mr. Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. He has said that the financial aid to Ukraine appeared to be contingent on the Biden investigation.

House Democrats are interested in Mr. Sondland’s conversations with officials in Ukraine and what exactly the president ordered him to say.

Mr. Sondland will testify Wednesday morning. In the afternoon, the committee will hear from Defense Department official Laura Cooper and State Department official David Hale.

Ms. Cooper is expected to describe how the aid was released to Ukraine in September and details surrounding the delay, which lasted about two months.

Mr. Hale likely will be quizzed about the president’s lack of support for former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who the administration removed from her post in May.

Ms. Yovanovitch testified last week she believed the president’s private attorney Rudolph W. Guiliani orchestrated a smear campaign to force her out and clear the way for the Ukraine probe of the Bidens.

On Thursday, Fiona Hill and David Holmes are scheduled to testify.

Ms. Hill, who served as a National Security Council expert on European affairs, told lawmakers behind closed doors that Mr. Giuliani had pushed conspiracy theories about Ukraine.

Mr. Holmes, a State Department aid, has claimed he overheard a phone call in which Mr. Trump admitted his preoccupation with Ukraine investigating the Bidens.

House Democrats added Mr. Holmes to the witness list Monday. His name first came up in a public hearing last week, prompting the committee to bring him in for a closed-door hearing Friday.

Mr. Holmes told lawmakers that he was in a restaurant with Mr. Sondland and overheard a phone call between Mr. Sondland and Mr. Trump.

According to his prepared opening statement for the interview, he heard Mr. Trump ask whether Mr. Zelensky would launch the investigation of the Bidens.

He said he could hear Mr. Trump say, “So, he’s going to do the investigation?”

Mr. Sondland responded that Mr. Zelensky “loves your a—” and would do “anything you ask him to.”

House Democrats view Mr. Homes’s testimony as key evidence that Mr. Trump’s policies in Ukraine were completely self-serving.

The restaurant phone call occurred a day after Mr. Trump’s July 25 phone call with Mr. Zelensky.

Mr. Sondland also can expect to be grilled about the restaurant call with Mr. Trump.

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