A top U.S. State Department official on Wednesday appeared before the impeachment probe into President Donald Trump, the first witness to show up this week after a string of administration officials refused to meet with investigators.
David Hale, who was appointed by Trump as under secretary for political affairs, met behind closed doors with lawmakers who are leading the probe of Trump in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.
More details in the impeachment inquiry are expected to be released on Wednesday, a day after transcripts revealed a top Trump donor-turned-diplomat reversed course and told investigators Ukrainian aid was tied to investigations of political rivals sought by the U.S. president.
On Tuesday, publicly released transcripts showed U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland had returned to give lawmakers new details after his memory was “refreshed,” corroborating other witnesses who said Trump sought to pressure the Ukrainians into launching investigations that appeared aimed at boosting his 2020 re-election campaign.
House Democrats leading the inquiry are expected to release more transcripts on Wednesday, but have not yet said which accounts they will issue as the fast-moving probe marches toward televised public hearings.
Additional witnesses have also been called to testify, but some are likely to heed the White House and refuse to cooperate in the probe, which centers around Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asking him to investigate former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Joe Biden is a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to run against Trump, a Republican, in the November 2020 election. Hunter Biden was on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, which had been investigated for corruption. Both have denied any impropriety.
Trump has blasted the House inquiry as a witch hunt and accused Democrats of unfairly targeting him in hope of reversing his surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election.
Democrats have defended the investigation, citing concerns that the president misused his public office for personal gain.
“It’s clear abuse of presidential power. It cannot be OK in our country for a United States president – any president – to go to a foreign leader and ask for help in his election. It’s wrong,” Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat on the House intelligence panel, told MSNBC on Wednesday.
Top Trump administration officials are expected to be no-shows on Wednesday for the impeachment inquiry by congressional Democrats, who will continue to release more transcripts of the testimony they have already gathered.
The fast-moving inquiry, so far conducted behind closed doors, became more public this week after congressional investigators began releasing hundreds of pages of testimony.
Lawmakers are expected to release more transcripts on Wednesday, but have not said which accounts they will make public.
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