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Schiff: Pence aide provided new impeachment evidence — but VP’s office classified it

Schiff: Pence aide provided new impeachment evidence — but VP’s office classified it

A national security aide to Vice President Mike Pence submitted additional classified evidence to House impeachment investigators about a phone call between Pence and Ukraine’s president, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff revealed Friday.

In a letter to Pence, Schiff (D-Calif.) asked the vice president to declassify supplemental testimony from the aide, Jennifer Williams, about Pence’s Sept. 18 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, arguing that there is no “legitimate basis” to keep it secret.

“The Office of the Vice President’s decision to classify ‘certain portions’ of the Sept. 18 call … cannot be justified on national security or any other legitimate grounds we can discern,” Schiff wrote to Pence, requesting a response by Dec. 11.

Schiff indicated that Williams recalled the relevant information about Pence’s phone call after her closed-door deposition on Nov. 7 and wished to convey it to impeachment investigators. The letter indicates Williams submitted the supplemental filing on Nov. 26, a week after she testified publicly.

“Having reviewed the supplemental submission, the committee strongly believes that there is no legitimate basis for the Office of the Vice President to assert that the information … is classified,” Schiff added in his letter to Pence, whose office has refused to turn over a slew of documents that investigators requested in October.

Schiff’s letter represents the first sign that House impeachment investigators are still actively pursuing the Ukraine investigation, even after they compiled a 300-page report detailing what Democrats say is a campaign by President Donald Trump to pressure his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate his political rivals.

Schiff has indicated that his panel intends to file “supplemental reports” if investigators obtain new information they believe to be relevant to the impeachment probe.

A House Intelligence Committee official said that while Williams already discussed the phone call in her closed-door deposition and subsequent public testimony, “declassification of this supplemental testimony will allow the Congress to see further corroborative evidence as it considers articles of impeachment, and provide the public further understanding of the events in question.”

An attorney for Williams did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Williams told investigators that she believed Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky — which is at the center of the impeachment inquiry — was “unusual and inappropriate,” echoing concerns from other senior administrations who were troubled by Trump’s request that Zelensky investigate a Ukrainian energy company tied to former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. She also said the call appeared to be “political” in nature.

During her Nov. 7 deposition, Williams testified that on the Sept. 18 call, Pence was simply following up to a Sept. 1 meeting with Zelensky and in advance of a meeting between Trump and Zelensky at the United Nations in New York scheduled for the following week. She described it as a "very positive call" and said there was no mention of any of the investigations that Trump had been asking Zelensky to pursue.

Earlier this week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would move forward with articles of impeachment against the president. The House is expected to vote on those articles before the end of the year.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

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