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Pelosi Invites Trump to Testify        11/18 06:55

   Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited President Donald Trump to 
testify in front of investigators in the House impeachment inquiry ahead of a 
week that will see several key witnesses appear publicly.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited President 
Donald Trump to testify in front of investigators in the House impeachment 
inquiry ahead of a week that will see several key witnesses appear publicly.

   Pushing back against accusations from the president that the process has 
been stacked against him, Pelosi said Trump is welcome to appear or answer 
questions in writing, if he chooses.

   "If he has information that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, 
culpable, blame, then we look forward to seeing it," she said in an interview 
that aired Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." Trump "could come right before the 
committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants if he wants," she said.

   Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer echoed that suggestion.

   "If Donald Trump doesn't agree with what he's hearing, doesn't like what 
he's hearing, he shouldn't tweet. He should come to the committee and testify 
under oath. And he should allow all those around him to come to the committee 
and testify under oath," Schumer told reporters. He said the White House's 
insistence on blocking witnesses from cooperating begs the question: "What is 
he hiding?"

   The comments come as the House Intelligence Committee prepares for a second 
week of public hearings as part of its inquiry, including with the man who is 
arguably the most important witness. Gordon Sondland, Trump's ambassador to the 
European Union, is among the only people interviewed to date who had direct 
conversations with the Republican president about the situation because the 
White House has blocked others from cooperating with what it dismisses as a 
sham investigation. And testimony suggests he was intimately involved in 
discussions that are at the heart of the investigation into whether Trump held 
up U.S. military aid to Ukraine to try to pressure the country's president to 
announce an investigation into Democrats, including former Vice President Joe 
Biden, a leading 2020 candidate, and Biden's son Hunter.

   Multiple witnesses overheard a phone call in which Trump and Sondland 
reportedly discussed efforts to push for the investigations. In private 
testimony to impeachment investigators made public Saturday, Tim Morrison, a 
former National Security Council aide and longtime Republican defense hawk, 
said Sondland told him he was discussing Ukraine matters directly with Trump.

   Morrison said Sondland and Trump had spoken approximately five times between 
July 15 and Sept. 11 --- the weeks that $391 million in U.S. assistance was 
withheld from Ukraine before it was released.

   And he recounted that Sondland told a top Ukrainian official in a meeting 
that the vital U.S. military assistance might be freed up if the country's top 
prosecutor "would go to the mike and announce that he was opening the Burisma 
investigation." Burisma is the gas company that hired Hunter Biden.

   Morrison's testimony contradicted much of what Sondland told congressional 
investigators during his own closed-door deposition, which the ambassador later 
amended.

   Trump has said he has no recollection of the overheard call and has 
suggested he barely knew Sondland, a wealthy donor to his 2016 campaign. But 
Democrats are hoping he sheds new light on the discussions.

   "I'm not going to try to prejudge his testimony," Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., 
said on "Fox News Sunday." But he suggested, "it was not lost on Ambassador 
Sondland what happened to the president's close associate Roger Stone for lying 
to Congress, to Michael Cohen for lying to Congress. My guess is that 
Ambassador Sondland is going to do his level best to tell the truth, because 
otherwise he may have a very unpleasant legal future in front of him."

   The committee also will be interviewing a long list of others. On Tuesday, 
it'll hear from Morrison along with Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice 
President Mike Pence, Alexander Vindman, the director for European affairs at 
the National Security Council, and Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy 
to Ukraine.

   On Wednesday the committee will hear from Sondland in addition to Laura 
Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, and David Hale, a State 
Department official. And on Thursday, Fiona Hill, a former top NSC staffer for 
Europe and Russia, will appear.

   Trump, meanwhile, continued to tweet and retweet a steady stream of 
commentary from supporters as he bashed "The Crazed, Do Nothing Democrats" for 
"turning Impeachment into a routine partisan weapon."

   "That is very bad for our Country, and not what the Founders had in 
mind!!!!" he wrote.

   He also tweeted a doctored video exchange between Rep. Adam Schiff, the 
Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Republican Rep. Jim 
Jordan, in which Schiff said he did not know the identity of the whistleblower 
whose complaint triggered the inquiry. The clip has been altered to show Schiff 
wearing a referee's uniform and loudly blowing a whistle.

   In her CBS interview, Pelosi vowed to protect the whistleblower, whom Trump 
has said should be forced to come forward despite longstanding whistleblower 
protections.

   "I will make sure he does not intimidate the whistleblower," Pelosi said.

   Trump has been under fire for his treatment of one of the witnesses, the 
former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump criticized by tweet 
as she was testifying last week.

   That attack prompted accusations of witness intimidation from Democrats and 
even some criticism from Republicans, who have been largely united in their 
defense of Trump

   "I think, along with most people, I find the president's tweet generally 
unfortunate," said Ohio Republican Rep. Mike Turner on CNN's "State of the 
Union."

   Still, he insisted that tweets were "certainly not impeachable and it's 
certainly not criminal. And it's certainly not witness intimidation," even if 
Yovanovitch said she felt intimidated by the attacks.

   Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said Trump "communicates in ways that sometimes 
I wouldn't," but dismissed the significance of the attacks.

   "If your basis for impeachment is going to include a tweet, that shows how 
weak the evidence for that impeachment is," he said on ABC's "This Week."

   And the backlash didn't stop Trump from lashing out at yet another witness, 
this time Pence aide Williams. He directed her in a Sunday tweet to "meet with 
the other Never Trumpers, who I don't know & mostly never even heard of, & work 
out a better presidential attack!"


(KR)

 
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