WASHINGTON — In the transcript of his closed-door deposition, George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Ukraine, criticized Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, for his comments about Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Kent testified that Giuliani’s “assertions and allegations against former Ambassador Yovanovitch were without basis, untrue, period.”
Kent and Yovanovitch are scheduled to testify next week in the first open hearings in the impeachment inquiry.
Earlier in the day, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., gave Republicans a Saturday deadline to propose witnesses in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
House Republicans must submit a list of proposed witnesses by Saturday morning, Schiff said in a letter Thursday to Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the top Republican on the panel.
“The Committee looks forward to receiving by November 9, within the Resolution’s stipulated deadline, the Minority’s written request for witnesses, and is prepared to consult on proposed witnesses to evaluate their relevance to the inquiry’s scope,” Schiff said in the letter.
Some Republicans have floated the idea of requesting that the anonymous whistleblower testify before the committee. Others have proposed that Schiff himself be required to testify, although the likelihood of that happening appears slim: All witnesses must be approved by Schiff or by a vote of the full committee, on which Democrats hold a majority.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence on Europe and Russia, appeared after being subpoenaed and testified behind closed doors for about five hours as House Democrats prepared to release more transcripts from previous testimony.
In closed-door testimony released Wednesday, William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, said associates of Trump tried to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Former national security adviser John Bolton declined to appear before House investigators on Thursday, according to an Intelligence Committee official, who said Bolton’s attorney said he would have contested a subpoena in court.
“We regret Mr. Bolton’s decision not to appear voluntarily, but we have no interest in allowing the Administration to play rope-a-dope with us in the courts for months. Rather, the White House instruction that he not appear will add to the evidence of the president’s obstruction of Congress,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss closed-door proceedings.
The Post reported earlier Thursday that Bolton was willing to defy the White House and testify in the House impeachment inquiry about his alarm at the Ukraine pressure campaign if a federal court clears the way, according to people familiar with his views.
Trump, meanwhile, complained Thursday morning about a Washington Post report that he wanted Attorney General William Barr to hold a news conference declaring that Trump broke no laws during a July phone call in which he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for the investigations.
Meanwhile, Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., said Democrats should exercise their right to block Republicans from subpoenaing testimony from the whistleblower, hours after Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said his party planned to add that person to their list of impeachment witnesses.
Swalwell told reporters after Thursday’s closed-door testimony that Republican attacks seem designed to “punish the whistleblower, put the whistleblower in harm’s way.”
“I look at the whistleblower like someone who pulled the fire alarm,” he said. “First responders show up, and they see flames, smoke, burning building, an arsonist holding the gasoline can with matches. You don’t really need to know who pulled the fire alarm.”
Swalwell declined to share details from Williams’s interview but said lawmakers have “not heard a single witness yet” provide testimony that undercut allegations of a quid pro quo involving aid dollars, which he called a “defense dollars for dirt” scheme.
“We have not yet seen an arrow going in any direction other than this was a shakedown led by the president of the United States,” he said.
In an exchange with reporters in New Hampshire, Pence defended Trump and maintained that there was “no quid pro quo” with Ukraine, despite the testimony of current and former administration officials in recent weeks.
On Thursday morning, Donald Trump Jr. appeared on ABC’s “The View” with his partner, Kimberly Guilfoyle, on Thursday morning to promote his new book, “Triggered.” But the appearance quickly turned heated after the hosts, led by Abby Huntsman, pressed Trump Jr. on his Wednesday retweet of a Breitbart News article that allegedly named the whistleblower.
Trump Jr. said he “didn’t want to create hysteria” but doesn’t regret sending the tweet, arguing that the identity of the anonymous whistleblower “is not some secret.”
“I don’t regret doing it,” he said. “I don’t think I should have to forgo my First Amendment rights.”
Guilfoyle, a former prosecutor, was asked whether she advised Trump Jr. not to retweet the article. She responded that she was not aware until after he had sent the tweet.
“I left you alone for 10 minutes,” she said. “What happens when mamacita’s gone?”
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The Washington Post’s Elise Viebeck contributed to this report.