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House Committees Subpoena More Career Diplomats In Impeachment Inquiry


The case for obstruction of Congress continues to mount. That's the conclusion of Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff spoke to reporters this evening, saying the committee is learning about the context for President Trump's phone call with the president of Ukraine.


ADAM SCHIFF: We have learned that call was not in isolation. There was a great deal of preparatory work that was done before the call. There was a lot of follow-up work that was done after the call.

SHAPIRO: The committees leading the impeachment inquiry have been busy over the last week. They heard from a former top White House adviser yesterday. Today a current diplomat answered questions behind closed doors.


All right. Well, let's talk about some of the people who are being called in behind those closed doors. NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen joins me now.

Hey, Michele.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Hi there, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So start with Fiona Hill. She is the top staffer from the White House, this key staffer on the National Security Council who I referenced. She left the administration over the summer. What did the committee learn from her?

KELEMEN: Well, we know only bits and pieces that have leaked out, and that's one of the things the Republicans are complaining about. But what we do know is that she raised concerns about Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and the Trump donor who's now the ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland. Those two seem to have the president's ear on Ukraine and were carrying out kind of a parallel foreign policy. Hill, we're told, described a tense meeting between Sondland, the EU ambassador, and national security adviser John Bolton about this in July. And Sondland also has been subpoenaed to testify on Thursday, so the committee will hear his side of that.

KELLY: Will hear his side - what about the other person you just mentioned, John Bolton, who's also since left the administration? The former national security adviser, will he be called?

KELEMEN: I would be surprised if he's not called at this point, given that his name was highly mentioned in this testimony yesterday.

KELLY: Are we getting anywhere, Michele, on what has emerged as one of the central questions of this inquiry - whether President Trump withheld military aid to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt about the president's political rivals?

KELEMEN: Well, it's hard to say. I mean, Hill, for instance, was out of the picture by the time Trump had that controversial call with the new Ukrainian president, so she wouldn't have been able to speak to that. I know her kind of as this straight shooter, someone who is planning only to talk about the meetings and - that she was a part of, things that she saw. I know one other thing that she did raise was her concerns about how the U.S. ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, was abruptly withdrawn in May after facing a smear campaign by Giuliani.

KELLY: All right. You're bringing us up to today's deposition. This is another career State Department official, someone who served just under Yovanovitch in Kyiv, on the Hill today. Who is he? And what does he add to this picture?

KELEMEN: So he's Deputy Secretary of State George Kent. He's a career diplomat, also an expert on the region. Before becoming No. 2 at the embassy, he was the anti-corruption coordinator for the State Department's European bureau. And I'm told, in that role, you know, he tried to get Ukrainian prosecutors to cooperate in a case in the U.K. involving the head of Burisma. That's this gas company that later put Vice President Joe Biden's son on the board. That case fell apart because the Ukrainians did not cooperate. Kent was the deputy chief of mission until last year. He's also a big defender of Yovanovitch. Leaked emails show him pushing back at some of the allegations that were made against her, calling one of them, quote, "complete poppycock."

KELLY: I want to add one more name to our list for people trying to keep track of everyone testifying or up next to testify. That is Michael McKinley, who resigned just last week - he - from the State Department.

KELEMEN: That's right. I mean, he was a top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He resigned from that post, and he retired. He told his colleagues it was a personal decision - that after a 37-year career, he was ready to go. But it does come at this time when foreign service officers who pride themselves on being nonpartisan really feel under attack in the department. So there's - you know, he could shed some light about that.

KELLY: One more witness testifying to watch for. That is NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen.

Thank you, Michele.

KELEMEN: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.