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Some key witnesses expected to testify publicly this week

Eight high-ranking officials, some with first-hand knowledge of President Trump’s conversations about Ukraine, are expected to testify in public hearings this week before the House Intelligence Committee in the ongoing impeachment inquiry. Emily Bazelon, staff writer at The New York Times Magazine, joins Karina Mitchell for more.

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  • Karina Mitchell:

    For more on what's ahead in the impeachment inquiry and the continuing showdown between congressional committees and the White House, Emily Bazelon, a staff writer for The New York Times magazine, joins us now from New Haven, Connecticut.

    Emily, thank you so much for being here. We're heading into the second week of testimony, but it comes after some argue week one didn't really deliver the fireworks Democrats promised from their star witnesses. Who do you think is going to be key to hear from this week in helping them make their case for impeachment?

  • Emily Bazelon:

    You know, I think this is like a mosaic. And each witness is filling in a different part of the picture for us. One really key witness that I think everyone is waiting to hear from again is Gordon Sondland. He is President Trump's appointee to be the ambassador for the European Union.

    So Sondland had this conversation with President Trump in which, according to another official, David Holmes, Sondland told President Trump that, no worries, Ukraine was going to do the investigating, the providing of presumably false information about the Bidens that Trump was requesting. So, I think we're going to see Sondland to try to figure out how to handle a report of a phone call, which could get him in a lot of trouble because he omitted it when he testified before Congress previously.

  • Karina Mitchell:

    Do you think that is possible Gordon Sondland doesn't testify? He'll definitely find himself in the hot seat, as you say.

  • Emily Bazelon:

    It's possible that he could plead the fifth, as we say, because if he has lied to Congress, that's a crime. We just saw another Trump associate, Roger Stone, be convicted of that crime on Friday. I would imagine, though, that it is in Sondland's best interest to try to clean this up. And the question will be, does that mean that he further implicates President Trump directly in this effort to pressure Ukraine?

  • Karina Mitchell:

    Yeah, it will be very interesting to see which way he goes. How do you think transcripts released yesterday from Tim Morrison and Penn's staffer, Jennifer Williams, both set to testify on Tuesday, tie in to all of this case that the Democrats are trying to make?

  • Emily Bazelon:

    You know, I think with Morrison and Williams, what you see is dismay on the part of these professionals in the State Department and the National Security Council. They're trying to run the regular agreed-upon policy in Ukraine.

    And they're getting a lot of interference and feedback from this irregular policy channel that Giuliani was running. And so they're filling in some of the details of this kind of end run around the policy making that the regular government was trying to pursue.

  • Karina Mitchell:

    What do you think the end game for Adam Schiff and Democrats is with all of this and the overarching role of Congress here to investigate when the executive branch says, it can't be investigated?

  • Emily Bazelon:

    Well, the Trump administration has taken a very unusual position in having a blanket refusal to allow anyone from the government to testify. Now, obviously, we have nonetheless had a parade of witnesses, but all of those people are testifying despite a direct order from the White House and this very unusual decision by the Trump administration to try to block all testimony that really flies in the face of Congress's responsibilities and and authority to investigate the executive branch.

    There are institutional interests at play here: Congress versus the president. And then there are partisan interests at play: Republicans versus Democrats. And we're seeing the Republicans in Congress seem to focus only on the partisan interests and not at all on their institutional prerogatives. And that is weakening Congress.

  • Karina Mitchell:

    We'll see how the very busy week ahead plays out. Emily Bazelon, thank you so much.

  • Emily Bazelon:

    Thanks for having me.

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