White House officials refusing to testify Monday

White House officials refusing to testify Monday
© Greg Nash

Two White House officials subpoenaed to testify as part of the Democrats' impeachment inquiry declined to appear at the Capitol on Monday morning, and two others are also expected to be no-shows later in the day.

John Eisenberg, senior attorney at the National Security Council (NSC), and Robert Blair, senior adviser to acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOn The Money: House panel pulls Powell into partisan battles | New York considers hiking taxes on the rich | Treasury: Trump's payroll tax deferral won't hurt Social Security Blockchain trade group names Mick Mulvaney to board Mick Mulvaney to start hedge fund MORE, were scheduled to testify at 9 a.m as part of the ongoing investigation into President TrumpDonald John TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance MORE's dealings with Ukraine.

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Democrats had also sought the testimony of two other figures Monday afternoon: Michael Ellis, one of Eisenberg's deputies, and Brian McCormack, associate director for natural resources, energy and science at the Office of Management and Budget.

Lawmakers leaving the closed-door deposition room in the Capitol said they were informed by staff that none of the figures will likely appear.

"It seems like a blanket position that they're taking," said Rep. Stephen LynchStephen Francis LynchOvernight Defense: Pentagon redirects pandemic funding to defense contractors | US planning for full Afghanistan withdrawal by May | Anti-Trump GOP group puts ads in military papers Official: Pentagon has started 'prudent planning' for full Afghanistan withdrawal by May Overnight Defense: Dems divided on length of stopgap spending measure | Afghan envoy agrees to testify before House panel | Trump leans into foreign policy in campaign's final stretch MORE (D-Mass.), a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee. "They will notify us, but right now it's our expectation that no one will show today."

The no-shows come at the start of the sixth week of the Democrats' impeachment probe, which was launched following allegations from a government whistleblower that Trump had withheld U.S. military aid to Ukraine as leverage to secure political favors from that country's leaders.

In a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a rough transcript of which was released by the White House, Trump had asked Zelensky to launch an anti-corruption investigation into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Fox News poll: Biden ahead of Trump in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio MORE and his son. Biden is among the leading presidential contenders in 2020, and the whistleblower voiced concerns that Trump was seeking to enlist foreign help to boost his reelection chances.

Eisenberg was reportedly the figure responsible for moving the transcript of the July 25 call to a classified server after hearing concerns from another figure in the Ukraine saga, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the NSC's director for European affairs.

Vindman, who was on the controversial phone call, testified privately last week that he felt it was inappropriate for Trump to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival. Along with his twin brother, another NSC official, Vindman took those concerns to Eisenberg. Ellis sat in on that meeting, according to various reports.

As the investigation has evolved, Trump and his GOP allies in the Capitol are increasingly calling for the identity of the whistleblower to be revealed, voicing concerns — without providing any evidence — that the figure is an anti-Trump Democrat motivated more by politics than patriotism.

"The Whistleblower gave false information & dealt with corrupt politician Schiff," Trump tweeted.

"He must be brought forward to testify. Written answers not acceptable! Where is the 2nd Whistleblower? He disappeared after I released the transcript. Does he even exist? Where is the informant? Con!"

The whistleblower's lawyers have offered their client's testimony in written form, but Republicans are, so far, cold to the idea.

"Why should Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff claims DHS is blocking whistleblower's access to records before testimony GOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power Rubio on peaceful transfer of power: 'We will have a legitimate & fair election' MORE get to call his witnesses and have them come in and testify within a back-and-forth dialog, and yet the whistleblower is supposedly only going to answer questions in a written format?" Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsAnxious Democrats amp up pressure for vote on COVID-19 aid Pelosi hopeful COVID-19 relief talks resume 'soon' The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - GOP closes ranks to fill SCOTUS vacancy by November MORE (R-N.C.), a member of the Oversight panel, told repeaters in the Capitol Monday morning. "The statute does not provide for the whistleblower to remain anonymous."