Top State Department official arrives to testify in impeachment probe

A senior State Department official arrived in the Capitol on Wednesday to testify in the Democrats' impeachment investigation, bucking a White House that has vowed to offer no cooperation in the fast-moving inquiry.

David Hale, the under secretary of State for political affairs, is expected to provide insights into the campaign by President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Warren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes MORE and some of his allies to remove Marie Yovanovitch from her post as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine — a move that infuriated many department veterans, who have expressed concerns that the agency's top brass did too little to protect a career diplomat from White House interference. 

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Hale, a career dilplomat, arrived in the Capitol shortly before the start of Wednesday’s 9 a.m. deposition in the Capitol basement, where the three House committees leading the impeachment investigation — Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs — have been conducting their closed-door interviews.

Democrats leading the inquiry have invited three other administration officials to testify on Wednesday: Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryOvernight Energy: Trump officials suspend oil, gas production on Utah plots after lawsuit | California bucks Trump on lightbulb rollback | Scientists join Dems in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule GOP counsel acknowledges 'irregular channel' between U.S. and Ukraine Live coverage: House holds first public impeachment hearing MORE; State Department counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl, a top adviser to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoProtests serve as backdrop to Erdoğan's visit to White House Chris Wallace: Taylor testimony 'very damaging to President Trump' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democrats open televised impeachment hearings MORE; and Russell Vought, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

None of the other three are expected to testify.

Brechbuhl boarded a plane heading to Germany with Pompeo earlier Wednesday. Last week, an Energy Department spokeswoman said Perry would not cooperate with the inquiry. And Vought had previously indicated that he did not plan to comply with the House inquiry with a tweet.

And Hale is the first witness to give a deposition this week after a series of witnesses refused to testify, offering various reasons.

Hale’s testimony comes as Democrats are shifting their impeachment investigation — which has been conducted in private for the six weeks since it launched — into the public realm.

As part of that transition, Democrats this week have released the verbatim transcripts of the testimony from some of the previous witnesses. That list includes Yovanovitch; Michael McKinley, a former top advisor to Pompeo; Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerGOP counsel acknowledges 'irregular channel' between U.S. and Ukraine The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democrats open televised impeachment hearings READ: William Taylor's opening statement at impeachment hearing MORE, former special envoy to Ukraine; and Gordon Sondland, a Trump ally and U.S. ambassador to the European Union. 

Most of those witnesses have painted a damning picture of a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine — led by Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiSenate GOP waves Trump off early motion to dismiss impeachment charges Key takeaways from first public impeachment hearing Diplomat ties Trump closer to Ukraine furor MORE, Trump’s personal lawyer — to pressure Ukrainian leaders to open investigations into Trump’s political opponents. A government whistleblower has taken the narrative a step further, alleging that Trump threatened to withhold U.S. military aid to Ukraine unless the country’s leaders launched those investigations — the accusation at the root of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

Sondland, in his initial deposition on Oct. 17, had denied such a quid pro quo had occurred. On Monday, however, he revised his testimony to acknowledge that he, himself, had delivered the message to Ukrainian leaders that the military aid was “likely” contingent on Ukraine’s willingness to open the investigations Trump had sought. 

Democrats have pointed to the revision as new evidence that Trump had abused his office in potentially impeachable ways. The president’s GOP allies, though, have dismissed Sondland’s addendum as the opinion of one witness — and not reflective of Trump’s foreign policy in Ukraine.

They’re pointing to the account of Volker, who told lawmakers that the hold on military aid was “not significant” to U.S.-Ukrainian relations. 

Rep. Scott PerryScott Gordon PerryHouse Republicans prepare for public impeachment proceedings with mock hearing Taylor testimony shows concern about Giuliani influence, 'irregular' foreign policy channel House to hold public impeachment hearings next week MORE (R-Pa.) suggested Wednesday that Volker is the only truly reliable witness lawmakers have heard from so far. The multiple other witnesses claiming a quid pro quo, he said, were either biased or ill-informed. 

“Some were leaving, some were about to leave, some had just come into the situation, some had preconceived notions regardless,” Perry said, as he and Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanGraham says Schiff should be a witness in Trump impeachment trial Democrats seize on new evidence in first public impeachment hearing House Republicans call impeachment hearing 'boring,' dismiss Taylor testimony as hearsay MORE (R-Ohio) headed into Hale’s deposition. “He seems to be the one honest broker in this whole thing.”

Updated at 9:57 a.m.