Schiff says Pence refusal to declassify aide's testimony 'raises profound questions'

Schiff says Pence refusal to declassify aide's testimony 'raises profound questions'
© Greg Nash

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffFlynn urged Russian diplomat to have 'reciprocal' response to Obama sanctions, new transcripts show The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers MORE (D-Calif.) sent Vice President Pence a letter Tuesday raising concerns about his refusal to declassify parts of the vice president's aide’s congressional testimony.

Schiff cited a letter Pence sent the committee last week refusing to declassify part of the testimony of the vice president's aide, Jennifer Williams. Williams serves as Pence's special adviser on Europe and Russia. 

In the letter to the congressional panel, Pence wrote that he never discussed investigations into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPresidents and 'presidents' Biden to blast Trump's church photo op in Philadelphia speech Rudy Giuliani calls on Cuomo to remove Bill de Blasio MORE or a Ukrainian energy company with Kyiv, probes that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines Priest among those police cleared from St. John's Church patio for Trump visit Trump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with police MORE requested and are now at the heart of the House’s impeachment investigation. 

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However, Schiff was loathe to accept his refusal and reasoning, stating that the vice president's rebuke of the request showed he has deeper knowledge about Trump's dealing with Ukraine. 

“If the Supplemental Submission accurately describes your September 18 conversation with [Ukraine] President [Volodymyr] Zelensky, however, it raises profound questions about your knowledge of the president’s scheme to solicit Ukraine’s interference in the 2020 presidential election,” he wrote, referring to a classified portion of testimony from Williams. 

Schiff also accused Pence of keeping the testimony out of the public eye in order to protect himself and Trump, saying his actions “obstruct” the House’s impeachment inquiry.

“Contrary to your office’s contention that declassification ‘serves no purpose,’ the additional information in the Supplemental Submission is directly relevant to Congress’s consideration of articles of impeachment against President Trump and the Committee’s ongoing investigation of the President’s Ukraine scheme,” Schiff wrote. 

“Furthermore, your unwillingness to declassify the Supplemental Submission raises the serious question of whether your continuing efforts to obstruct the House’s impeachment inquiry are intended not just to protect President Trump, but yourself as well.”

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Schiff first asked Pence to declassify the testimony earlier this month, which revolved around a conversation Pence had with Zelensky that was described as “unusual, and more of a political nature," according to Williams.

The conversation between Pence and Zelensky took place after Schiff revealed that a whistleblower had filed a complaint about a July 25 conversation between Trump and the Ukrainian president about which Williams later expressed concerns.

Schiff seized on the fact that the vice president said last month he has “no objection at all” to releasing information about his call with Zelensky. The Democratic lawmaker claimed in his most recent letter that if the vice president is willing to release the transcripts of these calls, he should have no problem declassifying the details of the Supplemental Submission. 

"Finally, it bears repeating that continued refusal to declassify the information in Ms. Williams' Supplemental Submission would be at odds with your repeated public vows of transparency and claimed willingness to release the full transcripts of your two calls with President Zelensky," he wrote. 

Trump has hammered Williams, saying she’s a “Never Trumper” who has a political agenda.

“Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just released [statement] from Ukraine,” the president tweeted. “Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!”