Schumer urges declassification of letter from Pence aide

Schumer urges declassification of letter from Pence aide
© Greg Nash

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerWhite House preparing to ask Congress for funds to combat coronavirus: report Schumer cites security, DHS ban in questioning TSA use of TikTok Russian interference reports rock Capitol Hill MORE (D-N.Y.) on Thursday called on the White House to declassify and make public a letter from an aide to Vice President Pence that was admitted as evidence in the impeachment trial.

“I’ve seen the supplemental testimony” from Pence aide Jennifer Williams, Schumer told reporters during a break in the trial. “I’m not sure it should be classified. I agree with the House managers to declassify it.”

He declined to comment further because the document was classified. 

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Schumer became just the latest Democrat to push the White House to declassify the mysterious Williams letter. During opening arguments Wednesday night, Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenTop Democrats demand answers on DHS plans to deploy elite agents to sanctuary cities Gillibrand proposes creating new digital privacy agency GOP senator proposes overhauling federal agency to confront Big Tech MORE (D-Calif.), one of the House impeachment managers presenting the case against President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again.' Poll: Sanders leads 2020 Democratic field with 28 percent, followed by Warren and Biden More than 6 in 10 expect Trump to be reelected: poll MORE, urged declassification, declaring that “a cover-up is not a proper reason to classify a document.”

And after viewing the document in a secure Senate briefing room Thursday morning, several Democratic senators demanded the document be declassified.

"There's no reason that it should be kept classified. It should be made public, regardless of which side it helps. The American people should judge," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a former Connecticut attorney general, told reporters.

The one-page document focuses on a Sept. 18 phone call between Pence and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a week before Zelensky met with Trump at the United Nations.

Williams, a special adviser to Pence on Europe and Russia issues, sent the letter to House impeachment investigators after she testified publicly before the House Intelligence Committee in November. During that appearance, Williams described listening in on the now-infamous July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky that prompted a whistleblower complaint against the president and eventually led to his impeachment last month. 

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Senators on Thursday were extremely tight-lipped about the contents of the Williams letter, but many Democrats began reviewing it behind closed doors after a rare deal was struck a day earlier between the two parties to admit it as evidence into the impeachment trial. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts announced the terms of the deal late Wednesday night.

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again.' Trump: Nevada a 'great win' for Sanders Trump's Intel moves spark Democratic fury MORE (D-Calif.), the Intelligence Committee chairman who led the impeachment investigation and now is lead impeachment manager in the trial, has previously stated that declassifying the letter would “provide the public further understanding of the events in question.”

But Trump’s allies are downplaying the significance of the Williams letter. 

“I don’t know that any other documents are going to make a more compelling case for my Democratic colleagues at this point,” said Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsLawmakers grill Census Bureau officials after report on cybersecurity issues Conservative lawmakers warn Pelosi about 'rate-setting' surprise billing fix House GOP leader says reassignment of Vindman was appropriate MORE (R-N.C.), a top Trump defender and surrogate on impeachment who’s been watching the trial. 

“For the vast majority of Americans, it’s time to get this [impeachment] over with.” 

John Kruzel contributed.