Ex-Trump Aide Wants Judge to Decide on Impeachment Testimony - NBC New York
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Ex-Trump Aide Wants Judge to Decide on Impeachment Testimony

The impeachment inquiry continued with a focus on Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of state for Europe

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    U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a question while speaking to members of the media outside of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. Trump had advance knowledge and supported a protest by Republicans who told him they planned to barge into a secure hearing room on Capitol Hill where Democrats are holding impeachment testimonies, according to four people familiar with the matter.

    An ex-White House adviser who's supposed to testify before House impeachment investigators on Monday has asked a federal court whether he should comply with a subpoena or follow President Donald Trump's directive against cooperating in what he dubs a "scam."

    After getting a subpoena Friday, former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman quickly filed suit in U.S. district court in Washington. He asked a judge to decide whether he should accede to House demands for his testimony or to assert "immunity from congressional process" as directed by Trump.

    Kupperman, who provided foreign policy advice to the president, has been called to testify because the impeachment inquiry is rooted in a phone call Trump made to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on July 25. During the call, Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to pursue investigations of Democratic political rival Joe Biden's family and Ukraine's role in the 2016 election that propelled Trump into the White House.

    At the time of the call, Trump was withholding congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine. Trump has repeatedly said there was no quid pro quo for the Ukraine investigations he was seeking, though witness testimony has contradicted that claim.

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    Kupperman said he "cannot satisfy the competing demands of both the legislative and executive branches." Without the court's help, he said, he would have to make the decision himself — one that could "inflict grave constitutional injury" on either Congress or the presidency.

    He has asked the court to expedite a decision, but unless the judge issues an opinion by Monday, Kupperman's testimony might not occur as scheduled.

    On Saturday, Trump tweeted that he's "not concerned with the impeachment scam. I am not because I did nothing wrong."

    The impeachment inquiry continued with a focus on Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of state for Europe, who arrived Saturday on Capitol Hill to testify. Like other witnesses, the Trump administration has directed Reeker not to testify, according to a person familiar with the situation who insisted on anonymity to discuss the interaction. But Reeker appeared anyway after receiving his subpoena from the House, the person said.

    Reeker was not expected to provide any new information to the committees beyond the testimony of previous witnesses, according to a person familiar with the State Department official's role in Ukraine policy. He also was not expected to contradict the previous testimony either, the person said.

    Reeker is the top U.S. diplomat for Europe and has been since his predecessor, Marie Yovanovitch, was recalled from the post in the spring. Reeker, a former ambassador to Macedonia and consul general in Milan, Italy, was not directly involved in the debate over aid to Ukraine. Other current and former officials have said the aid issue was delegated to Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, former U.S. envoy to Ukraine.

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    Volker testified and released text messages that detailed conversations between him, Sondland and Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine. In the messages, Taylor wrote that he thought it was "crazy" to withhold aid from Ukraine for help with a political campaign. Sondland and Taylor, who still work for the government, have already testified and detailed their concerns about the influence of Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on Ukraine. Giuliani was leading the push for the investigations.

    Taylor testified that he was told the aid would be withheld until Ukraine conducted the investigations that Trump had requested.

    AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee and Associated Press Writer Eric Tucker contributed to this report.