House committees begin releasing transcripts from closed-door impeachment testimonies

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On Monday, three House committees leading the impeachment investigation into President Trump released transcripts from closed-door interviews with ex-US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and former State Department official Michael McKinley.

The Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs panels released transcripts of hours-long hearings they held with former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and Michael McKinley, a former top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Yovanovitch and McKinley are just two of several current and former Trump administration officials who been summoned to testify as part of the impeachment inquiry, which was formalized through a House resolution last week. Yovanovitch was recalled early from her post in the spring, and McKinley resigned in part over the lack of support for her among State Department officials.

The top Democrats on the committees leading the inquiry said the testimony of both diplomats highlighted the “contamination” of American foreign policy by allies of the president who sought to create an “irregular back channel” to accomplish Mr. Trump’s personal and political objectives.

“As we move towards this new public phase of the impeachment inquiry, the American public will begin to see for themselves the evidence that the committees have collected,” Representatives Adam Schiff, Eliot Engel and Carolyn Maloney said in a statement. “With each new interview, we learn more about the President’s attempt to manipulate the levers of power to his personal political benefit.”

The lawmakers said the testimony shows the president and his top aides relied on “public falsehoods and smears” to oust Yovanovitch from her post in Ukraine earlier this year.

Although there were efforts to mount public support for Yovanovitch within the diplomatic community, the committee chairs said the released testimonies showed that senior State Department officials feared that the president could’ve stepped in and undermined their efforts.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has concluded that high-level presidential advisers have “absolute immunity” from congressional subpoenas for their testimony, according to a letter sent Sunday.

In the letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone, Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel said John Eisenberg, a White House attorney who was scheduled to be deposed Monday morning, was under no obligation to comply with the subpoena.

“You have asked whether the Committee may compel Mr. Eisenberg to testify,” Engel wrote in the letter, dated November 3. “We conclude that he is absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony in his capacity as a senior adviser to the President.”

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