Top Trump officials are obligated to give impeachment testimony — and their refusal to do so is damning

Top Trump officials are obligated to give impeachment testimony — and their refusal to do so is damning
Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

Russia expert and former White House national security aide Dr. Fiona Hill was taking no prisoners with her testimony during Thursday's impeachment hearings. "I believe that those who have information that the Congress deems relevant have a legal and moral obligation to provide it," she wrote in her opening statement, noting she was simply there as a nonpartisan "fact witness."

But it's hard to read Hill's words without imagining they are at least partially aimed at her erstwhile boss, former White House national security adviser John Bolton, who appears to want some sort of judicial fig leaf ordering him to honor a lawful congressional subpoena. Bolton has largely been viewed as someone who wants to tell his story and has crucial information about his interactions with Donald Trump and others in regard to Ukraine. He also ordered two of his deputies, including Hill, to report certain instances that seemed improper to White House lawyers.

But when Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland testified Wednesday, he cast at least some doubt on how angelic Bolton's role was. Bolton clearly knew that something about Trump's actions was amiss and it's unclear that he really did anything concrete to put an end to it. The same goes for other Trump officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (who listened to the July 25 call), acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney (who put the freeze on security funding to Ukraine), Vice President Mike Pence (who engaged with top Ukraine officials, received briefing materials on Trump's improper dealings, and was cc'd on important emails), and Energy Secretary Rick Perry (who headed a key delegation to Ukraine, implemented policy, and conversed with Rudy Giuliani about Trump's Ukraine policy).

Following Sondland's testimony, several of those top aides released statements denying his characterization of their involvement in the scandal. Frankly, they can all stick it where the sun don't shine. If they have something to say that's exculpatory for them or for Trump, they can come forward and do what numerous career professionals have now done: testify. Indeed, three of Bolton's aides on the National Security Council have done just that—Dr. Hill, Tim Morrison, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. And yet Bolton sits on the sidelines suggesting that he has critical information but refusing to share it with the American people.

It is absolutely disgraceful. These are Trump's top officials, working at the highest levels of U.S. government. As Hill points out, it is both their legal and patriotic duty to offer what they know about Trump's conduct, particularly because it involves U.S. national security and election integrity. Republicans can't claim Trump has been exonerated while all of his top officials have ignored either queries or lawful subpoenas for their cooperation and testimony. Likewise, their refusal to step forward and tell Americans what they know is equal parts shameful and damning. Their glaring and conspicuous absence during these impeachment proceedings means only one thing: They are all complicit in a cover up. If that weren't true, they would have run to the microphones to tell their stories.

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