Democrats accuse White House of wrongly concealing evidence about Pence that supports the impeachment case

Democrats accuse White House of wrongly concealing evidence about Pence that supports the impeachment case
Vice President Mike Pence arrives at Joint Base Andrews Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ahead of their departure to Turkey. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

Democratic lawmakers accused the White House of improperly classifying a piece of impeachment evidence related to Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday.


That evidence, from Pence aide Jennifer Williams, has been the subject of a dispute between the House impeachment investigators and the vice president. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff has said that "there is no legitimate basis for the Office of Vice President to assert that the information" relating to a Sept. 18 call Pence had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky should be classified, but it remains undisclosed to the public.

As I explained in December:

Though the vice president’s office, along with the rest of the administration, has stonewalled the impeachment inquiry’s requests for documents, Schiff’s committee obtained information about the Sept. 18 call through Jennifer Williams, a Pence aide who has already testified. Initially, Schiff explained, Williams testified about Pence’s call and did not assert that any part of it was classified. When she testified publicly, however, she said Pence’s office had since determined that the call was classified. She later sent the committee a “supplemental submission” after reviewing “materials” that refreshed her memory about the call — and it’s that supplemental submission that Schiff would like to see declassified.

Chief Justice John Roberts allowed the material to be entered into the record for the Senate trial, but it has to be kept concealed from the public because of its supposedly sensitive nature. But when Senate Democrats got the chance to review the materials behind closed doors, they were baffled by the classification, as Politico reported.

“It highly corroborates the case that Chairman Schiff has been making and exhibits no apparent reason that it should be classified,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said. He added that someone from the administration should testify about how the information came to be classified.

"I have no idea why they wanted to classify it,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said.

But it was Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), an impeachment manager prosecuting the case against Trump in the Senate, who took the strongest line against the administration. She said the decision to classify the materials was a cover-up.

Officials must have a legitimate reason to classify materials. As Schiff told Pence's office, in “no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified” for reasons of embarrassment or illegality.

Pence has previously claimed he would have no problem with the details of the Sept. 18 call becoming public.

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