Pence aide likely to testify in impeachment inquiry

Posted at 6:55 PM, Nov 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-05 18:55:42-05

A senior adviser to Vice President Mike Pence is likely to comply with a request to testify on Thursday in front of the committees leading the impeachment inquiry, multiple sources say.

Jennifer Williams would be the first person on Pence’s national security team to appear and has knowledge of how much the vice president knew about the efforts by President Donald Trump and those around him to push Ukraine to launch investigations into Joe Biden and his son, as well as 2016 election interference, according to a source familiar with her thinking.

Williams, along with other senior administration and national security officials, was listening to the phone call on July 25 in which Trump asked for a “favor” of his newly-elected Ukrainian counterpart, President Volodymyr Zelensky, a White House source says. Trump asked Zelensky to work with his attorney general, William Barr, and personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on investigations after Zelensky said he was ready to proceed with the transfer of US military aid to Ukraine.

Williams, a longtime State Department staffer, is detailed to Pence’s office as special adviser on European and Russian affairs and was one of two Pence aides on the call. The other was Gen. Keith Kellogg, the vice president’s national security adviser, who has not yet been called to testify.

Pence did not listen in, but a transcript of the call was put into Pence’s daily briefing binder, an administration source says.

Lawmakers will look to Williams to explain what Pence knew and when, something the source familiar with Williams’ thinking says she is able to do.

Over a month after the call, Williams traveled with Pence to Warsaw when he stood in for Trump and met with Zelensky on September 1. After that meeting, Pence said they discussed corruption in Ukraine and evaded a question about whether the hold up of almost $400 million in security aid for Ukraine was tied to Giuliani’s efforts to dig up dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden in Ukraine.

Since then, Pence has insisted that Trump did nothing wrong but has not clarified how much he knew about efforts to pressure Ukraine and the parallel Ukraine policy Giuliani and others were leading outside the normal diplomatic and official channels.

The three committees leading the Democrat’s inquiry say Williams is “expected” to testify behind closed doors and sources close to Williams say she is likely to appear. She has hired a lawyer, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Current and former colleagues have heaped praise on Williams, with one White House official saying: “She is the most professional person in this building.”

The official noted that Williams had recently worked with Pence on negotiating the ceasefire between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish forces. Until Williams joined Pence’s staff, she was a spokesperson for several years at the US embassy in London, according to her LinkedIn profile. She also held posts at the embassies in Beirut, Lebanon and Kingston, Jamaica.

“Jen is the type of person who I know to be dedicated to the institution above anything else,” said Brett Bruen, the former Director of Global Engagement at the White House under President Barack Obama.

She comes from the cadre of diplomats “who are not going to be easily intimidated or hold back information,” Bruen added. “She is someone who is pretty tough and has had tough assignments that have steeled her to the kind of pressure and the intimidation tactics that have been used against others.”

CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to more precisely reflect Williams’ role.