A former White House aide and deputy to John Bolton refused to turn up to testify before Congress on Monday as he is waiting on the courts to tell him whether or not he can speak to the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump.
Charles Kupperman was scheduled to appear before the committees conducting the inquiry was a no-show, despite the panel chairmen warning him his absence could result in a contempt of Congress citation.
Kupperman, the former deputy national security adviser who was on Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president, was subpoenaed by lawmakers but told by the White House to disregard the summons, citing executive privilege.
‘Witnesses like Dr. Kupperman need to do their duty and show up,’ House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said of his no-show. ‘A private citizen cannot sue the Congress to try to avoid coming in when they’re served with a lawful subpoena. And we expect that the court will make short shrift of that argument. But nonetheless we move forward.’
‘Dr. Kupperman had testimony we believed would corroborate the allegations of misconduct that other witnesses have made,’ he added and said they would consider him in contempt.
‘We will obviously consider, as we informed Dr. Kupperman’s counsel, his failure to appear as evidence that may warrant a contempt proceeding,’ Schiff told reporters on Capitol Hill.
Charles Kupperman was scheduled to appear before the impeachment inquiry on Monday but will not appear
House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff said Kupperman may be held in contempt of Congress
Kupperman was deputy to former National Security Adviser John Bolton
On Friday, he filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. to ask for guidance on who he should obey – the executive or legislative branch.
‘Dr. Kupperman takes no position on whether the command of the Legislative Branch or the command of the Executive Branch should prevail; he seeks only to carry out whichever constitutional obligation the Judicial Branch determines to be lawful and binding on him,’ Kupperman’s attorney Charles Cooper said in a statement.
Kupperman will not make a move until the court rules, his lawyer said – a decision that could set precedent for other administration officials who have been subpoenaed by Congress but aren’t obeying the call to testify.
Kupperman, 68, is longtime Republican aide with deep ties to Bolton.
He worked in the Reagan White House and was an executive at Boeing and Lockheed Martin before joining the Trump administration in January. He left the White House on Sept. 20, 10 days after Bolton was fired.
Additionally, the former deputy national security adviser was on the July 25 call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Democrats are investigating an allegation Trump linked U.S. military aid to public declarations by Zelensky that he would investigate Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden’s tenure on the board of a Ukrainian energy company called Burisma, and a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, and not Russia, meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Trump has maintained he did nothing wrong, there was no quid pro quo, and the call was he had with Zelensky was ‘perfect.’
Kupperman is of high interest to the Democrats given that he was listening on the line when Trump and Zelensky spoke.
Congressional Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry sent Kupperman a letter on Saturday telling he was under subpoena and obligated to appear.
‘The deposition will begin on time and, should your client defy the subpoena, his absence will constitute evidence that may be used against him in a contempt proceeding,’ Representatives Adam Schiff, Eliot Engel and Carolyn Maloney wrote to him.
They accused him of using the lawsuit as a delaying tactic.
It is ‘an obvious and desperate tactic by the president to delay and obstruct the lawful constitutional functions of Congress and conceal evidence about his conduct from the impeachment inquiry,’ they charged.
Kupperman served in the Trump White House and left shortly after President Trump fired John Bolton
Kupperman was on the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – the two men are seen together at the UN in September
Cooper, however, claimed his client never consulted with the White House about his lawsuit.
‘It would not be appropriate for a private citizen, like Dr. Kupperman, to unilaterally resolve this momentous constitutional dispute between the two political branches of our government,’ he said in a statement.
Cooper also represents Bolton – Trump’s former Nation Security Adviser who tops the Democrats’ wish list for witnesses in the impeachment inquiry.
‘Obviously he has very relevant information and we want him to testify,’ Schiff said Sunday on ABC’s ‘This Week’ of Bolton.
Bolton’s attorneys have spoken to congressional staff about the former National Security Adviser testifying.
Bolton has been on the Democrats’ wish-list for a witness after he was revealed to be critical of efforts within the administration and from Trump’s allies to pressure the Ukraine into investigating Joe and Hunter Biden.
He was so alarmed by the moves he alerted a lawyer, his former aide Fiona Hill testified last week in a congressional deposition behind closed doors.
Hill told lawmakers that Bolton said Giuliani, the president’s point-man on Ukraine, was ‘a hand grenade who’s going to blow everyone up,’ according to an account in The New York Times.
Congressional Democrats are scheduled to hear from Alexander Vindman, the White House National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Kathryn Wheelbarger, the acting assistant secretary of defense for international security, is scheduled to testify as are two State Department Ukraine specialists – Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson.
Tim Morrison, a top White House adviser on Russia and Europe, is scheduled for Thursday.
He is also of deep interest to Democrats.
Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, mentioned him frequently in his deposition to lawmakers last week, discussing phone calls he had with Morrison that described the Ukraine effort led by Rudy Giuliani.