in the hot seat
November 7, 2019

For the first time, a member of Vice President Mike Pence's staff is expected to testify Thursday in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

Pence aide Jennifer Williams, who was listening into Trump's now infamous July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is expected to testify Thursday should she receive a subpoena, CNN reports.

The House is continuing to probe whether Trump improperly withheld aid to Ukraine until its country's president announced investigations that might benefit him in the 2020 presidential election, including into a gas company where former Vice President Joe Biden's son served on the board, as well as into supposed Ukrainian election interference that Trump seemed to hope would undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference.

During Williams' testimony, lawmakers will question "how much Pence knew" about the effort to push Ukraine to conduct these investigations, CNN reports. Williams was reportedly "concerned" about Trump's July phone call, though she reportedly did not raise these concerns to any superiors. Pence wasn't on the call, but he later met with Zelensky in September. He denies talking about the "issue of the Bidens" with Zelensky, The Wall Street Journal reports, but they reportedly discussed corruption in Ukraine during the September meeting.

The Washington Post previously reported that "officials close to Pence insist that he was unaware of Trump's efforts to press Zelensky for damaging information about Biden and his son" and that officials say Pence had his meeting with Zelensky in September "probably without having read — or at least fully registered — the transcript" of the July call. But the Post also cited former officials as saying "Pence's emphasis on corruption probably would have been interpreted by Zelensky as 'code'" for a Biden investigation, "whether the vice president intended it or not." Brendan Morrow

October 30, 2018

The Department of Justice is investigating Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke due to a referral from his department's inspector general, CNN reported Tuesday.

It's unclear which of the ongoing probes into Zinke this concerns, since there are at least three, but a White House official told The Washington Post that the DOJ's investigation would be into whether Zinke "used his office to help himself."

One of the three probes is investigating Zinke's involvement in a Montana land development deal after he became secretary of the interior, The Washington Post reports. The deal was backed by the chairman of the oil firm Halliburton, Politico reported in June, opening the interior secretary up to possible complaints of a conflict of interest. Another concerns a casino deal that Zinke did not approve after a nearby casino competitor lobbied against it. Additionally, the Interior Department's inspector general is looking into whether Zinke had a monument's boundaries changed in order to benefit a lawmaker in the area, CNN reports.

This comes a few weeks after the department's inspector general said in a report that Zinke was advised not to have his wife travel with him in government vehicles, also being warned against bringing her on as a volunteer so she wouldn't have to reimburse the department for travel costs, per The Washington Post. Zinke is reportedly expected to leave the Trump administration after next week's election. Brendan Morrow

September 22, 2018

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will sit for a deposition on a question about U.S. citizenship that has been added to 2020 census forms, a federal judge ruled Friday evening.

"Applying well-established principles to the unusual facts of these cases, the court concludes that the question is not a close one," wrote U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman in his decision. "Secretary Ross must sit for a deposition because, among other things, his intent and credibility are directly at issue in these cases."

The deposition is part of a suit brought by New York, as well as other cities, states, and counties, seeking to exclude the new question. Critics have argued the citizenship question will distort census results because some immigrants may choose not to participate in the survey.

Ross is the first Cabinet-level official in two decades to be deposed in a civil case. The Department of Justice argued that to "demand for a Cabinet secretary's deposition is extraordinary, unnecessary, and unsupported." Bonnie Kristian

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