Impeachment Inquiry Cheat Sheet: Jennifer Williams’s Past Testimony

Jennifer Williams (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP / Getty)
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP / Getty

Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, will testify Tuesday morning before the House Intelligence Committee on the third day of public hearings in the “impeachment inquiry” into President Donald Trump.

House Democrat impeachment inquisitors are expected to call Vice President Mike Pence aide Jennifer Williams who listened to the July 25 call that sparked the probe to testify in public Tuesday morning.

Williams will be one of four “impeachment inquiry” witnesses to testify in public Tuesday after giving a deposition behind-closed-doors on November 7.

The other three — White House National Security (NSC) Director of European Affairs Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman (October 29); former U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine and first witness Kurt Volker (October 3); and former top European affairs official on Trump’s NSC Tim Morrison (October 31) — testified last month.

House impeachment investigators will interview Williams and Vindman in the morning, both of whom listened in on the infamous July 25 call at the center of the impeachment probe. Volker and Morrison will testify in the afternoon.

Williams was among the White House staffers who took notes during Trump’s infamous July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

She testified in her closed-door deposition that President Trump was the one who told Pence not to attend Zelensky’s inauguration in May — though she only knows that second-hand.

Williams came across as well-informed and professional, though she did not have much information to add. However, over the course of the hearing, she became more inclined to offer Democrats a negative opinion on Trump’s phone call — after being pressed by several Democrats.

Key Democrat Talking Points

1. Democrats have highlighted Williams’s testimony that President Trump told President Pence not to attend the inauguration. This, they appear to believe, suggests Trump was deeply involved in holding Ukraine at arm’s length.

  • What Democrats aren’t telling you: Williams testified that she only had second-hand knowledge that the president told Pence not to go: “My understanding from my colleague—and, again, I wasn’t there for the conversation—was that the President asked the Vice President not to attend.” That quote is actually in the Democrats’ “key excerpts” document — but that is likely because there is no way to avoid including it. Moreover, Williams testified that in preparing Vice President Pence for his eventual meeting with Zelensky in September, she was never asked to brief him about investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens, or Burisma. Zelensky never raised them either, and they were not discussed as a condition on U.S. aid.

2. Democrats points out that Williams called Trump’s references to CrowdStrike, the Bidens, and Burisma on the July 25 call with Zelensky “more political than diplomatic,” and later as “unusual and inappropriate.”

  • What Democrats aren’t telling you: During her closed-door testimony, Democrats kept pushing Williams to tell them more about how the president’s comments made her “feel,” and repeated the question several times, hoping to elicit more firm condemnation from Williams than she appeared, at first, willing to provide. They pressed her over and over again as she seemed to struggle to offer them a response that would satisfy them:

MR. SWALWELL: You described it as unusual when you heard those priorities raised on the July 25 call. How did they make you feel as you heard those words expressed by the President of the United States to the President of Ukraine?

MS. WILLIAMS: As I mentioned, I think I found them to be more political in nature and, in the context of a foreign policy — on an engagement with a foreign leaden, to be more political than diplomatic.

MR. HECK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ms. Williams, thank you again very much for being here. I actually want to briefly follow up on a question that Congressman Swalwell asked. He asked you how it made you feel when you heard the President in the July 25th call invoke the specter of investigations for which you’ve now characterized as personal political intenest.

And your response to that was that you found them unusual and political. But the question was how did it make you feel? Given that what you’ve just said, would it be fair to infer that it made you uncomfortable?

MS. WILLIAMS: I guess I would say, as a diplomatic professional, I try to keep my own pensonal feelings out of, you know, the day-to-day work, but —

MR. HECK: You had no personal feeling response to that, given how you’ve characterized it?

MS. WILLIAMS: Again, I would say that it struck me as unusual and inappropriate.

MR. HECK: Ms. Williams, that’s not the question. How did it make you feel?

MS. WILLIAMS: I guess for me it shed some light on possible other motivations behind a security assistance hold.

MR. HECK: WeII, I asked three times and didn’t get there, so I guess I’m going to let it go at that.

3. Democrats note that Williams’s notes for the July 25 call record that President Zelensky mentioned the word “Burisma,” but that the company’s name did not appear in the transcript (or readout) of the phone call, as if omitted.

  • What Democrats aren’t telling you: Williams also testified that when she first saw the transcript, “it looked substantially accurate to me.” She called the omission of Burisma one of several “small discrepancies.”

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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