Trump attacks Pence aide who said Ukraine call was 'unusual and inappropriate'

Image: Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks at a Veterans Day event a
Vice President Mike Pence delivers remarks at a Veterans Day event at Arlington National Cemetery on Nov. 11, 2019. Copyright Drew Angerer Getty Images file
Copyright Drew Angerer Getty Images file
By Allan Smith with NBC News Politics
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Trump referred to Jennifer Williams as a Never Trumper in what has become a common attack on officials cooperating with the probe.


President Donald Trump on Sunday blasted an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence who told House impeachment investigatorsearlier this month that Trump's asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to probe the Bidens and Democrats in a July 25 call was "unusual and inappropriate."

"Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just released ststement [sic] from Ukraine," Trump tweeted. "Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don't know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!"

The president has labeled other Trump administration officials who have testified in the impeachment inquiry, including some career diplomats, as Never Trumpers.The term is a reference to conservatives during the 2016 election cycle who pledged never to support the then-Republican candidate, even as he breezed through the GOP primary onto the party's nomination.

In public testimony last week, George Kent, the senior State Department official overseeing Ukraine, Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, all said they were not Never Trumpers.

Williams, a top national security aide to Pence serving as his special adviser for Europe and Russia, told investigators earlier this month that she took notes while she listened in to Trump's July 25 phone call with Zelenskiy — the call in which Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to probe former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and a debunked conspiracy theory involving Democrats and the 2016 election. Williams said Trump's push was "unusual and inappropriate" and "shed some light on possible other motivations" for Trump's order to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine.

The Trump administration released that aid on Sept. 11 — just two days after Congress was made aware of the existence of the whistleblower's complaint. House impeachment investigators released Williams' transcript on Saturday. She is expected to testify publicly before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, alongside Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert.

"I found the specific references to be — to be more specific to the president in nature, to his personal political agenda, as opposed to a broader … foreign policy objective of the United States," Williams said, according to a transcript of her testimony.

Trump on Friday released a summary of an April call with Zelenskiy during which Trump congratulated the Ukrainian leader on his election victory. The call took place before Zelenskiy was inaugurated.

In addition to blasting past witnesses as "Never Trumpers," Trump has sought to distance himself from the administration officials involved in the probe. He has said he "hardly knows" E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, a major donor to his political campaign and one of the central players in the impeachment inquiry.

Trump on Friday lashed out at Yovanovitch in a tweet as she was in the middle of publicly testifying before Congress.

Read the tweet as she was answering lawmakers' questions, Yovanovitch said Trump's commentary was "intimidating." Democrats have said the tweet amounts to witness intimidation.

Speaking with CBS's "Face the Nation," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., calledTrump's tweet "totally wrong and inappropriate and typical of the president."

"People don't insult people, especially when they're giving testimony before the Congress of the United States," she said. "I think even his most ardent supporters have to honestly admit this was the wrong thing for the president to do."

On CNN's "State of the Union," Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said, "I think, along with most people, I find the president's tweets generally unfortunate."

"It's certainly not impeachable, and it's certainly not criminal, and it's certainly not witness intimidation," he added.

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