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Pence Aide was Surprised by Political Nature of Trump’s Ukraine Call

Vice President Mike Pence speaks after a meeting with President Trump and Congressional Democrats about the government shutdown at the White House in Washington, D.C., January 9, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

A former State Department official now advising Vice President Mike Pence on foreign affairs testified to Congress on Thursday that she was surprised by the political undertones apparent in President Trump’s controversial phone call with the Ukrainian president.

Jennifer Williams, Pence’s special adviser for Europe and Russia, listened to the July 25 phone call between the president and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that has ignited an impeachment investigation. The longtime foreign-service officer gave closed-door testimony under subpoena on Thursday to the lawmakers in charge of the impeachment probe.

The Trump administration sparked speculation about a quid pro quo when it temporarily held up much-needed U.S. military aid to Ukraine as president Trump and others within the administration were urging the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens.

Williams told impeachment investigators that Pence was not involved in any similar conversations about political investigations, including any discussions with Zelensky.

Her lawyer said before she testified that his client’s testimony “will largely reflect what is already in the public record.”

Pence, for his part, has said multiple times over the last several weeks that he never discussed “the issue of the Bidens with President Zelensky.”

“To invest additional taxpayer [money] in Ukraine, the president wants to be assured that those resources are truly making their way to the kind of investments that will contribute to security and stability in Ukraine,” the vice president said.

Williams’s testimony was one of a host of impeachment witnesses called before congressional investigators in recent weeks. William Taylor, the former top American diplomat in Ukraine, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, also appeared.

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