Trump rails against Pence aide who testified his Ukraine call was “unusual and inappropriate“

Trump’s tweets against witnesses in the impeachment inquiry were criticized as possible attempts to intimidate them

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published November 18, 2019 4:59PM (EST)

President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Jennifer Williams, an aide to the Vice President. (Getty Images/SAUL LOEB/AFP/Shealah Craighead/The White House)
President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Jennifer Williams, an aide to the Vice President. (Getty Images/SAUL LOEB/AFP/Shealah Craighead/The White House)

President Donald Trump claimed Sunday that Jennifer Williams, a special adviser on Europe and Russia issues for Vice President Mike Pence's foreign policy team, was a “Never Trumper” after her deposition in the impeachment inquiry was revealed to have characterized the commander-in-chief’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as “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 repeated his claim later Sunday night that witnesses such as Williams had not actually been privy to the July 25 phone call at the heart of the impeachment inquiry

“‘All they do is bring up witnesses who didn’t witness anything.’ @KatrinaPierson @SteveHiltonx  Nothing matters except the two transcripts of the presidential calls, and the statement of no pressure put out by Ukraine!” Trump tweeted.

Williams was listening to the call as it occurred, according to the transcript of her deposition released Sunday. She claimed that she had taken notes about the political conditions surrounding the call, because she was concerned that its contents were “unusual and inappropriate.”

Trump asked Zelensky during the call to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

As she testified about the call before impeachment investigators, Williams said she "found the specific references to be more specific to the president in nature, to his personal political agenda,” than the broader "foreign policy objective of the United States."

The deposition of Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council official, who served as the top Russia and Europe adviser in the Trump White House, was also recently made public. Morrison, who had also been listening in on the call, testified that he had conversations with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, in which he was informed that the president wanted Ukraine to investigate the Bidens before receiving the military aid they had been promised.

Morrison alleged that Sondland told him “he was acting — he was discussing these matters with the president." He also claimed that after a meeting between Pence and Zelensky in Warsaw, Sondland approached Morrison and told him that "what he communicated was that he believed what could help them move the aid was if the prosecutor general would go to the mic and announce that he was opening the Burisma investigation."

Trump’s practice of tweeting about individuals who testify against him during the impeachment inquiry has been criticized as potential attempts to intimidate those witnesses. During an appearance on “Face the Nation” on CBS News on Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized Trump for tweeting about former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as she appeared before Congress.

“He made a mistake, and he knows her strength,” Pelosi said. “And he was trying to undermine it. Of course, presidents appoint ambassadors, but people don't insult people, especially when they're giving testimony before the Congress of the United States. I think even his most ardent supporters have to honestly admit this is the wrong thing for the president to do.”

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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