GOP wants Hunter Biden, whistleblower to testify in Trump impeachment inquiry

Nicholas Wu, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Ahead of the first scheduled public impeachment hearings Wednesday, House Republicans have requested Hunter Biden and the whistleblower whose report sparked the investigation give open testimony in the inquiry into President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

Saturday was the deadline for House Republicans to submit their proposed list of witnesses to Democrats. 

In addition to "all individuals relied upon by the anonymous whistleblower in drafting his or her secondhand complaint," Republicans asked for eight witnesses:

The whistleblower: The still-unnamed official who filed a whistleblower complaint after Trump's July 25 call with Ukranian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Hunter Biden: The son of former Vice President Joe Biden and former board member of Burisma Holdings, Ukraine's largest gas company.

David Hale: The undersecretary of state for political affairs who testified behind closed doors on Nov. 6.

Tim Morrison: National Security Council aide who testified behind closed doors on Oct. 31. 

Kurt Volker: Special envoy to Ukraine who testified behind closed doors on Oct. 3. 

Nellie Ohr: A contractor for research firm Fusion GPS who worked on the Steele dossier, an unverified 2016 document compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele alleging ties between Trump and the Kremlin.

Devon Archer: Burisma board member Devon Archer, a business partner of Hunter Biden.

Alexandra Chalupa: Democratic National Committee staffer who Republicans say was part of Ukrainian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. 

"We expect you will call each of the witnesses listed above to ensure that the Democrats' 'impeachment inquiry' treats the President with fairness, as promised by Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi," top Intelligence Committee Republican Devin Nunes wrote in a letter Saturday to Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee's Democratic chairman.

Schiff responded to the Republicans in a statement released later Saturday, saying they were "evaluating" Republicans' requests and would give "due consideration to witnesses within the scope of the impeachment inquiry."

"This inquiry is not, and will not serve, however, as a vehicle to undertake the same sham investigations into the Bidens or 2016 that the President pressed Ukraine to conduct for his personal political benefit, or to facilitate the President’s effort to threaten, intimidate, and retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously raised the initial alarm," Schiff added.   

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Andrew Bakaj, one of the whistleblower's attorneys, told USA TODAY his client was willing to answer questions from Republican lawmakers in writing but not in person. 

"My client's complaint has been largely corroborated. Nonetheless, I have offered to have my client respond in writing, under oath, and under penalty of perjury to Republican questions," Bakaj told USA TODAY in a statement. 

Bakaj added that he feared the request to testify publicly "was part of a larger effort to unmask my client's identity."

"The call to have my client's identity disclosed will fundamentally harm a process that took decades to build. By extension, it will adversely impact Congressional oversight. These consequences, I fear, will be long-lasting," he added.

In a letter sent Thursday to Republicans outlining the parameters for witnesses, Schiff wrote that witnesses had to be directly related to the Trump administration's pressuring of Ukraine to open investigations into a political rival and any potential attempts to obstruct or cover up an investigation. 

Trump weighed in on the proposed list of witnesses as well, tweeting later Saturday that he wanted Pelosi, Schiff and Joe Biden to appear, among others.

The whistleblower, who has been described as a person in the intelligence community, issued a complaint in August alleging Trump pushed a foreign power – Ukraine – to interfere in the 2020 election by asking the country to investigate his political rival Joe Biden. 

Democrats say  Trump used his power to withhold military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation. Trump has defended his interactions with Ukraine and has dismissed the inquiry as a "hoax" and "witch hunt."

Trump and Republicans accuse Biden of strong-arming the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor in order to thwart an investigation into a company tied to his son, an accusation that lacks credible evidence. USA TODAY has spoken to two dozen leaders and investigators in Ukraine who say Trump's accusations against Hunter Biden's work in Ukraine are baseless. 

The impeachment inquiry was launched by Pelosi on Sept. 24. What followed were weeks of closed-door witness testimony, including that of three people who are now on House Republicans' witness list: Volker, Morrison and Hale. 

On Oct. 31, in a near-party-line vote, the House approved a resolution setting the parameters for the public portion of the impeachment inquiry, which begins Wednesday. 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump impeachment inquiry: GOP asks Biden, whistleblower to testify