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Mulvaney Likely Won't Comply With Subpoena, Kent Transcript Released

While the White House instructed Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney not to comply with a subpoena to testify in the impeachment probe, a transcript was released of a top State Department aid's testimony.

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It's looking like another no-show today in the House impeachment inquiry. House Democrats issued a late-night subpoena to compel acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to appear, but the White House has instructed officials, including Mulvaney, not to comply. House investigators want the acting chief of staff to fill in some of the blanks still remaining about what President Trump may have demanded from Ukraine. The public has a better picture of that after this week and the release of several transcripts from key testimony, the latest from a senior State Department official named George Kent. NPR senior political editor Domenico Montanaro joins us now. He's been poring through all the testimony this week. Hi, Domenico.


MARTIN: You've been hard at work. There've been a lot of pages, a lot of reading. Can you just tell us what is new in what George Kent had to say?

MONTANARO: Well, so Kent, who's a top State Department official, described what he called a campaign of lies and a campaign of slander that was orchestrated by Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, when he was targeting Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. He detailed his own disagreement with the pressure campaign. He likened it to what other corrupt countries do. He said that politically related prosecutions undermine the rule of law. Kent, clearly - look, he's a guy who has a deep well of institutional knowledge on what U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine has been since the fall of the Soviet Union. He was really articulate in describing that. And it's really clear why Democrats then want to hear from him out in public, out in the open next week.

MARTIN: Right. So on this Friday, I mean, as we look back, there were all these transcripts of key testimony that were released. Can you - what do we need to understand from it? What are the big takeaways from all this testimony?

MONTANARO: Yeah, there were so many pages, right? I mean - and I think that there were three takeaways that really sort of stood out to me. One, we talked about Giuliani and, really, all roads in this Ukraine affair keep coming back to him. He won't go forward to talk with Congress, but you'll wonder, with the Southern District of New York investigating and already ensnaring two of his associates, what that could mean for him. Two, Republicans keep talking about wanting to hear from the whistleblower, but, you know, a lot of what the whistleblower's complaint was has now already largely been corroborated. The one exception is Bill Barr, the attorney general. We didn't learn much about that, about his role, and if he played one at all in the Ukraine affair. And third, perhaps the biggest development of the week was a tucked-away amendment in the testimony of Gordon Sondland. He's the European Union ambassador. He reversed his testimony after several people contradicted him. He admitted to telling an aide to Ukraine's president that military aid was unlikely to come unless the president went forward with a public statement committing to investigations of two conspiracy theories, one about the 2016 election, one about former Vice President Biden's son, Hunter. Multiple witnesses testified that there was a repeated and concerted effort to dig up dirt on the Bidens in order to benefit Trump's 2020 reelection campaign.

MARTIN: I want to go back to Mick Mulvaney. If he doesn't show up, I mean, what recourse do House Democrats have?

MONTANARO: Yeah, I mean, legal action is unlikely. I mean, they could go to court, but lots of witnesses have come forward to say that they're not going to talk. And Democrats don't want this to drag on much further, especially with the presidential election taking place and the primary taking place.


MONTANARO: So they're instead going to likely just use this as further evidence of obstruction of Congress for a potential article of impeachment, if they go that route.

MARTIN: So let's talk about the public phase that starts next week. We're moving out of the basement, presumably, on the Capitol, into - what? - like, somewhere with TV cameras. And we're going to hear largely the same thing, at least initially. What's going to be different, besides the optics?

MONTANARO: Yeah, no basement, out in the open, in one of those very nice hearing rooms we see on TV all the time. And that's the key, really - on TV, on camera, out in the open. It's one thing to read these thousands of pages and have people like me describe them, but it can be very different to hear these individuals say these words in their own words unfiltered to the entire country. That kind of thing can go a long way in shaping public opinion and whether people support the impeachment of this president or not.

MARTIN: NPR senior political editor Domenico Montanaro, thanks as always.

MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.