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Trump officials ignore requests to testify in impeachment probe

Some witnesses called to testify in the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday and later this week are defying Democratic lawmakers’ requests to appear in closed door hearings before the investigation moves into its public phase.

Trump loyalists have refused to appear before Democratic-led committees in the U.S. House of Representatives, ramping up the tussle between the White House and lawmakers over their power to conduct investigations. Some Democrats say Republican Trump, who has ordered administration officials not to cooperate, should face an obstruction of justice charge among the impeachment counts they plan to consider against him.

Three White House budget officials, including the acting budget director, are refusing to appear, a senior Trump administration official said. Their testimony is considered critical to helping determine whether Trump used foreign aid as leverage to secure a political favor.

Another important witness slated for Monday is John Eisenberg, the top lawyer for the White House National Security Council. Lawmakers are especially interested in questioning him about a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Trump’s political rival Joe Biden, a former vice president and contender for the Democratic Party nomination to run against Trump in the November 2020 election.

Eisenberg decided to take the unusual step of moving a transcript of the call into the White House’s most classified computer system, according to a person familiar with last week’s testimony by Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who listened in on the call.

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