Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are seeking testimonies from several witnesses in open hearings in the impeachment inquiry, including from Hunter Biden and the whistleblower who first reported concerns about President Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine's president – the call at the center of the inquiry.
Republicans on the committee were given a deadline of Sunday at 11:20 a.m. to request any witnesses for the open hearings. However, Democrats may overrule any of the requests with a committee vote, and are expected to do so with Hunter Biden and the whistleblower.
In a letter to Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff on Saturday, ranking member Devin Nunes accused Schiff of leading a "sham impeachment process." Republicans have complained that the committees conducting the impeachment inquiry have held closed-door hearings with witnesses in a secure room, arguing that it kept the proceedings from public view. Several transcripts from the closed hearings, however, were released this week.
Nunes wrote in his letter to Schiff that "failure to fulfill Minority witness requests shall constitute evidence of your denial of fundamental fairness and due process."
In his letter, Nunes provided justification for each witness, as requested by Schiff. The Republican witness requests primarily pertain to the conspiracy theory that Ukraine hacked Democratic National Committee servers in 2016 — a baseless claim that has been disputed by the American intelligence community — and to the allegation that Joe Biden pushed for the removal of a Ukrainian prosecutor general who was investigating Burisma, a Ukrainian gas firm with ties to Hunter Biden. There is no evidence to support that claim.
Schiff sent a letter to House Intelligence Committee Congressman Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the committee, on Saturday, saying he will give due consideration to witnesses within the scope of the impeachment inquiry," but the whistleblower's testimony is "redundant and unnecessary."
"In light of the president's threats, the individual's appearance before us would only place their personal safety at grave risk," Schiff wrote in the letter, which CBS News has obtained.
Republicans have requested the following witnesses:
- Devon Archer, former board member of Burisma Holdings
- Hunter Biden, former board member of Burisma Holdings
- Alexandra Chalupa, former Democratic National Committee staffer
- David Hale, under secretary of State for political affairs
- Tim Morrison, former senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Counsel
- Nellie Ohr, former contractor for Fusion GPS
- Kurt Volker, former U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations
- The whistleblower
- Anyone the whistleblower relied on to create the complaint
Hale, Morrison and Volker have previously testified in closed sessions before the committees conducting the impeachment inquiry.
In a statement responding to the Republicans' request, Schiff indicated that the Democrats would not approve some of the more long-shot witness requests like Biden.
"The Committee is evaluating the Minority's witness requests and will give due consideration to witnesses within the scope of the impeachment inquiry, as voted on by the House," Schiff said. "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."
The requests come as House Republicans try to formulate a more robust defense of Mr. Trump. On Friday, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced that congressman Jim Jordan would be moved to the House Intelligence Committee. Jordan is one of Mr. Trump's strongest defenders and is expected to ask hardball questions in the open hearings next week. The hearings will be the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry.
On Wednesday, Americans will hear from Bill Taylor, the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine; and George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs; on Friday, they will hear from Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.