Williams, a State Department official detailed to Pence’s office who listened to Trump’s July phone call with Zelensky, will testify that she found the call “unusual” because it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.”
Williams’s assessment is significant because Trump has argued that the call, which sparked the whistleblower complaint that spurred Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, was “perfect.”
Williams is scheduled to testify publicly alongside Vindman, who also listened to the call and was so alarmed by Trump pressing Zelensky to open an investigation into Biden that he immediately reported his concerns to a NSC lawyer.
Republicans would like to isolate Vindman and suggest his poor judgment and policy disagreements with Trump over Ukraine were the true sources of his displeasure with the call. They have noted that other Trump officials who listened in as the two presidents spoke were not similarly distressed. That effort, however, could be complicated by Williams’s similar, though milder, response to hearing Trump’s request.
In a closed-door deposition earlier this month, she said she found the call’s reference to issues of domestic interest to Trump to be “inappropriate.” She said she was not surprised when the call proved controversial when its contents became public.
Unlike Vindman, however, Williams also said she did not report her concerns to her superiors or other officials. Still, coverage of her earlier comments prompted Trump to attack the career Foreign Service officer on Twitter over the weekend.
In an opening statement Williams plans to deliver Tuesday, she will say that in April 2019, around the time of a first friendly phone call between the two presidents, she listened as Pence also had a good conversation with Zelensky to congratulate him on his recent election.
She will say that Zelensky invited Pence to attend his inauguration and that plans began to be made for Pence to travel to Kyiv for the event at Trump’s instruction. Those plans ended, she will testify, on May 13, when she was informed that Trump had subsequently directed Pence to skip the event. She will tell Congress that she was never provided a rationale for the switch.
She will also testify that she learned on July 3 that security assistance money to Ukraine had been frozen but that she and other officials were never able to learn why.
When Pence was asked to fill in for Trump at a meeting with Zelensky in Warsaw on Sept. 1, Williams participated in briefings and discussions of the aid freeze in preparation for the discussion. But that no one ever suggested the money was being conditioned on the Ukrainians opening investigations into Biden or the 2016 election, Williams plans to testify.
Likewise, she will say that when Zelensky raised the issue of the frozen aid directly with Pence at the meeting, which she attended, neither Pence nor Zelensky mentioned the investigations. Pence instead responded that Ukraine had the United States’ “unwavering support” and “promised to relay their conversation to President Trump that night.”