Vice President Mike Pence’s counsel has refused a request by House Democrats to release details of a classified phone call between Pence and Ukraine’s president in September, saying it “serves no purpose.”
Pence lawyer Matthew Morgan, in a letter obtained by Politico and The Hill on Wednesday, told House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) that there is no reason to declassify the Sept. 18 call because the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine has concluded.
“At this point, the Intelligence Committee’s oversight authority is limited to those areas in which it may potentially legislate or appropriate,” Morgan wrote.
Schiff made the request to declassify the call shortly after Jennifer Williams, a national security aide to Pence, submitted new classified evidence to House impeachment investigators about Pence’s call with Zelensky.
Williams handed over the material after she publicly testified last month about Pence’s call with President Volodymyr Zelensky, telling lawmakers that details about what was said were classified.
Her Nov. 26 supplemental filing contained classified information about the call. Schiff responded by asking the vice president’s office to declassify the call, saying there is “no legitimate basis” for it to remain secret.
Pence, playing along with Trump’s stonewalling in House impeachment proceedings, has refused to hand over any information. Witnesses testified he was at the center of Trump’s scheme to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation into 2020 Democrat Joe Biden.
Morgan, in his letter to Schiff, decried that classified information was shared with the Intelligence Committee. He dismissed any suggestion that Pence, in his call with Zelensky, discussed Biden, the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, or the American cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, which was hired by the Democratic National Committee after a 2016 hacking that intelligence agencies blamed on Russia.
“While the contents of a classified call with a foreign head of state should never have been discussed in an unclassified Committee hearing or an unclassified deposition, it is clear from public testimony that the Vice President never raised the Bidens, Burisma, or Crowdstrike in his conversation with President Zelensky,” Morgan said.
Articles of impeachment against Trump accuse him of trying to coerce Ukraine into helping him in the 2020 presidential election and of obstructing the congressional inquiry.
A rough transcript of Trump’s own call with Zelensky in April shows that he requested the Ukrainian president’s help with a corruption probe of Biden and Biden’s son Hunter based on unsubstantiated conspiracy theories.