Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser issued a statement on Nov. 19 disputing his subordinate Jennifer Williams’s claims that the president’s call with Ukraine was “unusual.”
Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg noted that he had listened in on the July 25 call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and felt that “nothing wrong or improper” was mentioned during that call.
“As an exceedingly proud member of President Trump’s administration and as a 34-year highly experienced combat veteran who retired with the rank of Lieutenant General in the Army, I heard nothing wrong or improper on the call. I had and have no concerns,” he said.
He confirmed that Williams did not report any of her concerns to him or to any other members of the vice president’s staff despite testifying about them on Tuesday.
“Ms. Williams was also on the call, and as she testified, she never reported any personal or professional concerns to me, her direct supervisor, regarding the call,” he said in the statement. “In fact, she never reported any personal or professional concerns to any other member of the Vice President’s staff, including our Chief of Staff and the Vice President.”
Kellogg’s comments come after Williams, who is an aide to the vice president on Russia and Europe, said in her testimony that she thought the call was “unusual” because she felt it “involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.”
During his statement, Kellogg also sought to distance the vice president from Trump’s request to Zelensky to probe Crowdstrike, a firm that investigated a breach into the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems, and allegations relating to former Vice President Joe Biden and Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company where Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, held a lucrative board position.
“Ms. Williams also accurately testified regarding the Vice President’s preparation for and conduct during his September 1 meeting in Poland with President Zelensky,” Kellogg said.
“In her testimony, she affirmed that the Vice President focused on President Zelensky’s anti-corruption efforts and the lack of European support and never mentioned former Vice President Joe Biden, Crowdstrike, Burisma, or investigations in any communication with Ukrainians,” he added.
The call between Trump and Zelensky in July is at the center of the impeachment inquiry hearing. The White House released a transcript of the call shortly after the probe began which revealed Trump had asked Zelensky to look into allegations of corruption by Joe Biden, who boasted in 2018 that he was involved in the firing of Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin who was investigating Burisma.
House Democrats have accused the president of leveraging his office and withholding U.S. aid to Ukraine to obtain “dirt” on a political opponent in an attempt to boost his reelection chance. But Trump has defended his request for Ukraine’s assistance to look into Biden’s dealings, saying that it was intended to investigate alleged corruption.
Williams is one of the many witnesses who have appeared before the House Intelligence Committee to testify. None of the witnesses who have testified in the impeachment inquiry identified any alleged criminal acts in Trump’s call with Zelensky, a transcript (pdf) of which was released by the White House on Sept. 25.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Nov. 14 alleged that Trump may have committed “bribery” by withholding aid from Ukraine. The Ukrainian president and prime minister have both said they didn’t perceive a link between the hold on aid and Trump’s request for investigations.
The White House lifted the hold on Sept. 11.
Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.