Ex-Trump aide wants judge to decide on impeachment testimony

WASHINGTON (AP) – An ex-White House adviser scheduled to testify before House impeachment investigators on Monday has asked a federal court whether he should comply with a subpoena or follow President Donald Trump’s directive against cooperating in what the president dubs a “scam.”

After getting a subpoena last Friday, former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman quickly filed a lawsuit in US district court in Washington. He asked a judge to decide whether he should accede to House demands for his testimony or to assert “immunity from congressional process” as directed by Trump.

The lawsuit came as Democrats’ impeachment inquiry continued at full speed with a rare Saturday session. Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of state for Europe, took questions behind closed doors for more than eight hours about Trump’s ouster of the ambassador of Ukraine in May and whether he had knowledge about efforts to persuade Ukraine to pursue politically motivated investigations. Reeker told the lawmakers that he was disturbed by a campaign – led by Trump – to oust ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in May and had supported efforts to publicly back her, even though those statements were ultimately never issued by the department.

Kupperman, who provided foreign policy advice to the president, was scheduled to testify in a similar session on Monday. In the lawsuit, Kupperman said he “cannot satisfy the competing demands of both the legislative and executive branches.” Without the court’s help, he said, he would have to make the decision himself – one that could “inflict grave constitutional injury” on either Congress or the presidency.

The impeachment inquiry is rooted in a July 25 phone call Trump made to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. During the call, Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to pursue investigations of Democratic political rival Joe Biden’s family and Ukraine’s role in the 2016 election that propelled Trump into the White House.

At the time of the call, Trump was withholding congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine.

Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of state for Europe, leaves the Capitol in Washington after a closed-door interview. PHOTO: AP