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Former White House official won’t testify in impeachment probe without court order

Charles Kupperman one of three White House officials set to testify

A former deputy national security adviser set to testify in the U.S. House of Representatives’  presidential impeachment inquiry Monday is signaling that he won’t appear as scheduled.

Charles Kupperman was supposed to testify behind closed doors, but last week he filed a lawsuit in federal court in  Washington for guidance on whether he was legally required to do so.

Kupperman is one of three White House officials scheduled to appear this week.

It is unclear if any of them will appear because Trump has told administration officials to not comply with the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. So far, most witnesses have decided to testify after receiving subpoenas from the committees.

Kupperman, has taken the extraordinary step of asking a federal court who he should listen to — Congress or Trump.

After he was subpoenaed, Kupperman filed a lawsuit in federal court on Friday asking a court whether he should accede to  House demands for his testimony or to assert “immunity from congressional process” as directed by Trump.

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 court had yet to rule by Monday morning. At issue is whether the subpoena from Congress takes precedent over the White House’s position that Kupperman is immune from having to testify as a close adviser to the president.

A lawyer for Kupperman, a former deputy at the NSC under then-national security adviser John Bolton, said Kupperman will comply if a court orders his appearance. He had been scheduled to testify Monday.

Other witnesses summoned this week are current NSC staffers Tim Morrison and Alexander Vindman. Morrison is particularly significant. William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, told lawmakers in his deposition last week about phone calls he had with Morrison that described the Ukraine effort.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, who’s leading the inquiry, said Sunday he would like Bolton to testify but expects the White House would “fight us” over his appearance. Bolton is “a very important witness” who has “very relevant information,” Schiff, a California Democrat, told ABC’s “This Week.”

The committees are scheduled to hear from three other State Department and Defense Department witnesses as well. Lawmakers want to determine whether military aid to Ukraine was held up as a condition of the investigations.

The Democrats are moving quickly, sometimes scheduling multiple depositions in one day. They’re trying to compile facts and eventually transition to public hearings. Schiff said Saturday that the committees are making “rapid progress.” He told ABC that “we will be doing public hearings, and I think we’ll be doing them soon.”

A judge on Friday ordered the Justice Department to give the House secret grand jury testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, handing a victory to Democrats who want the material for the impeachment inquiry.

In ordering the department to turn over the material by Oct. 30, Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell affirmed the legality of the impeachment inquiry itself. The Mueller materials could reveal previously hidden details to lawmakers about Trump’s actions during the 2016 election and become part of the impeachment push.

The Trump administration could appeal the decision, however, further delaying the release of the materials.

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