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Road ahead: More impeachment depositions, plus Turkey legislation and a Boeing hearing

House will also consider a Grand Canyon protection bill

The impeachment inquiry being overseen by House committee leaders including California’s Adam B. Schiff, will again take center stage this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The impeachment inquiry being overseen by House committee leaders including California’s Adam B. Schiff, will again take center stage this week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump will again take center stage at the Capitol this week, though there will also be legislative push-back in the House against Turkey and its incursion into Syria against the Kurds.

The House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees have another full docket of depositions scheduled this week as part of their impeachment inquiry.

They took a pause last week to honor the life and service of Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Oversight chairman who died Oct. 17, clearing the schedule Thursday and Friday for memorials and rescheduling depositions for the weekend and into this week.

Charles Kupperman is slated for a Monday deposition. He served as a deputy to former national security adviser John Bolton. Kupperman filed suit Friday, seeking to avoid the deposition, but the Democratic leaders of the three House committees overseeing the impeachment inquiry contend that’s not valid.

“Notwithstanding this attempted obstruction, the duly authorized subpoena remains in full force and Dr. Kupperman remains legally obligated to appear for the deposition on Monday,” the committee heads wrote to Kupperman’s lawyers over the weekend.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director of European affairs at the White House National Security Council, is scheduled for a deposition Tuesday. Vindman may be able to shed more light on previous testimony from Fiona Hill, a former NSC adviser on Russia, that staff and career NSC officials were shut out of Ukraine foreign policy decisions.

He was part of the delegation chosen by Trump to represent the U.S. at the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in May.

Kathryn Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of Defense for international security affairs, is expected to appear in closed session Wednesday.

She is no stranger to Capitol Hill, having worked as senior counsel on the House Intelligence panel, leading investigations for former Chairman Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican. She also worked for the Senate Armed Services Committee when it was led by Arizona Republican John McCain.

Wheelbarger was even featured in the Hill Climber column in Roll Call a decade ago.

NSC aide Timothy Morrison is expected to testify Thursday and provide key testimony to back up some of the assertions made by acting Ukraine Ambassador William Taylor about Trump’s interactions with the Ukrainian government.

Taylor testified that Morrison described a “sinking feeling” after one phone call between Trump and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, in which Trump insisted that Ukraine publicly announce an investigation of Joe Biden and the 2016 election if it wanted foreign aid already appropriated by Congress. 

Taylor also said that Morrison briefed him many times on the interactions between administration officials and the Ukrainians. Morrison was the replacement at the NSC for Hill, who testified before the committees on Oct. 14.

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Turkey time

The floor of the House will be busy as well, featuring legislation that seemed timed as a response to actions by Turkey against the Kurdish population in Syria.

Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland has announced plans for floor consideration of a resolution stating the sense of the House that U.S. policy is to “commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance.”

Presidents from both parties have declined to use the term “genocide” in referring to the atrocities committed by the Ottoman Turks against the Armenian population in the early 20th century. The designation has been long opposed by Turkey.

The House also plans to move a package of new sanctions against Turkey introduced Oct. 16 by Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot L. Engel, a New York Democrat, along with Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the ranking Republican.

Other legislation on the House agenda includes a set of natural resources bills, including a Grand Canyon protection measure. That bill, reported out of the Natural Resources Committee in July, would permanently ban new mining claims on over 1 million acres of federal land near the Grand Canyon.

House Democrats like Natural Resources Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva of Arizona have had concerns a 20-year ban on new mining claims near the Grand Canyon put in place by President Barack Obama is at risk, especially after the Interior Department decided in May 2018 to declare uranium a “critical mineral” for national security purposes.

Spending bills

The Senate will likely get less of the attention this week, as senators work to try to move the first batch of delayed fiscal 2020 spending bills across the floor.

That comes even as the most likely scenario remains needing to pass a long-term continuing resolution in the middle of November.

Before finishing last week, the Senate scheduled a set of Monday evening votes on amendments to the four-bill domestic spending package that includes Transportation-HUD, Agriculture, Interior-Environment and Commerce-Justice-Science.

Most notable might be yet another attempt by Sen. Rand Paul to roll back federal spending. This time, the Kentucky Republican will be getting a vote on a 2-percent reduction for the departments and agencies covered by the Senate version of the bill.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold what could be a particularly newsworthy hearing on Tuesday morning amid the continuing search for answers about the safety of the Boeing 737 Max.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg is scheduled to testify, along with the chairmen of the National Transportation Safety Board and the Joint Authorities Technical Review.

Jael Holzman contributed to this report.

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