Republicans on House Intelligence Committee unveiled their wishlist for impeachment witnesses on Saturday rolling out a group that appears to be more about pushing far-right conspiracy theory talking points than actually investigating Donald Trump’s interactions with Ukraine.
The list, which Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee handling the impeachment are only required to take as a suggestion, appears to be aimed at reviving old Fox News storylines from the Robert Mueller investigation, including allegations that the Ukrainian government interfered in the 2016 election.
For example, Republicans want to call Nellie Ohr, whose job at opposition research firm Fusion GPS and marriage to a Justice Department official made her the subject of fevered speculation on the right during the Mueller investigation. Republicans claim that interviewing Ohr buttresses their claims that Trump’s request for the Ukrainian government to investigate the United States’ 2016 presidential was legitimate and not an effort to dig up dirt on Democrats.
“Given President Trump’s documented belief that the Ukrainian government meddled in the 2016 election to oppose his candidacy, which forms the basis for a reasonable desire for Ukraine to investigate the circumstances surrounding the election and any potential Ukrainian involvement, Ms. Ohr is a prime fact witness who can assist Congress and the American public in better understanding the facts and circumstances surrounding Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election,” the letter reads.
The witness list is the latest GOP move to bolster Trump ahead of the first public impeachment hearing on Nov. 13. Earlier this week, Republicans moved famously combative Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) to the intelligence committee this week in an apparent effort to boost Trump’s impeachment defense on the committee.
Other witnesses Republicans want to call include former Democratic National Committee staffer Alexandra Chalupa, who figures prominently in right-wing conspiracy theories about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. Chalupa has denied collecting opposition research for the DNC.
Republicans also want to interview Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden’s son. Trump’s attempt to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate the younger Biden’s seat on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma have played a key role in the Democrats’ investigation into Trump and Ukraine.
But Republicans say that interviewing Biden and former Burisma board member Devon Archer will help them understand “Ukraine’s pervasive corruption”—a talking point popular with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Mr. Biden’s firsthand experiences with Burisma can assist the American public in understanding the nature and extent of Ukraine’s pervasive corruption, information that bears directly on President Trump’s longstanding and deeply-held skepticism of the country,” the letter reads.
Republicans also want to interview the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint about Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky led to the investigation. Additionally, Republicans want anyone involved in the drafting of the whistleblower complaint to be called, alluding to right-wing claims that the whistleblower complaint was orchestrated by anti-Trump forces.
“It is imperative that the American people hear definitively how the whistleblower developed his or her information, and who else the whistleblower may have fed the information he or she had gathered and how that treatment of classified information may have led to the false narrative being perpetrated by the Democrats during this process,” the letter reads.
While Democrats have said they’ll only consider Republican witness requests, Republican Ranking Member Devin Nunes, of California, claimed in the letter that refusing to request the witnesses Republicans want would mean denying Trump “fundamental fairness.”
“Your failure to fulfill Minority witness requests shall constitute evidence of your denial of fundamental fairness and due process,” Nunes wrote.