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Democrats threaten to subpoena White House for Ukraine scandal docs

  • 2 Oct 2019

Democrats ask White House for documents related to President Trump's call with Ukraine leader and subpoena Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who admits listening in on the July call that's triggered impeachment inquiry of Trump.

US House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) joins Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to speak about Democratic legislative priorities and impeachment inquiry plans during her weekly news conference at the US. Capitol in Washington, US, October 2, 2019. ( Reuters )

US Democrats accusing Donald Trump of stonewalling an impeachment inquiry threatened on Wednesday to subpoena the White House if it fails to provide documents related to the president's efforts to get Ukraine to probe a political rival.

The chairmen of three House of Representatives committees heading up the investigation said they were giving the White House until Friday to comply before issuing a subpoena for documents largely related to Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukraine's president.

"The White House's flagrant disregard of multiple voluntary requests for documents — combined with stark and urgent warnings from the (intelligence community's) inspector general about the gravity of these allegations — have left us with no choice but to issue this subpoena," they said.

They charge that White House officials and others in the administration have blocked repeated efforts to obtain key documents and other data sought by Democrats as they investigate whether Trump and those in his inner circle committed wrongdoing.

"The committees are working in a coordinated and expeditious manner," wrote the authors — House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, Oversight panel chairman Elijah Cummings and foreign affairs chairman Eliot Engel.

The subpoena threat is part of a rapidly expanding push by Democrats to obtain documents for their impeachment inquiry and overcome a fog of resistance thrown up by the administration.

"We're not fooling around here," Schiff told reporters. "We don't want this to drag on months and months and months, which appears to be the administration's strategy."

Pompeo listened in Trump-Zelenskiy call

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched the investigation after a whistle-blower's complaint came to light about a Trump phone call with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. 

A memorandum of the call — released by the White House — showed Trump sought dirt on his potential 2020 election rival, former vice president Joe Biden.

Democrats have already subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who has acknowledged listening in on the July call — and Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani for any documents related to their involvement in the Ukraine drama.

Pompeo has strongly objected, but Democrats have warned against resisting legal demands — admonishments that Trump's top congressional adversaries repeated on Wednesday.

"We want to make it abundantly clear that any effort by the secretary, by the president or anyone else to interfere with the Congress' ability to call before it relevant witnesses will be considered as evidence of obstruction of the lawful functions of Congress," Schiff said.

A furious Trump has lashed out at those conducting the impeachment investigation. 

But he also says he wants to learn the whistle-blower's identity, which is protected by US law.

Schiff blasted the president's bid to expose the whistle-blower's identity as "a blatant effort to intimidate witnesses" and "incitement of violence," while Pelosi called Trump's words "dangerous."

Democrats trying to "bully" officials

Pompeo said on Tuesday that the Democrats were trying to "intimidate" and "bully" the career officials into appearing and claimed it would be "not feasible" as demanded. 

"I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead," Pompeo said.

News reports said the State Department's former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, would testify on Thursday and that the ex-ambassador to Kiev, Marie Yovanovitch, would appear behind closed doors on October 11.

Volker had been sought by Giuliani to help pressure Zelenskiy, while Yovanovitch was removed earlier this year as ambassador after she reportedly resisted that effort.

Pompeo himself risks greater pressure after the Democratic heads of committees said his being in on the phone call made him "a fact witness."

Trump on Tuesday described a formal impeachment inquiry by Democratic members of the House of Representatives as a "coup."

Impeachment inquiry 

The House began its impeachment investigation into Trump last week.

At issue is a July 25 phone conversation the president had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump repeatedly pressed Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, over unsubstantiated claims of corruption.

The elder Biden is the leading Democratic candidate heading into next year's presidential elections, making him a clear political rival to Trump.

Soliciting the assistance of a foreign leader to undermine Biden has raised questions of election interference that have been the foundation for the House's impeachment investigation.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing, maintaining his call with Zelenskiy was "perfect" while seeking to undermine the whistle-blower whose complaint brought the phone call and other related matters to the public's attention.

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