House Democrats threaten to subpoena White House for Ukraine docs
Democrats have unveiled two other subpoenas in recent days as part of the inquiry, which is jointly being led by Cummings, Schiff and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.).
The committees first issued a subpoena to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for documents late last week. And on Monday, the committees subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, for communications documenting his involvement in urging Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
The committee chairmen have been pursuing documents from the White House regarding the effort to press Ukraine to pursue an investigation to undermine a potential 2020 presidential rival for weeks, to no avail.
“We’re not fooling around here,” Schiff said Wednesday. “We don’t want this to drag on months and months and months, which appears to be the administration’s strategy.”
The White House last week released a rough transcript of a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. During that call, Trump brought up the Bidens and said that he would tell Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr to contact Zelensky about pursuing an investigation.
Democrats are demanding all recordings, transcripts, notes and preparatory memos regarding Trump’s July call with Zelensky as well as another call from April shortly after the Ukrainian leader won election. They are also asking for “the identity of all individuals who listened to, participated in, assisted in preparation for, transcribed, took notes during, or received information” about the two calls.
In addition, the lawmakers are requesting records of all meetings and communications between current and former White House officials and Giuliani, as well as Barr.
The whistleblower complaint filed over Trump’s July call with Zelensky stated that senior White House officials moved to “lock down” all records of the call, including removing the transcript from the computer system where it would be typically stored to a separate, restricted electronic system used to handle particularly sensitive classified information.
Accordingly, Democrats are seeking documents related to efforts to restrict access to records of the phone call.
“We will have investigations and questioning that are worthy of the Constitution of the United State. It’s unworthy of the Constitution of the United States to do what he did in that call, and he admitted it to me. He said it’s ‘perfect.’ No, it’s not perfect. It’s wrong,” Pelosi said.
They also are demanding documentation of efforts by current or former White House officials to identify or retaliate against the whistleblower, who filed their complaint in August.
Trump and his allies have publicly attacked the whistleblower and demanded to know the person’s identity.
“[W]hy aren’t we entitled to interview & learn everything about the Whistleblower, and also the person who gave all of the false information to him. This is simply about a phone conversation that could not have been nicer, warmer, or better. No pressure at all (as confirmed by Ukrainian Pres.). It is just another Democrat Hoax!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.
Schiff said that lawmakers would “do everything in our power” to protect the whistleblower amid Trump’s attacks, which he called “a blatant effort to intimidate witnesses.”
“Protecting whistleblowers is a very, very important requirement that we have,” Pelosi said. “The president probably doesn’t realize how dangerous his statements are when he says he wants to expose who the whistleblower is and those who may have given the whistleblower that information.”
The administration has so far broadly pushed back on Democratic efforts to obtain information about the president’s dealings with Ukraine.
Pompeo said Tuesday he “intends to respond” to his subpoena by the noticed date of Oct. 4, but rebuffed Democratic demands for testimony from several State Department officials.
The secretary of State said the House chairmen’s requested dates for depositions offered insufficient time for the officials to prepare and suggested Democrats may be trying to “bully” officials into testifying.
Still, the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees will conduct a joint deposition on Thursday with Kurt Volker, who had served as the Trump administration’s special envoy to Ukraine until his resignation last Friday.
The whistleblower complaint states that Volker visited Kiev with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland a day after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky and met with Ukrainian officials to discuss how to “navigate” Trump’s “demands.”
The committee chairmen had also sought depositions with four other current and former State Department officials: Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine; State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent; State Department counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl; and Sondland.
Yovanovitch’s deposition was rescheduled for next Friday, while it is unclear when the other officials would appear before the committees.
Schiff, Cummings and Engel have repeatedly warned that efforts to stonewall the impeachment inquiry could be used as evidence of obstruction, something they reiterated in a letter to Giuliani, who has not made clear yet if he will comply with his subpoena.
The chairmen also said in a joint statement Tuesday that “any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress — including State Department employees — is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry.”
– Morgan Chalfant contributed
Updated: 1:00 p.m.