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Democrats demand Barr, senior officials testify on Ukraine

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are pressing Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Trump can make GOP bigger, stronger, or he 'could destroy it' Sunday shows preview: Manchin makes the rounds after pivotal role in coronavirus relief debate Georgia DA investigating Trump taps racketeering expert for probe: report MORE (R-S.C.) to call Attorney General William BarrBill BarrPolitics in the Department of Justice can be a good thing Majority of Republicans say 2020 election was invalid: poll Biden administration withdraws from Connecticut transgender athlete case MORE and other senior officials to testify about President TrumpDonald TrumpUS, South Korea reach agreement on cost-sharing for troops Graham: Trump can make GOP bigger, stronger, or he 'could destroy it' Biden nominates female generals whose promotions were reportedly delayed under Trump MORE's actions on Ukraine. 
 
In a letter to Graham, the 10 Democrats on the panel argued that the committee has "an important leadership role to play" as lawmakers dig into a whistleblower complaint and the July 25 phone call in which Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenLawmakers, activists remember civil rights icons to mark 'Bloody Sunday' Fauci predicts high schoolers will receive coronavirus vaccinations this fall Biden nominates female generals whose promotions were reportedly delayed under Trump MORE.
 
"Those documents raise additional concerns that the White House has known about and, potentially aided by top officials at the Department of Justice, may have taken steps to conceal presidential misconduct," they wrote. 
 
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As part of their hearing request, Democrats noted that Trump mentioned the attorney general specifically in his call with Zelensky. The committee, according to Democrats, should look into the "full extent" of Barr's involvement "with Ukraine and matters related to the whistleblower’s complaint."
 
In addition to Barr, Democrats want Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, Assistant Attorney General Steven Engel and Assistant Attorney General John Demers to be called to testify.
 
A senior Justice Department official told BuzzFeed News that the final decision on whether to open a campaign finance investigation into the Zelensky call was made by Benczkowski. Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported that Demers was made aware of the complaint on Aug. 14, and CNN reported that Engel was responsible for determining if the whistleblower complaint was an "urgent concern."
 
They also want White House counsel Pat Cipollone to testify about the White House's use of nondisclosure agreements and for Inspectors General Michael Atkinson and Michael Horowitz, the top watchdogs for the intelligence community and the Justice Department, respectively, to testify.  
 
The decision by Democrats to step up their demands for hearings tied to the complaint and Trump's call with Zelensky comes after Trump reportedly said that whoever gave information to the whistleblower is "close to a spy." 
 
"This committee should not sit idly by as the president threatens potential witnesses, whose testimony may be crucial to congressional investigations into credible allegations against him," Democrats wrote in their letter. 
 
Trump, according to The Los Angeles Times, slammed officials who helped the whistleblower and appeared to compare their behavior to treason while speaking during a private event in New York last week. 
 
"Who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now," Trump said.
 
The president ramped up his criticism of the whistleblower on Monday, saying the White House is "trying to find out" the person's identity.