Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to colleagues Monday calling for sensitive administration documents to be presented as evidence at the impeachment trial after it was revealed over the weekend that the White House tried to conceal its dealings with Ukraine.
Schumer noted in a letter circulated to all senators that emails recently made public show that Michael Duffey, the associate director for national security at the White House budget office, ordered Pentagon officials in July to “hold off” on sending military aid to Ukraine and to keep the action secret because of its “sensitive nature.”
Schumer said these newly revealed documents raise the prospect that there are other relevant emails and communications that go to the heart of House-passed charges that the president abused his power and obstructed a congressional investigation.
“Relevant documentary evidence currently in the possession of the Administration will augment the existing evidentiary record and will allow Senators to reach judgments informed by all of the available facts,” Schumer wrote.
He warned that Republicans who decline to compel the White House to turn over key documentary evidence would undercut the perceived fairness of the trial.
“To oppose the admission of this evidence would be to turn a willfully blind eye to the facts, and would clearly be at odds with the obligation of Senators to ‘do impartial justice’ according to the oath we will all take in the impeachment trial,” he wrote.
Schumer’s letter shifts the focus from potential witnesses, such as acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, to key documents that may provide more details on how the administration pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and whether it later tried to keep its action secret.
"It is essential that the Senate hear from certain witnesses in order to conduct a full, fair and speedy trial,” Schumer wrote, but also urged “senators to consider another, equally important aspect of the trial that has thus far received less attention: the need for the Senate to review documentary evidence.”
The Democratic leader broke his request into three categories: documents that reveal the effort to “induce and pressure” to investigate Biden; documents that show the White House withheld a meeting “desperately sought” by newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky; and documents related to the decision to hold and later release $391 million in military assistance to Ukraine.
He stated the White House has possession of “highly relevant records and communications” such as emails and memoranda related to meetings and calls between President TrumpDonald TrumpOmar, Muslim Democrats decry Islamophobia amid death threats On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Trump cheers CNN's Cuomo suspension MORE and Zeleznsky, as well as records relating to efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden by tying such action to the Ukraine president’s desire for a meeting with Trump.
He cited media reports that the White House Counsel’s office collected and reviewed “hundreds of documents” that are said to reveal extensive efforts to generate after-the-fact-justification for delaying military aid to Ukraine.
And he called for internal White House communications related to the response to the anonymous whistleblower’s complaint that later became the spring of the House impeachment inquiry.
Schumer told reporters Thursday before Congress left town for a two-week recess that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate nearing deal on defense bill after setback On The Money — Powell pivots as inflation rises Schumer eyeing Build Back Better vote as soon as week of Dec. 13 MORE (R-Ky.) should agree to procedures that allow for witnesses and documents at the outset of the trial.
“We want a fair trial. A fair trial to my way of thinking involves witnesses and documents. You don’t have trials without them,” he said last week.
In his letter to senators Monday, Schumer also called for additional documentary evidence from the Department of State and the Office of Management and Budget.
He wants the State Department to produce pertinent notes, emails and WhatsApp messages, such as communications between U.S. diplomats and Ukrainian government officials, and the correspondence of U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Biden to mark Tuesday anniversary of George Floyd's death Trump impeachment witness suing Pompeo, State over legal fees America's practice of 'pay-to-play' ambassadors is no joke MORE, whose testimony before the House Intelligence Committee was hampered by his lack of access to his own records.
Schumer says the White House budget office, formally known as the Office of Management and Budget, should turn over communication between Robert Blair, a senior adviser to the White House chief of staff, and Duffey, the associate OMB director.
He noted that over the weekend in emails released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request showed that Duffey emailed the Pentagon 90 minutes after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky asking for military officials to hold off on sending aid and to keep the action quiet.
Schumer’s Monday letter follows a letter he sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a week ago asking for the GOP leader to agree to calling four key witnesses: Mulvaney, Bolton, Blair and Duffey.
McConnell has said that the Senate should hear the opening arguments of the House Democratic impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team before making decisions on additional witnesses and documents.