Democrats warn White House to expect subpoena on Ukraine
WASHINGTON - House Democratic leaders warned the White House Wednesday to expect a subpoena demanding documents on President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine, accusing the administration of “flagrant disregard” of previous requests and saying that refusal could be considered an impeachable offense.
Separately, the Democrats accused Trump of “an incitement to violence” against a national security whistleblower and advised him and his administration not to intimidate potential witnesses in their impeachment inquiry. The whistleblower exposed a July phone call that Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump pressed for an investigation of Democratic political rival Joe Biden and his family. Democrats say the pressure on Zelenskiy, on its own, constitutes an abuse of power worthy of impeachment.
House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff, accusing Trump of inviting violence against the whistleblower, said any effort to interfere with the Democrats' investigations would be considered evidence of obstruction and could be included in articles of impeachment.
"We're not fooling around here," he said.
Trump showed no signs of letting up, tweeting a vulgarity during the House leaders' news conference and saying “the Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country.” Throwing criticism broadly, he assailed Schiff as a “low-life” and said Pelosi's San Francisco has turned into a “tent city” of homeless.
Trump has tweeted in recent days that he wants to “find out about” the whistleblower and question him or her, though the person's identity is protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act.
The Democrats said they would subpoena the White House Friday for documents related to Trump's dealings with Ukraine. House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings wrote in a memo to committee members that the action is necessary because the White House has ignored multiple requests.
Referring to a report on the whistleblower's complaint, Cummings said that given the “stark and urgent warnings” the inspector general for the intelligence community has delivered to Congress, the panel has “no choice but to issue this subpoena.”
The subpoena will be directed toward acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and request 13 separate batches of documents related to the July call and other related matters. The call unfolded against the backdrop of a $250 million foreign aid package for Ukraine that was being readied by Congress but stalled by Trump, which Democrats say was appear
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said the subpoena is “nothing but more document requests, wasted time and taxpayer dollars that will ultimately show the president did nothing wrong.”
The subpoena announcement came as House and Senate staff prepared to meet with the State Department's inspector general Wednesday afternoon. A State Department invitation, reviewed by The Associated Press, requested an “urgent” meeting with staff from eight House and Senate panels.
The invitation said the inspector general, Steve Linick, “would like to discuss and provide staff with copies of documents related to the State Department and Ukraine.” The documents were obtained from the State Department's acting legal adviser, according to the email.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged Wednesday he was on the phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry. He also continued to push back against what he said was Democrats' "bullying and intimidation."
Democrats have scheduled closed-door depositions Thursday with former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and next week with ousted U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and three other State Department officials. Pompeo told the committees on Tuesday that the dates they had set were “not feasible,” but at least some of the officials are still coming.
The Democrats said that Pompeo's resistance amounted to his own intimidation.
"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," said Schiff, Cummings and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel in a Tuesday notice to Pompeo.
They said that if he was on Trump's call, "Secretary Pompeo is now a fact witness in the House impeachment inquiry." And they warned, "He should immediately cease intimidating department witnesses in order to protect himself and the president."
Democrats often note that obstruction was one of the impeachment articles against Richard Nixon, who resigned the presidency in 1974 in the face of almost certain impeachment.