House Democrats Subpoena White House as Part of Impeachment Inquiry

Photo: Alex Wong (Getty Images)

House Democrats investigating the role of White House officials in pressuring their Ukrainian counterparts to do political propaganda work for Donald Trump have sent a subpoena letter to the White House’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.

The letter was sent on Friday by House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings on behalf of his committee, along with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who has been leading the Democrats’ efforts in the House to impeach Trump.

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The subpoena requires Mulvaney, who allegedly implemented Trump’s order to temporarily freeze military aid to Ukraine, and other White House officials to turn over documents related to the Ukraine investigation by Oct. 18. Failure to do so, the letter states, “shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry…”

Among the documents lawmakers seek are all records relating to the Ukraine scandal, as well as the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, the president’s imprisoned former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, correspondence about investigations into Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, and other related information.

House Democratic leaders had given White House counsel Pat Cipollone until Sept. 16 to turn over these documents, and they had ordered White House staff to preserve all related documents and transcripts. But according to lawmakers, White House officials ignored that request.

The House committee chairs wrote again on Sept. 24 seeking the same documents, and urging the White House to take steps to protect the identity of the whistleblower who denounced a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That whistleblower complaint prompted Congress’ ongoing impeachment inquiry.

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White House officials apparently ignored that letter, too. In both cases, the Trump White House did not even acknowledge receiving the letters from Congress.

“The Committees are investigating the extent to which President Trump jeopardized national security by pressing Ukraine to interfere with our 2020 election and by withholding security assistance provided by Congress to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression, as well as any efforts to cover up these matters,” the letter to Mulvaney states.

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It also addresses one of the latest defense strategies by Trump and his Republican sycophants: the claim that Trump administration officials don’t have to respond to document requests and subpoenas from Congress until the House holds a full vote on impeachment on the floor.

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“A vote of the full House is not required to launch an impeachment inquiry, and there is no authority for the White House to make this claim. There is no such requirement in the Constitution or in the House rules,” Cummings wrote.

That is similar to what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday.

“We may decide to do it,” Pelosi told reporters on Friday, referring to a full House vote, “but it has nothing to do with the president saying what he’s saying.”

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The letter from lawmakers concluded: “We deeply regret that President Trump has put us—and the nation—in this position, but his actions have left us with no choice but to issue this subpoena.”

House committee leaders on Friday also sought more documents from Vice President Mike Pence, who is increasingly under scrutiny for his role in the Ukraine scandal.

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In a separate letter from Engel, Cummings, and Schiff, the lawmakers set an Oct. 15 deadline for Pence to turn over the related documents.

They wrote:

Recently, public reports have raised questions about any role you may have played in conveying or reinforcing the President’s stark message to the Ukrainian President. The reports include specific references to a member of your staff who may have participated directly in the July 25, 2019, call, documents you may have obtained or reviewed, including the record of the call, and your September 1, 2019, meeting with the Ukrainian President in Warsaw, during which you reportedly discussed the Administration’s hold on U.S. security assistance to Ukraine.

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To date, Pence isn’t wavering in terms of his support for Trump. And members of Pence’s staff appear to be stonewalling Congress’ document requests.

“Given the scope, it does not appear to be a serious request but just another attempt by the Do Nothing Democrats to call attention to their partisan impeachment,” Pence’s press secretary, Katie Waldman, tweeted in response to Congress’ letter.

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That statement was similar to a response to the subpoena by White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who said in a statement on Friday that, “This subpoena changes nothing – just more document requests, wasted time, and taxpayer dollars that will ultimately show the President did nothing wrong.”

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She added: “The Do Nothing Democrats can continue with their kangaroo court while the President and his Administration will continue to work on behalf of the American people.”

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