House Democrats prep White House subpoena, as Trump calls BS on impeachment push
The impeachment war between President Trump and House Democrats escalated dramatically on Wednesday as committee leaders prepared to subpoena the White House for documents and both sides traded fiery accusations.
At a press conference held minutes after the draft subpoena was released, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., blasted Trump for his statements decrying the Ukraine whistleblower and his or her sources.
Pelosi described Trump’s statements as “dangerous.” Schiff called them a “blatant effort to intimidate witnesses” and an “incitement to violence.” He also warned the Trump administration they are “not fooling around.”
Trump, for his part, essentially live-tweeted his responses to the press conference assertions, arguing that Democrats are wasting time and using impeachment as a campaign tool.
“It is just camouflage for trying to win an election through impeachment,” he tweeted, before calling BS on Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, in a profanity-laced follow-up:
“The Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLS—, which is what they have been doing ever since I got overwhelmingly elected in 2016, 223-306. Get a better candidate this time, you’ll need it!”
The Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSHIT, which is what they have been doing ever since I got overwhelmingly elected in 2016, 223-306. Get a better candidate this time, you’ll need it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2019
They traded barbs after committee leaders announced Wednesday they plan to subpoena the White House for documents related to any efforts to pressure Ukraine to probe Joe Biden.
“The White House’s flagrant disregard of multiple voluntary requests for documents—combined with stark and urgent warnings from the Inspector General about the gravity of these allegations—have left us with no choice but to issue this subpoena,” a memo prepared by House Oversight and Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings reads.
Lawmakers are seeking documents “memorializing communications between President Trump and the leader of any other foreign country” that relate to Trump’s efforts to pressure the Ukrainian president. The subpoena is directed toward acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. It requests 13 separate batches of documents related to a July phone call that Trump had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and related matters. The Oversight panel will issue the subpoena in coordination with the House intelligence and foreign affairs committees, Cummings said.
The draft subpoena for the White House — released by Cummings, Schiff, and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel — comes after the chairs issued a host of other subpoenas to key Trump administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and to individuals close to the president, like Rudy Giuliani, who played a key role in seeking information from Ukrainian officials on former Vice President Joe Biden’s dealings with the country, along with those of his son Hunter.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
During their press conference, Pelosi and Schiff rejected the president’s statements, with Schiff calling his actions “corrupt” while saying the whistleblower has “the right” to remain anonymous and that Congress will “do everything in our power to make sure the whistleblower is protected.”
The president has claimed he has a right to know the identity of the whistleblower, who alleged that Trump was soliciting a foreign power to help influence the 2020 presidential election in favor of his re-election campaign. The president has said in recent days that the White House was “trying to find out” the identity of the whistleblower, while the whistleblower’s attorneys have said they are concerned about their client’s safety. Trump has also likened the accuser’s sources to spies.
Schiff also warned the White House that any stonewalling on documents and testimony would only serve as evidence of obstruction of justice.
“We are concerned that the White House will attempt to stonewall our investigation….It is why I say the White House needs to understand that any action like that…will be considered further evidence for obstruction of justice,” Schiff said.
“We’re not fooling around here,” Schiff added. “We don’t want this to drag on months and months and months, which appears to be the administration’s strategy. They will be strengthening our case on obstruction if they behave that way.”
Trump on Wednesday also stepped up calls for Schiff to resign.
“Adam Schiff should only be so lucky to have the brains, honor and strength of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. For a lowlife like Schiff, who completely fabricated my words and read them to Congress as though they were said by me, to demean a First in Class at West Point, is SAD!” Trump tweeted.
Adam Schiff should only be so lucky to have the brains, honor and strength of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. For a lowlife like Schiff, who completely fabricated my words and read them to Congress as though they were said by me, to demean a First in Class at West Point, is SAD!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2019
The Democratic chairs also have called several State Department officials for depositions related to the Ukraine controversy. The depositions are for former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich, former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker—who resigned from his post last Friday—Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent, Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.
All officials, except Kent, were named in the whistleblower complaint accusing Trump of “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.” The whistleblower alleged that Trump pressured the Ukrainian president into investigating the Bidens, and Democrats have claimed this appeared linked to U.S. military aid to Ukraine — which Trump denies.
Schiff has also scheduled closed-door testimony from intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who is slated to appear before the panel on Friday. Atkinson is the intelligence community watchdog who first received the whistleblower complaint and transmitted it to Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire.
The subpoenas and scheduled depositions come as part of the House’s formal impeachment inquiry into the president, which Pelosi, D-Calif., announced last week amid the chaos surrounding Trump’s controversial July 25 phone call with Zelensky. Trump, on that call, sought for Zelensky to initiate an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. An intelligence community whistleblower alleged that Trump was soliciting foreign aid to benefit his 2020 re-election campaign.
The transcript of the phone call, released by the White House last week, sought help in investigating the Bidens.
“The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great,” Trump said. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it…It sounds horrible to me.”
This refers to Joe Biden, while vice president, urging Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was investigating the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings — where Hunter Biden was on the board. Biden has maintained that corruption concerns prompted his intervention.
The president, though, has maintained that he did not engage in any misconduct, and stands by his argument that there was nothing improper about the phone call.