WASHINGTON -- House Democrats subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday, their first steps in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
The subpoenas demand that Pompeo produce documents related to the president's dealings with Ukraine, and that he make five State Department officials available for depositions in the next two weeks.
A failure to do so, the leaders of three House committees wrote jointly, would be construed as "evidence of obstruction of the House's inquiry" -- an offense that Democrats have made clear they view as grounds for impeachment.
The letters to Pompeo were announced hours after Trump demanded that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., resign over his paraphrased summary of Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Attorney General William Barr of having "gone rogue."Gallery: House Speaker Pelosi on Trump impeachment inquiry
Pelosi said she was praying for the president "that God will illuminate him to see right from wrong," adding, "I would say to Democrats and Republicans: We have to put country before party."
Separately, a U.S. official said late Friday that the special envoy to Ukraine had resigned after disclosures that he had connected Trump's personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, with Ukrainian officials.
The official said Kurt Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, had notified Pompeo of his decision to leave the job. Giuliani has said he was in frequent contact with Volker about his efforts.
Democrats, in their impeachment investigation that began this week, have accused Trump of using U.S. aid to Ukraine as leverage to pressure Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
Schiff's Intelligence Committee has scheduled a private briefing for next Friday with Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general who first attempted to share a whistleblower complaint outlining the matter with Congress, according to a committee official.
Atkinson met with House lawmakers last week but was restricted from discussing any of the complaint's substance. Next week, officials said, Atkinson will be more free to describe his efforts to corroborate the complaint, which he ultimately deemed a matter of "urgent concern" that "appears credible."
Schiff was one of the three committee chairmen who sent the letters to Pompeo. The others were Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee.
"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," the three chairmen wrote.
The subpoena seeks any communications or other paperwork related to the call between the two leaders; efforts by Giuliani to advance the investigation into the Bidens; and the Trump administration's decision to temporarily withhold $391 million in security aid from Ukraine.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letters.
TRUMP, SCHIFF SPAR
Trump focused several of his Friday tweets on Schiff, saying he "totally made up" Trump's conversation with Zelenskiy "and read it to Congress and Millions" on television.
"He must resign and be investigated," Trump wrote of Schiff. "He has been doing this for two years. He is a sick man!"
Schiff on Thursday said he was not reading the memo of the call word for word, and prefaced the portion of his remarks with the phrase "in essence." He said later that his summary of Trump's call "was meant to be at least part in parody."
On Friday, he addressed the president directly via Twitter.
"You engaged in a shakedown to get election dirt from a foreign country. And then you tried to cover it up," Schiff tweeted. "But you're right about one thing -- your words need no mockery. Your own words and deeds mock themselves. But most importantly here, they endanger our country."
Trump declared Friday on Twitter that "The Democrats are now to be known as the DO NOTHING PARTY!" He also speculated that the whistleblower might have received information from "a leaker or spy" or a "partisan operative."
The president added that it's "sounding more and more like the so-called Whistleblower isn't a Whistleblower at all."
Analysts said that if the Trump administration successfully argues that the person who wrote the report was not a whistleblower, then that person would not be entitled to protections against being fired or criminally prosecuted.
Earlier Friday, Trump personal attorney Jay Sekulow had claimed that someone else wrote the report.
"Look at the phraseology, the endnotes and the footnotes," Sekulow said during an appearance on Fox News' Fox & Friends. "This wasn't drafted by this individual. This was written by a law firm."
Tommy Vietor, a former aide for President Barack Obama, mocked that suggestion on Twitter.
"Yes shocking that a CIA analyst could put together a concise research memo," Vietor wrote.
Separately, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters that the whistleblower "has protection under the law." Legal experts added that because the person filed a complaint with the government rather than disclosing the information to the media, the person is legally a whistleblower.
"This person clearly followed the exact path he was supposed to follow," said Debra D'Agostino, a lawyer who represents whistleblowers. "There is no basis for not calling this person a whistleblower."
The intelligence community's inspector general also found the whistleblower's complaint "credible" despite finding indications of the person's support for a different political candidate.
Pelosi on Friday was highly critical of Barr's handling of the episode, saying his Justice Department played a central role in delaying the disclosure of the whistleblower complaint to Congress.
Barr was briefed on the Justice Department's decision not to share the complaint with Congress and not to prosecute it as a possible campaign finance law violation, but he was not involved in the considerations over what to do about the complaint.
"I do think the attorney general has gone rogue," Pelosi said on CNN. "He has for a long time now," she added -- a reference to his widely criticized characterization of the special counsel's investigation into Russia's 2016 election interference and whether Trump tried to obstruct justice.
Earlier Friday on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Pelosi accused the White House of "a cover-up of the cover-up" over the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy. Pelosi announced the start of an impeachment inquiry before the releases of the reconstructed transcript of the call and the complaint.
The White House has acknowledged that a record of the Trump phone call -- not just a reconstruction -- had been sealed away in a highly classified system at the direction of Trump's National Security Council lawyers.
The whistleblower complaint did not describe any actions taken by Barr to persuade Ukraine to investigate matters that could benefit Trump politically. But it referred to Trump's suggestion to Zelenskiy that he follow up with Barr and Giuliani about the investigations.
That suggestion had Pelosi questioning whether Barr could objectively make decisions about legal action.
"Since he was mentioned in all of this, it's curious that he would be making decisions about how the complaint would be handled," Pelosi said on CNN.
As for Giuliani, he was scheduled to appear at a Kremlin-backed conference in Armenia on Tuesday, but he said Friday he would not be attending. The agenda showed him speaking at a session on digital financial technologies. Russian President Vladimir Putin also was scheduled to participate in the conference.
The Kremlin said Friday that it hoped the contents of Trump's phone conversations with Putin would not be made public.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov was asked if he worried about the confidentiality of the American president's contacts with Putin after the release of the memo detailing Trump's call to Zelenskiy.
"We would like to hope that we would not see such situations in our bilateral relations, which already have plenty of quite serious problems," he said in a conference call with reporters.
He emphasized that accounts of phone conversations between leaders were classified. The release this week was "quite unusual," he added.
Asked if the Kremlin would be ready to agree to release the contents of a phone call with Trump, Peskov said that such situations should be treated on a case-by-case basis.
"No one has turned to us with such requests," he said.
Over the past three years, Putin has had 11 phone conversations with Trump, the most recent in July, according to the Kremlin's website. Only brief descriptions of the calls have been published by both sides.
Information for this article was contributed by Nicholas Fandos, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan and Ivan Nechepurenko of The New York Times; by John Wagner and Colby Itkowitz of The Washington Post; and by Zeke Miller, Eric Tucker, Michael Balsamo, Matthew Lee, Lisa Mascaro, Laurie Kellman, Mary Clare Jalonick, Alan Fram, Matt Lee, Padmananda Rama and Matthew Daly of The Associated Press.
President Donald Trump arrives Friday at the White House to speak at a Hispanic Heritage Month event. In tweets Friday, Trump called on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff to resign and speculated that a whistleblower might have received information from “a leaker or spy” or “partisan operative.
A Section on 09/28/2019
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