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House Democrats subpoena White House for Ukraine documents


House Democrats have followed through on their threat to issue a subpoena to the White House for documents concerning President Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

The chairmen of three House panels notified acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney of the subpoena in a letter on Friday. The subpoena is being issued by the chamber's Oversight and Reform Committee.

The Democrats are seeking documents related to Trump's efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a top political rival and leading Democratic presidential contender.

Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) warned in a memo on Wednesday that he would issue the subpoena if the White House didn't comply by the end of the week.

But Cummings and the other two committee chairmen leading the impeachment inquiry — Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) — said they had not received any response as of Friday evening.

“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,” the chairmen wrote in a letter to Mulvaney.

The White House pushed back on the subpoena Friday night, arguing in a statement that the subpoena "changes nothing – just more document requests, wasted time, and taxpayer dollars that will ultimately show the President did nothing wrong."

"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," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham added in the statement.

The House panels have been pursuing the documents for weeks to no avail. They first sent a letter to the White House asking for the documents by Sept. 16, but received no response.

The chairmen sent another letter on Sept. 24 to follow up, but again did not get a response from the White House. The subpoena demands that the White House hand over the requested documents by Oct. 18.

Friday marked the third subpoena issued by House Democrats since they began their impeachment inquiry last week amid rising scrutiny over Trump's interactions with Ukraine.

Democrats have seized on details from a whistleblower complaint about Trump's efforts to push Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter.

Trump has questioned Biden's efforts as vice president to convince Ukraine to fire a top prosecutor in 2016. The prosecutor general had at one point looked into an energy company where Hunter Biden served on the board.

There is no evidence either of the Bidens engaged in wrongdoing.

The Intelligence Committee, in consultation with the Foreign Affairs and Oversight panels, issued a subpoena on Monday to Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for his role in pressuring Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens. And last week, the Foreign Affairs Committee issued a subpoena to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for documents.

The committees also sent a letter earlier Friday to Vice President Pence asking for documents related to his role in Trump's efforts to press for an investigation into the Bidens, but the request was not a subpoena.

Trump said Friday that he would send a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) challenging the authority to demand documents since the House has not formally voted on its impeachment inquiry.

"We’ve been treated very unfairly, very different from anybody else," Trump said.

The House chairmen dismissed the argument that a floor vote was needed.

“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,” the chairmen wrote.

Democrats are demanding all communications regarding Trump's July call with Zelensky as well as another call from April shortly after the Ukrainian leader won election. They are also asking for "the identity of all individuals who listened to, participated in, assisted in preparation for, transcribed, took notes during, or received information" about the two calls.

Lawmakers are also requesting records of all meetings and communications between current and former White House officials and Giuliani, as well as Attorney General William Barr.

The whistleblower complaint filed over Trump's July call with Zelensky stated that senior White House officials moved to "lock down" all records of the call, including removing the transcript from the computer system where it would be typically stored to a separate, restricted electronic system.

The committees are further demanding documents related to efforts to restrict access to records of the phone call and are asking for documents related to efforts by current or former White House officials to identify or retaliate against the whistleblower.

Trump has publicly attacked the whistleblower in recent days.

"[W]hy aren’t we entitled to interview & learn everything about the Whistleblower, and also the person who gave all of the false information to him. This is simply about a phone conversation that could not have been nicer, warmer, or better. No pressure at all (as confirmed by Ukrainian Pres.). It is just another Democrat Hoax!" Trump tweeted Tuesday.

As with their other demands for documents, the chairmen warned Mulvaney that a failure to comply with the subpoena would be used as evidence of obstruction as they move to potentially craft articles of impeachment.

"Your failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena, including at the direction or behest of the president or others at the White House, shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House's impeachment inquiry and may be used as an adverse inference against you and the president," they wrote.

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