Mike Pompeo attends an event hosted by the US Department of State's Energy Resources Governance Initiative in New York City on Thursday. Darren Ornitz/ Reuters
Democrats in the US House of Representatives who are pursuing an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump issued a subpoena on Friday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for documents concerning contact with the Ukrainian government.
Following a whistleblower complaint that Republican President Donald Trump solicited a political favour from Ukraine’s president that could help him get re-elected, the lawmakers are pursuing concerns that Trump’s actions have jeopardized national security and the integrity of US elections.
The House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight Committees which announced the subpoena also scheduled depositions for five State Department officials over the next two weeks, including former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, Ambassador Kurt Volker, the US Special Representative for Ukraine, and Ambassador Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The committees announced the subpoenas after the Trump administration missed a Thursday deadline to provide documents and information about contacts with Ukrainian officials, as well as a July 25 telephone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
That call is central to an impeachment investigation that Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the Democratic-led House of Representatives, announced this week.
The impeachment inquiry has cast a new pall over Trump’s presidency just months after he emerged from the shadow cast by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether he colluded with Russia in the 2016 election.
Trump has reacted furiously, arguing he did nothing wrong, and accusing Democrats of launching a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
The White House this week released a summary of Trump’s July 25 phone call where he asked Zelenskiy to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden ahead of the November 2020 election - a call at the heart of the whistleblower’s complaint.
Trump had ordered $400 million in military aid and foreign assistance for Ukraine to be put on hold a week before the call, and lifted the freeze earlier this month.
Trump denies he pressured Zelenskiy to do anything improper and said he was not using the aid as leverage, but wanted to make sure Ukraine was taking steps to address corruption issues.
More than 300 former national security officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations on Friday endorsed the House’s impeachment inquiry, saying they did not prejudge the outcome but wanted to know more facts.
ESPER DISMISSES IMPACT OF HOLD
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Friday the freeze in aid to Ukraine had no impact on US national security.
“At this point most of the money is out the door,” Esper told reporters. “And at no time or at any time has any delay in this money, this funding, affected US national security.”
Esper said the Pentagon would provide whatever information it could to Congress about the incident. Earlier this week, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said he had asked the Pentagon’s inspector general - an internal watchdog - to investigate the hold. On Friday, the inspector general said it was reviewing Durbin’s request.
Democratic leaders of two House committees asked the White House Office of Management and Budget on Friday for a long list of written details and documents by Oct.1 about the decision to withhold the aid, saying they were concerned the delay was an abuse of executive branch authority.
A spokeswoman for the OMB said the office acted within its bounds. “OMB has clear legal authorities to help ensure that agencies spend funds consistent with the law and the president’s priorities, and all actions taken under this administration were clearly within those authorities,” Rachel Semmel said.
In Kyiv, Pompeo was to meet Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose July 25 phone call with Trump triggered the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump's impeachment.
It began when Pompeo gave an early morning interview to NPR radio. Much of the discussion dealt with Iran, but journalist Mary Louise Kelly closed by asking Pompeo about Ukraine.
Court action could come as soon as on Thursday or Friday, with the Democrats’ determination pointing to many more months of digging by lawmakers into Trump,
Brazil has reported more than 34,000 deaths from the virus so far, meaning it surpassed the amount in Italy and trails only the UK and US Experts consider the tally a significant undercount due to insufficient testing.
The city-state has already developed the first-of-its-kind smartphone app to identify and alert people who have interacted with novel coronavirus carriers, but the bluetooth technology has been beset with glitches and the app is not widely used.
Floyd's death last week after a fatal encounter with a police officer has led to nationwide protests. In widely circulated video footage, a white officer was seen kneeling on Floyd's neck as Floyd gasped for air and repeatedly groaned, "I can't breathe," before passing out.
Michael White flew from Tehran to Zurich, where he was met by diplomat Brian Hook, the US special envoy for Iran who has led the negotiations for the release of White and other American detainees in Iran. White and Hook then departed Zurich on a US government plane.