Sep 23, 2019

Key House committees threaten subpoenas over Trump-Ukraine allegations

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

The Democratic chairs of the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees on Monday sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanding that the State Department produce documents related to allegations that President Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani have pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden.

“Seeking to enlist a foreign actor to interfere with an American election undermines our sovereignty, democracy, and the Constitution, which the President is sworn to preserve, protect, and defend.  Yet the President and his personal attorney now appear to be openly engaging in precisely this type of abuse of power involving the Ukrainian government ahead of the 2020 election."
— Chairs Adam Schiff, Elijah Cummings and Eliot Engel

Why it matters: With a majority in the House, Democrats have the power to subpoena Trump administration officials to cooperate in their investigations. The allegations over Trump and Ukraine have erupted into a source of massive controversy over the past week, with Democratic leaders such as House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) suggesting that they could pave a new path to impeachment.

  • Trump on Sunday confirmed that he discussed Joe Biden and his son during a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25, but he has maintained that the conversation did not involve any impropriety.
  • Trump has instead doubled down on baseless allegations that Biden forced Ukraine to fire a prosecutor probing his son, arguing that it would be appropriate to investigate the former vice president for corruption.

Reality check: The majority of the subpoenas issued to former and current Trump officials have been blocked by the administration, teeing up prolonged court battles over the question of executive privilege. It's likely that Pompeo will be equally defiant in the face of a Democratic subpoena, though it's worth noting that Giuliani — who does not serve in the administration — may not be covered by the same assertion of alleged privilege.

What to watch: The 3 chairmen have given Pompeo until the end of Thursday to turn over relevant documents and avoid a subpoena. That same day, acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire will testify in open session before the House Intelligence Committee about a whistleblower complaint that reportedly concerns Trump and Ukraine.

Read the letter:

Go deeper: Pelosi hints at impeachment over Trump-Ukraine whistleblower complaint

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