UPDATE 3-Democrats ask White House's Mulvaney to testify in impeachment probe
Congressional Democrats on Tuesday requested that White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney testify in the impeachment probe of Donald Trump, as they prepared to release testimony by two of the "three amigos" who helped run Ukraine policy for the Republican president. The U.S. House of Representatives committees conducting the impeachment inquiry have asked Mulvaney to appear at a deposition on Friday.
"Based on evidence gathered in the impeachment inquiry and public reporting, we believe that you possess substantial first-hand knowledge and information relevant to the House's impeachment inquiry," leaders of the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees said in a letter to Mulvaney. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Trump administration has directed U.S. officials not to cooperate with the investigation. Some who have been subpoenaed have testified, while others have refused. Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters on Monday transcripts would be released of interviews with Kurt Volker, Trump's former special representative for Ukraine negotiations, and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.
Witnesses have testified that Volker and Sondland, with Trump's secretary of energy, Rick Perry, were known as the "three amigos," responsible for Trump's unofficial channel to Ukrainian government officials. Volker resigned as special representative in September. He testified to the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight panels for more than eight hours behind closed doors on Oct. 3.
Tuesday's will be the second public release of testimony in the impeachment investigation of Trump that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally launched on Sept. 24. On Monday, the committees released transcripts of testimony by Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump abruptly recalled as ambassador to Ukraine in May, and Michael McKinley, a former top adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In their interviews, Yovanovitch and McKinley said the State Department was being used for domestic political purposes under Trump and warned that would hurt American interests. The House investigation is focused on a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic rival as Trump seeks re-election in November 2020.
Trump froze nearly $400 million in U.S. military assistance to Ukraine shortly before speaking to Zelenskiy, prompting accusations from Democrats that he had misused U.S. foreign policy for personal gain. Strongly backed by his fellow Republicans in Congress, Trump has denied wrongdoing and accused Democrats of unfairly targeting him in the hope of reversing his surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election.
PUBLIC HEARINGS The committees began releasing interview transcripts as they prepare for public hearings that could start this month.
If the House eventually votes to impeach Trump, a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate would be held. Trump would not be removed from office unless two-thirds of the senators who are present vote to convict him - an unlikely prospect at this point. According to accounts of their testimony already public, both Sondland and Volker discussed communications between Trump's private attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and Ukrainian officials with House investigators.
Volker turned over text messages concerning Ukraine among himself, Giuliani and other diplomats. Sondland testified that Trump directed him, Perry and Volker to talk to Giuliani about his concerns about corruption in Ukraine and that the three were dismayed by that order.
He said he did not understand "until much later" that Giuliani's agenda included a push for Ukraine to investigate Biden. Sondland also said it would be wrong to get a foreign government to launch investigations in order to influence a U.S. election. The Trump administration has directed U.S. officials not to cooperate with the probe.
Democratic U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin, who sits on the Oversight Committee, said the failure of the witnesses to appear would not affect the pace of the inquiry. "We're going to move to the public phase of the investigation because America needs to hear from these witnesses themselves," he said. "The president is actively obstructing our investigation by trying to blockade the witnesses. That in itself becomes evidence of obstruction."
Two administration officials who had been scheduled to appear for closed-door testimony did not show up on Tuesday: Michael Duffey, associate director of the White House budget office, and Wells Griffith, senior director for international energy and the environment on the White House National Security Council. Four White House witnesses also failed to testify on Monday.
Schiff said on Monday that could potentially lead to obstruction of Congress charges against the president.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)