Files sought in impeachment probe
Pompeo subpoenaed in House Dems’ 1st salvo in Trump saga
WASHINGTON — House Democrats took their first concrete steps in the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump on Friday, issuing subpoenas demanding documents from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and scheduling legal depositions for other State Department officials.
At the end of a stormy week of revelation and recrimination, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi framed the impeachment inquiry as a somber moment for a divided nation.
“This is no cause for any joy,” she said on MSNBC.
At the White House, a senior administration official confirmed a key detail from the unidentified CIA whistleblower who has accused Trump of abusing the power of his office.
Trump, for his part, insisted anew that his actions and words have been “perfect” and the whistleblower’s complaint might well be the work of “a partisan operative.”
The White House acknowledged that a record of the Trump phone call that is now at the center of the impeachment inquiry had been sealed away in a highly classified system at the direction of Trump’s National Security Council lawyers.
Separately, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters that the whistleblower “has protection under the law,” something Trump himself had appeared to question earlier in the day.
Still at issue is why the rough transcript of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president was put on “lock down,” in the words of the whistleblower. The CIA officer said that diverting the record in an unusual way was evidence that “White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired” in the conversation.
The whistleblower complaint alleges that Trump used his office to “solicit interference from a foreign country” to help himself in next year’s U.S. election. In the phone call, days after ordering a freeze to some military assistance for Ukraine, Trump prodded new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to dig for potentially damaging material on Democratic rival Joe Biden and volunteered the assistance of both his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and U.S. Attorney General William Barr.
Pelosi refused to set a deadline for the probe but promised to act “expeditiously.” The House intelligence committee could draw members back to Washington next week.
At the White House, it was a senior administration official who acknowledged that the rough transcript of Trump’s conversation with Zelenskiy had been moved to a highly classified system maintained by the National Security Council. The official was granted anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
White House attorneys had been made aware of concerns about Trump’s comments on the call even before the whistleblower sent his allegations to the intelligence community’s inspector general. Those allegations, made in mid-August, were released Thursday under heavy pressure from House Democrats.
All the while, Trump was keeping up his full-bore attack on the whistleblower and the unnamed “White House officials” cited in the complaint, drawing a warning from Pelosi against retaliation.
Late Thursday, Trump denounced people who might have talked to the whistleblower as “close to a spy” and suggested they engaged in treason, an act punishable by death. Then on Friday, he said the person was “sounding more and more like the so-called Whistleblower isn’t a Whistleblower at all.”
He also alleged without evidence that information in the complaint has been “proved to be so inaccurate.”
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, a member of the intelligence committee, said the president calling whistleblowers spies is “just grotesque.”
“If you ask me, I’d like to hear from everybody that was mentioned in that whistleblowers report. I like to hear from Rudy Giuliani, from the attorney general. I think Mike Pompeo has explaining to do as well as the State Department.”
Trump’s Friday comment questioning the whistleblower’s status seemed to foreshadow a possible effort to argue that legal protection laws don’t apply to the person, opening a new front in the president’s defense, but Conway’s statement seemed to make that less likely.
The intelligence community’s inspector general found the whistleblower’s complaint “credible” despite finding indications of the person’s support for a different political candidate.
Republicans were straining under the uncertainty of being swept up in the most serious test yet of their alliance with the Trump White House.
“We owe people to take it seriously,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a onetime Trump rival who is now a member of the intelligence committee.
A swift resolution to the impeachment inquiry may not be easy. The intelligence committee is diving in just as lawmakers leave Washington for a twoweek recess, with the panel expected to work while away. One person familiar with the committee’s schedule said that members might return at the end of next week.
President Donald Trump on Friday kept verbal attacking a whistleblower who claims he abused the powers of his office.