Files sought in im­peach­ment probe

Pom­peo sub­poe­naed in House Dems’ 1st salvo in Trump saga

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Zeke Miller, Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo

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.

CAR­OLYN KASTER/AP

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Fri­day kept ver­bal at­tack­ing a whistle­blower who claims he abused the pow­ers of his of­fice.

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