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Congress prepares White House subpoena for Ukraine documents

WASHINGTON — House Democrats prepared a subpoena for the White House on Wednesday, escalating the battle of impeachment with President Donald Trump over allegations he tried to coerce the Ukraine government to interfere with the upcoming election by seeking an investigation into a political rival.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said they were prepared to subpoena the White House if documents about the president’s request of the Ukrainian government to investigate Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, were not turned over by Friday.

Schiff told a Capitol Hill news conference that the White House has stonewalled other congressional oversight investigations, and he warned that Democrats were prepared to act if the president tries those tactics to stall the investigation involving Ukraine.

“We are not fooling around here,” Schiff said. “We don’t want this to drag on for months and months and months, which would be the administration’s strategy.”

Schiff also demanded that the president stop trying to intimidate a whistleblower who came forward with the information, submitted to the acting director of national intelligence and found credible and urgent by an inspector general.

Trump angry about whistleblower

Trump has called the whistleblower a partisan, a spy, and someone deserving of punishment for treason, like execution.

The president’s rhetoric was an attempt “to intimidate a witness” and his words an “incitement to violence,” Schiff said.

Trump immediately lashed out at the Democratic leaders from the Oval Office, where he was meeting with Finland President Sauli Niinisto and took questions from reporters. Trump said Democrats should get back to domestic issues and called Schiff a “lowlife,” and promised legal action against those involved in the whistleblower complaint.

Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry into Trump after the White House was pressured to release a transcript of a telephone conversation between Trump and newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Credible and urgent claims

That call contained a request by the U.S. president for an foreign investigation into former Vice President Biden and his son, who had worked for a Ukranian energy company.

The call was reported by the whistleblower, who passed it to the acting director of national intelligence. The inspector general for intelligence agencies found the claims that the president sought foreign interference in the election with an investigation into Biden to be credible and urgent.

The subpoena being prepared requests the White House turn over other phone calls with other leaders about the issue discussed with Zelensky, and documents leading to the administration’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million during the time Trump talked with the Ukrainian leader.

Since Pelosi’s announcement last week, the impeachment inquiry has moved quickly, with House Democrats issuing subpoenas for the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and State Department officials and documents held by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo confirmed in Italy on Wednesday to reporters that he was on the phone call between Trump and Zelensky, but he defended the administration’s decision to block State Department officials from testifying before House committees, saying it was an attempt to bully career officials.

Nevadans divided

Much like the entire House, the impeachment inquiry has cleaved the Nevada congressional delegation along party lines, with Democrats, including Reps. Susie Lee and Steven Horsford, initially cautious, backing the process that could lead to an impeachment vote.

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., is currently leading her own House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee investigation into the Trump organization’s lease at the Old Post Office where the Trump International Hotel is located to determine if the president has violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

The lone Republican in the delegation, Rep. Mark Amodei, has voted with Republicans on issues. But he said last week he also backs committee oversight into the allegations to determine if the process should move forward.

But even a partisan vote for impeachment in the House would face an uphill battle in the Senate, where Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has become a major defender against action that could remove the president from office.

For now, most Republicans in the GOP-led Senate have backed Trump, although several have specifically announced their support for whistleblower protections and laws.

Nevada’s two Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen, support the House impeachment inquiry into allegations the president pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival before the 2020 election.

Pelosi told reporters that the inquiry “must be fair to the president, that’s why it’s an inquiry and not an impeachment.”

But she also said the House inquiry was important to safeguard election security, so that Americans “know that their vote counts.”

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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