Donald Trump shouts at journalists as he returns to the White House from Florida, October 03, 2019 (Win McNamee/Getty)
As the White House is subpoenaed for documents, a second official may file a formal complaint about Donald Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Like the initial whistle-blower on the 10-month campaign of Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani, the second official is from the intelligence community, “according to two people briefed on the matter”.
The sources told The New York Times that the official has “more direct information about the events” than the whistle-blower, who was the CIA liaison with the White House over Ukraine.
The whistle-blower did not listen to Trump’s phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on July 25, the revelation of which has been the catalyst for an impeachment inquiry. However, his complaint about the call and about other events involving Trump and Giuliani was based on information from multiple White House officials. The complaint was further substantiated by a reconstructed transcript of the call, which the White House finally released after weeks of delay.
The second official considering a complaint was interviewed by the intelligence community’s Inspector General Michael Atkinson, in the inquiry which found the whistle-blower’s account to be “credible” and of “urgent concern”. It is not known if the second official was one of about a dozen staff who listened to the Trump-Zelenskiy call.
Atkinson spoke in close-door session to House legislators on Friday about how he substantiated the whistle-blower’s complaint.
White House Subpoenaed, Pence Asked for Documents
The House investigation widened on Friday with the subpoena of the White House for documents and a request of material from Vice President Mike Pence.
The subpoena was delivered to Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, with a deadline of October 18 for compliance. It was signed by the chairmen of three House committees — Elijah Cummings of Oversight and Reform, Adam Schiff of Intelligence, and Eliot Engel of Foreign Relations:
The White House has refused to engage with — or even respond to — multiple requests for documents from our Committees on a voluntary basis. After nearly a month of stonewalling, it appears clear that the president has chosen the path of defiance, obstruction, and cover-up.
The subpoena follows further pressure on Trump with revelations from US diplomats of the extent of the Trump-Giuliani campaign.
On Thursday, the former US envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker testified to House investigators. The envoy, who resigned last week, and US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland had a key role in the affair: they set up meetings between Giuliani and Ukrainian officials and drafted a statement for the new Ukraine President announcing the investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter, a board member with the leading Ukrainian gas compahy.
House Democrats released texts between Volker and Sondland, with the US charge d’affaires to Ukraine William Taylor and with President Zelenskiy’s aide Andriy Yermak, which showed the extent of the Trump-Giuliani campaign. Zelenskiy eventually refused to issue a statement, avoiding the appearance of interfering in the 2020 US election, while the US diplomats worried about a link between Trump’s suspension of military aid to Ukrain and the demand for the investigation of the Bidens.
The chairmen of the three House committees wrote Vice President Pence of interest in “any role you may have played” in presenting Trump’s views to Ukraine. They asked for documents by October 15.
Pence’s office indicated it will not comply. Press Secretary Katie Waldman said, “Given the scope, it does not appear to be a serious request but just another attempt by the ‘Do Nothing Democrats’ to call attention to their partisan impeachment.”
White House Stephanie Grisham did not say if the White House, which for months has defied requests for documents and testimony by officials in multiple House investigations of Trump, will comply with the latest subpoena. But she called it “just more document requests, wasted time, and taxpayer dollars that will ultimately show the President did nothing wrong.”
The State Department missed a deadline to hand over documents by the end of Friday. However, Department officials said they are in discussions with the House committees and hope to cooperate soon.
Earlier this week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to push back the committees by accusing them of bullying staff to testify. Rep. Schiff withstood the pressure, warning Pompeo not to prevent witnesses appearing before the House inquiries.
Sources said Trump briefly joined a conference call of House Republicans. He defended his involvement with Ukraine and called on the party to support him.