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House Subpoenas Pentagon and White House Budget Office for Records Regarding Ukraine Aid

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House Subpoenas Pentagon and White House Budget Office for Records Regarding Ukraine Aid

2019-10-08 16:08:38

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: The Pentagon (Image source: Touch of Light via Wikimedia Commons)

The White House may be shutting down who they will allow to testify in the House impeachment inquiry, but the Democrats are undeterred. They are still continuing the hard press. Early this week they issued subpoenas to the Defense Department and the Office of Management and Budget for documents about the decision to withhold aid to Ukraine. 

This desire to see the documents pertains to Donald Trump's July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky when he asked him to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter and also pressed for information about Ukraine interfering in the 2016 election.

Aid for Ukraine came up in the conversation as well, and there has been testimony and witnesses who have indicated that Trump was holding back the aid for Ukraine until he agreed to or completed the investigation of the Bidens. 

The Democrats are seeking testimony from diplomats and officials, but the White House is starting to shut down and not allow anyone to speak regarding the phone call to Ukraine or the promised aid that was pulled back.

The whistleblower who set all this in motion is in the final stages of arranging a secure interview with the House committees. 

"People understand it's a fraud, it's a scam, it's a witch hunt, and all we do is keep fighting for the American people because that's all I do," said Trump on Monday evening. He referred to his actions as "very terrific."

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who'd previously questioned the aid being withheld, held his stance and had firm words for Trump, yet he does not view Trump's behavior as impeachable. 

The House issued the subpoenas to the Defense Department and White House Budget Office to try to get to any communications or other records that might show why the White House decided to suspend the $391 million aid package to Ukraine and whether it was connected to Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, asking Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

The House Intelligence Committee issued the subpoenas which are similar to the ones issued to the State Department and White House. The agencies have until October 15, Tuesday of next week, to turn over the requested notes, memos, and communications that relate to the aid, possible conversations with Ukraine, and conversations around the decision to pull the aid. 

Trump ordered the staff to freeze the aid just before his July call with Zelensky when he asked him to investigate the Bidens and the other conspiracy theory about Ukraine meddling in the 2016 election.

The White House denies the aid was being held because it was being used as leverage in the desire for the investigations, but at least one senior diplomat worried that was happening.  

The White House denies it was connected but is not willing to explain the timeline of it being held. This was aid that was allocated by Congress in a bipartisan action. It became a concern after it was withheld by Trump.

Believing the aid being withheld is connected to Trump's phone call with Zelensky, the Democrats behind the impeachment inquiry are pointing to Vice President Mike Pence's September comments that a review of the aid was based on White House concerns about "issues of corruption." 

"The enclosed subpoena demands documents that are necessary for the committees to examine this sequence of these events and the reasons behind the White House's decision to withhold critical military assistance to Ukraine that was appropriated by Congress to counter Russian aggression," read the letters attached to the subpoenas that were signed by House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and House Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel (D-NY).

"As we've stated previously, we are prepared to work with Congress and other relevant parties on questions related to the issue of Ukrainian aid as appropriate," promised Lt. Col. Carla M. Gleason, a Pentagon spokeswoman, on Monday. 

With talks ongoing to have the whistleblower appear before Congress, a deputy assistant secretary of state and Ukraine expert, George P. Kent, did not show up for his scheduled deposition.

It's been suggested that T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, the State Department's counselor who reportedly listening in on Trump's phone call won't appear for his deposition either, nor will Giuliani's associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who reportedly fed him information about the Bidens. 

The United States ambassador to the European Union, Gordon D. Sondland, was expected to testify on Tuesday but was blocked by the White House. Former American ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was fired in May for not supporting Trump's agenda with Ukraine. She'll testify on Friday.

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