WASHINGTON (AP) – Setting a challenging tone, the Trump administration resisted Congressional access to impeachment witnesses, even when House Democrats warned that such efforts could result in an unthinkable offense.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tried to delay five current and former officials from providing documents and testimonials in the impeachment inquiry that could lead to charges against President Donald Trump. But Democrats have managed to set up closed-door statements on Thursday for former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker and next week for the dismissed US embassy Marie Yovanovitch.
The escalating escalation of accusations and warnings on Tuesday signaled yet another tightening of the clash between the executive and legislative powers amid Democrats launching the impeachment inquiry late last week. This came after the announcement of Trump's call by a national security whistleblower seeking help from the new Ukrainian president in investigating Democratic political rival Joe Biden and Biden's son Hunter.
In a Tuesday night tweet, Trump launched the impeachment inquiry as a scam “designed to take away the People's Power, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall and their rights given by God like a blow. Citizen of the United States of America! In fact, a coup is often defined as a sudden, violent and illegal takeover of government power. The impeachment process is set out in the US Constitution.
Pompeo said Democrats were trying to "intimidate" and "intimidate" career officers into appearing and claimed that this would be "unfeasible" as required. House investigators objected that it would be illegal for the secretary to try to protect Trump by preventing authorities from talking to Congress.
Some Trump supporters applauded Pompeo's muscular response to the Democrats. But it also complicated the secretary's situation the day after the announcement that he heard during Trump's call in July with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy who helped trigger the impeachment inquiry.
"Any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from speaking to Congress – including State Department officials – is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry," said three House presidents Adam Schiff of the Eliot intelligence committee. Engel of Foreign Relations. and Elijah Cummings of Supervision.
They said that if he were on Trump's call, "Secretary Pompeo is now a de facto witness in the House impeachment inquiry." And they warned, "He must immediately stop intimidating Department witnesses to protect himself and the president."
On Wednesday, the State Department inspector general is expected to inform congressional staff of various House, Senate, committee, oversight, and intelligence committees about his requests for information and documents about Ukraine, according to an advisor familiar with the planning. The inspector general acts independently of Pompeo.
The committees are seeking voluntary testimony from current and former officials, while the House looks at State Department actions and Trump's other links with foreign leaders who have been protected from scrutiny.
By halting any appearances of state officials and demanding that executive attorneys accompany them, Pompeo is emphasizing Attorney General William Barr's comprehensive view of White House authority and setting a tone for future conflicts.
"I will use every means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempt to intimidate dedicated professionals," Pompeo wrote.
By issuing a separate subpoena last week as part of the inquiry, the presidents of the three House committees made it clear that their investigation would be prevented.
"Your failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena will constitute evidence of obstruction of the House impeachment inquiry," the three presidents wrote.
Democrats often note that the obstruction was one of the impeachment articles against Richard Nixon, who resigned as president in 1974 in the face of almost certain impeachment.
Volker played a direct role in organizing meetings between Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, and Zelenskiy, the presidents said.
The State Department said Volker confirmed that it had put a Zelenskiy consultant in touch with Giuliani at the request of the Ukrainian consultant.
The former envoy, who has since resigned from his position and is therefore not necessarily bound by Pompeo's instructions, is eager to appear as scheduled on Thursday, said a person familiar with the situation but not allowed to discuss it. there and guaranteed anonymity. The career professional believes he acted appropriately and means his side of the situation, the person said.
Yovanovitch, a career diplomat whose abrupt withdrawal from Ukraine earlier this year raised questions, is due to appear next week. Democrats also want to hear T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, a State Department adviser who also listened to the link between Trump and Zelenskiy, they said.
It is unclear whether Pompeo will comply with the committee's request for documents by Friday. He had refused to comply with previous requests for information.
Pompeo, traveling through Italy to meet the country's president and prime minister, ignored the shouted question about the impeachment inquiry on Tuesday.
House investigators are poised for battle as they delve deeper into the State Department to try to understand why the government has tried to restrict access to Trump's talks with foreign leaders.
The complainant alleged in a letter to Congress on 12 August that the White House tried to "block" Trump's call on July 25 with the new Ukrainian president because it was concerned about the leaked content to the public.
In recent days, it has been reported that the government has attempted to restrict information about Trump's links with other foreign leaders, including Vladimir Putin of Russia and Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, by moving memos to a highly rated computer system.
"It will be a big fight to get this information," Schiff told Democrats during a weekend conference call, according to a person who was anonymous to discuss the private session.
While Trump was still furious with the impeachment inquiry, there was little evidence of a broader White House response. And few outside allies were rushing to defend the president.
Trump has long measured Allied loyalty for their willingness to fight for him on TV, and has complained bitterly this week that few have. And those who did, including Republican Party leader Kevin McCarthy on the CBS "60 Minutes" show, he believed appeared in his appearance, …