Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney speaks in the White House briefing room in Washington. House impeachment investigators have asked Mulvaney to testify about his “first-hand knowledge” of President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Photo: AP Photo/Evan Vucci.
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney speaks in the White House briefing room in Washington. House impeachment investigators have asked Mulvaney to testify about his “first-hand knowledge” of President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Photo: AP Photo/Evan Vucci.

Democrats ask White House acting chief of staff to testify in impeachment probe

By By Patricia Zengerle Time of article published Nov 5, 2019

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WASHINGTON - Congressional Democrats on

Tuesday requested that White House acting Chief of Staff Mick

Mulvaney testify in the impeachment probe of Donald Trump, as

they prepared to release testimony by two of the "three amigos"

who helped run Ukraine policy for the Republican president.

The U.S. House of Representatives committees conducting the

impeachment inquiry have asked Mulvaney to appear at a

deposition on Friday.

"Based on evidence gathered in the impeachment inquiry and

public reporting, we believe that you possess substantial

first-hand knowledge and information relevant to the House's

impeachment inquiry," leaders of the House Foreign Affairs,

Intelligence and Oversight committees said in a letter to

Mulvaney.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for

comment.

The Trump administration has directed U.S. officials not to

cooperate with the investigation. Some who have been subpoenaed

have testified, while others have refused.

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters

on Monday transcripts would be released of interviews with Kurt

Volker, Trump's former special representative for Ukraine

negotiations, and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the

European Union.

Witnesses have testified that Volker and Sondland, with

Trump's secretary of energy, Rick Perry, were known as the

"three amigos," responsible for Trump's unofficial channel to

Ukrainian government officials.

Volker resigned as special representative in September. He

testified to the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and

Oversight panels for more than eight hours behind closed doors

on Oct. 3.

Sondland, a major Trump donor, testified on Oct. 17.

Perry, a former Texas governor who said he was resigning

from his Cabinet post as of Dec. 1, has refused to testify so

far.

Tuesday's will be the second public release of testimony in

the impeachment investigation of Trump that Democratic House

Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally launched on Sept. 24.

On Monday, the committees released transcripts of testimony

by Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump abruptly recalled as ambassador

to Ukraine in May, and Michael McKinley, a former top adviser to

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

In their interviews, Yovanovitch and McKinley said the State

Department was being used for domestic political purposes under

Trump and warned that would hurt American interests.

The House investigation is focused on a July 25 phone call

in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to

investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading

Democratic rival as Trump seeks re-election in November 2020.

Trump froze nearly $400 million in U.S. military assistance

to Ukraine shortly before speaking to Zelenskiy, prompting

accusations from Democrats that he had misused U.S. foreign

policy for personal gain.

Strongly backed by his fellow Republicans in Congress,

Trump has denied wrongdoing and accused Democrats of unfairly

targeting him in the hope of reversing his surprise victory in

the 2016 presidential election.

PUBLIC HEARINGS

The committees began releasing interview transcripts as they

prepare for public hearings that could start this month.

If the House eventually votes to impeach Trump, a trial in

the Republican-controlled Senate would be held. Trump would not

be removed from office unless two-thirds of the senators who are

present vote to convict him - an unlikely prospect at this

point.

According to accounts of their testimony already public,

both Sondland and Volker discussed communications between

Trump's private attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and Ukrainian officials

with House investigators.

Volker turned over text messages concerning Ukraine among

himself, Giuliani and other diplomats.

Sondland testified that Trump directed him, Perry and Volker

to talk to Giuliani about his concerns about corruption in

Ukraine and that the three were dismayed by that order.

He said he did not understand "until much later" that

Giuliani's agenda included a push for Ukraine to investigate

Biden. Sondland also said it would be wrong to get a foreign

government to launch investigations in order to influence a U.S.

election.

The Trump administration has directed U.S. officials not to

cooperate with the probe.

Democratic U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin, who sits on the

Oversight Committee, said the failure of the witnesses to appear

would not affect the pace of the inquiry.

"We're going to move to the public phase of the

investigation because America needs to hear from these witnesses

themselves," he said. "The president is actively obstructing our

investigation by trying to blockade the witnesses. That in

itself becomes evidence of obstruction."

Two administration officials who had been scheduled to

appear for closed-door testimony did not show up on Tuesday:

Michael Duffey, associate director of the White House budget

office, and Wells Griffith, senior director for international

energy and the environment on the White House National Security

Council.

Four White House witnesses also failed to testify on Monday.

Schiff said on Monday that could potentially lead to

obstruction of Congress charges against the president. 

Reuters

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