House Democrats on Wednesday sent a letter to the State Department demanding the agency provide documents regarding President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine even after the department declined to comply with a subpoena.
Reps. Adam Schiff (Calif.), Eliot Engel (N.Y.) and Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), the chairs of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees, respectively, wrote to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan that they have identified specific documents in the possession or control of the State Department regarding Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden that are “directly and highly relevant to the [impeachment] inquiry.”
The lawmakers added the documents include written readouts and write-ups of meetings and conversations that “document activity and conduct under investigation by the Committees,” email correspondences that occurred before and after Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, diplomatic cables regarding the administration’s decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine and more.
“The Committees consider the refusal to comply with a duly authorized congressional subpoena as obstruction of the lawful functions of Congress and of the impeachment inquiry,” the lawmakers wrote.
“Because the Committees have gathered evidence about the direct relevance of these documents, including highly significant information contained in these materials that pertain to allegations that the President abused the power of his office for personal political benefit, the Committees may draw the inference that their nonproduction indicates that these documents support the allegations against the President and others.”
The House Foreign Affairs Committee already subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month for documents relating to the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine, though he has declined to comply with the demand.
“Your continued refusal to provide the requested documents not only prevents our Committees from fully investigating these matters, but impairs Congress’ ability to fulfill its Constitutional responsibilities to protect our national security and the integrity of our democracy,” the September subpoena read.
The House has moved quickly in its impeachment investigation, which was announced last month to investigate Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 candidate, and his son Hunter Biden. Trump has denied any wrongdoing, calling the July call with Zelensky “perfect,” and denied that the halted military aid was tied to his request.
However, William Taylor, who serves as the chargé d’affaires for Ukraine, testified Tuesday that he believed Trump withheld roughly $400 million in financial aid until he secured commitment from Ukraine that they would launch probes into Biden and 2016 election meddling.
“During our call on September 8, Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman. When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before singing the check,” Taylor told congressional investigators during his nearly 10-hour appearance behind closed doors, referring to U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.
Tuesday’s testimony from Taylor jolted the Capitol, with Democrats saying his remarks could be a game changer.
“This testimony is a sea change. I think it could accelerate matters,” said Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), a member of the Oversight and Reform Committee.