THE TOPLINE: House Democrats have followed through on their threat to issue a subpoena to the White House for documents concerning President Trump‘s dealings with Ukraine.
The chairmen of three House panels notified acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney of the subpoena in a letter on Friday. The subpoena is being issued by the chamber’s Oversight and Reform Committee.
Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) warned in a memo on Wednesday that he would issue the subpoena if the White House didn’t comply by the end of the week.
But Cummings and the other two committee chairmen leading the impeachment inquiry — Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) — said they had not received any response as of Friday evening.
Pence also pulled into inquiry: Vice President Pence has also now been roped into the Trump administration’s Ukraine scandal.
Three House committees conducting an impeachment inquiry asked Pence on Friday to turn over documents concerning his involvement in President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into launching investigations into a political rival.
The House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight panels requested that Pence hand over the documents by Oct. 15.
“Recently, public reports have raised questions about any role you may have played in conveying or reinforcing the President’s stark message to the Ukrainian President,” the chairmen of the three committees wrote in a letter to Pence.
“Your failure or refusal to comply with the request, including at the direction of or behest of the president or the White House, shall constitute evidence of obstruction of justice of the House’s impeachment inquiry and may be used as an adverse inference against you and the president,” wrote Intelligence Chairman Schiff, Foreign Affairs Chairman Engel and Oversight Chairman Cummings.
Questions about Pence’s role: The Washington Post reported earlier this week that Trump repeatedly involved Pence in his efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into the business dealings of Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father Joe Biden was vice president.
According to the Post, Trump told Pence not to attend Zelensky’s inauguration in May and had Pence tell Zelensky that U.S. aid to Ukraine was being withheld while demanding more aggressive action on investigating corruption. Officials close to Pence told the Post that he was unaware of Trump’s efforts to dig up damaging information on the Bidens.
The Post also reported that Pence’s national security adviser, Keith Kellogg, had been monitoring the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky in which the president called for a probe of the Bidens.
What the committees want: The committees are seeking all documents and communications relating to Trump’s April 21 and July 25 phone calls with Zelensky. They also asked Pence for documentation on meetings with former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker, who appeared before a closed-door deposition on Capitol Hill on Thursday, as well as with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Ukrainian officials.
The committees further asked for documents related to Pence’s own call with Zelensky on Sept. 18, and anything he knew about withholding aid from Ukraine.
Timing: The request for documents came a day after Trump publicly urged Ukraine and China to investigate Biden, which Pence defended.
“One of the main reasons we were elected to Washington, D.C., was to drain the swamp,” Pence told reporters on Thursday. “And I think the American people have a right to know if the vice president of the United States or his family profited from his position.”
The background: Biden as vice president had pushed for Ukraine to oust its then-prosecutor general for failing to properly investigate corruption. The prosecutor general had at one point looked into Burisma, the energy company where Hunter Biden served on the board. There is no evidence either of the Bidens engaged in wrongdoing.
But Volker defends Biden: Kurt Volker, the former State Department special envoy to Ukraine, testified to Congress that he was not involved in or aware of any effort to press Ukraine to investigate allegations against former Vice President Joe Biden, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by The Hill.
Volker defended Biden’s character and told lawmakers that he did not know that President Trump mentioned Biden’s name during a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky until the White House released a rough transcript of the conversation last week.
“I have known former Vice President Biden for 24 years, and the suggestion that he would be influenced in his duties as vice president by money for his son simply has no credibility to me. I know him as a man of integrity and dedication to our country,” Volker said during his testimony.
Volker also testified that he told Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani that accusations against the former vice president and 2020 Democratic candidate were “not credible.”
Other efforts: The committees’ request for documents is the latest in a series of document and witness demands as Democrats ramp up their impeachment inquiry.
Last week, the panels subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for documents and requested depositions with current and former State Department officials, including Volker and Sondland.
They have also issued subpoenas to Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer who was involved in urging Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens.
And on Wednesday, the committees threatened to issue a subpoena to the White House if documents related to Trump exerting pressure on the Ukrainian government aren’t turned over by Friday.
The House Intelligence Committee also conducted a closed-door briefing with the intelligence community inspector general about the preliminary review of a whistleblower complaint about Trump’s efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens.
GOP senator said he confronted Trump: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said he confronted Trump over aid to Ukraine in August and that the president denied tying that assistance to assurances from Kiev that it would investigate Biden..
Johnson told The Wall Street Journal that he learned of a potential arrangement from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Johnson said that Sondland told him assistance for Ukraine was connected to Trump’s desire to have the country carry out investigations relating to the 2016 elections.
The senator said he spoke with Trump on Aug. 31 and that on the call, Trump denied that he told officials to connect military aid to the promise of investigations by Ukraine.
“He said… ‘No way. I would never do that. Who told you that?'” Johnson told the Journal.
Read more from The Hill on the unfolding story:
— The 7 most explosive exchanges in Trump’s Ukraine envoy texts
— READ: Volker’s opening statement to Congress in Ukraine investigation
— Intelligence watchdog huddles with members as impeachment push grows
— Trump asserts he has ‘absolute right’ to ask other countries for help probing corruption
The pair held a town hall with members of the Fort Knox community. During the event, McConnell pledged a new middle school at Fort Campbell will be funded.
The new school was intended to relieve overcrowding at the existing middle school, but the project has been delayed because $62.6 million for it was diverted to build President Trump’s proposed border wall as part of his national emergency declaration.
“I remain committed to working with Secretary Esper and his team fully fund the new middle school at Fort Campbell, something they’ve wanted for years, and I secured in the first place,” McConnell said.
Easier said than done: Democrats have been loath to replenish the $3.6 billion in military construction funding that Trump tapped for his border wall, arguing that gives Trump their blessing to ignore Congress’ original allocations.
It’s one of the fights that has held up the government funding bills this year, leading to a stopgap spending measure that took effect at the start of the fiscal year this week.
IRAN HACK TARGETS PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: An Iranian-linked threat group attempted to identify and attack various email accounts belonging to Microsoft customers over a 30-day period, including those linked to an unnamed U.S. presidential campaign as well as current and former U.S. officials, the company announced Friday.
In a blog post, Microsoft detailed how a group known as “Phosphorus,” which the company believes may be linked to the Iranian government, made around 2,700 attempts to target customer email accounts, and then attacked 241 of these accounts between August and September of this year.
In addition to U.S. officials and the unnamed campaign, the threat group also targeted accounts belonging to journalists covering global politics and to Iranians living outside of Iran, according to the company.
Microsoft said that four of the attacks successfully compromised email accounts, though none of them were related to the U.S. presidential campaign or the government officials.
Who was the candidate?: Reuters, citing sources familiar with the operation, later reported the hackers targeted Trump’s re-election campaign.
Trump’s campaign website is the only one of the remaining major candidates’ sites linked to Microsoft’s cloud email service, according to Reuters.
Tim Murtaugh, the director of communications for the Trump campaign, told The Hill that “we have no indication that any of our campaign infrastructure was targeted.”
Context: The targeting of U.S. accounts by the Iranian threat group comes after an escalation of tensions between the two countries, particularly in the wake of the U.S. blaming Iran for attacking two Saudi Arabian oil facilities last month.
The announcement also comes as Microsoft seeks to shore up security for its products and systems heading into the 2020 elections.
Last month, the company announced that it would provide free updates for voting systems running Windows 7 software through the 2020 elections, which otherwise would not have been updated without voting jurisdictions paying for this service after January 2020.
Microsoft also launched its “Defending Our Democracy” program in 2018 with the aim of protecting political campaigns from hacking operations and to defend against disinformation campaigns online.
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The Hudson Institute will host “Protecting American Interests in Fragile States” with a keynote address from Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources director James Richardson at 10:45 a.m. https://bit.ly/337Gird
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