House Threatens to Subpoena White House for Ukraine Records

WASHINGTON — The House threatened on Wednesday to subpoena the White House if it did not comply by Friday with broad requests for documents related to President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son and any attempt by the administration to conceal his actions.

Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, notified his committee of the impending subpoena on Wednesday. He said the White House had thus far ignored Congress’s voluntary requests.

“I do not take this step lightly,” Mr. Cummings wrote. “Over the past several weeks, the committees tried several times to obtain voluntary compliance with our requests for documents, but the White House has refused to engage with — or even respond to — the committees.”

The subpoena threat came as House Democratic leaders were preparing to lay out the next steps in their rapidly unfolding impeachment inquiry, and as lawmakers expected to hear a mysterious bit of new information abruptly offered up by the State Department’s independent watchdog.

After a Wednesday morning news conference where Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Adam B. Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, planned to outline the progress of their inquiry, Steven A. Linick, the State Department’s inspector general, was to brief lawmakers in the afternoon about urgent material he said was relevant to the investigation.

It promised to be another momentous day in Washington, where in just over two weeks, revelations about attempts by Mr. Trump and his private lawyer to pressure Ukraine to help smear Mr. Biden, a Democratic political rival, have touched off an inquiry that threatens his presidency. The House inquiry is reshaping the political landscape and could have profound consequences for an already deeply polarized country.

The impeachment inquiry has escalated quickly: The House has already issued two subpoenas for records. Mr. Cummings’s warning suggests lawmakers and their staffs are working methodically to collect the evidence they believe they need to evaluate an anonymous C.I.A. whistle-blower complaint that touched off their inquiry. First, they targeted the State Department, then Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, and now the White House.

What exactly Mr. Linick, intended to share with Congress remained a matter of intense speculation early on Wednesday. Mr. Linick, who was not believed to be investigating the Ukraine matter himself, contacted lawmakers early Tuesday afternoon and extended a cryptic and urgent invitation to meet the next day “to discuss and provide staff with copies of documents,” according to an invitation reviewed by The New York Times.

The invitation noted only that the documents had been shared with Mr. Linick by the State Department’s acting legal adviser.

Inspectors general frequently share information with Congress, but lawmakers and other government officials familiar with the process said Mr. Linick’s request was highly unusual, particularly given the extraordinary political pressure surrounding the State Department and Ukraine.

The draft subpoena circulated by Mr. Cummings, in conjunction with the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees, reads like a dragnet of potential records related to the Ukraine matter and is all but certain to touch off a battle with a White House that has a long history of refusing to comply with congressional requests of this nature.

It also explicitly asks for records that could indicate whether the White House or other administration officials took steps to conceal or destroy the records to prevent Congress or the public from learning what had happened.

Among the records requested are any recordings, transcripts, notes or other records related to a July phone call in which Mr. Trump pressed President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to conduct investigations that would bolster the American leader politically, or an earlier April call between the two men. It asks for a full list of White House staff members involved or aware of the calls, any communications that reference the July call and details about how the White House maintained records of the call.

The draft subpoena also commands the White House to hand over records of any calls with other foreign leaders referring to the topics Mr. Trump discussed with Mr. Zelensky; records of meetings related to Ukraine; and the decision to temporarily withhold $391 million in security aid from the country this summer at the same time Mr. Trump was pressing Mr. Zelensky.

Mr. Trump, continuing to fume over the investigation, wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning that Mr. Schiff should “resign for the Crime of, after reading a transcript of my conversation with the President of Ukraine (it was perfect), fraudulently fabricating a statement of the President of the United States and reading it to Congress, as though mine!” He was referring to remarks by Mr. Schiff during a congressional hearing last week in which Mr. Schiff paraphrased the president’s call with Mr. Zelensky in a way that dramatized the exchange.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became one of the first Trump administration officials to throw himself on the gears of the churning House investigation, writing in a letter to Democratic chairmen that their demands for confidential interviews with diplomats with knowledge of the case was “an act of intimidation” and would not be immediately met.

But instead of bringing it to a halt, Mr. Pompeo’s actions seem only to have fueled the case. The Democrats said any attempt to block witnesses from speaking to Congress would be construed by them as witness intimidation. And at least two of the diplomats Mr. Pompeo objected to speaking had indicated to the House that they would appear for private depositions anyway.

Late Tuesday, the chairmen wrote to Mr. Pompeo’s deputy saying the secretary had an “obvious conflict of interest” in light of news reports that he listened in on the July phone call.

“Given the secretary’s own potential role, and reports of other State Department officials being involved in or knowledgeable of the events under investigation,” they wrote, “the committee may infer that he is trying to cover up illicit activity and misconduct, including by the president.”

On Wednesday, in Rome, Mr. Pompeo confirmed for the first time that he had been listening in on the call.

“I was on the phone call,” he said at a news conference in the Italian capital.

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