House Democrats on Monday continued to ramp up their impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, issuing subpoenas for documents to both the Pentagon and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The subpoenas were issued by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in consultation with the House Committees on Foreign Affairs and Oversight.
Both subpoenas were accompanied by identical letters stating that the Committees “are investigating the extent to which President Trump jeopardized U.S. national security by pressing Ukraine to interfere with our 2020 election and by withholding military assistance provided by Congress to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression, as well as any efforts to cover up these matters.”
The letters, signed by Democratic Committee Chairmen Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), stated that the subpoenas target any documents that may shed light on what factors motivated President Trump to withhold congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine.
According to the letters, in July 2019, President Trump ordered Mick Mulvaney, his Acting Chief of Staff and appointed OMB Director, to “freeze the military aide to Ukraine.” Mulvaney reportedly told officials at the Pentagon and State Department that the funds were being withheld so the administration could look into whether the spending was necessary.
The letters then said that Trump Administration officials were instructed only to tell lawmakers that the delays were part of an “interagency process,” and to withhold all additional information.
“Officials at the Departments of State and Defense reportedly were ‘puzzled and alarmed’ after learning about the White House’s directive. Defense Department officials reportedly ‘tried to make a case to the White House that the Ukraine aide was effective and should not be looked at in the same manner as other aid,’ but ‘those arguments were ignored,’” according to House Democrats.
The letters briefly summarized President Trump’s controversial phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, particularly making note of the president responding to Zelensky’s desire to obtain Javelin missiles by stating, “I would like you to do us a favor, though.” The letters also detailed admissions from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and U.S. diplomat Gordon Sondland:
In August 2019, Sen. Ron Johnson was informed by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, that if Ukraine would ‘get to the bottom of what happened in 2016 – if President Trump has that confidence, then he’ll release the military spending.’ Senator Johnson stated: “At that suggestion, I winced.” He also stated: “My reaction was: Oh, God. I don’t want to see those two things combined.”
Democrats repeated rhetoric that we saw in their subpoenas of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: that any efforts to prevent the Committees from obtaining the requested documents will be viewed as evidence of obstruction.
“Your failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena, including at the direction or behest of the President or the White House, shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry and may be used as an adverse inference against you and the President,” they concluded.