The House impeachment inquiry focusing on the Trump administration’s Ukraine conduct is ramping up: House committees have scheduled depositions for several key State Department officials and issued a subpoena for related records.
It is unclear whether the State Department will allow the officials to sit for the depositions and whether it will resist the subpoena. The House warned that a failure to comply on either front will be cited as obstruction in the impeachment inquiry.
Friday’s requests show that the House is moving quickly with its impeachment effort, which was only publicly blessed by House leadership on Tuesday. The investigation could escalate quickly to a constitutional showdown, particularly since the Trump administration has resisted earlier oversight efforts by the House.
The House issued the subpoena — which seeks multiple categories of records that may be related to President Trump and his allies’ efforts to pressure Ukraine to probe his political rival — after a voluntary request for the records went unfulfilled. The subpoena demands the production of the documents by October 4. It was issued jointly by the House Intelligence Committee, the House Foreign Relations Committee, and the House Oversight Committee.
The House committees has also scheduled depositions starting next week of State Department officials who were named in a whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s efforts, or who have otherwise been connected to the campaign to solicit Ukraine’s assistance in smearing Joe Biden.
The deposition of the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch — who appears to have been targeted by those friendly to the Trump Ukraine operation — is scheduled for Oct. 2.
Trump specifically brought her up in his now infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, in which he pressured Zelensky to investigate the Bidens.
Calling her “bad news,” Trump promised on the call that “she’s going to go through some things,” according to the White House’s record of the call.
The following day, Oct. 3, the committee has scheduled a deposition for Ambassador Kurt Volker, the special envoy to Ukraine, whom the complaint said had contact with Rudy Giuliani about his Ukrainian gambit.
(Giuliani has claimed Volker sanctioned his efforts, while the complaint describes Volker as trying to “contain the damage” resulting from them.)
Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who was mentioned alongside Volker in the complaint, is scheduled for a deposition on Oct. 10. Also scheduled for a deposition that week is Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent and Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, a State Department official whom the complaint described as having been listening in on the July 25 call. (An unnamed senior government official has denied Brechbuhl was on the call, according to CBS.)
“The failure of these Department employees to appear for their scheduled deposition shall constitute evidence of obstruction to the House’s impeachment inquiry” the committee chairs said in a letter to Pompeo. They gave a similar warning for any lack of compliance with the subpoena for documents.
Among the materials being sought are documents connected to the July 25 call, any Giuliani-related records and documents linked to Trump’s withholding of military assistance to Ukraine. The House is also seeking documents that appear connected to Giuliani’s additional efforts to clear Paul Manafort’s name, perhaps in order to lay the groundwork for a pardon.