WASHINGTON (CN) – House lawmakers leading the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump subpoenaed the White House on Friday for records related to the president’s engagement with Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelensky.
Citing his appearance at a press conference earlier this week when he claimed he "always cooperates" with House requests for records, House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight chairmen Eliot Engel, Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings condemned the statements as "patently false” in Friday’s notice.
"The White House has refused to engage with or even respond to multiple requests for documents from our committees on a voluntary basis," the chairmen wrote. "After nearly a month of stonewalling it appears clear the president has chosen the path of defiance, obstruction and cover-up."
President Trump said Friday he would soon put House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on notice, claiming he would not cooperate until a formal vote on the inquiry occurs on the floor of the House.
But a full House vote is not mandatory to launch an inquiry and the White House, the lawmakers contend, has "no authority" to make that claim.
"There is no such requirement in the Constitution or in the House rules," the letter stated.
During President Richard Nixon's era, the House Judiciary Committee’s probe went on for months before a vote was ever considered.
A 1980s House investigation of three federal judges also ran on for months without a resolution explicitly authorizing an impeachment.
"Speaker Pelosi has confirmed that an impeachment inquiry is underway, and it is not for the White House to say otherwise," the lawmakers wrote.
Vice President Mike Pence was also pulled into Democrats’ impeachment inquiry on Friday, with House lawmakers requesting the second-in-command turn over records related to President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s leader that sparked the probe.
In a 10-page letter, the chairmen of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees gave Pence until Oct. 15 to produce all recordings, memos or notes related to the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. They also seek documents about Pence’s own visit with Zelensky in Warsaw last month.
Democrats believe Trump pressed the Ukrainian president to investigate his potential 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, under the threat of a freeze on military assistance.
A Wednesday report by The Washington Post made reference to a member of the vice president’s staff, Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, who may have participated in the call, sparking Friday’s request from the committee chairs.
The report also suggested Trump “used” Pence in his efforts to pressure Zelensky, but to what extent is still unclear, as officials close to the vice president have insisted he was unaware of Trump’s push to dig up dirt on Biden with Ukraine’s help.
Pence made his own position clear, towing the line behind Trump and telling reporters Thursday that the “American people have a right to know” if Biden or his family profited from their position during the Obama administration.
“That’s about looking backwards and understanding what really happened,” Pence said, before noting that he also supports Trump’s requests of other nations, like China, to investigate the Bidens.
Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, began serving on the board of directors of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings shortly after the country’s Russia-friendly former president was ousted. Biden, who was vice president at the time, was involved in U.S. efforts backing the new pro-Western Ukraine government, raising concerns that Burisma’s owner was trying to improperly gain influence with the Obama administration.
Trump has also claimed that Hunter Biden was paid by China to win over his father and secure trade deals with the White House.
According to The New York Times, Hunter Biden owns a 10% interest stake in a private equity fund owned by the Bank of China known as BHR Partners, but since at least May he has not received any revenue from the account or compensation for his role as board member.
While he purchased an equity share in BHR for roughly $430,000 in July, the implication by Trump that Biden’s son profited through manipulation by Chinese officials remains unproven.
Biden’s own campaign manager Kate Bedingfield described the theory pedaled by Trump as “grotesque.”
A representative from Pence’s office did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.
While answering questions from reporters Friday at the Service Employees International Union presidential forum, Biden said Trump “indicted himself by his own statements.”
“He calls the impeachment proceeding a coup. He talks about there being a civil war. This is a guy that is unhinged. I’m worried about what he’s going to do, not about me and my family. I’m worried what he will do in the next year of this presidency as this thing continues to rot under his watch,” the former vice president said.
Biden said he would not speculate on what will happen in the GOP-controlled Senate in terms of impeachment and would not comment on the theories floated by the White House regarding his son.
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