U.S. Democrats subpoena Pentagon docs in impeachment inquiry

WASHINGTON DC, USA – Congressional Democrats slapped subpoenas Monday, October 7, on the Pentagon and White House budget office as part of their advancing impeachment probe, demanding documents tied to President Donald Trump's withholding of military aid to Ukraine.

The chairmen of 3 House panels leading the impeachment investigation are seeking information related to Trump pressing his Ukrainian counterpart to uncover dirt on 2020 US presidential contender Joe Biden – and the alleged conditioning of military aid on that favor.

The chairmen ordered Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Office of Management and Budget acting director Russell Vought to hand over the documents by October 15.

The materials are "necessary for the committees to examine...the reasons behind the White House's decision to withhold critical military assistance to Ukraine that was appropriated by Congress to counter Russian aggression," wrote House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, foreign affairs panel head Eliot Engel and oversight committee head Elijah Cummings.

Failure to comply "shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House's impeachment inquiry."

The move is the latest legal procedure against Trump's administration by Democrats demanding information for their probe.

Last week subpoenas were delivered to the White House and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a move that the top US diplomat branded "harassment."

Democrats also obtained a string of text messages between US diplomats that showed the Trump administration's effort to pressure Ukraine into investigating Biden and his son Hunter, and that some diplomats expressed concern that such actions were inappropriate.

One of the diplomats, US envoy to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a major donor to Trump's 2016 campaign, goes to Capitol Hill Tuesday, October 8, for a deposition before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the panel Friday, October 11.

Yovanovitch was removed earlier this year for resisting White House pressure to get Kiev to investigate Biden, according to US media reports.

Trump withheld nearly $400 million in military aid for months but it was eventually released to Ukraine.

According to the Washington Post, administration officials were instructed to tell lawmakers that the delays were part of an "interagency process" but to provide no additional information.

The subpoena for documents, and the congressional appearances, focus in part on Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

A memorandum of the call released by the White House shows the two leaders discussed Zelensky's desire to receive the military aid, followed by Trump asking for a "favor" and then bringing up Biden. – Rappler.com