Democrats in the US House of Representatives who are pursuing an impeachment inquiry against president Donald Trump issued a subpoena on Friday to secretary of state Mike Pompeo for documents concerning contact with the Ukrainian government.
The impeachment inquiry follows a whistleblower complaint that in a phone call in July Mr Trump solicited a political favour from Ukraine’s president that could help him get re-elected in 2020.
The House foreign affairs, intelligence and oversight committees which announced the subpoena also scheduled depositions for five state department officials over the next two weeks, including former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, Kurt Volker, the US special representative for Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU. The state department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The committees announced the subpoenas after the Trump administration missed a Thursday deadline to provide documents and information about contacts with Ukrainian officials, as well as the July 25th telephone call between Mr Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Mr Trump earlier claimed he is the victim of a “witch hunt” over the ongoing impeachment crisis, as he called on the chair of the House intelligence committee to “resign” over the affair.
In a series of tweets on Friday, Mr Trump said that Adam Schiff was a "sick man" who should resign, accusing him of lying to Congress about the contents of the president's phone conversation with Mr Zelenskiy.
Mr Trump also continued his attacks on the anonymous whistleblower at the centre of the story, questioning whether the anonymous complainant is a “partisan operative”.
His comments came as the House intelligence committee, led by Mr Schiff, announced it would work through the two-week congressional recess which commenced on Friday in order to continue the impeachment inquiry announced by House speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this week. The committee may subpoena individuals named in documents relating to the controversy. Among the witnesses that could be summoned are Mr Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who has admitted trying to seek Ukrainian support for an investigation into Mr Trump's political rival Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, Ms Pelosi said during a television interview on Friday she believes attorney general Bill Barr has "gone rogue".
Mr Barr was mentioned by Mr Trump during his phone conversation with Mr Zelenskiy in which he asks the Ukrainian leader to investigate Joe Biden.
The department of justice has also been accused by congressional Democrats of blocking attempts by the director of national intelligence to pass on the whistleblower complaint to the Senate and House intelligence committees as required by law.
Ms Pelosi also said she was concerned about Mr Trump’s characterisation of the anonymous whistleblower, and of those who had raised concerns with him or her about the president’s behaviour.
Mr Trump suggested that those involved are close to “spies”, noting that in the old days spies were treated differently.
The House speaker vowed to continue the impeachment inquiry into the president’s behaviour, while also repeating her assertion that the director of national intelligence should have passed on the whistleblower complaint to Congress.
‘Filled with rage’
But Republican senator Ted Cruz told Fox News that he believed Ms Pelosi does not really support impeachment, but is instead facing pressure from liberal members of the Democratic Party who are "filled with rage".
As the controversy over Mr Trump's phone call with Mr Zelenskiy and claims by a whistleblower that White House officials tried to conceal evidence of that call continued, more than 300 former US national security and foreign policy officials signed a statement supporting an impeachment inquiry. "President Trump appears to have leveraged the authority and resources of the highest office in the land to invite additional foreign interference into our democratic processes. That would constitute an unconscionable abuse of power," they wrote. "It also would represent an effort to subordinate America's national interests – and those of our closest allies and partners – to the president's personal political interest." Additional reporting: Reuters