Rudy Giuliani subpoenaed over role in Ukraine controversy

Impeachment inquiry prompts dismissive tweets from Trump

Rudy Giuliani, US president Donald Trump's personal attorney, has been subpoenaed by three congressional committees over his role in the Ukraine controversy that has prompted an impeachment inquiry by Democrats.

The House Intelligence committee, together with the foreign affairs and oversight committees, demanded Mr Guiliani hand over all document related to his contacts with Ukraine and the Biden family.

The former mayor of New York has been ordered to submit the relevant material by October 15th. The chairs of the committee said they were investigating “credible allegations” that Giuliani “acted as an agent of the president in a scheme to advance his personal political interests by abusing the power of the office of the president.”

The subpoena is the latest signs that Democrats are pressing ahead with the impeachment inquiry announced last week by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi following revelations that Mr Trump asked Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a phone call to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son.

The subsequent publication of a whistleblower's complaint about the call to the inspector general of the intelligence services contained allegations that White House officials had sought to "lock down" details of the call by saving details of the call in a server usually used for highly-classified intelligence matters.

‘Fake whistleblower’

On Monday the president hit out at what he deemed the “fake whistleblower complaint” at the heart of the impeachment probe in a series of tweets.

Mr Trump claimed that the “Fake Whistleblower complaint” was “not holding up,” dismissing the whistleblower’s account of a phone call between him and the Ukrainian president was a “second hand description.”

"It is mostly about the call to the Ukrainian President which, in the name of transparency, I immediately released to Congress & the public," he said, questioning why "Germany, France and others in the European Union don't do more for Ukraine."

“Why is it always the USA that does so much and puts up so much money for Ukraine and other countries? By the way, the Bidens were corrupt!,” he added.

House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff said his committee would interview the whistleblower at the centre of the investigation as early as this week, and was liaising with the whistleblower's lawyers to ensure their client's identity was protected.

Lawyers for the whistleblower said Mr Trump’s language since the controversy erupted, which has included a reference to “spies” and “treason”, has endangered their client’s life.

In a letter to acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire and subsequently released publicly, the whistleblower's lead attorney, Andrew P Bakaj, said the president's remarks "have heightened our concerns that our client's identity will be disclosed publicly and that, as a result, our client will be put in harm's way".

House of Representatives committees are due to hear from other witnesses this week. On Wednesday, the intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight committees are due to receive a deposition from former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who was in effect fired by Mr Trump earlier this year.

Closed-door hearing

On Thursday, the former US special representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, who resigned on Friday following reports that he was involved in establishing contacts between Mr Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani and Ukrainian officials, will also give a deposition.

On Friday, the intelligence committee will hold a closed-door hearing with the intelligence community's inspector general, Michael Atkinson, who passed on the whistleblower complaint to Mr Maguire, which was then not transmitted to Congress as required under existing whistleblower legislation.

Mr Trump directed much of his ire on Monday at Mr Schiff, who has become the de facto head of the impeachment inquiry through his chairmanship of the intelligence committee. The president said the Californian Democrat had misrepresented the contents of his phone call to Mr Zelenskiy and suggested he should be arrested for treason.

Meanwhile, a CBS poll has found that a majority of Americans support the impeachment inquiry. More than half – 55 per cent – of those surveyed by YouGov approved of the investigation, while 45 per cent disapproved. Among Democrats, almost nine out of 10 supported the impeachment inquiry. However, 77 per cent of Republicans opposed it.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent