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Trump impeachment inquiry: Pompeo subpoenaed by House Democrats

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Photo: 26 September 2019

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Mike Pompeo is yet to publicly respond to the House Democrats’ demand

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been ordered by Democrats to turn over documents relating to the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine.

In a letter, the heads of three House committees subpoenaed Mr Pompeo to produce the documents within a week.

It is the latest move in rapidly escalating impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

He is being scrutinised for allegedly pressuring Ukraine’s president to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden.

In a separate development on Friday, the US special envoy for Ukraine negotiations, Kurt Volker, resigned, US media have reported.

Mr Volker was a key player in US efforts to help resolve an ongoing crisis in Ukraine that started with the annexation of Crimea by Russia and Moscow’s support for separatists in the east.

Mr Trump has denied putting any pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a phone call in July, when Mr Biden was leading polls to win the Democratic nomination for the White House race in 2020.

Mr Trump has alleged, without evidence, that Mr Biden pressed for the sacking of Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin in 2016 to protect a business that employed his son, Hunter Biden.

Impeachment is a two-stage political process, rarely exercised, by which a US president can be removed from office for wrongdoing.

Even if President Trump were impeached by the House of Representatives, he is unlikely to be forced out of the White House because Republicans control the Senate.

What is the Pompeo subpoena about?

It was issued in the joint letter by the House’s Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees.

The committees are headed by Elliot Engel, Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings respectively.

Media captionDid Trump ask for “a favour” in return for aid to Ukraine?

The letter says the subpoena was issued because Mr Pompeo had failed to comply with the demand to provide requested documents.

“Your continued refusal to provide the requested documents not only prevents our committees from fully investigating these matters, but impairs Congress’ ability to fulfil its constitutional responsibilities to protect our national security and the integrity of our democracy,” the letter said.

The three committees also informed Mr Pompeo that they planned to request testimonies from five officials, including Mr Volker and the former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, in the next two weeks.

Mr Pompeo has so far made no public comments on the subpoena.

What is the claim about Joe Biden?

On 25 July, Mr Trump raised Mr Shokin’s removal during a phone call with newly elected President Zelensky, details of which were released by the White House this week after a huge row over a complaint by a whistleblower.

Mr Trump went on to discuss Hunter Biden and the unsubstantiated allegation that his father – then the US vice-president – stopped an investigation into his son’s employer by lobbying Ukraine to fire Mr Shokin.

Media captionWhat we know about Biden-Ukraine corruption claims

The chief prosecutor’s office was inquiring into Burisma, a natural gas company on which Hunter Biden was a board member.

There is no evidence of any wrongdoing by the Bidens.

In a BBC interview, former Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said Mr Shokin was sacked for corruption, denying Mr Trump’s claims.

Why is the phone call controversial?

Democrats accuse Mr Trump of illegally seeking foreign help in the hope of smearing Mr Biden.

The US president called on the Ukrainian leader to talk to US Attorney General William Barr and Mr Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani about investigating Hunter Biden’s past business dealings.

Mr Trump is accused of using military aid to Ukraine as a bargaining tool. The package – which has since been released – was aimed at supporting US interests in a friendly country.

Mr Trump, a Republican, denies any wrongdoing and has dismissed the impeachment proceedings as a “hoax” and “another witch-hunt”.

He acknowledged that he had personally blocked nearly $400m (£324m) in military aid to Ukraine days before he spoke to Mr Zelensky, but denied that it was to pressure the Ukrainian leader into investigating Mr Biden.

Who is the whistleblower and what was said?

Few details are known. A lawyer for the whistleblower warned that trying to identify the person could place them “in harm’s way”.

The New York Times, Washington Post and Reuters news agency identified the whistleblower as a CIA officer.

Their complaint accuses Mr Trump of “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the US 2020 election”.

The declassified document characterises the president’s conduct as a “serious or flagrant problem, abuse, or violation of law”.

Media captionUS citizens react to the latest developments

The whistleblower says they had learned from several sources that senior White House officials had intervened to “lock down” all records of the call, particularly an official word-for-word transcript.

“This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call,” the whistleblower wrote in the complaint.

Trump impeachment inquiry: Pompeo subpoenaed by House Democrats

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