Three House leaders are demanding Secretary of State Mike Pompeo start turning over all documents related to the Trump-Ukraine telephone call by Thursday or face subpoenas.
The Democratic chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight committees — Elliot Engel, Adam Schiff, and Elijah Cummings — say they first made their demand in a letter to the State Department two weeks ago.
The chairmen say the State Department has admitted that a senior Pompeo staffer directly helped set up meetings between U.S. President Donald Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Ukrainian officials days after Trump's telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Trump has admitted he and Zelenskiy talked about corruption and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden during their July 25 telephone call.
The three chairmen say according to press reports, Giuliani personally briefed two top State Department officials about his meeting.
They want Pompeo to let them know by Thursday if he will comply with their demand for documents before subpoenas are served.
"By withholding these documents and refusing to engage with the committees, the Trump Administration is obstructing Congress' oversight duty under the Constitution to protect our nation's democratic process," they wrote.
A Wall Street Journal report says Trump urged Zelenskiy eight times to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, and whether a Ukrainian gas company tried to win favors by hiring Hunter while Joe Biden was vice president. The reports say Trump was looking to get Zelenskiy to collaborate with Giuliani, in an apparent effort to dig up dirt on the Bidens.
Biden has been the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination even before he declared his candidacy and could face off against Trump in November 2020.
If the Wall Street Journal report is true, that would be a direct appeal to a foreign government to interfere in a presidential election — a potentially impeachable offense. Democrats also want to know if Trump promised Zelenskiy anything in return for an investigation of Biden, including the August release of $250 million in military aid to Ukraine which Trump froze earlier this year.
"Such corrupt use of presidential power for the president's personal political interest, and not for national interest, is a betrayal of the president's oath of office and cannot go unchecked," the three congressional chairmen wrote.
Trump dismissed the Democratic drumbeat for impeachment Monday, saying he does not take such threats "at all seriously." He insisted his call with Zelenskiy was a "very nice call," congratulating him on becoming Ukrainian president.
Trump Dismisses Impeachment TalkTrump told reporters as he arrived at the United Nations that he is not taking such threats by some Democrats 'at all seriously'
Trump said he could very easily release a transcript of the call, saying the press would be disappointed. But he refused to commit to doing so, saying it would be a bad precedent.
Trump also went on a tirade against the press, accusing the media of ignoring what he calls Biden's corruption — allegations that Biden demanded Ukraine fire a prosecutor who was investigating the gas company on whose board Hunter Biden sat.
"You're a fake news group of people, you don't want to report that … so many members of the press are so totally dishonest," Trump sputtered at the U.N. in New York.
He said if a "Republican ever did what Joe Biden did … they'd be getting the electric chair by right now."
The newest controversy surrounding Trump began last week when reports emerged that an unidentified whistleblower in the national intelligence community became alarmed about a series of actions inside the Trump administration. They include what is now known to be Trump's telephone call with Zelenskiy.
This person contacted the intelligence inspector general, who called the complaint "serious" and "urgent."
But acting National Intelligence director Joseph Maguire has refused to turn over the inspector's report to Congress, which the law requires him to do.
Trump says he does not know who the whistleblower is, but called that person "partisan" and committing "just another political hack job."
Congressional Democrats want to know why the inspector general's report is being kept from them if Trump did not do anything wrong and want to know who Maguire and the Justice Department may be trying to protect.
As vice president under Barack Obama, Joe Biden went to Ukraine in 2016 and threatened to withhold billions of dollars in U.S. loan guarantees unless the government cracked down on corruption. Biden also demanded that Ukraine's chief prosecutor Viktor Shokin be fired.
Shokin had previously investigated the gas company on which Hunter Biden served on the board. But the probe had been inactive for a year before Joe Biden's visit. Hunter Biden has said he was not the target of any investigation and no evidence of any wrongdoing by the Bidens has surfaced.
An angry Biden said "there is truly no bottom to President Trump's willingness to abuse his power and abase our country."
Referring to next year's election, Trump knows "I'll beat him like a drum," Biden said.