Washington: Updating reporters on the investigation into impeaching US President Donald Trump, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff said Democrats had made "dramatic progress." He said lawmakers had heard ample testimony about a phone call in which Donald Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate a firm tied to Hunter Biden.
"There was a great deal of preparatory work that was done before the call," Schiff told reporters on Tuesday. "There was a lot of follow-up work that was done after the call.”
Trump has pressured House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi to take a formal vote. She has resisted, however, saying Congress will conduct its oversight of the executive branch of the government as mandated by the US Constitution in due course. Once Democrats have completed the probe and followed any other threads it produces, they will use their findings to help determine whether to vote on articles of impeachment.
Addressing reporters shortly before Schiff on Tuesday, Pelosi cited recent congressional votes and judicial victories as evidence that "we're legislating, we're litigating, we're investigating." Asked whether that meant the Democrats were prepared to vote to begin a formal inquiry, Pelosi said they were not.
Pence, Giuliani refuse to comply
US Vice President Mike Pence said he would refuse to comply with a request for a long list of documents by House Democrats as part of their impeachment inquiry. Pence's counsel, Matthew E Morgan, shared the news in a letter to the chairs of the three main investigating committees Tuesday.
Morgan echoed President Trump's lawyers, slamming a "purported 'impeachment inquiry'" that "has been designed and implemented in a manner that calls into question" lawmakers' "commitment to fundamental fairness and due process rights.”
Earlier Tuesday, the deadline set by Democrats to respond to a subpoena to testify about his work as Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani said he, too, would not comply. The chairs of three House committees subpoenaed the former New York mayor in September seeking information about his involvement in an attempt to pressure Ukraine to investigate one of Trump's political rivals.
Giuliani, a former Republican presidential candidate, said his attorney had sent a letter to the committees giving notice that he "will not participate because this appears to be an unconstitutional, baseless and illegitimate 'impeachment inquiry.’"
The letter could prompt House Democrats to file a lawsuit to force Giuliani to comply. Earlier in October, federal prosecutors charged two Ukrainian-American associates of Giuliani with campaign finance violations. Democrats accuse the men of conspiring as part of a shadow foreign policy operation the help the Trump campaign.
'Hand grenade’ Giuliani
According to the subpoena, Giuliani admitted that, while serving as Trump's personal attorney, he asked Ukraine's government to launch a criminal investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump's potential opponents in the 2020 US presidential election. Committee chairs in the Democratic-led House cited a "growing public record" indicating that Trump, Giuliani and others "appear to have pressed the Ukrainian government to pursue two politically motivated investigations" by withholding nearly $400 million (€360 million) in defence aid.
On Monday, former White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill told Democrats that former national security adviser John Bolton had described Giuliani as a "hand grenade who is going to blow everybody up" with his dealings in Ukraine. Hill discussed Gordon Sondland, the US's ambassador to the EU, as well as acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. According to reports, she told the committees that Bolton also told her he was not part of "whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up.”
On Tuesday, Giuliani said Bolton's comments had left him "very disappointed." He noted that Bolton, the surly, mustachioed former US ambassador the to the United Nations, "has been called much worse.”