Sunday 20 October 2019

Trump wants to quiz whistleblower amid impeachment inquiry

President also tried to pressure Australia's PM to help investigate Russia probe

Donald Trump. Photo: Leah Millis
Donald Trump. Photo: Leah Millis

Rachael Alexander

US President Donald Trump has demanded to be able to interview and "learn everything about" the anonymous whistleblower whose report of his telephone call with the president of Ukraine has triggered an impeachment inquiry.

Meanwhile, support for Mr Trump's impeachment is soaring, according to the polls, as it emerges the president recently attempted to pressure Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other foreign leaders into assisting his attorney-general William Barr with an investigation into the origins of Robert Mueller's Russian election hacking probe.

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New details continue to surface about Mr Trump's now-infamous call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy of July 25, the basis for the House Democrats' inquiry announced last week, including the revelation that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took part in the offending conversation.

The president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has meanwhile been subpoenaed by the opposition for text messages, phone records and other communications related to the botched attempt to corner the Eastern European nation into pursuing a corruption allegation involving leading 2020 Democrat Joe Biden, but laughed off the matter on Fox News: "They seem to forget that I'm a lawyer."

READ MORE: Kelly Magsamen: 'Why hiding the details of Trump's phone call was 'highly suspicious and abnormal''

The number of Americans who believe Mr Trump should be impeached rose by eight percentage points over the past week as more people learned about allegations that Mr Trump pressured Ukraine to smear Mr Biden, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll which found that 45pc of adults believe Mr Trump "should be impeached", compared with 37pc in a similar poll that ran last week. Another 41pc said Mr Trump should not be impeached and 14pc said they "don't know".

Silence: Mr Zelensky (pictured) has made no comment on his phone call with Mr Trump. Photo: Reuters
Silence: Mr Zelensky (pictured) has made no comment on his phone call with Mr Trump. Photo: Reuters

With Congress out of session for observance of the Jewish holidays, Democrats moved aggressively against Mr Giuliani, requesting by October 15 "text messages, phone records and other communications" that they referred to as possible evidence. They requested documents and depositions from three business associates.

Meanwhile, the circle of officials with knowledge of Mr Trump's phone call to Ukraine's president widened with the revelation that Mr Pompeo listened in on the July 25 conversation.

Mr Pompeo's presence on the Ukraine call, confirmed by two officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an internal matter, provided the first confirmation that a cabinet official heard Mr Trump press Mr Zelenskiy to investigate Hunter Biden's membership on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. It is that call, and the circumstances surrounding it, that are fuelling the new Democratic drive for impeachment.

Mr Trump took to Twitter to defend anew his phone call with Mr Zelenskiy as "perfect" and to unleash a series of attacks. He tweeted repeatedly through the day but was, for the most part, a lonely voice as the White House lacked an organisation or process to defend him.

READ MORE: Democrats subpoena Trump lawyer Giuliani for files in impeachment probe

Senior staffers, including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, were to present Mr Trump this week with options on setting up the West Wing's response to impeachment, officials said.

A formal war room was unlikely, though some sort of rapid response team was planned to supplement the efforts of Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani. But Mr Trump was angry over the weekend at both Mr Mulvaney and press secretary Stephanie Grisham for not being able to change the narrative dominating the story, according to two Republicans close to the White House not authorised to speak publicly about private conversations.

READ MORE: US House impeachment inquiry to intensify; Trump remains defiant

Democrats have orders from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to keep momentum going despite a two-week recess that started on Friday. Staff for three committees are scheduled today and tomorrow to depose Marie 'Masha' Yovanovitch, the US ambassador to Ukraine who was removed by the Trump administration earlier this year, and Kurt Volker, who resigned last week as America's Ukrainian envoy.

Irish Independent

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