Subpoenas for pair amid Trump impeachment inquiry
Mark Esper and Russell Vought are among a host of Trump administration officials issued subpoenas as part of the impeachment inquiry.
Democrats in the House of Representatives have issued subpoenas to US defence secretary Mark Esper and acting White House budget director Russell Vought as part of the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
Three Democratic committee chairmen demanded that Mr Esper and Mr Vought produce documents previously requested by Democrats by October 15.
The House intelligence, oversight and foreign affairs committees are investigating Mr Trump’s actions pressing Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son, potentially interfering in the 2020 election.
Mr Trump also withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance to Ukraine.
Democrats said the documents are needed to examine the sequence of events and the reasons behind the White House’s decision to withhold aid appropriated by Congress to counter Russian aggression.
The aid was later released.
The subpoenas come as a new whistleblower stepped forward with what the person’s lawyer said was first-hand knowledge of key events.
With Congress out for another week and many Republicans reticent to speak out, a text from lawyer Mark Zaid that a second individual had emerged and could corroborate the original whistleblower’s complaint gripped Washington and potentially heightened the stakes for Mr Trump.
Mr Zaid, who represents both whistleblowers, told the Associated Press that the new whistleblower works in the intelligence field and has spoken to the intelligence community’s internal watchdog.
The original whistleblower, a CIA officer, filed a formal complaint with the inspector general in August that triggered the impeachment inquiry.
The document alleged that Mr Trump had used a July telephone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Mr Biden and his son Hunter, prompting a White House cover-up.
The push came even though there was no evidence of wrongdoing by the former vice president or his son, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
Mr Trump and his supporters deny that he did anything improper, but the White House has struggled to come up with a unified response.
A second whistleblower with direct knowledge could undermine efforts by Mr Trump and his allies to discredit the original complaint.
They have called it politically motivated, claimed it was filed improperly and dismissed it as unreliable because it was based on second-hand or third-hand information.
A rough transcript of Mr Trump’s call with Mr Zelenskiy, released by the White House, has already corroborated the complaint’s central claim that Mr Trump sought to pressure Ukraine on the investigation.
Text messages from State Department officials revealed other details, including that Ukraine was promised a visit with Mr Trump if the government would agree to investigate the 2016 election and a Ukrainian gas company tied to Mr Biden’s son – the outline of a potential quid pro quo.