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Seeking Ukraine Aid Records, House Subpoenas White House Budget Office and Pentagon


WASHINGTON — The House on Monday subpoenaed the Defense Department and the Office of Management and Budget for documents about the Trump administration’s decision to withhold security aid for Ukraine, expanding the impeachment inquiry into how President Trump sought to pressure the government there to dig up dirt on his political rivals.

The subpoenas, issued by the Democrat-controlled House Intelligence Committee, follow similar demands for documents from the State Department and the White House in recent days. They gave the federal agencies until Oct. 15 to comply.

The new demands kicked off what was expected to be another freighted week of inquiry in Washington, where questions related to Ukraine appear increasingly likely to result in Mr. Trump’s impeachment. Two senior American diplomats caught up in the scandal are expected to speak to investigators before the week is through, while a third diplomat who was scheduled to be deposed on Monday failed to show up.

With the new subpoenas, the House is trying to unearth communications and other records that might shed light on two enduring mysteries of the United States’ interactions with Ukraine: why the White House decided last summer to abruptly suspend the $391 million aid package, and whether it was connected to contemporaneous efforts by Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to pressure the country to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats.

The White House has denied that the aid was being withheld to exert leverage over the Ukrainians, but at least one senior diplomat worried privately that that was precisely what was happening, and the administration has been unwilling to answer questions about the timeline and rationale for the decision. Regardless of the reasoning, the decision to withhold aid that was allocated by Congress on a bipartisan basis prompted confusion and concern within the State and Defense departments, as well as among lawmakers in both parties.

Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry in the House suspect the actions may be related, though the aid was reinstated last month.

“The enclosed subpoena demands documents that are necessary for the committees to examine this sequence of these events and the reasons behind the White House’s decision to withhold critical military assistance to Ukraine that was appropriated by Congress to counter Russian aggression,” read the letters, signed by Representative Adam B. Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee; Representative Elijah E. Cummings, chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee; and Representative Eliot L. Engel, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

A request for comment from the budget office was not immediately returned.

The Defense Department had been anticipating a subpoena. Last week the Pentagon’s general counsel directed all department heads to collect and turn in all documents and material related to military aid to Ukraine.

“In light of heightened interest in the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, I write to request your assistance and cooperation in identifying, preserving and collecting documents” said the Oct. 3 memo from Paul C. Ney in the general counsel’s office. A Defense official said on Monday that he expected the Pentagon would turn the necessary material over to Congress.

As the subpoenas begin to stack up, the impeachment inquiry is picking up steam less than three weeks after House leaders opened it in light of an anonymous whistle-blower complaint alleging Mr. Trump was bending American foreign policy for his own political benefit.

The White House has threatened to try to stonewall investigators’ requests and Mr. Trump has mounted a near round-the-clock defense of himself. But witnesses have steadily begun to produce documentary evidence — some of which has bolstered the initial complaint — and a spate of private witness depositions are expected in the coming weeks.

The investigating committees had scheduled a deposition for Monday with George P. Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state and Ukraine expert, but Mr. Kent did not show up as planned. A committee aide said that conversations about scheduling a new date with Mr. Kent were continuing, and implied that at least three other witnesses scheduled to appear this week were also in doubt.

Mr. Kent is the head of the State Department’s bureau of European and Eurasian affairs, but he served until 2018 as a top American diplomat in Ukraine; prior to that he was a senior anti-corruption coordinator for the department in Europe.

The three others include T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, the State Department’s counselor who the whistle-blower said listened in on the July phone call; as well as Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, associates of Mr. Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who aided his attempts to gin up investigations in Ukraine.

Still, two key figures from the State Department were confirmed to participate in their scheduled depositions. Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union who was deeply involved in Mr. Trump’s policy toward Ukraine, is expected to speak to investigators on Tuesday. And on Friday, they will question Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former American ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled from her post in May after she was deemed not to be sufficiently supportive of Mr. Trump’s agenda there.

Helene Cooper contributed reporting.


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