House Democrats subpoena Pompeo aide, two others in Trump impeachment inquiry
By Susan Heavey WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday issued three more subpoenas as part of their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, seeking to compel top officials in the White House budget office and the State Department to testify. Among those that the three House committees leading the inquiry want to hear from is Ulrich Brechbuhl, a key aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday issued three more subpoenas as part of their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, seeking to compel top officials in the White House budget office and the State Department to testify.
Among those that the three House committees leading the inquiry want to hear from is Ulrich Brechbuhl, a key aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The anonymous whistleblower who set off the impeachment inquiry said in his written complaint that he was told Brechbuhl had listened in on a call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in July that is at the heart of the scandal.
The inquiry focuses on Trump's request for Ukraine to investigate a domestic political rival, Joe Biden, the former vice president who is a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination to face Trump in the 2020 election.
Trump had withheld $391 million in security aid to Ukraine approved by Congress. During the call, the Ukrainian president agreed to investigations of Biden and his son Hunter Biden's tenure on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. The aid was later provided.
U.S. law prohibits candidates from accepting foreign help in an election.
Friday's subpoenas also called on two officials from the White House's Office of Management and Budget: acting director Russell Vought and Michael Duffey, associate director for national security programs, to testify in early November.
Lawmakers want Duffey to appear on Nov. 5, and Vought and Brechbuhl on Nov. 6, the committees said in a statement.
The Trump administration has sought to block current and former officials from appearing before the impeachment inquiry, although the Democrat-led committees have obliged main figures in the scandal, like U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, to testify by issuing subpoenas against them.
The impeachment inquiry could lead to the House passing formal charges - known as articles of impeachment - which would prompt a trial in the Senate on whether to remove Trump from office. The Senate is controlled by Trump's fellow Republicans, who have shown little inclination towards removing him.
But Trump has pressured Republicans to adopt a more robust defence in recent days after two of his recent decisions - the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and the now-reversed move to hold a G7 summit at one of his Florida resorts - drew criticism from members of his party.
The White House is considering former Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to handle its communications for the impeachment probe, a person familiar with the deliberations said.
Congressional Democrats, faced with stepped-up efforts by Trump's Republican allies to disrupt the impeachment inquiry, are now considering calling only career government employees to testify at public hearings expected to start later next month, according to congressional sources.
Meanwhile, a U.S. Justice Department review of the origins of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is now a criminal investigation, a person familiar with the matter said.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr launched a review earlier this year to investigate Trump's complaints that his campaign was improperly targeted by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies during the election.
Democrats and some former law enforcement officials say Barr is using the Justice Department to chase unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that could benefit the Republican president politically and discredit former U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia report about the investigation.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Writing by Mohammad Zargham, Susan Heavey and Alistair Bell; Editing by Peter Cooney, Giles Elgood and Paul Simao)
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By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.