Democrats warn White House that time is up to produce documents


JUDY WOODRUFF: Top House Democrats in the
House of Representatives are pressing their
impeachment probe tonight, and warning against
obstruction.
President Trump is blasting the investigators
and the whistle-blower as traitors and spies.
White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor
begins our coverage of this day’s events.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Today, a warning from House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a top lieutenant
leading the impeachment inquiry.
REP.
NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The president probably
doesn’t realize how dangerous his statements
are, when he says he wants to expose who the
whistle-blower is and those who may have given
the whistle-blower that information.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: House Intelligence Committee
Chair Adam Schiff said stonewalling will be
treated as grounds for impeachment itself.
REP.
ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We’re not fooling around
here, though.
We don’t want this to drag on for months and
months and months, which appears to be the
administration’s strategy.
They will be strengthening the case on obstruction
if they behave that way.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Schiff also took on Secretary
of State Mike Pompeo, who is challenging demands
for documents and testimony.
REP.
ADAM SCHIFF: We are deeply concerned about
Secretary Pompeo’s effort now to potentially
interfere with witnesses who — whose testimony
is needed before our committee, many of whom
are mentioned in the whistle-blower complaint.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: In Italy, Pompeo acknowledged,
for the first time, that he was on that contested
July phone call.
It was on that call that President Trump requested
the president of Ukraine investigate former
Vice President Biden and his son.
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. Secretary of State: As for
was I on the phone call, I was on the phone
call.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: But Pompeo again ripped
into Democrats, who want five current and
former State Department officials to testify.
MIKE POMPEO: We will, of course, do our constitutional
duty to cooperate with this co-equal branch.
But we are going to do so in a way that is
consistent with the fundamental values of
the American system.
And we won’t tolerate folks on Capitol Hill
bullying, intimidating State Department employees.
That’s unacceptable.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The State Department’s inspector
general, Steve Linick, met today behind closed
doors with key House and Senate staffers,
at his request.
He reportedly provided documents related to
the State Department’s actions regarding Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the House Oversight Committee announced
it will subpoena the White House on Friday
for records of the president’s dealings with
Ukraine.
Chairman Elijah Cummings said the White House
has so far shown a — quote — “flagrant disregard”
of previous requests.
Democrats also warned President Trump against
abusing potential witnesses.
Again, Adam Schiff:
REP.
ADAM SCHIFF: The president wants to make this
all about the whistle-blower and suggest people
that come forward with evidence of his wrongdoing
are somehow treasonous and should be treated
as traitors and spies.
This is a blatant effort to intimidate witnesses.
It’s an incitement to violence.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: During an Oval Office meeting
with the president of Finland, President Trump
went after the Democrat again.
DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States:
He should be forced to resign, Adam Schiff.
He’s a lowlife.
He should be forced to resign.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: President Trump agreed in
general whistle-blowers should be protected,
but not the whistle-blower who reported his
conversation with the president of Ukraine.
DONALD TRUMP: He wrote a vicious conversation.
In other words, he either got it totally wrong,
made it up, or the person giving the information
to the whistle-blower was dishonest.
And this country has to find out who that
person was, because that person is a spy.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: At a joint press conference
later in the day, President Trump responded
to a report in The New York Times that the
Intel Committee got an early account of the
complaint.
The president claimed Schiff may have written
parts of it.
DONALD TRUMP: Well, I think it’s a scandal
that he knew before.
I’d go a step further.
I think he probably helped write it.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: A spokesperson for the congressman
said in a statement that the Intelligence
Committee didn’t review or receive the whistle-blower
complaint in advance.
Meanwhile, President Trump refused to answer
questions about what exactly he wanted Ukraine
to do regarding the Biden family.
House Democrats will hold a closed-door deposition
tomorrow with the administration’s former
envoy to the Ukraine, Kurt Volker.
He resigned from the State Department last
week.
And former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie
Yovanovitch will be deposed next week.
She was abruptly recalled in May.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And Yamiche joins me now, along
with our congressional correspondent, Lisa
Desjardins.
Hell to both of you.
Another fast-moving day.
Lisa, so back to what the House is doing there,
they are now saying, we are prepared to subpoena
the White House for documents.
What you have learned about what they’re seeking,
the timetable for this, and so forth?
LISA DESJARDINS: This is a large category
of documents, in fact, 13 different categories
of documents, that the House has been requesting
for many months.
And what they’re saying now in this memo to
the White House — in fact, we will show you
some of the memo — is that now time is up.
Now we think we need a response, and we’re
ready to subpoena you.
There, you see some of the memo.
And look at this strong language from Chairman
Cummings here: “The White House’s flagrant
disregard of multiple voluntary requests for
documents, combined with stark and urgent
warnings from the inspector general about
the gravity of these allegations, have left
us with no choice,” essentially, other than
to issue a subpoena.
They have not issued a subpoena yet.
That is planned for Friday.
But I think really all this speaks to, again,
something we have brought up, is that a court
battle is looming here.
One other thing, in that document, they’re
saying, we’re not approaching this lightly.
And they say, the White House, it’s not just
that they refused these documents.
They say the White House hasn’t even acknowledged
the requests at all.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And it’s interesting that they’re
telegraphing that they’re going to do this
before they do it.
LISA DESJARDINS: It is.
That’s right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Yamiche, you have been
talking to folks at the White House.
How are they responding to this?
This is a direct request.
It’s — as Lisa says, the language is very
aggressive.
What are they saying?
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: The president is responding
to the subpoena by House Democrats or the
planned subpoena by House Democrats with anger,
but not quite defiance.
Today at the press conference at the White
House, the question was put to President Trump,
do you plan to comply with this subpoena that’s
supposed to be filed on Friday?
The president said, I’m willing to work with
the House Intelligence Committee and Nancy
Pelosi.
So he didn’t say, I’m not going to provide
these documents, but he also wasn’t clear
about what he might provide.
He also said that Nancy Pelosi is — quote
— “handing out subpoenas like cookies.”
So he was basically making the point that
Nancy Pelosi is harassing him and that these
are too many subpoenas going around.
But there is a history of the White House
not wanting to provide documents to Congress.
The White House says a lot of that has to
do with executive privilege.
Democrats say that this is the White House
who stonewalling on a lot of documents.
It’s also important to note that Rudy Giuliani,
the president’s personal attorney, is going
on somewhat offensive here when it comes to
legal tactics.
He’s saying that he might sue House Democrats.
These are some of the same people who are
now seeking documents from the White House.
They are two separate things, the president’s
personal lawyer and the White House.
But what you’re seeing here is a legal battle
that’s shaping up here.
And President Trump is not quite sure exactly
what he’s going to provide.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Yamiche, as we saw, the
president addressed all this in two separate
sessions with the president of Finland, first
in the Oval Office, and then they had a joint
news conference scheduled.
That news conference turned out to be very
little about his meeting with the president
of Finland, and so much about this impeachment
inquiry.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR: Well, this was a tense press
conference, even for a president that has
had very, very tense exchanges with the media
and other foreign leaders.
Now, here we had the president lashing out
at the whistle-blower.
He said, I believe in protecting whistle-blowers,
but this person essentially doesn’t — doesn’t
— shouldn’t have that protection, because
they’re saying something about me that I believe
to be a lie.
It was very interesting to watch him also
take answers — I mean, take questions from
other reporters from a different country.
So a Finnish reporter stood up.
And it was quite a moment.
The Finnish reporter put a question to the
president of Finland: What favors has President
Trump basically requested of you today?
And the room gasped.
It was, in some ways, a really poignant moment.
And it really showed that President Trump
is facing, really, scrutiny with the whole
world, because, in this case, he’s trying
to do foreign policy, but he’s already being
accused of having corruptive behavior with
this president.
The president of Finland said, I essentially
haven’t been asked to do anything by this
president.
But it’s quite a reminder that, when we see
the president lashing out and being angry,
it’s not just about the domestic politics.
It’s also about the fact that he’s being accused
of using his relationships with these foreign
leaders that are coming to the White House
for nefarious things and for his own political
gain.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it was a striking — a
striking exchange.
Lisa, another thing that happened today, unusual,
in that the State Department’s inspector general,
supposedly an independent official inside
the different federal departments, asked for
a briefing with the Congress behind closed
doors.
It was in private, but I know you and other
journalists are trying to find out what happened.
LISA DESJARDINS: We know a lot about what
happened.
And, Judy, I think the best word I can say
is, it’s pretty weird.
The inspector general gave this short notice
to Congress.
Congress is out of town.
So it was staffers and one member of Congress
who attended this briefing.
And in that, the State Department attorney
general — inspector general, as Yamiche has
reported, brought sort of some documents having
to do with this whole Ukraine discussion.
What were those documents?
Those documents were, in the words of Representative
Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, it
was a series of disinformation papers about
conspiracy theories in Ukraine, some having
to do with Vice President — former Vice President
Biden and his son, some having to do with
the former Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
And Raskin said he himself didn’t think there
was a charge of wrongdoing in all of this,
more that the I.G. for the State Department
was covering his bases, saying to Congress,
here’s a packet of material that was sent
to Secretary of State Pompeo.
We’re not sure if Pompeo pushed this around
the State Department or not.
But for Raskin, it speaks to this idea that
someone is putting out theories against the
ambassador within the Trump administration.
But to speak to how strange this was, Judy,
here’s a picture of the cover page of these
documents that Representative Raskin showed
me.
Look at that.
It’s in calligraphy.
It looks like it could be from 1780.
It really is strange.
I want to mention it just because we have
been reporting on it.
And it shows that some of these things are
very substantive.
Some of these things, it’s really not clear
what they mean.
JUDY WOODRUFF: And it’s not clear where this
came from to Secretary Pompeo.
LISA DESJARDINS: Yes.
It’s a major question mark.
Did it come, in fact, from the White House?
There were also folders involved that came
from the Trump Hotel.
Was this some sort of false flag?
I don’t know.
There’s going to be conspiracy theories about
this.
But Representative Raskin said he thinks this
is actually a distraction.
He’s not paying attention to it.
Who knows?
It was odd.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, covering all the developments
today at the Capitol.
Lisa Desjardins, thank you.
Yamiche Alcindor, thank you.

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