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House won’t vote to formalize impeachment probe

Politics

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., reads a statement announcing a formal impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats won’t be voting soon to formalize the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

That’s according to people familiar with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s message behind closed doors to her colleagues Tuesday.

Pelosi had gathered lawmakers for a closed session after House leaders surveyed rank-and-file members about it.

Trump calls the impeachment inquiry “illegitimate” and says the House needs to go on the record with a vote. Republicans want to put politically vulnerable Democrats in a tight position in areas where the president remains popular.

Pelosi counters that Congress is well within its authority to investigate as part of its oversight role. The Constitution gives the House impeachment powers but provides little guidance on the process.

Trump is being investigated over his effort to have Ukraine investigate political rival Joe Biden.

A whistleblower complaint about that call, later made public, prompted Pelosi to launch the impeachment inquiry.

Five more officials are scheduled this week, mostly from the State Department, though it is unclear if they will all appear after Trump declared he wouldn’t cooperate with the probe. Sondland is expected to appear for a deposition under subpoena Thursday and will certainly be asked about those talks.

Sondland, who is the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, is expected to tell Congress that a text message released earlier this month reassuring another envoy that there was no quid pro quo in their interactions with Ukraine was based solely on what Trump told him, according to a person familiar with his coming testimony.

The cache of text messages was provided by one of the inquiry’s first witnesses, former Ukrainian envoy Kurt Volker, and detailed attempts by the diplomats to serve as intermediaries around the time Trump urged Zelenskiy to start the investigations into a company linked to Biden’s son.

Michael McKinley, a former top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who resigned last week, is scheduled to testify Wednesday. McKinley, a career foreign service officer and Pompeo’s de facto chief of staff, resigned Friday, ending a 37-year career.

In the emails from March, Kent shares with other State Department officials a “daily update of the fake news driven smear out of Ukraine.” The emails include news reports and other commentary, some from U.S. journalists, that “goes after Masha,” as Yovanovitch was known.

While interviews have focused on the interactions with Ukraine, the probe could broaden as soon as next week to include interviews with White House budget officials who may be able to shed light on whether military aid was withheld from Ukraine as Trump and Giuliani pushed for the investigations.

The three committees leading the probe are seeking interviews next week with Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Michael Duffey, another OMB official who leads national security programs, according to a person familiar with those requests. That person wasn’t authorized to discuss the invitations and requested anonymity.

Once Democrats have completed the probe and followed any other threads it produces, they will use their findings to help determine whether to vote on articles of impeachment.

Because of the Trump administration’s edict, the Democrats have been subpoenaing witnesses as they arrived for their interviews — a move sometimes known as a “friendly” subpoena that could give the witnesses additional legal protection as they testify.

Top Democrats say testimony and evidence coming in from other witnesses, and even the Republican president himself, are backing up the whistleblower’s account of Trump’s July 25 phone with Zelenskiy.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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