Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was among the administration officials who listened in on the July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukraine’s president, a senior State Department official said Monday, a disclosure that ties the State Department more closely to the House impeachment inquiry.
Mr. Pompeo’s participation on the call, which hadn’t been previously reported, was one of several developments related to the controversy that centers on Mr. Trump’s repeated urging that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cooperate with Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, and Attorney General William Barr on investigations into Mr. Trump’s political opponents, including Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Also Monday, House committees subpoenaed Mr. Giuliani to turn over documents related to his communications with Trump administration officials about his efforts in Ukraine, as well as any other documents related to that effort, by Oct. 15. They said the subpoena was formally part of the impeachment inquiry. Mr. Giuliani said on Twitter that the subpoena “will be given appropriate consideration,” noting that the subpoena was “signed only by Democrat Chairs who have prejudged this case.”
The impeachment inquiry is focused on Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. Lawmakers are focusing on a whistleblower complaint by a person identified as an officer at the Central Intelligence Agency and a record of the call between the two presidents that was released by the administration. If the Democrats approve articles of impeachment, the matter would move to trial in the Senate, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed Monday he would hold.
“I would have no choice but to take it up,” the Kentucky Republican said on CNBC. He added: “How long you are on it is a different matter, but I would have no choice but to take it up based on a Senate rule on impeachment.”
The scrutiny of the call with Ukraine—which came at a time when Mr. Trump had ordered U.S. aid to Ukraine put on hold—has prompted a wider examination of efforts by the Trump administration to engage foreign leaders in assisting with issues important to the president.
Mr. Barr has asked Mr. Trump to make introductions to a number of foreign officials he believes may have information relevant to the Justice Department’s review of the origins of the Russia investigation and has held overseas meetings with some of them, a Justice Department official said Monday. Mr. Trump recently called Australia’s prime minister at Mr. Barr’s request, two government officials said, to ask him to help with the inquiry.
Mr. Barr in May tapped John Durham, the top federal prosecutor in Connecticut, to lead the review. It focuses on the counterintelligence investigation that became special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election meddling. Since then, Mr. Durham has been exploring what role if any various countries including Ukraine played in the counterintelligence probe. The Justice Department has revealed that “certain Ukrainians who are not members of the government” had volunteered information to Mr. Durham.
The department official wouldn’t say from which other countries Mr. Barr is seeking information. The attorney general was in Italy last week speaking to government officials in connection with Mr. Durham’s review.
The official described Mr. Barr’s request that Mr. Trump speak to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison as standard, saying “It is typical protocol for one leader to contact another leader” for such a request.
“The Australian government has always been ready to assist and cooperate with efforts that help shed further light on the matters under investigation,” according to a statement from the Australian government. “The PM confirmed this readiness once again in conversation with the president.”
In a May 28 letter to Mr. Barr, the Australian ambassador to Washington offered to help with the examination of the Russian inquiry, saying “we stand ready to provide you with all relevant information to support your inquiries.”
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley on Monday said: “The DOJ simply requested that the President provide introductions to facilitate that ongoing inquiry, and he did so, that’s all.”
Mr. Trump and his Republican congressional allies have long alleged that his associates were unfairly targeted for surveillance, and that investigators in the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were politically prejudiced against Mr. Trump in a way that could have affected their work. Mr. Trump has said he believes Mr. Durham’s review will show crimes were committed by his political opponents.
Mr. Pompeo was scheduled to depart for a European trip later Monday. He said last week that he hadn’t yet read the whistleblower’s complaint in its entirety, but said that to his knowledge, actions by State Department officials had been “entirely appropriate and consistent” with administration efforts to improve relations with Ukraine.
In those comments, during the United Nations General Assembly meeting, he didn’t mention his own participation in the call, but said the complaint was filed by “someone who had secondhand knowledge.”
Several days earlier, Mr. Pompeo said that he opposed releasing the record of the Trump-Zelensky call. He told “Fox News Sunday” in a Sept. 22 interview that he would defer to the White House on whether to do so.
“Those are private conversations between world leaders, and it’s not often that those are released,” he said in the interview. And when they’re [released], it’s done when the White House deems it appropriate.” Mr. Pompeo dismissed a question about details of the call, saying, “There’s a lot going on in the world.”
Three House committees—Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight — on Friday subpoenaed Mr. Pompeo for documents related to the inquiry; he has until Oct. 4 to produce them.
The committees plan to depose former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch ; U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker ; Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent; counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl ; and U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland.
Mr. Volker resigned his post last week. Mr. Sondland said he planned to attend the deposition. The State Department did not respond to questions about plans by other officials who were asked to appear.
In Ukraine, Mr. Zelensky said Monday that his administration wouldn’t release a transcript of the July phone call with Mr. Trump, while also saying he is open to investigating any alleged violation of Ukrainian law.
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Does Mike Pompeo’s involvement change your view on President Trump’s call with Ukraine? Why or why not?
At the White House on Monday afternoon, Mr. Trump told reporters: “We’re trying to find out about a whistleblower.” He didn’t expand on that, and the White House didn’t immediately respond to a question about the comment.
Mr. Trump has said he deserved to confront the whistleblower and anyone who provided him information and has suggested they are spies who committed treasonous acts. House Democrats are eager to hear testimony from the whistleblower—though in a way that will protect his identity.
Shortly after Mr. Trump’s comment, Andrew P. Bakaj, a lawyer who represents the whistleblower, wrote on Twitter: “The Intel Community Whistleblower is entitled to anonymity. Law and policy support this and the individual is not to be retaliated against. Doing so is a violation of federal law.”
The Republican-led Senate is considered unlikely to convict Mr. Trump in any impeachment trial. Removing the president requires approval by two-thirds of the 100-member Senate.
Some Senate Republicans have voiced concern over the allegations outlined in a whistleblower complaint made public last week, but none has voiced support for impeachment.
Why not, then, appoint another special counsel to squeeze the squeezers? Why not turn the tables?
.. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made a foundational error in appointing Robert Mueller to be special counsel to investigate . . . well . . . um . . . come to think of it, that was the error: The investigation has no parameters, and thus no limitations.
Investigations conducted by prosecutors are supposed to be rooted in known crimes — or, at the very least, articulable suspicion that known crimes have occurred.
those crimes must form the basis for two salient findings:
(1) that the Justice Department has a conflict of interest so severe that it cannot conduct the investigation in the normal manner, and
(2) that it is necessary to appoint, from outside the Justice Department, a quasi-independent prosecutor.
.. This special prosecutor is to be given a grant of investigative jurisdiction limited to the crimes that the Justice Department is too conflicted to investigate — and no other crimes, unless the special counsel explicitly requests, and the Justice Department grants, an expansion of jurisdiction.
.. Because counterintelligence is not lawyer work, and because the objective of counterintelligence is to gather information about a foreign power, not to build a criminal case against a suspect, prosecutors are not ordinarily assigned to counterintelligence investigations.
.. In the Mueller appointment, then, counterintelligence is camouflage for something that should never happen: a special counsel unleashed to hunt for crimes to prosecute despite the absence of known crimes warranting appointment of a special prosecutor.
.. is looking into whether Jared Kushner’s financial woes influenced Trump-administration policy towards Qatar.
.. Where I part company with them is not over whether we need an investigation; it is over whether that investigation should be done by a special counsel.
.. The patent flaw in the Goodlatte-Gowdy proposal is the same one that plagued Rosenstein’s appointment of Mueller: There is no triggering crime.
.. Investigative Excesses Are Usually Not Crimes
It is very bad for investigators to exhibit bias, to allow bias to taint their exercise of investigative and prosecutorial discretion, to depart from Justice Department guidelines, and to provide unverified information to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA court). But none of these things is a crime – at least, not obviously so.
.. There is no criminal statute addressing bias on the part of agents and prosecutors. We all have biases. It would not be possible to have bias-free investigators.
.. But if deviations from guidelines were to become a basis for legal action, including criminal prosecution, one of two things would happen: The guidelines would be repealed, or they would be rewritten in a broadly permissive manner, endorsing investigative behavior that might be justifiable in exigent circumstances but would be grossly inappropriate the rest of the time.
.. If police and prosecutors came to believe enforcement errors would lead to prosecutions or civil lawsuits against them, they would refrain from taking any but the most uncontroversial enforcement actions. In another context, Heather Mac Donald has written compellingly about this phenomenon as “the Ferguson effect.” To discourage policing is to erode the rule of law, imperiling societal peace and prosperity.
.. If there was a good-faith basis for the FBI and Justice Department to investigate possible Trump–Russia ties of a corrupt nature, it would be very difficult to prove that investigators broke the law in conducting their investigation
.. Candidate Trump made alarmingly ingratiating statements about Vladimir Putin
.. Trump brought Manafort and Gates into his campaign at a very high level. They had notorious ties to Kremlin-backed Ukrainians. Those ties are not speculation; they are established fact. Moreover, Trump publicly identified Carter Page, an obscure Kremlin apologist, as one of his campaign’s handful of foreign-policy advisers. Simultaneously, the FBI was alerted that the Russians might be in possession of thousands of hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton, and might have made a point of communicating this claim to George Papadopoulos, another of the few identified Trump foreign-policy advisers.
.. Then the bureau was approached by Christopher Steele. Far from being unknown to the FBI, this former British spy was a proven asset, having provided information that helped the bureau crack the FIFA soccer case
.. Steele alleged that Trump was involved in a corrupt conspiracy with Russia, in which Manafort, the point man, was using Page as an intermediary. Because of his prior work with the bureau, Steele would not have been ignored by the FBI, regardless of the Clinton campaign’s sponsorship of his work
.. given the preexisting reasons for concern: Trump’s pro-Putin rhetoric; the backgrounds of Manafort, Gates, and Page; and the report about possible Russian involvement in hacked Democratic emails.
.. It would not be credible to claim that the Trump-Russia investigation was fabricated out of whole cloth. Even stipulating that the top FBI/DOJ hierarchy was biased against Trump, and thus too quick to credit sensational allegations of Trump wrongdoing, there were good-faith reasons for concern about ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian regime. These reasons do not prove that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic emails; that Carter Page was a Russian agent; that Manafort and Gates were choreographing a Trump–Russia conspiracy; or that Trump’s Russia rhetoric was anything more than a political novice’s effort to do what American administrations have been doing for decades — seek better relations with Moscow.
.. Goodlatte and Gowdy are also right to suggest (as I believe they have) that the contemplated investigation should scrutinize the handling of the Clinton-emails probe
.. The special counsel is a pernicious institution that operates outside the procedures and discipline of a normal U.S. attorney’s office — where the merits of every case must be weighed against those of every other in the competition for limited investigative and prosecutorial resources.
.. Attorney General Sessions should assign a U.S. attorney from outside Washington to conduct a probe of how the Clinton-emails and Trump-Russia investigations were handled by the Justice Department and FBI. A good model would be John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut just confirmed by the Senate.
.. the Bush administration was cut no slack by Fitzgerald, then a career prosecutor who is remembered for conducting a hyper-aggressive probe.
.. Mueller is effectively independent only because Rosenstein has chosen to be passive
.. Mueller reports to Rosenstein, who could assert more active supervision.
.. There is no reason that Attorney General Sessions cannot structure a probe that can be credibly conducted by the Justice Department’s standard investigative arrangement