The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives was set on Wednesday to step up its impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump over his dealings with Ukraine, as the White House declared it would not cooperate with the probe.
|Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Donald Trump.
The three congressional committees leading the inquiry were working on final arrangements to interview a U.S. intelligence officer who filed the whistleblower complaint that triggered the probe, a day after the State Department abruptly blocked the U.S. ambassador to the European Union from speaking to them.
The investigation is focused on whether Trump used almost $400 million in congressionally approved aid to Ukraine as leverage to pressure the Ukrainian president to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump’s main Democratic rivals as he seeks re-election in 2020.
Trump has denied wrongdoing. White House Counsel Pat Cipolline wrote on Tuesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats that the administration would refuse to cooperate with what it called an “illegitimate” and “unconstitutional” impeachment inquiry.
“The effort to impeach President Trump ... is a naked political strategy that began the day he was inaugurated,” Cipolline’s letter added.
Pelosi said in response to the letter: “Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable.” She did not indicate what steps, if any, House Democrats might take to compel Trump’s cooperation.
In addition to the whistleblower, lawmakers aim to hear later this week from a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump removed from that post last May before her term was up.
Lawyers for the whistleblower were focused on how to protect the person’s identity from being made public during any testimony, according to sources close to the talks.
The showdown between Trump and Pelosi heightened just as a newly released Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll showed Democratic support rising for impeachment. At the same time, 45 percent of all adult Americans said they support impeachment while 39 percent oppose it, unchanged from last week.