Acting White House chief of staff defies subpoena for testimony in impeachment inquiry
Despite having been subpoenaed by US House investigators for a closed-door hearing Friday on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney defied the request and did not show up.
Mulvaney's subpoena, which US media reported had been issued by House Intelligence Committee, came following a letter sent Tuesday by the panel requesting the official to appear for a deposition Friday.
"This morning, one minute before his scheduled deposition was to start, Mr. Mulvaney's outside counsel informed us that his client had been directed by the White House not to comply with the duly authorized subpoena and asserted 'absolute immunity,'" US media cited an official working on the impeachment inquiry as saying in a statement.
Chairmen of House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees wrote in the Tuesday letter that they believe Mulvaney possesses "substantial first-hand knowledge and information relevant to the House's impeachment inquiry." The three panels, all of which are currently controlled by Democrats, have been leading the impeachment inquiry.
The White House has so far maintained an uncooperative stance toward House Democrats' effort to impeach the president, calling the ongoing investigations "illegal" and "lacking due process."
Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn Friday, Trump slammed the forthcoming public hearings on the impeachment inquiry as "a hoax."
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff announced Wednesday that the public hearings will kick off on Nov. 13, marking a shift of the impeachment proceedings from the previous phase dominated by closed-door depositions.
Mulvaney, who has not complied with congressional demand for documents requested in early October, was asked by a reporter at a White House news briefing on Oct. 17 if a "demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason" that Trump ordered to withhold some US$400 million in military assistance from Ukraine.
"The look-back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he (Trump) was worried about in corruption with that nation," Mulvaney responded, referring to episodes involving a computer server owned by the Democratic National Committee that investigators probing foreign interference in the 2016 US election claimed was hacked by Russia. "And that is absolutely appropriate," Mulvaney added.
Trump believed Ukraine has the server and demanded an investigation from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to a rough transcript of his phone call with Zelensky on July 25 released by the White House.
Pressed to clarify if his description pointed to a "quid pro quo" between Trump and Zelensky, a key concern for impeachment investigators, Mulvaney said: "We do that all the time with foreign policy," later urging reporters to "get over it."
The official has since been trying to walk back from his controversial statement, saying in an appearance on Fox News Sunday on October 20 that "my language never said quid pro quo."