White House Blockade of Impeachment Probe Likely to Hold Firm ahead of Hearings

The White House blockade of the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump seemed likely to hold firm on Friday, as congressional officials said they expected two administration officials to rebuff a request to testify, Reuters informs.

The House of Representatives Intelligence Committee late on Thursday subpoenaed acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to appear for a closed-door deposition on Friday, an official working on the impeachment inquiry said.

The panel, along with the House Foreign Relations and Oversight committees, has also called Mark Sandy, associate director for national security programs at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), for interviews behind closed doors on Friday.

According to Reuters, lawmakers want to ask Mulvaney and Sandy about OMB’s decision last summer to block, without explanation to Congress, nearly $400 million in security assistance for Ukraine that had been approved by lawmakers.

Mulvaney, a former Republican House member, started his tenure at the Trump White House as director of the budget office. Due to his role at OMB, Sandy likely would have been involved in the decision.

Congressional investigators are trying to determine whether Trump told the Kiev government it would not get the aid unless it agreed to launch an investigation of Hunter Biden, the son of former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, one of Trump’s main Democratic rivals as he runs for re-election in 2020, Reuters adds.

Mulvaney acknowledged at an October 17 news conference that the White House had withheld the assistance. “I have news for everybody: Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy,” Mulvaney said, although he later contradicted himself, saying in a White House statement: “There was absolutely no quid pro quo.”

Trump has denied wrongdoing and disparaged the investigation as a politically motivated “witch hunt.” A White House spokesman said earlier this week that Mulvaney did not intend to comply with the request to appear.

Officials did not immediately respond on Thursday to a request for comment on whether that still held, and on Sandy’s intentions.

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