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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 30)

Saudi Arabia and Iran Make Quiet Openings to Head Off War

Westlake Legal Group 05saudi-iran-facebookJumbo Saudi Arabia and Iran Make Quiet Openings to Head Off War Zarif, Mohammad Javad Yemen United States Politics and Government United States International Relations United States United Nations United Arab Emirates Trump, Donald J Syria Saudi Arabia Rouhani, Hassan Persian Gulf Pakistan Mohammed bin Salman (1985- ) Middle East Mahdi, Adel Abdul Larijani, Ali Khan, Imran Jubeir, Adel al- Israel Iraq Iran Indyk, Martin S Houthis General Assembly (UN) Defense and Military Forces

After years of growing hostility and competition for influence, Saudi Arabia and Iran have taken steps toward indirect talks to try to reduce the tensions that have brought the Middle East to the brink of war, according to officials from several countries involved in the efforts.

Even the prospect of such talks represents a remarkable turnaround, coming only a few weeks after a coordinated attack on Saudi oil installations led to bellicose threats in the Persian Gulf. Any reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran could have far-reaching consequences for conflicts across the region.

It was President Trump’s refusal to retaliate against Iran for the Sept. 14 attack, analysts say, that set off unintended consequences, prompting Saudi Arabia to seek its own solution to the conflict. That solution, in turn, could subvert Mr. Trump’s effort to build an Arab alliance to isolate Iran.

In recent weeks, officials of Iraq and Pakistan said, the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, asked the leaders of those two countries to speak with their Iranian counterparts about de-escalation.

Iran welcomed the gestures, stating privately and publicly that it was open to talks with Saudi Arabia.

In a statement to The New York Times on Friday, the Saudi government acknowledged that Iraq and Pakistan had offered to mediate talks between the two countries but denied that Prince Mohammed had taken the initiative.

“Efforts at de-escalation must emanate from the party that began the escalation and launched attacks, not the kingdom,” the statement said.

Distrust between the two Middle Eastern powers remains intense, and the prospect of high-level direct talks any time soon appears remote. But even a slight warming could echo far outside their respective borders, where their rivalry fuels political divides from Lebanon to Yemen.

Iran has long wanted to wrest the Saudis from their alliance with Iran’s archenemies, Israel and the United States, which are waging a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran to try to force it to restrict its nuclear program and stop backing militias in the region.

Iran’s receptiveness for contact with the Saudis contrasts with its chilly tone toward the United States. Last week, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, dodged an opportunity to speak directly with Mr. Trump while both were attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The new overtures between Saudi Arabia and Iran began in the aftermath of last month’s drone and cruise missile strikes on two Saudi oil facilities, which Saudi Arabia and the United States accused Iran of orchestrating.

Despite tough threats by the Trump administration, the president declined to order a military response. The demurral raised questions for the Saudis about the American commitment to Saudi security, which has underpinned the strategic layout of the Persian Gulf for decades.

Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan met with Prince Mohammed, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, in Jeddah last month. Days later, while Mr. Khan was at the General Assembly, he told reporters that Prince Mohammed had asked him to talk to Iran.

Prince Mohammed told Mr. Khan, “I want to avoid war,” according to a senior Pakistani official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. “He asked the prime minister to get involved.”

Mr. Khan then spoke with Mr. Rouhani on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

The Iraqi prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, visited Saudi Arabia a few days after Mr. Khan did.

A senior Iraqi official said that Prince Mohammed asked Mr. Abdul Mahdi to mediate with Iran, and that Iraq had suggested Baghdad as the venue for a potential meeting.

“There is a big response from Saudi Arabia and from Iran and even from Yemen,” Mr. Abdul Mahdi told journalists in Iraq after his return from the kingdom. “And I think that these endeavors will have a good effect.”

Iran endorsed the idea.

“Iran is open to starting a dialogue with Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region,” Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s Parliament, told Al Jazeera in an interview broadcast on Tuesday. “An Iranian-Saudi dialogue,” he added, “could solve many of the region’s security and political problems.”

While they explore back-channel possibilities, both sides have continued to stake out staunchly opposing public positions.

The Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia had not asked anyone to send messages to Iran. Instead, he wrote, other countries he did not identify had offered to serve as intermediaries.

“We informed them that the truce needs to come from the side that is escalating and spreading chaos through aggressive acts in the region,” Mr. al-Jubeir wrote.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran said that his country would “definitely greet Saudi Arabia with open arms” — but only if it prioritized friendly relations with neighbors over purchasing weapons from the United States.

Iran has long sought to pull Saudi Arabia away from the United States and Israel. But it was the lack of an American military response to the strikes on Saudi oil facilities that appeared to have created an opening.

“There are cracks in the armor suggesting Saudi Arabia is interested in exploring a new relationship with Iran,” said Philip Gordon, a former White House coordinator for the Middle East. “The worst outcome for the Saudis is to move to a confrontation with Iran expecting the U.S. to support them and find out they won’t.”

He added, “This administration has shown it’s not really ready to take on Iran.”

Top officials from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, Saudi allies which could suffer if open conflict broke out, have spoken publicly of the need for diplomacy to reduce tensions and have made their own efforts to reach out to Iran. The Emirates has held direct maritime security talks with Iran, and has pulled back from the war in Yemen, where it is allied with the Saudis in a battle against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

If Saudi Arabia joins Kuwait and the Emirates in reaching out to Iran, it could undermine the Trump administration’s effort to build an international coalition to ostracize and pressure the Iranians.

“The anti-Iran alliance is not just faltering, it’s crumbling,” Martin Indyk, the executive vice president of Brookings Institution and a former senior diplomat, said Thursday on Twitter. “MBZ has struck his deal with Iran; MBS is not far behind,” he said, referring to the Emirati crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, or MBZ, and the Saudi crown prince, known as MBS.

He also noted that Mr. Trump’s most hawkish anti-Iran adviser, John R. Bolton, had left the administration, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is fighting for his political life and Mr. Trump has shown a willingness to talk directly to the Iranians.

For the Saudis, even indirect talks with Iran would represent a significant departure from Prince Mohammed’s approach to his prime regional rival since his father, King Salman, ascended to the Saudi throne in 2015.

He has cast Iran as the root of the Middle East’s problems and argued that political and theological differences make negotiations impossible. He has compared Iran’s supreme leader to Hitler and threatened to instigate violence inside Iran’s borders.

“We are a primary target for the Iranian regime,” Prince Mohammed said in 2017. “We won’t wait for the battle to be in Saudi Arabia. Instead, we’ll work so that the battle is for them in Iran.”

His antipathy toward Iran gave him common cause with Israel and the Trump administration. The Saudis have pitched themselves as the United States’ greatest ally against Iran, proposing they carry out joint operations to weaken it and possibly bring about regime change, according to former United States officials.

But Prince Mohammed may now be more willing to explore a possible accommodation.

“We have reached the peak of Saudi-Iran tensions and both sides have concluded this balance of fear is detrimental to their interests,” said Saeed Shariati, a political analyst in Tehran.

For now, the rift appears wide, and possibly unbridgeable. The Saudis criticize Iran for backing militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, where the kingdom has been mired in a disastrous war against the Houthis for four years.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attacks on Saudi oil facilities that seem to have helped prompt the diplomatic initiatives, but many Western experts believed that the Houthis could not have carried out the strikes unassisted.

Mr. al-Jubeir said Tuesday that Iran needed to stop its ballistic missile program, refrain from interfering in Arab states and “act like a normal country, and not like a rogue who sponsors terrorism.”

For its part, Iran has called on Saudi Arabia to freeze its multibillion-dollar arms purchases from the United States, stop its intervention in Yemen and end discrimination against the Shiite Muslim minority in Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim-led absolute monarchy.

At the General Assembly last week, Iran’s president, Mr. Rouhani, aimed part of his speech directly at Arab countries in the Persian Gulf.

“It’s the Islamic Republic of Iran who is your neighbor,” he said. “At the day of an event, you and us will be alone. We are each other’s neighbors, not America.”

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Impeachment Investigators Subpoena White House and Ask Pence for Documents on Ukraine

WASHINGTON — House impeachment investigators widened the reach of their inquiry on Friday, subpoenaing the White House for a vast trove of documents and requesting more from Vice President Mike Pence to better understand President Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

The subpoena, addressed to Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, calls for documents and communications that are highly delicate and would typically be subject in almost any White House to claims of executive privilege. If handed over by the Oct. 18 deadline, the records could provide keys to understanding what transpired between the two countries and what steps, if any, the White House has taken to cover it up.

The request for records from a sitting vice president is unusual in its own right, and Mr. Pence’s office quickly signaled he may not comply. In a letter to Mr. Pence, the chairmen of three House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry wrote that they were interested in “any role you may have played” in conveying Mr. Trump’s views to Ukraine. They asked for a lengthy list of documents detailing the administration’s dealings with Ukraine, to be produced by Oct. 15.

The actions came at the end of another day of fast-moving developments in the House impeachment investigation, which is centered on allegations that Mr. Trump and his administration worked to bend America’s diplomatic apparatus for his own political benefit.

Mr. Trump himself appeared resigned to the prospect that he would be impeached, and was gearing up for an epic political battle to defend himself, predicting the Democrat-led House would approve articles of impeachment against him and the Republican-controlled Senate would acquit him.

“They’ll just get their people,” he said of House Democrats. “They’re all in line. Because even though many of them don’t want to vote, they have no choice. They have to follow their leadership. And then we’ll get it to the Senate, and we’re going to win.”

Privately, Mr. Trump briefly joined a conference call of House Republicans, defending his interactions with Ukraine and rallying his party to fight for him.

On Capitol Hill, the impeachment investigation continued gaining steam, as requests and information from witnesses began to stack up. For more than six hours on Friday, the House Intelligence Committee questioned the intelligence community’s independent watchdog who first fielded a whistle-blower complaint that has spurred the formal impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump. Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general, had received the complaint and explained his own preliminary investigation into its validity before seeking to deliver it to Congress.

“What the inspector general said last time was, the whistle-blower pulled the fire alarm,” Representative Mike Quigley, Democrat of Illinois, told reporters. “We have now seen the smoke and the fire.”

How the White House, which has routinely rejected congressional requests for information, responds to the demands for documents could significantly shape the impeachment investigation going forward. Under normal circumstances, the White House could claim materials referred to in both requests were privileged, using that as a defense in court.

Press secretaries for the White House and the vice president issued similar statements assailing the demands, but did not clearly indicate whether they would comply or not. Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said the subpoena “changes nothing” and called it “just more document requests, wasted time and taxpayer dollars that will ultimately show the president did nothing wrong.”

Katie Waldman, Mr. Pence’s press secretary, promptly said that “given the scope, it does not appear to be a serious request but just another attempt by the ‘Do Nothing Democrats’ to call attention to their partisan impeachment.”

But that will not help Mr. Trump’s case on Capitol Hill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chairmen leading the inquiry have consistently warned the White House that noncompliance with their requests will be viewed as obstruction of Congress, itself a potentially impeachable offense.

“The White House has refused to engage with — or even respond to — multiple requests for documents from our Committees on a voluntary basis,” said the letter to Mr. Mulvaney, signed by Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the Intelligence Committee chairman; Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman; and Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the Oversight and Reform Committee chairman. “After nearly a month of stonewalling, it appears clear that the president has chosen the path of defiance, obstruction, and cover-up.”

In addition to the new subpoena and request, a significant subpoena deadline for the State Department to hand over similar material in its possession was also scheduled to arrive by the end of the day. It was not immediately clear if the department had complied or not.

Even as they worked, lawmakers from both parties continued Friday morning to try to make sense of a tranche of texts between American diplomats and a top aide to the Ukrainian president. Those messages were released late Thursday night, and called into question the truthfulness of Mr. Trump’s claim that there had been no quid pro quo attached to his pressing Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his son and other Democrats.

The House committees are scheduled to interview additional witnesses implicated in the texts next week. Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union and a Trump supporter who been actively involved in diplomacy with Ukraine, is expected to appear on Tuesday, and Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former American ambassador to Ukraine, on Friday.

Democrats have pounced on the texts as further evidence that Mr. Trump was treating the investigations as a precondition to giving Ukraine, an American ally that borders Russia, a meeting with the president and a $391 million package of security aid. Most Republicans remained silent or stood by Mr. Trump in light of the new messages, but a few raised alarms.

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, one of the few members of Mr. Trump’s party who have been critical of the conduct at the center of the impeachment inquiry, issued a statement condemning the president’s public comments on Thursday in which he invited China as well as Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

“When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated,” Mr. Romney said. “By all appearances, the president’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”

Westlake Legal Group impeachment-investigation-tracker-promo-1570214529724-articleLarge-v2 Impeachment Investigators Subpoena White House and Ask Pence for Documents on Ukraine Zelensky, Volodymyr United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Pelosi, Nancy Office of the Director of National Intelligence impeachment House Committee on Intelligence Giuliani, Rudolph W Biden, Joseph R Jr Atkinson, Michael K (1964- )

The Evidence Collected So Far in the Trump Impeachment Inquiry

The status of the documents and witness testimony being collected by congressional investigators.

Democrats on Capitol Hill said Mr. Atkinson’s account reinforced the seriousness of their effort.

A Trump appointee, Mr. Atkinson helped set off the current saga less than a month ago when he notified Congress’s intelligence committees that he had received an anonymous whistle-blower complaint that he deemed to be “urgent” and credible. The acting director of national intelligence intervened initially to block Mr. Atkinson from sharing the complaint with Congress, but ultimately the Trump administration relented and allowed its public release.

In the complaint, the whistle-blower wrote that multiple government officials had provided him information that “the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”

Specifically, he said that Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, had pressed Ukraine to conduct the investigations, potentially using the prospect of a meeting that the new Ukrainian president badly wanted with Mr. Trump and withholding the aid earmarked for the country as leverage to secure the investigations. The White House tried to cover up aspects of the events, the complaint said.

Mr. Atkinson has already appeared once before the House Intelligence Committee, but he was barred then from speaking in detail about the complaint. On Friday, Mr. Atkinson walked lawmakers through the complaint and some of the steps he took to try to evaluate the veracity of his claims, including showing documents. The inspector general declined to share with the committee names of officials he spoke during his brief investigation, according to one person familiar with his testimony.

Details of the complaint, including a July call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, have already been verified. The texts released late Thursday also appeared to comport with elements of the complaint.

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York, and Annie Karni from Washington.

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Facing Fresh Revelations, Republicans Struggle to Mount a Defense of Trump

Westlake Legal Group 03dc-repubs-facebookJumbo Facing Fresh Revelations, Republicans Struggle to Mount a Defense of Trump United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Romney, Mitt Republican Party Pelosi, Nancy McCarthy, Kevin (1965- ) impeachment Hurd, Will Biden, Joseph R Jr

WASHINGTON — Republican leaders are struggling to settle on a clear message and effective strategy for responding to Democrats’ aggressive and fast-moving impeachment investigation of President Trump, thrown off by early stumbles and a chaotic White House that have upended efforts to set a steady tone.

With Mr. Trump effectively functioning as a one-man war room — doling out a new message, and provocative statements, almost by the hour — top Republicans have labored to find a unified response to push back against the inquiry and break through a near daily cascade of damaging information.

Instead, they have tried to avoid tough questions about Mr. Trump’s conduct, staying mostly silent. Few defended Mr. Trump’s declaration on Thursday that China, as well as Ukraine, should investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a leading Democratic presidential candidate, and his son Hunter Biden. Fewer still have commented on text messages released as part of Democrats’ inquiry that show that envoys representing Mr. Trump sought to leverage the power of his office to prod Ukraine into opening investigations that would damage his Democratic opponents — and that some of them viewed it as a clear quid pro quo.

Inquiries to nearly two dozen congressional Republicans, including members of leadership and the Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees, yielded only two responses on Friday.

“The obvious challenge for everybody here is that they are working with a president with no tolerance for anyone to criticize” him, said Brendan Buck, a former counselor to the last two Republican House speakers, Paul D. Ryan and John A. Boehner.

Rather than acknowledging that Mr. Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president, in which he asked that the leader investigate a leading political rival, was inappropriate and moving on to a debate about whether that rose to impeachment, Mr. Buck continued, “they’re getting stuck wrapped around the axle of whether what the president did was wrong, or whether he even did it in the first place.”

In an attempt to rally and unify the conference, Mr. Trump joined a call with House Republicans on Friday afternoon, according to a person present who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss it. The president emphasized to lawmakers that Democrats were refusing to focus on solutions that would help the American people and instead trying to overturn the result of the 2016 election, the person said.

But even Republican lawmakers who have tried to stay on message and defend the president have not been as successful as they have hoped.

Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, for instance, told The Wall Street Journal on Friday that he had confronted Mr. Trump in a phone call in late August about allegations that he was engaging in a quid pro quo with Ukraine, and that the president had flatly denied it.

In doing so, however, Mr. Johnson brought to light new information that was ultimately unhelpful to Mr. Trump: that the American ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, had told the lawmaker that aid to Ukraine was tied to Mr. Trump’s request to have Kiev investigate Democrats. He later told reporters at a constituent stop that he tried to get permission from Mr. Trump to tell Ukraine’s president that American aid was on its way in the wake of those allegations, but Mr. Trump refused, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Yet a small minority of Republicans spoke out against Mr. Trump on Friday. Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah and a former presidential candidate, delivered the sharpest rebuke. The president’s appeal to China and Ukraine to investigate the Bidens was “brazen and unprecedented,” Mr. Romney said, calling the conduct “wrong and appalling.”

Representative Will Hurd of Texas, a former C.I.A. officer and member of the Intelligence Committee who is retiring next year, also denounced Mr. Trump’s suggestion that China should investigate the Bidens. But in an interview on Friday with CNN, Mr. Hurd declined to make a definitive judgment about the text messages.

“I think some of these things are indeed damning,” he said. “However, I want to make sure we get through this entire investigation before coming to some kind of conclusion.”

None of those reactions are in line with the one that Republican leaders have settled on for defending the president. They have argued that there was nothing improper about the president’s suggestion that a foreign country should investigate one of his political rivals, and that no quid pro quo was suggested.

Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican, said in an interview on Thursday that “a lot of people” want to get to the bottom of the rumors about the Bidens and that Mr. Trump “is echoing what people have been calling for, for a long time.” Senator Marco Rubio of Florida suggested Mr. Trump was simply trying to provoke outrage from the news media, arguing of his public appeals to China and Ukraine, “That’s not a real request.”

The party’s scattered responses underscore the challenge for Republican leaders of setting a message for a set of developments that are out of their control, said Antonia Ferrier, the former communications director for Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader.

“It’s very difficult to message on quicksand,” she said.

Problems for House Republicans surfaced almost as soon as the formal inquiry began, with a halting performance last weekend by Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the minority leader, on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” Mr. McCarthy appeared not to have read the transcript of a call between Mr. Trump and the Ukrainian president that is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry; as he tried to defend the president, the correspondent Scott Pelley noted that he was reciting a set of talking points that the White House had circulated earlier.

Republican lawmakers and aides fretted privately that Mr. McCarthy looked unprepared and uncertain, and that their party had no strategy for confronting the crisis engulfing the president. Since then, leaders have buckled down to devise a fusillade of messages they hope will resonate with the public as the investigation unfolds.

An early version of their defense centered on three main arguments: that Democrats are truly trying to impeach the president, that nothing in Mr. Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president is impeachable and that Democrats are exploiting the call to achieve an end result they had hoped for from the beginning of Mr. Trump’s presidency, impeachment.

But in a sign of how Republicans’ strategy has continued to shift, Mr. McCarthy in recent days has appeared to adopt a number of other approaches, most notably introducing a message that focuses narrowly on Democrats’ impeachment process. That strategy hinges on the belief that voters will reject Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision not to hold a vote to start an impeachment inquiry. Republicans argued in a legal brief on Thursday that the House had not in fact begun a real impeachment investigation because it had not authorized one with a full vote.

The strategy tracks with one the White House has considered, as top officials weighed sending a letter to Ms. Pelosi to inform her that they would not comply with demands for documents or witnesses until the full House voted to formally open an impeachment inquiry. But on Friday, aides in the West Wing were reassessing the move, first reported by the website Axios, worrying that it might only draw out the impeachment process.

Borrowing a page from Democrats during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, Republicans are also working to demonize the leaders of the inquiry. Mr. McCarthy is supporting a resolution by Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, to formally censure Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, who has taken a leading role.

Mr. Scalise rallied his deputies during a call on Thursday afternoon, saying he would lead a series of all-conference member briefings moving forward, according to a person on the call who insisted on anonymity to describe it. Representative Steve Chabot of Ohio, a manager during the Clinton impeachment, outlined what lawmakers could expect in the weeks to come.

“What members really want are all the facts because there are a lot of allegations that have been thrown around,” Mr. Scalise said.

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House Targets White House and Pence for Ukraine Documents as Impeachment Inquiry Grows

Westlake Legal Group merlin_162115500_f1f0c1e1-21a1-4b50-affc-a3fc378c44aa-facebookJumbo House Targets White House and Pence for Ukraine Documents as Impeachment Inquiry Grows Zelensky, Volodymyr United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Pelosi, Nancy Office of the Director of National Intelligence impeachment House Committee on Intelligence Giuliani, Rudolph W Biden, Joseph R Jr Atkinson, Michael K (1964- )

WASHINGTON — House impeachment investigators widened the reach of their inquiry on Friday, subpoenaing the White House for a vast trove of documents and requesting more from Vice President Mike Pence to better understand President Trump’s attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

The subpoena, signed by the House Oversight and Reform Committee, is for documents and communications that are highly delicate and would typically be subject in almost any White House to claims of executive privilege. If handed over, the records could provide keys to understanding what transpired between the two countries.

The request for records from a sitting vice president is unusual in its own right, and Mr. Pence’s office quickly signaled he would not comply. In a letter to Mr. Pence, the chairmen of three House committees wrote that they were interested in “any role you may have played” in conveying Mr. Trump’s views to Ukraine. They asked for a lengthy list of documents detailing the administration’s dealings with Ukraine, to be produced by Oct. 15.

“Recently, public reports have raised questions about any role you may have played in conveying or reinforcing the president’s stark message to the Ukrainian president,” said the letter to Mr. Pence, signed by Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the Intelligence Committee chairman; Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman; and Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the Oversight and Reform Committee chairman.

Katie Waldman, Mr. Pence’s press secretary, promptly said that “given the scope, it does not appear to be a serious request but just another attempt by the ‘Do Nothing Democrats’ to call attention to their partisan impeachment.”

How the White House, which has routinely rejected congressional demands of this kind, responds this time could significantly shape the impeachment investigation going forward. The subpoena was issued after the White House missed a Friday deadline Democrats had imposed to voluntarily comply with their requests. Under normal circumstances, the White House could claim materials referenced in both requests were privileged, using that as a defense in court.

But that will not help Mr. Trump’s case on Capitol Hill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chairmen leading the inquiry have consistently warned the White House that noncompliance with their requests will be viewed as obstruction of Congress, a potentially impeachable offense in and of itself.

The actions came amid another day of fast-moving developments in the House impeachment investigation into allegations that Mr. Trump and his administration worked to bend America’s diplomatic apparatus for his own benefit.

For more than six hours, the House Intelligence Committee questioned the intelligence community’s independent watchdog who first fielded a whistle-blower complaint that has spurred the formal impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump.

Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general, had received the complaint and conducted his own preliminary investigation into its validity before seeking to deliver it to Congress. He arrived on Capitol Hill on Friday morning for a briefing behind closed doors in the basement of the Capitol.

A significant subpoena deadline for the State Department to hand over similar material in its possession was also scheduled to arrive by the end of the day.

Even as they worked, lawmakers from both parties continued Friday morning to try to make sense of a tranche of texts between American diplomats and a top aide to the Ukrainian president. Those messages were released late Thursday night, and called into question the truthfulness of Mr. Trump’s claim that there had been no quid pro quo attached to his pressing Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his son and other Democrats.

As more information came to light, Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, one of the few members of Mr. Trump’s party who have been critical of the conduct at the center of the impeachment inquiry, issued a statement condemning the president’s public comments on Thursday inviting China as well as Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

“When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated,” Mr. Romney said. “By all appearances, the president’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill hoped Mr. Atkinson’s account would boost their efforts to build a fuller narrative of events.

A Trump appointee, Mr. Atkinson set off the present saga less than a month ago when he notified Congress’s intelligence committees that he had received an anonymous whistle-blower complaint that he deemed to be “urgent” and credible. The acting director of national intelligence intervened initially to block Mr. Atkinson from sharing the complaint with Congress, but ultimately the Trump administration relented and allowed its public release.

In the complaint, the whistle-blower wrote that multiple government officials had provided him information that “the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”

Specifically, he said that Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, had pressed Ukraine to conduct the investigations, potentially using the prospect of a meeting that the new Ukrainian president badly wanted with Mr. Trump and withholding $391 million in security aid earmarked for the country as leverage to secure the investigations. The White House tried to cover up aspects of the events, the complaint said.

Mr. Atkinson has already appeared once before the House Intelligence Committee, but he was barred then from speaking in detail about the complaint. Now, lawmakers expect him to detail what steps he took to verify elements of the complaint and conclude it was credible. He could possibly identify other government officials with knowledge of the events described in it.

Details of the complaint, including a July call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, have already been verified. The texts released late Thursday also appeared to comport with elements of the complaint.

Annie Karni contributed reporting.

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House Requests Documents From Pence in Impeachment Inquiry

Westlake Legal Group 04dc-impeach2-facebookJumbo House Requests Documents From Pence in Impeachment Inquiry Zelensky, Volodymyr United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Pelosi, Nancy Office of the Director of National Intelligence impeachment House Committee on Intelligence Giuliani, Rudolph W Biden, Joseph R Jr Atkinson, Michael K (1964- )

WASHINGTON — The chairmen of three House committees on Friday requested documents from Vice President Mike Pence for the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, asking him to turn over a wide-ranging batch of material that could shed light on Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine, and any role that Mr. Pence played in it.

In a letter to Mr. Pence, the chairmen asked for a lengthy list of documents detailing the administration’s dealings with Ukraine, to be produced by Oct. 15. It came as House Democratic leaders were readying a subpoena for the White House for a vast trove of documents in the inquiry, which is investigating attempts by Mr. Trump and his administration to pressure Ukraine’s president to help dig up dirt on his political rivals.

“Recently, public reports have raised questions about any role you may have played in conveying or reinforcing the president’s stark message to the Ukrainian president,” said the letter to Mr. Pence, signed by Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the Intelligence Committee chairman; Representative Eliot L. Engel of New York, the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman; and Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the Oversight and Reform Committee chairman.

The lawmakers released their latest request as the Intelligence panel questioned the intelligence community watchdog who first fielded the whistle-blower complaint that has spurred the formal impeachment inquiry.

Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general, had received the complaint and conducted his own preliminary investigation into its validity before seeking to deliver it to Congress. He arrived Friday morning for a briefing behind closed doors in the basement of the Capitol.

The meeting kicked off another day of fast-moving developments in the impeachment investigation.

In addition to speaking with Mr. Atkinson and requesting documents from Mr. Pence, lawmakers were expected to subpoena the White House, and hinted at other requests. A significant subpoena deadline for the State Department to hand over similar material in its possession was also scheduled to arrive by the end of the day.

Even as they worked, lawmakers from both parties continued Friday morning to try to make sense of a tranche of text messages between American diplomats and a top aide to the Ukrainian president. Those text messages were released late Thursday night, and called into question the truthfulness of Mr. Trump’s claim that there had been no quid pro quo attached to his pressing Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his son and other Democrats.

As more information came to light, Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, one of the few members of Mr. Trump’s party who has been critical of the conduct at the center of the impeachment inquiry, condemned the president’s public comments on Thursday inviting China as well as Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

“When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated,” Mr. Romney said in a statement. “By all appearances, the president’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill hoped Mr. Atkinson’s account would boost their efforts to build a fuller narrative of what transpired between the two countries.

A Trump appointee, Mr. Atkinson set off the present saga less than a month ago when he notified Congress’s intelligence committees that he had received an anonymous whistle-blower complaint that he deemed to be “urgent” and credible. The acting director of national intelligence intervened initially to block Mr. Atkinson from sharing the complaint with Congress, but ultimately the Trump administration relented and allowed its public release.

In the complaint, the whistle-blower wrote that multiple government officials had provided him information that “the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”

Specifically, he said that Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, had pressed Ukraine to conduct the investigations, potentially using the prospect of a meeting that the new Ukrainian president badly wanted with Mr. Trump and withholding $391 million in security aid earmarked for the country as leverage to secure the investigations. The White House tried to cover up aspects of the events, the complaint said.

Mr. Atkinson has already appeared once before the House Intelligence Committee, but he was barred then from speaking in detail about the complaint. Now, lawmakers expect him to detail what steps he took to verify elements of the complaint and conclude it was credible. He could possibly identify other government officials with knowledge of the events described in it.

Details of the complaint, including a July call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, have already been verified. The text messages released late Thursday also appeared to comport with elements of the complaint.

As they debriefed Mr. Atkinson, Democrats prepared to issue an unusually long and expansive subpoena to the White House for documents related to the Ukraine matter, any attempts to hide evidence related to it, as well as other conversations between Mr. Trump and foreign leaders that touched on similar topics.

Republicans accused Democrats of not giving them a chance to provide input on the subpoena.

How the White House and the State Department respond to their respective requests could significantly shape the impeachment investigation going forward. Many of the records the Democrats are requesting are highly sensitive and would typically be subject in almost any White House to claims of executive privilege.

Under normal circumstances, the White House could make such a claim and mount a competitive defense in court.

But that may not help Mr. Trump’s case politically under the present circumstances. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chairmen leading the inquiry have consistently warned the White House that noncompliance with their requests will be viewed as obstruction of Congress, a potentially impeachable offense in and of itself.

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Hiring Slowed in September as Unemployment Rate Fell to a 50-Year Low

The cavalcade of payroll gains continued for the 108th month in September, pushing down the jobless rate to a half-century low and countering anxieties that had been piqued by slowing global growth, declining factory orders and a jittery stock market.

Employers kept hiring at a steady if unremarkable pace, adding 136,000 jobs, the Labor Department reported on Friday. And the unemployment rate fell to 3.5 percent.

The report capped a week of otherwise disappointing economic news. Manufacturing activity in the United States fell for the second month in a row, while the World Trade Organization predicted that the growth in global trade would slacken significantly. A key measure of activity in the services sector — which accounts for two-thirds of the country’s output — also cooled.

“It’s great news to hit a record low on unemployment,” Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, said. The tightening labor market, though, failed to lift wages; the 12-month growth rate fell to 2.9 percent, from 3.2 percent in August.

Clearly, the economy’s employment engine has lost some of its spark. Last year, an average of 223,000 jobs were created each month, thanks in part to the temporary pick-me-up delivered by tax cuts and increased government spending. The average for the first nine months of this year is 161,000.

That falloff alone is not cause for alarm. A decline was expected now that the recovery has passed its 10-year anniversary, and there are more job postings than job seekers. The unemployment rate has been skimming along the baseboards. The jobless rates for Hispanics and for workers without a high-school diploma were the lowest on record. And many Americans who had dropped out of the labor force because they were too discouraged to look for work or couldn’t find sufficiently attractive offers, have now rejoined.

President Trump celebrated the report, while taking a swipe at critics who want Congress to impeach him.

Still, the government’s monthly roundup contained enough conflicting data that optimists and pessimists around the country and in Washington could find evidence to support their outlook.

Federal Reserve policymakers will be parsing its contents before their scheduled meeting at the end of October.

Central bank officials have been split about the need for a third cut in their benchmark interest rate. On Friday, Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, said, “While not everyone fully shares economic opportunities and the economy faces some risks, overall it is — as I like to say — in a good place.” He added: “Our job is to keep it there as long as possible.”

On Wall Street, expectations that the Fed would pare borrowing costs have been building this week as news about slowing growth rolled in.

[Analysis from The Upshot: Jobs numbers have something for everyone.]

Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust, described the latest report as reassuring. “All of us have been on edge a little bit with declines on readings in the service sector, fearing that the trade problems would jump the fence from heavy to lighter industries,” he said.

Friday’s report revised job figures for July and August, adding 45,000 to the totals. “We’re on a three-month track of over 150,000 jobs per month, and that says to me that the economy is still expanding well,” Mr. Tannenbaum said.

The report helped buoy investors, after the S&P 500 had fallen more than 2 percent in the first three days of October. The index was up 1.4 percent Friday afternoon.

Torsten Slok, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities, was unconvinced that the clipped pace of hiring was the natural byproduct of an economy at full capacity. “The problem with that story is that wage growth dropped quite significantly,” he said. “Trade uncertainty is why we’re seeing a jobs slowdown and why the wage numbers are slowing.”

Mr. Trump set off another retaliatory volley in his trade war last month when he increased tariffs on consumer goods from China and threatened to extend the import tax to even more products.

When Mr. Slok saw that new export orders had declined recently, he said: “I almost fell out of my chair. That can only be driven by trade.”

“The economy is still doing O.K.,” he said. “But the uncertainty from the trade war continues to be a cloud. Manufacturing is certainly is trouble.”

Mr. Trump has repeatedly placed manufacturing at the center of his economic strategy. Nonetheless, that sector is suffering the most from prolonged trade tensions. Companies in the business of making goods — as opposed to those that deliver services like hospitals and restaurants — are much more dependent on sales to other countries and supply chains that wend around the globe.

Last spring, manufacturers were adding as many as 25,000 jobs a month. In recent months, the average trickled to a few thousand, and in September, the sector lost 2,000 jobs. (The United Auto Workers’ strike against General Motors began after the government completed its survey of employers and is not reflected in this report.)

But Becky Frankiewicz, president of ManpowerGroup North America, a staffing firm, is not convinced that trade friction is responsible for the drop.

“The number of manufacturing jobs we have open outpaces the number of candidates,” she said. “It’s become more difficult to fill a job in the last four months.”

Banner Metals, a tool-and-die maker in Columbus, Ohio, plans to add three people to its 40-person staff next year. “Our business has not slowed down in any way,” said Bronson Jones, the chief executive and a part owner. “We’re actually growing.”

With a little less than 13 million workers, the manufacturing sector accounts for roughly 11 percent of the country’s output, but it tends to loom larger in policy debates.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_161013891_742a81ae-4740-4568-afad-183152c2270e-articleLarge Hiring Slowed in September as Unemployment Rate Fell to a 50-Year Low Wages and Salaries United States Economy Unemployment Trump, Donald J Labor and Jobs International Trade and World Market Factories and Manufacturing

Applicants talked to recruiters last month at a job fair in Miami for people 50 or older. Monthly hiring has slowed this year, but the labor market remains tight.CreditLynne Sladky/Associated Press

The health and education sectors remain the economy’s most potent job creators.

Before this month’s stall, wage growth over all had been picking up, putting more money in consumers’ pockets. As long as Americans continue to spend, the economy will keep humming.

But economic confidence can be fickle. Worries about tariffs and the general direction of the economy are spooking those outside the manufacturing sector, according to the Institute for Supply Management, which conducted the survey of service businesses.

The dissonant economic cues are pulling some employers in different directions.

“What I’m hearing is different from what I’m seeing,” said Tom Gimbel, chief executive of LaSalle Network, a staffing firm in Chicago. With so much uncertainty, some chief executives say they are afraid of having too much capital invested in their business.

“But what I’m seeing is that people are still hiring,” he said. His firm’s revenue, he said, is up 15 percent from last year, and placements are up 8 percent.

Hiring in professional and business services has kept pumping jobs into the economy at a steady rate, averaging 35,000 a month since the start of the year.

The global accounting firm EY, formerly Ernst & Young, plans to hire 15,000 workers by the end of June, said Dan Black, global recruiting leader. “There’s a lot of signals of a slowdown,” he said, “but we continue to be very bullish on hiring here.”

“No matter what the economy is doing,” he added, “you still need your taxes done, and you still need your books audited.”

The retail trade sector, by contrast, continued to contract, losing 11,000 jobs.

The government’s monthly estimates, which are based on two separate surveys, one of households and the other of employers, will be revised twice more.

The president’s trade strategy has support from some sectors that embrace his get-tough approach — even if they are suffering from the fallout. But several industries and small businesses are worried.

Adam Briggs, vice president for sales and marketing for Trans-Matic, a precision metal stamper in Holland, Mich., said the family-owned firm is feeling the strains of the tariffs and a slowing economy. The company has had to raise prices because the cost of raw materials not available in the United States has gone up, Mr. Briggs said. At least one of his clients left to look for a supplier in Europe.

“We’re struggling, but our customers are struggling with it too,” he said.

Last year, the company employed more than 300 people in Holland. That number is down to 275, through a combination of attrition and voluntary separations, Mr. Briggs said.

Unpredictability disquiets business managers and markets. “Anything that relates to uncertainty is not good for business and household spending, said Ellen Zentner, chief United States economist at Morgan Stanley. And trade tensions — as well as the political turmoil surrounding Mr. Trump as congressional Democrats pursue an impeachment inquiry — fuel uncertainty, she said.

Politics is something that Chris Murphy, managing director of ThoughtWorks, a global software and digital transformation consultancy, rarely talks about with clients. The one exception? “The uncertainty created across industries by the trade war in China,” he said. “People are keen to see it resolved and go away sooner rather than later.”

Matt Phillips and Jeanna Smialek contributed reporting.

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Impeachment Investigators Question Intelligence Watchdog About Whistle-Blower

Westlake Legal Group 04dc-impeach-facebookJumbo Impeachment Investigators Question Intelligence Watchdog About Whistle-Blower Zelensky, Volodymyr United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Pelosi, Nancy Office of the Director of National Intelligence impeachment House Committee on Intelligence Giuliani, Rudolph W Biden, Joseph R Jr Atkinson, Michael K (1964- )

WASHINGTON — The House Intelligence Committee on Friday questioned the intelligence community watchdog who first fielded the whistle-blower complaint that has spurred a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump, as Democrats sought to uncover more evidence of a politically motivated White House pressure campaign on Ukraine.

Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general, had received the complaint and conducted his own preliminary investigation into its validity before seeking to deliver it to Congress. He arrived on Capitol Hill Friday morning for a briefing behind closed doors in the basement of the Capitol.

The meeting kicked off another day of fast-moving developments in the House impeachment investigation into allegations that Mr. Trump and his administration worked to bend America’s diplomatic apparatus for his own benefit, trying to pressure Ukraine’s government to help dig up dirt on his political rivals.

In addition to speaking with Mr. Atkinson, lawmakers were expected to subpoena the White House for a vast trove of documents related to the Ukraine matter, and hinted at other requests. A significant subpoena deadline for the State Department to hand over similar material in its possession was also scheduled to arrive by the end of the day.

Even as they worked, lawmakers from both parties continued Friday morning to try to make sense of a tranche of text messages between American diplomats and a top aide to the Ukrainian president. Those text messages were released late Thursday night, and called into question the truthfulness of Mr. Trump’s claim that there had been no quid pro quo attached to his pressing Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his son and other Democrats.

Democrats on Capitol Hill hoped Mr. Atkinson’s account would boost their efforts to build a fuller narrative of what transpired between the two countries.

A Trump appointee, Mr. Atkinson set off the present saga less than a month ago when he notified Congress’s intelligence committees that he had received an anonymous whistle-blower complaint that he deemed to be “urgent” and credible. The acting director of national intelligence intervened initially to block Mr. Atkinson from sharing the complaint with Congress, but ultimately the Trump administration relented and allowed its public release.

In the complaint, the whistle-blower wrote that multiple government officials had provided him information that “the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”

Specifically, he said that Mr. Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, had pressed Ukraine to conduct the investigations, potentially using the prospect of a meeting that the new Ukrainian president badly wanted with Mr. Trump and withholding $391 million in security aid earmarked for the country as leverage to secure the investigations. The White House tried to cover up aspects of the events, the complaint said.

Mr. Atkinson has already appeared once before the House Intelligence Committee, but he was barred then from speaking in detail about the complaint. Now, lawmakers expect him to detail what steps he took to verify elements of the complaint and conclude it was credible. He could possibly identify other government officials with knowledge of the events described in it.

Details of the complaint, including a July call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, have already been verified. The text messages released late Thursday also appeared to comport with elements of the complaint.

As they debriefed Mr. Atkinson, Democrats prepared to issue an unusually long and expansive subpoena to the White House for documents related to the Ukraine matter, any attempts to hide evidence related to it, as well as other conversations between Mr. Trump and foreign leaders that touched on similar topics.

Republicans accused Democrats of not giving them a chance to provide input on the subpoena.

How the White House and the State Department respond to their respective requests could significantly shape the impeachment investigation going forward. Many of the records the Democrats are requesting are highly sensitive and would typically be subject in almost any White House to claims of executive privilege.

Under normal circumstances, the White House could make such a claim and mount a competitive defense in court

But that may not help Mr. Trump’s case politically under the present circumstances. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chairmen leading the inquiry have consistently warned the White House that noncompliance with their requests will be viewed as obstruction of Congress, a potentially impeachable offense in and of itself.

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Volker Gives New Details on Giuliani’s Role in Ukraine Policy

Westlake Legal Group 04dc-volker-facebookJumbo Volker Gives New Details on Giuliani’s Role in Ukraine Policy Volker, Kurt D Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Giuliani, Rudolph W Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

WASHINGTON — The former State Department special envoy for Ukraine told congressional investigators that Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney, insisted that Ukraine specifically commit to investigate involvement in the 2016 election and a firm tied to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

During testimony behind closed doors on Thursday, Kurt D. Volker, the special envoy, said Mr. Giuliani rejected a generic draft statement that Ukraine’s government had agreed to issue committing to fighting corruption generally. While Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to pressure Ukraine have been known, Mr. Volker’s account provides new details about how the president’s personal lawyer inserted himself into foreign policy to benefit Mr. Trump politically.

Mr. Giuliani “said that in his view, the statement should include specific reference to ‘Burisma’ and ‘2016,’” Mr. Volker told the investigators, according to a person who has seen the testimony. “There was no mention of Vice President Biden in these conversations.”

But Burisma was the Ukrainian energy company on whose board Mr. Biden’s son Hunter Biden served for $50,000 a month, and the Ukrainians clearly understood that Mr. Giuliani’s interest in an investigation into the firm was aimed at finding damaging information about the former vice president, who had led dealings with Ukraine while in office.

“I edited the draft statement by Mr. Yermak to include these points to see how it looked,” Mr. Volker testified, referring to Andrey Yermak, a top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. “I then discussed further with Mr. Yermak. He said that for a number of reasons” that “they do not want to mention Burisma and 2016.”

“I agreed,” Mr. Volker added, “and further said that I believe it is essential that Ukraine do nothing that could be seen as interfering in 2020 elections. It is bad enough that accusations have been made about 2016 — it is essential that Ukraine not be involved in anything relating to 2020. He agreed and the idea of putting out a statement was shelved.”

Mr. Volker, a former ambassador to NATO under President George W. Bush who was serving as special envoy part time without pay, emphasized to the congressional investigators that he was kept out of the loop on the president’s efforts to prompt an investigation of Mr. Biden and not on Mr. Trump’s July 25 call with Mr. Zelensky that has sparked an impeachment inquiry.

Mr. Volker sought in his testimony to distance himself from the pressure campaign by the president and Mr. Giuliani. At no time was I aware of or took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden,” he told investigators.

“Moreover,” he added, “as I was aware of public accusations about the vice president, several times I cautioned the Ukrainians to distinguish between highlighting their own efforts to fight corruption domestically, including investigating Ukrainian individuals — something we support as a matter of U.S. policy — and doing anything that could be seen as impacting U.S. elections, which is in neither the United States’ nor Ukraine’s own interests.”

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Ukraine to Review Criminal Case on Owner of Firm Linked to Biden’s Son

Westlake Legal Group 04ukraine-sub-facebookJumbo-v2 Ukraine to Review Criminal Case on Owner of Firm Linked to Biden’s Son Zelensky, Volodymyr United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Corruption (Institutional) Burisma Holdings Ltd Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s top prosecutor said on Friday that he would review several important cases previously handled by his predecessors, including a criminal case involving the owner of a natural gas company that employed a son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The development came amid an impeachment inquiry against President Trump connected to a request he made to the Ukrainian president asking him to investigate Mr. Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, and his son’s work in Ukraine.

The timing raised questions about whether Ukraine was, in effect, bowing to public and private pressure from the president of the United States, on which it has depended on for millions of dollars in aid.

The prosecutor general, Ruslan Ryaboshapka, who took office in August, said he intended to review 15 cases in all, including high-profile investigations of wealthy Ukrainians, among them the owner of the natural gas company Burisma Holdings, where Mr. Biden’s son Hunter served on the board until earlier this year.

The prosecutor did not say how long his audit would last. In initiating the audit, Mr. Ryaboshapka said at a news conference in Kiev, “The key words were not Biden and not Burisma.”

“The key was those proceedings which were closed or investigated by the previous leadership,” he said, but allowed, “In this large number of cases, there may be ones with these two words.”

Ukrainian officials have for months been threading a needle in discussing the case related to the older Mr. Biden, a leading contender in next year’s presidential election. They have tried to signal to Mr. Trump and his allies that the issues will be investigated, even as they tried to telegraph to Democrats that they were not bending to Mr. Trump’s pressure.

But Mr. Trump’s repeated public requests that the Ukrainian government investigate a case touching on a likely opponent in next year’s election — what he described in a phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in July as a “favor” — is central to the formal House committee impeachment inquiry called by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The inquiry is examining whether Mr. Trump betrayed his oath of office and the nation’s security by seeking to enlist the aid of a foreign power to tarnish a political rival. Mr. Trump has vigorously denied doing anything wrong, calling his phone call with Mr. Zelensky “perfect.”

Allies of Mr. Trump said that a reconstructed transcript of the call showed no quid pro quo, making the impeachment inquiry baseless. But Democrats said that Mr. Trump’s request for a favor, and the fact that he had already withheld millions in aid from Ukraine before the call, raised serious questions that must be examined.

On the call, Mr. Zelensky suggested that he would assist with an investigation of Burisma, according to White House notes of the call. The Ukrainian president said that a new prosecutor general would soon be appointed who would be “100 percent my person” and would “look into the situation.”

The Ukrainian president said his country was also almost ready to purchase anti-tank missiles, made by Raytheon, to be used to better repel armored assaults by Russian-supported fighters. Mr. Trump responded, “I’d like you to do us a favor, though.”

Mr. Ryaboshapka, who once worked for the clean-government group Transparency International, will steer the Ukrainian prosecutor office’s handling of the issues raised by Mr. Trump in the phone call with the Ukrainian president.

At the news briefing, Mr. Ryaboshapka said he had not received any phone calls about the cases or come under undue pressure on other matters. “No foreign or domestic politicians, officials or people who are not officials called me and tried to influence my decisions on specific criminal proceedings,” he said.

Mr. Ryaboshapka added: “The prosecution service is beyond politics. We are conducting an audit of all cases, including those which were investigated by the previous leadership of the prosecutor’s office.”

If laws were violated, he added, “we will react accordingly.” Asked whether he had any evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden, he told reporters, “I have no such information.”

No evidence of wrongdoing by Mr. Biden or his son has emerged, and the elder Mr. Biden has denied the accusations. But Mr. Trump has doubled down, urging China to investigate the Bidens and charging that the country lavished $1.5 billion on Hunter Biden in order to influence his father and win favorable trade deals with the United States.

Mr. Ryaboshapka’s comments on Friday were the first indication of how Ukrainian criminal justice officials were handling one of the two investigations that Mr. Trump raised in the call.

On Thursday, the State Department gave initial approval to the $39.2 million sale of 150 Javelin missiles and related equipment to Ukraine. The sale of the javelins to Ukraine must still go through Congress. Ukraine has been fighting Russia for five years in eastern Ukraine since Moscow’s seizure of Crimea.

Mr. Ryaboshapka’s announcement that the case was now bogged down in an internal audit of unclear duration in the prosecutor general’s office muddies any clear signal to either side in the American political debate.

Mr. Zelensky has faced criticism at home for telling the American president that the nakedly political criminal investigations would be looked into, perpetuating the country’s long post-Soviet struggle with politicized prosecutions.

Over the summer, a top aide to Mr. Zelensky said that in meetings and phone calls with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, he had refrained from any specific commitment to investigating the cases. Once Ukraine’s new president appointed a new prosecutor, he said, the investigations would be taken up on their merits.

The mismatch between the private assurance that Ukraine would help Mr. Trump and his allies find dirt on a leading challenger in the United States election and the far more carefully worded public statements continued on Friday.

The previous prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, met several times with Mr. Giuliani to discuss pursuing an investigation in Ukraine into the natural gas company where Hunter Biden served on the board.

Mr. Lutsenko also said Ukrainian supporters of Hillary Clinton had helped set up the chairman of Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, Paul Manafort, a claim that has not been substantiated.

In an interview with a conservative American political commentator published in The Hill in April, Mr. Lutsenko said one of his prosecutors was pursuing an investigation into the gas company that had paid Hunter Biden for sitting on the board.

In March, Mr. Lutsenko’s subordinate in the prosecutor’s office, Kostiantyn H. Kulyk, identified the owner of Burisma as a suspect in a criminal proceeding.

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Trump Denies Quid Pro Quo for Ukraine, but Envoys Had Their Doubts

Westlake Legal Group 04dc-prexy1-facebookJumbo Trump Denies Quid Pro Quo for Ukraine, but Envoys Had Their Doubts Zelensky, Volodymyr Volker, Kurt D United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Presidential Election of 2020 impeachment House Committee on Intelligence

WASHINGTON — President Trump has repeatedly denied that there was any quid pro quo attached to his pressure on Ukraine to investigate his political enemies, but a new batch of text messages released late Thursday night indicated that his own representatives saw it differently.

Envoys representing Mr. Trump sought to leverage the power of his office to prod Ukraine into opening investigations that would damage his Democratic opponents at home. They made clear to Ukrainian officials that the White House invitation their newly inaugurated leader coveted depended on his commitment to the investigations.

And the senior American diplomat posted in Ukraine suspected it went even further than a trade of an Oval Office visit, telling colleagues that it appeared to him that unfreezing $391 million in American aid that Mr. Trump had blocked was contingent on the former Soviet republic following through on the politically charged investigations sought by the president and his personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani.

The text messages, provided to three Democratic-led House committees by the former special envoy for Ukraine, Kurt D. Volker, may shape the impeachment inquiry now threatening the future of Mr. Trump’s presidency. They provide new pieces of a timeline of events in recent months and a road map for further investigation by House Democrats.

Among other things, the messages demonstrated that the president’s team had made clear to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine before the now-famous July 25 call with Mr. Trump that he would have to agree to the investigations to confirm a promised visit to the White House that had been held up for two months.

“Heard from White House – assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington,” Mr. Volker wrote to Andrey Yermak, a top Ukrainian presidential adviser at 8:36 a.m. the morning of the phone call.

During the call that followed, Mr. Trump did press Mr. Zelensky to “do us a favor” and investigate supposed Ukrainian efforts to help Democrats in the 2016 presidential election, pursuing a conspiracy theory that even the president’s own homeland security adviser had told him was “completely debunked.” The president also pressed Mr. Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

Mr. Zelensky assured the president he would, according to a reconstructed transcript released by the White House. The text messages indicate that the Ukrainians were quickly given possible dates for a White House visit by Mr. Zelensky.

“Phone call went well,” Mr. Yermak wrote Mr. Volker afterward. “President Trump proposed to choose any convenient dates. President Zelenskiy chose 20,21,22 September for the White House Visit. Thank you again for your help!”

The text messages underscore the danger to Mr. Trump as the House Democratic impeachment inquiry gains steam. So far, the House committees have interviewed just a single witness, Mr. Volker, and already uncovered information damaging to the president’s case.

The Democratic chairmen of the committees said in a letter to colleagues late Thursday night that the texts were “only a subset of the full body of materials” that Mr. Volker turned over and that others would be released in time.

Mr. Trump has asserted he did nothing wrong and was only trying to uncover corruption by Democrats. Undaunted, he doubled down on Thursday, publicly calling on Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Biden and adding a call to China to do the same.

“As the President of the United States, I have an absolute right, perhaps even a duty, to investigate, or have investigated, CORRUPTION, and that would include asking, or suggesting, other Countries to help us out!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Thursday night, and he repeated the sentiments on Friday morning.

Republican lawmakers said that Mr. Volker’s testimony, taken behind closed doors on Thursday by House investigators, did not support the nefarious interpretation of Mr. Trump’s actions advanced by Democrats like Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

“The facts we learned today undercut the salacious narrative that Adam Schiff is using to sell his impeachment ambitions,” Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Devin Nunes of California, the ranking Republican members on two of the committees, wrote in a letter. “We hope the American people get to read the transcript of today’s testimony and see the truth.”

Mr. Volker, a former ambassador to NATO who served unpaid and part-time as Ukraine special envoy before abruptly resigning last week, was not a hostile witness who went into the testimony intending to make accusations against the president. Instead, he told investigators that he was devoted to helping Ukraine resolve its grinding five-year-old conflict with Russian-armed separatists and tried to satisfy the president’s suspicions about Ukraine but was never fully kept in the loop.

Nonetheless, his account, as related by a person familiar with his testimony and the documents released by the committee, raises significant questions for the president as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others.

Mr. Volker told the House investigators that he was eager to help the newly elected Mr. Zelensky build a relationship with Mr. Trump that would bolster Ukraine but found last May that Mr. Giuliani’s efforts were convincing the president that Ukraine was full of “terrible people” who “tried to take me down” in 2016.

The new Ukrainian government sought Mr. Volker’s help in managing Mr. Giuliani. In July, Mr. Yermak asked Mr. Volker to connect him with the former New York mayor, which Mr. Volker agreed to do. Mr. Volker met with Mr. Giuliani for breakfast on July 19 and, he told the committee investigators, warned the former mayor that his theory about corruption involving Mr. Biden was unfounded and implausible and that his sources about it were not credible.

The Ukrainians were wary of being dragged into American domestic politics. “President Zelenskyy is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely as an instrument in Washington domestic, reelection politics,” William B. Taylor, the top American diplomat in Kiev, wrote in a text message a couple days after the breakfast.

Mr. Giuliani talked with Mr. Yermak the next day and then advocated a phone call between the two presidents. At the same time Mr. Trump had ordered his aides to hold up the $391 million in congressionally approved aid to Ukraine, with no explanation provided to the agencies involved. Then he got on the phone with Mr. Zelensky to ask for “a favor.”

A week after the phone call, on Aug. 2, Mr. Giuliani met in Madrid with Mr. Yermak and then said the Ukrainian president should issue a statement committing to fighting corruption. A week later, Mr. Volker talked with Mr. Yermak and then reached out to Mr. Giuliani.

“Had a good chat with Yermak last night,” Mr. Volker wrote. “He was pleased with your phone call. Mentioned Z making a statement. Can we all get on the phone to make sure I advise Z correctly as to what he should be saying? Want to make sure we get this done right.”

Later the same day, Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union and a Trump supporter who had actively involved himself in Ukraine, reported that the president was ready to schedule the White House visit that Mr. Zelensky had been seeking.

Mr. Volker asked Mr. Sondland how he swayed the White House. “Not sure i did,” Mr. Sondland replied by text, using the acronym for president of the United States. “I think potus really wants the deliverable.”

Mr. Sondland then raised the proposed statement by Mr. Zelensky. “To avoid misunderstandings, might be helpful to ask Andrey for a draft statement (embargoed) so that we can see exactly what they propose to cover,” he wrote.

“Agree!” Mr. Volker replied.

The next day, Mr. Yermak pressed for a date for the White House visit, clearly seeing it as linked to the statement. “I think it’s possible to make this declaration and mention all these things. Which we discussed yesterday,” he wrote. “But it will be logic to do after we receive a confirmation of date.”

In other words, the Ukrainians would issue their statement committing to the investigations Mr. Trump wanted only after the White House visit was officially scheduled. “Once we have a date, will call for a press briefing, announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of US-UKRAINE relationship, including among other things Burisma and election meddling in investigations,” Mr. Yermak wrote.

Mr. Yermak’s first draft of the statement did not mention Burisma, the company that Hunter Biden worked for, or the 2016 election. Mr. Giuliani insisted the statement had to explicitly mention both of those otherwise there was no point, Mr. Volker told investigators.

Mr. Volker drafted language that would satisfy Mr. Giuliani and sent it to Mr. Yermak.

“Special attention should be paid to the problem of interference in the political processes of the United States especially with the alleged involvement of some Ukrainian politicians,” it would say. “I want to declare that this is unacceptable. We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, including those involving Burisma and the 2016 U.S. elections, which in turn will prevent the recurrence of this problem in the future.

But Mr. Yermak ultimately objected to specifically citing Burisma or 2016 in the statement, Mr. Volker told the committee. Then on Aug. 28, Politico reported the Ukrainian aid freeze and a couple days later, Mr. Trump canceled a trip to Poland, where he was to meet with Mr. Zelensky.

Mr. Taylor, the diplomat in Kiev, saw a connection. “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” he asked Mr. Sondland in a text message on Sept. 1.

“Call me,” Mr. Sondland replied.

Mr. Taylor clearly was not convinced. A week later, he expressed fear that the Ukrainians would go ahead with the statement Mr. Giuliani wanted and Mr. Trump would still not release the aid.

“The nightmare is they give the interview and don’t get the security assistance,” he wrote. “The Russians love it. (And I quit.)”

The next day, Mr. Taylor again made clear that he believed the aid freeze and the investigations were linked. “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” he wrote Mr. Sondland.

“Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions,” Mr. Sondland replied. “The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign.”

If Mr. Taylor still had concerns, Mr. Sondland added curtly, he should give Mr. Pompeo “a call to discuss them directly.”

It is not clear whether he did.

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