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McConnell: Senate would have to take up impeachment; Giuliani subpoenaed

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, speaks

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, speaks to members of the media, next to Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), right, Sept. 24, after a Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin

WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday said the GOP-controlled Senate “would have no choice” but to take up impeachment if the House Democrat-led inquiry ultimately leads to President Donald Trump being charged with articles of impeachment.

“I would have no choice but to take it up,” McConnell (R-Ky.) told CNBC when asked about the issue during a televised interview. “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.”

McConnell’s remarks came amid a fast-moving impeachment inquiry launched last week by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over Trump’s request for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

The House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs committees subpoenaed Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, on Monday, and three of Giuliani’s business associates, demanding they turn over a trove of documents related to his communications with Ukraine by Oct. 15.

The inquiry moved ahead as Trump continued to rail against House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-California), and defend his July 25 phone call with Zelensky as “perfect.” Trump also told reporters in the Oval Office the White House was “trying to find out” the identity of a U.S. intelligence whistleblower who filed a complaint last month against Trump alleging the president abused his office for political gain. The complaint, citing White House officials, describes Trump’s call with Zelensky and an effort by the White House to “lock down” access to records of the call over concerns of Trump’s request.

The president’s communications with foreign leaders faced renewed scrutiny on Monday, following reports in The New York Times and other national outlets, that indicated Trump pressed Australia’s prime minister to assist Attorney General Bill Barr in a Justice Department investigation into the origins of the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Senate Republicans have largely dismissed the call for impeachment by Democrats, arguing the inquiry into Trump’s call with Zelensky was “premature” and a sign of congressional “overreach.” But congressional Democrats have maintained that the president violated his oath of office by asking a foreign government to aid in an investigation that could influence the 2020 presidential election.

McConnell noted that it would take 67 votes in the narrowly divided chamber to change the Senate rules guiding impeachment. Senate Republicans hold a six-seat advantage over Democrats.

Several Democrats on the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs committees remained in Washington during Congress’ two-week recess to continue working on their investigation into the whistleblower’s complaint.

Giuliani on Twitter, took aim at the three Democratic chairmen who issued the subpoena, saying they have “prejudged this case." The former New York City mayor said whether he will comply with the subpoena “will be given appropriate consideration.”

The trio of committees on Wednesday and Thursday are slated to depose two former high ranking U.S. diplomats who served in Ukraine, and have subpoenaed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo giving him a Friday deadline to turn over documents related to the Trump’s communications with Ukraine. 

Marie Yovanovitch, who was tapped to serve as ambassador to Ukraine in 2016 by the Obama administration, and was removed from her post in May 2019 by Trump, is scheduled to meet with the committee on Wednesday.

Kurt Volker, who served as Trump’s special envoy to Ukraine, will meet with the panel on Thursday, nearly a week after he abruptly stepped down from his role following the release of an unclassified version of the whistleblower complaint. Volker is mentioned in the whistleblower complaint, which states that he "reportedly provided advice to the Ukrainian leadership about how to 'navigate' the demands that the President had made of” Zelensky.

Trump on Monday continued to take aim at Schiff and the whistleblower, accusing Schiff of “treason” and suggesting he be arrested in a series of tweets.

“The Fake Whistleblower complaint is not holding up,” Trump tweeted. “It is mostly about the call to the Ukrainian President which, in the name of transparency, I immediately released to Congress & the public. The Whistleblower knew almost nothing, its 2ND HAND description of the call is a fraud!”

Trump released a memo summarizing the call last week after news reports published days earlier indicated the president ordered the suspension of $400 million in U.S. foreign aid to Ukraine before his / call with Zelensky. In the days leading up to the memo’s release, Trump often demurred when asked by reporters if he would release the transcript, saying doing so could possibly influence the candidness of world leaders in future conversations.

The memo of the call indicated that Trump called on Zelensky to open an investigation into the Democratic National Committee’s hacked emails and into Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who previously sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company during his father’s time in office.

Ukraine’s current prosecutor has said there is no current investigation into the Bidens and no allegations of wrongdoing.

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