Trump’s Impeachment Blockade Crumbles as Witnesses Agree to Talk thumbnail

Trump’s Impeachment Blockade Crumbles as Witnesses Agree to Talk

After vowing not to cooperate with a “kangaroo court,” the president has largely failed to prevent current and former administration members from spending hours with Democrats seeking to impeach him.Image President Trump has had some success blocking impeachment investigators from receiving documents, but much less preventing witnesses from testifying.CreditCreditT.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York TimesOct. 16, 2019WASHINGTON — The White House’s trenchant declaration to House impeachment investigators last week was unequivocal: No more witnesses or documents for a “totally compromised kangaroo court.”But just a week later, it has become clear that President Trump’s attempts to stonewall the Democrat-led inquiry that has imperiled his presidency and ensnared much of his inner circle are crumbling.One by one, a parade of Trump administration career diplomats and senior officials has offered a cascade of revelations. Those accounts have corroborated and expanded upon key aspects of the whistle-blower complaint that spawned the impeachment inquiry into whether the president abused his power to enlist Ukraine to help him in the 2020 presidential election.The latest disclosures came on Wednesday, when a former top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered an inside account of what he said was a demoralized State Department, where career diplomats were sidelined and others apparently were pressed to use their posts “to advance domestic political objectives.” In six hours of voluntary testimony, the former aide, Michael McKinley, told impeachment investigators that he quit his post as Mr. Pompeo’s senior adviser amid mounting frustrations over the Trump administration’s treatment of diplomats and its failure to support them in the face of the impeachment inquiry, according to a copy of his opening remarks. On Thursday, Democrats are set to hear from Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, a central figure in the president’s pressure campaign on Ukraine. He is expected to testify that he learned that Mr. Trump did not intend to invite President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to a meeting in the Oval Office until Mr. Zelensky pledged to open an investigation that could benefit Mr. Trump’s political fortunes — bolstering a central allegation in the inquiry that the president steered foreign policy for political gain.And Democratic lawmakers have directed William B. Taylor Jr., one of the top American diplomats in Ukraine, to appear before their committees next Tuesday, according to an official familiar with the investigation. Text messages produced as part of the inquiry suggest that Mr. Taylor was deeply uneasy about what he saw as an effort by Trump aides to use a $391 million package of security assistance as leverage over Ukraine for political favors, calling the notion “crazy.” All three are examples of what can happen when Congress secures cooperation from government witnesses in a rapidly moving investigation aimed at the president. The White House has had more success blocking the release of documents tied to the case. But the president and his lawyers had hoped to use the power of his office to muzzle current and former diplomats and White House aides, arguing in presidential tweets and a lengthy letter to Democratic lawmakers on Oct. 8 that their subpoenas are invalid and unenforceable. “President Trump cannot permit his administration to participate in this partisan inquiry under these circumstances,” wrote Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel.And yet the president has been unable to prevent it. Just since Mr. Trump declared war on the impeachment effort, three current and former senior State Department officials and a former top White House aide have testified for nearly 36 total hours, delivering to lawmakers a consistent narrative of how they were effectively pushed aside by allies of the president operating outside America’s usual foreign policy channels.“It’s partly because this shadow foreign policy that the president was running was so deeply offensive to people in his own administration who took pride in overseeing a professionally run and arguably exemplary policy in support of Ukraine,” said Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey and a former State Department official involved in the inquiry. Referring to Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, he added, “And then to see the official policy undermined by this clownishly corrupt effort led by Rudy Giuliani on behalf of the president was just more than many people apparently could bear.”Republicans who control the Senate view the
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