Democrats seek to question Trump budget chief in Ukraine impeachment probe


Hill, 53, a British-born American foreign affairs expert, resigned as Trump's top Russian Federation analyst just days before the president's controversial July 25 call with Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, an exchange that sparked the impeachment inquiry now consuming three House committees.

While interviews have focused on the interactions with Ukraine, the probe could broaden as soon as next week to include interviews with White House budget officials who may be able to shed light on whether military aid was withheld from Ukraine as Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, pushed for the investigations.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and on Twitter on Monday morning, calling the Democrats' inquiry a "total impeachment scam".

Rashilda Tlaib, who has been a longstanding critic of Donald Trump and has been substantially involved in the impeachment inquiry against the U.S. president, said in an interview with Detroit Deadline that the Democrats had "serious discussions" about jailing Trump administration officials who were defying subpoenas that were issued to them by House Democrats. The White House did not immediately respond to questions about whether they had sought to limit Hill's testimony.

Adding to the nearly dizzying number of developments, the Wall Street Journal reported that federal investigators for at least the past couple of months have been questioning witnesses as they look into Mr Rudy Giuliani's business dealings in Ukraine.

Giuliani has defended his actions as proper in his role as Trump's lawyer. He has not said whether he will comply. Just days before the call Trump had frozen almost $400 million in military aid to the country, which is fighting Russian separatists in its eastern provinces.

In yet another development, Trey Gowdy, a former Republican congressman who was announced last Wednesday as joining Trump's outside legal team for the impeachment fight, no longer will be doing so, at least for now, according to Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Trump.

Democrats expect her to share her concerns about Trump's involvement in the Ukraine scandal, including his ouster of the United States ambassador to Kiev Marie Yovanovitch, who testified to Congress last week. House committees are trying to determine if President Donald Trump violated his oath of office by asking a foreign country to investigate a political opponent.

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Zelenskiy agreed to investigate. She officially left the White House in July, and her departure came before the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky took place.

In her testimony, she detailed a July 10 meeting she attended with senior Ukrainian officials, then-National Security Adviser John Bolton, and other US officials in which the USA ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, raised the issue of the investigations, the people said. One seasoned diplomat on the text message, William Taylor, called it "crazy to withhold security assistance" to Ukraine in exchange for "help with a political campaign".

Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin told reporters Hill "was a remarkably thorough and authoritative witness" who recalled "particular events and particular meetings". The person familiar with Sondland's testimony said that before Sondland sent that text, he spoke to Trump, who told him there was no quid pro quo. Quid pro quo is a Latin term meaning a favor for a favor.

The impeachment investigation was touched off by an unnamed intelligence community whistleblower who was unnerved by Trump's conversation with Zelenskiy and request for help investigating Biden.

Besides, Schiff said, the White House has released a rough transcript of the July 25 conversation between Trump and Zelensky. That's according to several officials familiar with the planning.

The House panels also are scheduled this week to hear from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent and State Department Counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl, a top aide to Pompeo.

Ms. Hill described to lawmakers efforts by Mr. Giuliani, which circumvented typical government procedures for foreign policy, to press Ukraine to mount investigations into the Bidens, as well as possible 2016 election interference, the people said.