WASHINGTON — House impeachment investigators on Tuesday called on Mick Mulvaney, the White House’s acting chief of staff, to testify this week in their inquiry into President Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine, closing in on the upper echelons of Mr. Trump’s staff as they near the end of their fact-finding phase.
Mr. Mulvaney has emerged as a central figure in House Democrats’ investigation because of his proximity to the president as well as his own actions. He publicly undercut Mr. Trump’s repeated denials of a quid pro quo when he admitted at a news conference weeks ago that the White House withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to further the president’s political interests.
“I have news for everybody: Get over it,” he told reporters at the time. “There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” He backtracked hours later and tried to deny that he had ever confirmed such an arrangement.
Mr. Mulvaney, who has remained defiant throughout the inquiry, is unlikely to cooperate with House investigators. He ignored a subpoena issued last month from House investigators for documents related to the inquiry, and his top aide, Robert Blair, refused to comply with a subpoena to testify earlier this week.
The committees leading the inquiry are rushing this week to call the last of their witnesses as they look toward drafting impeachment articles against Mr. Trump that will likely include obstruction of Congress for his stonewalling of the investigation.
Democratic lawmakers have seized on Mr. Mulvaney’s on-camera admission of a quid pro quo, calling it tantamount to a televised confession. But they had also hoped to learn more about his role in the president’s push to have Ukraine investigate his political rivals. Several witnesses have pointed to Mr. Mulvaney as the conduit who executed Mr. Trump’s directive to withhold the security assistance to Ukraine. Investigators told Mr. Mulvaney on Tuesday that the evidence they have so far collected “has revealed that you may have been directly involved.”
State Department officials pointed at Mr. Mulvaney, who formerly served as Mr. Trump’s budget director, as the person who directed the State Department not to obligate the funds. Two senior administration officials who testified before House investigators also implicated Mr. Mulvaney.
Mr. Trump’s top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, testified that John Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort to influence Ukraine by Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union; Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney and Mr. Mulvaney.
“I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton told Ms. Hill to tell White House lawyer, she told the inquiry.
In a separate deposition, George P. Kent, the senior State Department official in charge of Ukraine policy, told impeachment investigators that he found himself cut out of decisions regarding the country after a meeting Mr. Mulvaney orchestrated in May — and that his portfolio was essentially handed over to Mr. Sondland, Rick Perry, the energy secretary, and Kurt D. Volker, the special envoy for Ukraine.
Mr. Sondland, for his part, confirmed Mr. Mulvaney’s initial admission of a quid pro quo in new and damning testimony to Congress this week. In a brief sworn statement that partially contradicted the account he gave them in a lengthy interview last month, Mr. Sondland told investigators that he told a top Ukrainian official that the country likely would not receive American military aid unless it publicly committed to investigations Mr. Trump wanted. That statement was released on Tuesday by the committees leading the impeachment inquiry, along with the transcript of his initial interview.
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