New York, Oct 5
Democrats have cast the net of impeachment inquiry wider with a demand to Vice President Mike Pence to provide documents relating to President Donald Trump's conversation with Ukraine' President Volodymyr Zelensky that they are investigating and his dealings with officials in Kiev.
Escalating the confrontation with Trump, they also sent a subpoena to the White House on Friday for documents that have a bearing on the phone conversation in which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate the business dealings of former Vice President and 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden's son Hunter with a gas company.
Democrats have accused Trump of misusing his office by trying to get a foreign government involved in US election politics because Biden is a contender for their Party's ticket to run against Trump in next year.
Zelensky has denied that Trump pressured him to investigate Hunter Biden.
The impeachment investigators want to find out what Pence, who was not on the call, knew about it and if he was involved in trying to influence the Ukrainians.
In the highly unlikely scenario that both Trump and Pence are impeached and voted out of office by the Republican-controlled Senate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would be in line to be the President.
Trump has made a full House of Representatives vote on conducting the impeachment hearings a condition for White House cooperation, a stand backed by other Republicans.
However, he also has admitted that the Democrats had enough votes in the House to impeach him - which is basically framing a chargesheet - but added that the Republican-controlled Senate, which will then have to hold a trial on the charges, will acquit him.
Trump asserted that even though many Democrats don't want to vote to impeach him, "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".
In a tweet on Thursday night, Trump said he had the authority -- and even a duty -- to ask for foreign help to investigate corruption.
Speaker Pelosi said that she may hold a House vote to authorise the impeachment, but not because Trump asked for it.
The laws do not require a House OK to hold an impeachment inquiry, but it was done in the past.
A vote would force those Democrats who have been reluctant to support the impeachment to take a public stand.
The heads of three House committees investigating Trump - Adam Schiff of Intelligence, Eliot Engel of Foreign Affairs and Elijah Cummings of Oversight - jointly sent the demand for documents to the White House on Friday with an October 18 deadline.
Trump could challenge the demand for documents in court claiming that they were covered by executive privilege.
Meanwhile, Schiff, a prime mover of the impeachment process, has been caught making an false statement, according to The Washington Post, a newspaper that is usually hypercritical of Trump, and is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Schiff had claimed that "we had not spoken directly" with the whistle blower who had complained to authorities that Trump had made an improper demand demand to Zelensky, based on what he had heard.
But the whistleblower, a Central Intelligence Agency officer, had contacted Schiff's committee staffer who advised the person on how to go about making a complant and also informed Schiff about it.
Schiff had also claimed that the document recapping the Ukraine phone call had Trump telling Zelensky: "I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent understand."
It did not contain any such request to "make up" information, and Trump demanded his resignation and called for House action against Schiff for saying this.
Meanwhile, Ukraine's new Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka announced that his office will look in to the investigations into Bursima, the company with which Hunter Biden was involved as a board member and was paid $50,000 a month.
Ryaboshapka denied that any Ukrainian or foreign official had pressured him to audit the investigations.
According to media reports, he said at his news conference in Kiev that as many as 15 investigations might have touched on Burisma or people associated with it.
An investigation into the company by Ukrainian officials was stopped in 2016 while Biden and international institutions like the International Monetary Fund demanded the firing of the then-Prosecutor General.
Trump has linked Biden's involvement and the withholding of a $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine by former President Barack Obama's administration to ending the investigation into Bursima.
Communications between US diplomats that was released after Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker's testimony on Thursday appeared to show that there may have been an attempt to make a Biden inquiry a condition for Zelensky's White House meeting, even though Trump has denied there was a quid pro quo.
The emails also showed that Volker set up a meeting between Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Zelensky's aide Andrey Yermak
Trump had publicly asked China on Thursday to investigate the Bidens' business dealings there.
But China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Friday that his county will not interfere in the internal affairs of the US, according to the Global Times.
(Arul Louis can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @arulouis)
Democrats expand impeachment scope demanding Pence documents
New York, Oct 5