US House impeachment probe into Trump's actions intensifies
Rudy Giuliani ordered to produce Ukraine documents as new report says US President sought help of Australian PM to discredit Mueller investigation
WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives' impeachment probe into President Donald Trump intensified on Monday, as he raged about the inquiry and news reports suggested he had used additional diplomatic channels to go after his adversaries.
Three House committees said a subpoena for documents had been sent to Mr Trump's lawyer, Mr Rudy Giuliani. The former New York mayor had said on television that he asked the government of Ukraine to "target" former Vice-President Joe Biden, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Mr Trump in the 2020 election.
Mr Giuliani said in a tweet the subpoena raised legal issues including attorney-client privilege. "It will be given appropriate consideration," he added.
The Democratic-led House initiated an impeachment inquiry against Mr Trump last week after a whistleblower report raised concerns that Mr Trump tried in July to leverage nearly US$400 million (S$555 million) in US aid in exchange for getting Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Mr Biden.
The New York Times reported that Mr Trump had also sought the help of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison with a US Justice Department probe into the origins of what became Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In a recent telephone call, Mr Trump asked Mr Morrison to assist Attorney General William Barr with the probe, which Mr Trump hopes will discredit Mr Mueller's now-closed investigation, the Times reported.
An Australian government spokesman said in an e-mail: "The Australian Government has always been ready to assist and cooperate with efforts that help shed further light on the matters under investigation.
"The PM confirmed this readiness once again in conversation with the President."
Mr Barr has held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials in Britain and Italy to seek their assistance as well with that investigation, the Washington Post reported.
In the Giuliani document request, the chairmen of three House committees said he had "stated more recently that you are in possession of evidence - in the form of text messages, phone records, and other communications - indicating that you were not acting alone and that other Trump Administration officials may have been involved in this scheme." He was given until Oct 15 to respond.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared on Monday to put to rest speculation he would use his position to derail any impeachment effort by the Democratic-led House.
If the House approves bringing charges against a president, the process moves to the Senate, where there would be a trial.
"I would have no choice but to take it up," Mr McConnell told CNBC. "Under the Senate rules, we are required to take it up if the House does go down that path. The Senate impeachment rules are very clear." - REUTERS