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Schiff willing to issue fast subpoenas over Trump whistleblower complaint

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said on Thursday that he would move quickly to subpoena White House officials and others who may have information related to allegations that President Donald Trump sought foreign interference in the 2020 election, and moved to cover it up.

“I have no doubt that that will be necessary and we’re not fooling around, we don’t have a long time to ask people for compliance,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff on Thursday. “We’re going to move very quickly to compulsion if we’re told that there is no willingness to cooperate. Because we feel a sense of urgency here.”

Congressional subpoenas raise the stakes for potential witnesses by requiring that they testify.

READ MORE: Americans split on support for Trump impeachment inquiry

Schiff said he saw the whistleblower complaint, which was given to lawmakers late Wednesday and released to the public Thursday, as a “roadmap” for an investigation. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday had launched an official impeachment investigation against Trump. The complaint alleges that, in a July phone call, the president asked the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, shortly after Trump began withholding almost $400 million in military aid.

Schiff listed off a number of questions raised by the complaint: “What happened before this call? What happened after this call? Who knows the rationale that was given for withholding this bipartisan support to Ukraine? What about these allegations that this record of call was sequestered away to a computer that’s usually used for the most sensitive information like covert actions by the intelligence community?”

To Schiff, the allegation that Trump may have encouraged election interference is the “most serious,” and may be “the basis for an article or articles of impeachment.”

On Thursday, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testified about the whistleblower complaint and his response before the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff criticized Maguire on the NewsHour for having asked the White House and Department of Justice whether he should give Congress the complaint as required by statute.

READ MORE: 9 things we learned from the Trump whistleblower complaint

Seeking guidance from the White House and Attorney General William Barr, when both are implicated in the complaint, shows “the most direct conflict of interest,” Schiff said.

Schiff also said he was particularly bothered by the fact that the call in question occurred just one day after special counsel Robert Mueller released his report probing Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.

He was not optimistic the process would proceed with bipartisan cooperation, saying Republicans have not shown themselves willing to support a robust investigation of Trump.

“We cannot defer to the other party here, if they have abdicated their responsibility,” he said.