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Impeachment subpoenas hit Pentagon, White House as second whistleblower steps forward

Monday brought a new round of subpoenas related to the impeachment inquiry, as House Democrats sent demands for documents to the Pentagon and White House budget office. Meanwhile, a second whistleblower entered the picture to back up the original complaint. Yamiche Alcindor reports, then joins Lisa Desjardins and Amna Nawaz for more, including the U.S. withdrawal from Syria.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    The impeachment inquiry rolls on, with more subpoenas and another whistle-blower.

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor begins our coverage of the day's event.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    A new day, a new round of subpoenas related to the impeachment inquiry targeting President Trump.

    This time, the Democratic chairs of three House committees sent demands for documents to both the Pentagon and the White House Budget Office. They want information on President Trump's decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine.

    A whistle-blower has accused the president of temporarily blocking millions of dollars to pressure the president of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

  • President Donald Trump:

    This is a scam, and people are wise to it.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    This afternoon at the White House, President Trump sounded off.

  • President Donald Trump:

    The whistle-blower report or whatever the news was so off. It was so horrible. I said, I never said that. Almost everybody that read it said it's either perfect or really very good.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    In the meantime, a second whistle-blower has entered to back up the complaint. Attorney Mark Zaid now represents both individuals. Zaid said his new client, described as another intelligence official, has been interviewed by Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community's inspector general.

    On Sunday, Zaid tweeted that the second whistle-blower has firsthand knowledge about key events to corroborate the original complaint. Over the weekend, the Trump administration put no one out to make the president's case.

    But Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin came to the president's defense. He chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

  • Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.:

    The reason he had very legitimate concerns and reservations about Ukraine is, first, corruption, generalized. It's endemic. We all know that.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lindsey Graham, has vowed to expose the whistle-blowers' identities if Democrats move ahead with impeachment.

    But nearly 90 former national security officials who served under presidents from both parties published an open letter. They insisted that whistle-blowers deserve protection and anonymity.

    They argue that — quote — "A responsible whistle-blower makes all American safer by ensuring that serious wrongdoing can be investigated and addressed."

    Still to come this week, House committees will hear from several current and former diplomats and other Trump officials in closed sessions.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And Yamiche joins me now, as well as our Capitol Hill correspondent, Lisa Desjardins.

    Yamiche, let's start with you over at the White House.

    You have been reporting on this impeachment inquiry as it continues to expand. What are you hearing and seeing among Trump allies and from the president himself?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The White House is really preparing to push back on impeachment like it's a campaign issue.

    So they're not treating this really as a legal issue, as much as a messaging issue. So, this week, Vice President Mike Pence launched a national tour where he's going to be visiting districts won by President Trump in 2016 and then won by congressional Democrats in 2018.

    He's going to be basically making the case that these Republicans are going to be better for these voters and that these voters who liked President Trump enough in 2016 are now being betrayed by Democrats because they're focusing too much on impeaching the president and not on getting — getting through with issues like health care or the — or other things that they have promised Democrats and other voters.

    So the other thing to note is that the president's campaign had a call today where they announced that they're going to make it harder for Republicans trying to challenge the president to get on the ballot in all these different states.

    Now, they say that this is coming not from a position of weakness, but the president essentially is going to be — it's going to be easier for him not to face people on the ballot. If you're trying to challenge President Trump, it's going to be very, very hard to get on the ballot in some of these states.

    The other thing to note, the Democrats are actually looking into now having the whistle-blower — at least the first whistle-blower testify off-campus, possibly in a shrouded way, so that you can't know this person's identity either through their face or how you see them.

    And that's pretty unusual. But as you have the White House making their strategy, you have Democrats on the Hill essentially making their strategy.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Lisa, to you on this now.

    There's some extraordinary steps they're considering, so they can hear from the whistle-blower himself.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Yes.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    What else you hearing about what we should see on Capitol Hill this week?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    A quick reminder, we don't know if it's a man or a woman yet.

    But to speak to what Yamiche music is reporting that's very important, what's going on here, Amna, is that Democrats don't trust the Republicans in Congress, because they know the Republicans and the president want to know who the whistle-blower is. That whistle-blower is protected by law.

    So that's one very important thing to watch. But also let's talk about who else is going to be on the Hill this week. There are interviews. One is the counselor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. That's next. We will be watching that.

    But the two big names this week right here, first of all, let's look. Gordon Sondland, he is currently the ambassador to the E.U. He is a political appointee. He is actually a hotel chain owner, a big Trump donor.

    Then, also, we will hear from Marie Yovanovitch, and actually, I should say, privately. House lawmakers will hear from Marie Yovanovitch.

    She was the ambassador to Ukraine, who we understand was recalled in that position. Both of them are involved in this call. Sondland was, we know, privy to all of the machinations of this. And we saw his text messages last week.

    Yanukovych has been an issue throughout all of this. Did Trump try to retaliate against her or not? It's going to be very interesting to see what they have to say behind closed doors.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Aside from the impeachment inquiry, another topic generating a lot of discussion on Capitol is this thing we just talked about, right, the president's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Northern Syria.

    What are you hearing on Capitol Hill about this?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You know, I was making calls about these impeachment discussions, the debate.

    Everyone on the Hill wanted to talk about Syria. There is really sharp concern from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle about what the president is doing. Early today, the idea that he was pulling troops all the way out. Later today, not clear exactly what he's doing.

    But, Amna, the key point is, especially from Republicans, even some of the strongest Trump allies, they say, this makes me wonder about him as a president. I had two different offices tell me that, we think he's making a big mistake, and the timing is bad because of impeachment.

    He needs his allies there. And one office said, we're supposed to be supporting him now, but this is going the exact opposite direction on something that we feel strongly about.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Bipartisan concern there you're seeing on the Hill.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Heavy bipartisan concern.

    But the point is that Trump allies now are sort of — they're shaken by this decision.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Yamiche, made another topic we want to make sure we get to cover a little bit, we mentioned it earlier, but there is another inquiry we should talk about, this led by the Manhattan district attorney to get some of President Trump's tax records.

    What do we know about that effort?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, it's an extremely important case.

    And it gets to the heart of the fact that the president doesn't want to turn over his tax returns. He says it's because he's being audited and he doesn't want to reveal any of his tax returns while that's — why he's going through that.

    Critics of the president say that he doesn't want to release these tax returns because he doesn't want to show where he's getting his money from, or he doesn't want to show that he's not worth as much money as he says.

    What happened today was a judge essentially ordered him to release his tax returns, but then an appeals court stopped that order.

    So what we're seeing now is that the appeals court is going to be moving pretty fast. We might have a hearing as early as the end of this month, even October 21.

    The other thing to note is that the president has really pushed hard when people have tried to get him to release his tax returns. So we should see that this is going to be something that they're going to appeal and appeal. It could even end up in the Supreme Court, because the president is not going to let this go lightly.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Potentially a long court battle ahead.

    Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins, thanks to you both.

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