WASHINGTON: A number of US diplomats have been called to Capitol Hill for closed-door testimony this week as Democrats build their impeachment case against President Donald Trump, while the White House considers ways to slow down the process.

The interviews could yield more fodder for Democrats’ impeachment drive over a whistleblower’s allegations that Trump leveraged $400 million in aid to secure a promise from Ukrainian Pre­­­­­­sident Volodymyr Zele­ns­kiy to investigate political rival Joe Biden, and his son Hun­ter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy compan`y.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and assailed the probe.

Those scheduled to testify: Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the Euro­pean Union who was invol­ved in efforts to get Ukraine to open the investigations, and Masha Yovanovitch, who was abruptly recalled from her post as US ambassador to Ukraine in May after Trump supporters questioned her loyalty to the president.

The White House could formally tell House of Repre­sentatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi as early as Monday that it will ignore lawmakers’ demands for documents until the Democratic-controlled House holds a vote to formally approve the impeachment inquiry.

Pelosi says a vote is not needed. Democrats say she would prevail if one were held, although very few Re­publicans would be expected to side with the Democratic majority. Congress returns to Washington on Oct 15 after a two-week recess.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2019