WASHINGTON — Earlier this month, Rick Perry vowed to “work with Congress and answer all their questions” about the unfolding Ukraine scandal at the center of House impeachment inquiry. Now House Democrats are putting that to the test.
The three committees overseeing the inquiry on Thursday hit the energy secretary with a subpoena for records on his involvement, making him the latest of several officials served with subpoenas as the House investigates Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
“Public reports have raised questions about any role you may have played in conveying or reinforcing the President’s stark message to the Ukrainian President,” the subpoena said. “These reports have also raised significant questions about your efforts to press Ukrainian officials to change the management structure at a Ukrainian state-owned energy company to benefit individuals involved with Rudy Giuliani’s push to get Ukrainian officials to interfere in our 2020 election.”
The request comes just days after the White House said it doesn’t plan to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said on Tuesday that he would not cooperate with House investigators and that he “can’t imagine” that anyone from the Trump administration would.
DOE Spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said the Energy Department’s general counsel is reviewing the letter to Perry from the House committees.
It’s the latest development pulling the former Texas governor, who has been eyeing an exit from the Trump administration, deeper into the impeachment fray. Perry, who has denied any wrongdoing, first emerged via a cameo appearance in the whistleblower complaint that sparked the impeachment push, but his role — at least as a target in the inquiry — has ballooned since.
Trump reportedly told Republican lawmakers last week that it was Perry who asked him to call Zelenskiy in July — saying, “I didn’t even want to make the call. The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to. Something about an LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant.”
The Associated Press reported Saturday that business people with ties to Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani attempted to oust the CEO of Ukraine’s state-owned gas utility Naftogaz last year in hopes of steering contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies. Their alleged scheme failed, but the AP reported that following Zelenskiy’s election in December, Perry told Ukrainian officials that he wanted the entire supervisory board of Naftogaz replaced, including Amos Hochstein, the former assistant secretary of state for energy resources during the Obama administration.
The whistleblower complaint noted that Perry was sent to Zelenskiy’s inauguration in place of Vice President Mike Pence. U.S. government officials allegedly told the whistleblower that Trump instructed Pence to cancel his planned trip to Ukraine and it was “made clear” that Trump would not meet with Zelenskiy until he saw how Zelenskiy “chose to act” in office.
Perry was also part of a meeting with Zelenskiy and Trump officials, including Pence, in Poland in August. Perry on that trip met with Ukrainian officials to “highlight opportunities for cooperation with Ukraine,” according to a Department of Energy readout of the trip. That included “sending an expert delegation to Ukraine,” according to the readout.
Perry also attended a June dinner with Zelenskiy. Other Trump officials, including Jared Kushner, the president’s son in law, were also in attendance.
This report contains material from the Washington Post.