House Intelligence withdraws subpoena for key Ukraine witness

The committee withdrew a subpoena for former National Security Council official Charles Kupperman and doesn't plan to reissue it

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., talks with reporters in the Capitol on September 18, 2019. House Intelligence withdrew a subpoena for National Security Council official Charles Kupperman, but a letter to his attorneys signed by Engel, and House leaders guiding the impeachment inquiry said he “still has an opportunity to fulfill his solemn constitutional duty.” (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House Intelligence Committee told a federal judge Wednesday that it has withdrawn its subpoena in the impeachment inquiry for former National Security Council official Charles Kupperman and does not plan to reissue it.

The committee argues that the lawsuit Kupperman filed should now be moot because he “faces no pending, imminent, or foreseeable injury” for not complying with a subpoena.

[Most Republicans on impeachment committees aren’t showing up, transcripts reveal]

And if U.S. District Senior Judge Richard J. Leon does not agree, the committee said it will move to dismiss the lawsuit and end the separation-of-powers showdown.

Leon last week scheduled oral arguments for Dec. 10 and suggested he would rule in late December or early January, a timeline that appears too slow for the House Democrats’ accelerating impeachment inquiry.

Kupperman’s lawsuit asks the courts to decide whether he should comply with the subpoena focused on President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine or follow a White House directive not to testify.

Last week, Todd Tatelman, deputy House general counsel, told Leon that lawmakers “believe this complaint serves no other purpose than to delay” the congressional right to investigate.

The House move could have implications for the potential testimony of John Bolton, the former national security adviser who has been invited to testify but not subpoenaed.

Bolton is represented by Charles Cooper, the same attorney as Kupperman, who suggested in court last week that Bolton might join the lawsuit if subpoenaed.

The Democratic leaders of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees wrote Kupperman’s attorneys Tuesday to say he “still has an opportunity to fulfill his solemn constitutional duty.”

“Like the many dedicated public servants who have appeared before the Committee despite White House efforts to prevent or limit their testimony— including current and former White House officials who worked alongside your client — Dr. Kupperman can still add his testimony to the inquiry’s record,” the letter states.

The letter, signed by Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, and Eliot L. Engel and Carolyn B. Maloney of New York, also suggests an ongoing legal fight over a subpoena for former White House Counsel Don McGahn is “much closer to resolution by the court than Dr. Kupperman’s flawed suit.”

Schiff has been leading closed-door depositions with witnesses about whether Trump withheld military aid for Ukraine to pressure that country to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., one of Trump’s main political rivals.

Witnesses have been scheduled to testify publicly before the Intelligence Committee next week.

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