Subpoenas mark first concrete steps for Trump impeachment

The impeachment inquiry shows no signs of slowing, even as Congress left Friday for a two-week break.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff called the whistleblower's complaint "a road map for our investigation" and three house committees issued subpoenas ordering Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to hand over documents.

They also called for depositions from other state department officials.

"I think it's important that we lay out the case and be good stewards over taxpayer dollars and taxpayer concerns," said Rep. Andre Carson of Indiana, a House Intelligence Committee member.

On Friday, the White House acknowledged one part of the whistleblower's complaint, saying President Trump's National Security Council lawyers previously ordered that his phone call with Ukraine's president be sealed.

Still at issue is why the rough transcript of Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukraine's president was put on "lock down," in the words of the whistleblower.

The CIA officer said that diverting the record in an unusual way was evidence that "White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired" in the conversation.

At the White House, it was a senior administration official who acknowledged that the rough transcript of Trump's conversation with Ukraine's Zelenskiy had been moved to a highly classified system maintained by the National Security Council.

The official was granted anonymity Friday to discuss sensitive matters.

The whistleblower complaint alleges that Trump used his office to "solicit interference from a foreign country" to help himself in next year's U.S. election.

In the phone call, days after ordering a freeze to some military assistance for Ukraine, Trump prodded new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to dig for potentially damaging material on Democratic rival Joe Biden and volunteered the assistance of both his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

White House attorneys had been made aware of concerns about Trump's comments on the call even before the whistleblower sent his allegations to the intelligence community's inspector general.

Those allegations, made in mid-August, were released Thursday under heavy pressure from House Democrats.

One former official said memos of Trump calls with foreign leaders had to be severely restricted after leaks in 2017.

Calls with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russia's Vladimir Putin were among those whose distribution were kept to a minimum.

The official cautioned that administrations discuss sensitive matters with both nations, and that the treatment shouldn't imply anything untoward on the call.

Even some calls with US allies are also restricted due to discussions of classified topics.

The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the process.

The Trump campaign and the RNC launched an ad Friday targeting Democrats in key states and accusing Joe Biden, while Vice-President, of swapping $1 billion in aid to Ukraine in exchange for the firing of a prosecutor, who was allegedly investigating a company connected with Biden's son.

A charge that has never been substantiated. In fact, the prosecutor had failed to pursue any major anti-corruption investigations, leaving Ukraine's international donors deeply frustrated.

In pressing for the prosecutor's ouster, Biden was representing the official position of the U.S. government, which was shared by other Western allies and many in Ukraine.

President Trump and his supporters question the whistleblower's integrity, calling it a partisan hit. "It's only second (hand) and third (hand) information from people who have vipers in the White House, who obviously have it in for President Trump," said President Trump was recorded by journalists Thursday, making what some consider a threat to the whistleblower.

"Whoever the hell it is...almost a spy. We used to handle it a little differently than we do now," said President Trump.

"I'm very worried about it. I think what the president said goes beyond irresponsible. It's dangerous," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said she is praying for the president adding,

"I would say to Democrats and Republicans: We have to put country before party." James Taylor, Professor of Political Science at the University of San Francisco says the impeachment inquiry will be a big test for the president and Republicans who have so far, largely stood behind the president.

"We've seen Republicans co-sign unanimously on the whistleblower letter being released. We've been hearing reports that there are up to 30 Republican Senators that would be willing to impeach and vote for impeachment if they were able to do it anonymously," said Taylor, "Support for Donald Trump's impeachment is still not at a majority. It's about 49%. That's about 15% higher than it was for Richard Nixon when it started so the impeachment is about educating public opinion and informing it."

Taylor says the impeachment proceedings could also send a message heading into the 2020 elections.

"One of the things impeachment does is send a signal to foreign elements, to Saudi Arabia and Russia, that we will hold the president accountable for exposing our political system to your influence if if you try it, look at what happens," said Taylor.

The intelligence community's inspector general found the whistleblower's complaint "credible" despite finding indications of the person's support for a different political candidate.

Legal experts said that by following proper procedures and filing a complaint with the government rather than disclosing the information to the media, the person is without question regarded as a whistleblower entitled to protections against being fired or criminally prosecuted.

"This person clearly followed the exact path he was supposed to follow," said Debra D'Agostino, a lawyer who represents whistle blowers. "There is no basis for not calling this person a whistleblower."

Lawyers say it also doesn't matter for the purposes of being treated as a whistleblower if all of the allegations are borne out as entirely true, or even if political motives or partisanship did factor into the decision to come forward.

Giuliani, already in the spotlight, was scheduled to appear at a Kremlin-backed conference in Armenia on Tuesday, but he said Friday he would not be attending.

The agenda showed him speaking at a session on digital financial technologies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also was scheduled to participate in the conference.

Republicans were straining under the uncertainty of being swept up in the most serious test yet of their alliance with the Trump White House.

"We owe people to take it seriously," said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a onetime Trump rival who is now a member of the intelligence committee. "Right now, I have more questions than answers," he said. "The complaint raises serious allegations, and we need to determine whether they're credible or not."

Findings will eventually need to be turned over to Rep. Jerrold Nadler's Judiciary Committee, which is compiling the work of five other panels into what is expected to be articles of impeachment.

The panel will need to find consensus.

AP writers Zeke Miller, Eric Tucker, Michael Balsamo, Lisa Mascaro, Laurie Kellman, Mary Clare Jalonick, Alan Fram, Matt Lee, Padmananda Rama and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.