WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats subpoenaed Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Thursday as part of their impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine.
The chairmen of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees sent Perry a subpoena asking him to provide documents related to a Ukrainian state-owned energy company as well as his involvement in a July call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The lawmakers set a deadline for Oct. 18.
Trump has said Perry teed up the July 25 call, in which Trump pressed Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son, who was employed by a Ukrainian gas company.
Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman for Perry, has said he wanted Trump to speak with the Ukrainian leader on energy matters related to U.S. efforts to boost Western energy ties to Eastern Europe. It is part of a long-term effort to lessen the political control Russia wields through its dominance of the fuel supply.
"Recently, 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 three Democratic chairmen wrote. "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."
Hynes said the Energy Department received a letter from the committees and is reviewing it.
The Associated Press reported this week that a circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted their connections to Trump and his personal lawyer, Giuliani, as they sought to install new management at the top of Ukraine's state-owned gas company last spring.
The plan hit a snag after Zelinskiy's election, but Perry took up the effort to install a friendlier management team at the company, Naftogaz. Perry, a former Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate, attended Zelinskiy's May 2019 inauguration as the administration's senior representative and met privately with Zelinskiy. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Trump said Thursday he did not know why Democrats are focusing on Perry.
"I don't know why they'd be calling all these people" as part of the impeachment inquiry, Trump said. "It's a very bad situation for our country."
The subpoena comes as two Florida businessmen tied to Giuliani and the Ukraine investigation were charged Thursday with federal campaign finance violations.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested Wednesday while trying to board an international flight with one-way tickets at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, according to Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan. According to two individuals who spoke to the AP, the pair wanted to force out the chief executive at the Ukrainian gas giant and replace him with a team that would carry out exclusive deals to benefit corporate entities controlled by Trump allies.
Perry met with counterparts from Ukraine and Poland this week to underscore an agreement intended to ease the way for U.S.-produced natural gas to be shipped to Poland and then piped into neighboring Ukraine.
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.