House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings subpoenas White House for Ukraine documents

House Democrats warned Wednesday that they would issue the subpoena by the end of the week if administration officials refused to comply with the request for materials.

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By Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., subpoenaed the White House on Friday for documents related to the House impeachment investigation after administration officials failed to comply with repeated requests for the materials.

The subpoena seeks documents related to President Donald Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic candidate for president. Cummings issued the subpoena in consultation with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.

"We deeply regret that President Trump has put us — and the nation — in this position, but his actions have left us with no choice but to issue this subpoena," the three chairmen wrote in a letter addressed to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney Friday.

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The Democratic chairmen warned the White House on Wednesday that they planned to issue the subpoena by the end of the week if officials refused to comply with the request for relevant materials.

Mulvaney has until Oct. 18 to respond, the letter said.

The White House dismissed the move as political posturing. "This subpoena changes nothing – just more document requests, wasted time, and taxpayer dollars that will ultimately show the President did nothing wrong," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Friday evening. "The Do Nothing Democrats can continue with their kangaroo court while the President and his Administration will continue to work on behalf of the American people."

Cummings' subpoena marks the third one issued by House Democrats since the impeachment inquiry formally launched last week; the other subpoenas targeted the president's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Schiff made clear earlier this week that if the White House and the administration continued to stonewall congressional requests seeking information through testimony or documents, then the White House would be "strengthening the case on obstruction."

"If they are going to prevent witnesses from coming forward to testify on the allegations in the whistleblower complaint, that will create an adverse inference that those allegations are, in fact, correct,” Schiff told reporters during a press conference Wednesday.

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On Thursday night, GOP members of the House Oversight panel wrote in a letter to Cummings that he should convene a committee business meeting before issuing a subpoena to allow members to debate and vote on the subpoena.

"You decided to issue this subpoena without consulting Republicans and without allowing Members to debate the terms of the subpoena," the letter said. "Your memorandum cherry-picks and misstates information to propagate a misleading narrative about the President's actions. We object strongly to the issuance of this subpoena and your stated reasons for issuing it."

A memo from Cummings on Wednesday outlining the reasons for the subpoena said his and other congressional committees first requested the documents in early September and sent a follow-up letter a couple of weeks later warning they would be “forced to consider compulsory process” if the White House continued to ignore the request, but the White House again did not comply.

The subpoena comes the same day that intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkinson, who received the whistleblower complaint at the center of the Ukraine scandal, is giving closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence Committee about the matter.

Former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker testified to several House committees for more than nine hours Thursday and provided lawmakers with text messages that show U.S. ambassadors working to persuade Ukraine to publicly commit to investigating Trump’s political opponents and explicitly linking the inquiry to whether Ukraine’s president would be granted an official White House visit.

The White House, meanwhile, is planning to spurn Democrats' request for documents as administration aides scramble to calibrate a legal response strategy. White House lawyers plan to argue that until there is a formal vote by the House to begin impeachment proceedings, Congress doesn’t have the right to the information, people familiar with the discussions told NBC News.

Rebecca Shabad

Rebecca Shabad is a congressional reporter for NBC News, based in Washington.

Hallie Jackson and Alex Moe contributed.