- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has told House Democrats he won’t comply with a subpoena related to their impeachment inquiry, joining other administration officials in rebuffing the partisan investigation.

In the letter to the chairmen of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees, the Defense Department cited a “number of legal and practical concerns” for not complying. Among the reasons stated are the House not officially voting to authorize an impeachment inquiry, and that some of the information requested “appears to consist of confidential executive branch communications that are potentially protected by executive privilege.”

The move was a reversal by Mr. Esper, who said last weekend that he would comply with the inquiry.

“We will do everything we can to respond to their inquiry,” Mr. Esper told host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”

He also said at the time, “My general counsel a week or two ago sent out a note, as we often do in these situations, to the key members in the Pentagon to say, ‘Retain your documents and institute other controls.’ So, again, we will respond as we can.”

House Democrats had set a Tuesday deadline for Mr. Esper, Trump personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and the White House Office of Management and Budget to turn over documents related to Ukraine. Mr. Giuliani and the White House also said they won’t comply, as expected. The three committees further requested Vice President Mike Pence to turn over documents, although no subpoena had been issued.

Democrats are investigating whether President Trump improperly withheld military aid for Ukraine as leverage to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

The Pentagon said in the letter that its failure to respond to the subpoena doesn’t amount to obstruction of justice.

“Invoking reasonable legal defense to a subpoena, including invoking legal privileges that are held by the President, in no way manifests evidence of obstruction of otherwise warrants an adverse inference,” the letter stated.

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