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Two White House officials decline to appear at Trump impeachment

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In this AFP file photo taken on January 19, 2019, White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney discusses the possible government shutdown during a press briefing at the White House in Washington,DC.

Two senior White House officials have declined to appear at the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, as the US administration continues to blockade investigators.

White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and associate director for National Security Mark Sandy had been issued a subpoena to testify on Friday before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, one of three panels investigating whether Trump pressured Ukraine in a July phone call for help against a political rival.

House Democrats were to question the two officials about their knowledge of Trump’s move last summer to block, without explanation to Congress, nearly $400 million in security aid for Ukraine that had been approved by lawmakers.

Investigators are trying to determine whether Trump made the release of the aid contingent on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy agreeing to investigate former US Vice President Joe Biden, his 2020 political rival, as well as his son, Hunter.

Trump rails against impeachment

Meanwhile, Trump said on Friday that there should be no public hearings in the impeachment inquiry as he excoriated the process unfolding in the House.

"They shouldn’t be having public hearings. This is a hoax," Trump said, as the first public hearings in the process are set to take place next week.

The House committees leading the impeachment inquiry released this week transcripts of their closed-door hearings with several current and former officials.

The US president downplayed the potentially damaging effects of those transcripts, claiming he was unfamiliar with many of the witnesses and that none of them had first-hand information.

"I’m not concerned about anything," Trump said. "The testimony has all been fine. I mean for the most part, I’ve never even heard of these people. There are some very fine people. You have some Never Trumpers. It seems that nobody has any first-hand knowledge."

Trump said the only thing that counts is the partial transcript from his July 25 call with the Ukrainian president.

Trump reportedly urged Zelenskiy about eight times in the phone call to work with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani to investigate government corruption involving the Bidens, warning that he would not give Ukraine the promised military aid in case he refused.

The US president has denied wrongdoing, claiming that he held up the aid because he wanted other countries to contribute more to Ukraine's defense.

According to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, nearly half of Americans believe Trump should be impeached.                                                           

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