Pompeo meets Pope Francis as impeachment roils Washington

President Donald Trump speaks to the press as he departs a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony for new Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington Monday 30 September 2019

In the call, Mr Trump pressed for an investigation of his Democratic political rival Joe Biden and his son, who worked for a Ukrainian gas firm.

US President Donald Trump addresses a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, US, October 2, 2019.

When the reporter pressed Mr Trump, the United States president cut him off, saying: "Don't be rude".

Trump has been criticized for withholding almost $400 million in aid to Ukraine before asking Zelensky to help investigate Biden, with some leaders in Congress saying the move was a blackmail attempt.

The 54-year-old former USA ambassador to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is appearing voluntarily for the interview behind closed doors with staff from the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees.

Democrats have accused the White House of blocking congressional inquiries and refusing to respond to record requests, which has prompted the subpoena threat this week. He has said, however, that he would cooperate with Congress.

Also in the packet was an email from John Solomon, a pro-Trump columnist for The Hill newspaper, to pro-Trump lawyers Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova, and Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born businessman who has been aiding Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

According to a summary of the July call released by the White House, Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate Biden and his son Hunter in coordination with US Attorney General William Barr and Giuliani.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Giuliani and others outside of the Trump Administration complained that Yovanovitch was undermining efforts to investigate the Bidens.

"Look, Biden and his son are stone-cold crooked", Mr. Trump said. No evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens has come to light.

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Biden shot back in remarks prepared for a speech in Reno, Nevada, on Wednesday night, accusing Trump of "abuse of power".

"We will of course do our constitutional duty to co-operate with this co-equal branch, but we are going to do so in a way that is consistent with the fundamental values of the American system", Pompeo said.

The prospect that Trump solicited Ukraine's help against his potential challenger next year has infuriated Democrats, many of whom blame the loss of the 2016 presidential election on Russian interference.

Photographs of some of the documents, seen by Reuters, promoted unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Marie Yovanovitch, the former US envoy to Ukraine, who was removed from her post in May, months before she was due to leave, after Trump allies accused her of disloyalty.

After seeing footage of the news conference, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, tweeted that he felt bad for the Finnish head of state and said "Today, we are all Sauli Niinisto".

Kurt Volker, who resigned last Friday as Trump's special representative for Ukraine, is scheduled to give a deposition to House staff on Thursday.

"As I said on the phone, I think it's insane to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign", Taylor wrote to a group of US diplomats.

Giuliani has said senior officials at the State Department were aware of and endorsed his actions in Ukraine on behalf of the president. Marie Yovanovitch, who was USA ambassador to Ukraine until she was abruptly recalled in May, has agreed to appear on October 11.

The impeachment probe could lead to approval of articles of impeachment - or formal charges - against Trump in the House. That would lead to a trial in the Senate on whether to remove him from office. Republicans, however, have shown little appetite for ousting him.

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