WASHINGTON — President Trump and his Republican allies on Friday seized on a Washington Post report that a career State Department official overseeing Ukraine policy told congressional investigators this week that he had raised concerns in early 2015 about former vice president Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, serving on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

Their efforts to highlight the report came as fractures have appeared in the Republican firewall of support for Trump. Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., said he couldn’t rule out voting to impeach Trump and said he has had Watergate on his mind.

Rooney’s comments echoed that of Democrats abuzz about White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s acknowledgment at a Thursday news conference that Trump withheld nearly $400 million military aid in part to pressure Ukraine to pursue an investigation that could benefit him politically. The White House later scrambled walk back Mulvaney’s comments.

“I was shocked that he said that stuff,” Rooney said Friday. “When the president has said many times there wasn’t a quid pro quo. … and now Mick Mulvaney goes up and says, ‘Yeah, it was all part of the whole plan!'”

As for the political consequences of possibly voting for Trump’s impeachment, Rooney said, “I didn’t take this job to keep it. … I took this job to do the right thing at all times.”

Trump declined an opportunity to clarify Mulvaney’s comments.

The Washington Post report that Republicans cited said that George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, testified Tuesday that he worried that Hunter Biden’s position at the firm Burisma Holdings would complicate efforts by U.S. diplomats to convey to Ukrainian officials the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest.

“He excoriated the Obama administration and Joe Biden and Joe Biden’s son, saying that he has tremendous problems, tremendous problems with Joe Biden’s son and the Ukraine,” Trump old reporters Friday.

The White House and Energy Secretary Rick Perry faced Friday deadlines to produce documents in an impeachment inquiry that has increasingly shown Trump orchestrating an effort to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on a potential 2020 political rival.

The White House has indicated it will not comply. It’s less clear how Perry, who plans to leave the administration by the end of the year, will respond. The House subpoena directs Perry to hand over documents related to his involvement in the call as well as to a Ukrainian state-owned natural gas company.

“The House has sent a subpoena over for the records that we have, and our general counsel and the White House counsel are going through the process right now,” Perry said during a Wednesday morning appearance on Fox Business Network. “I’m going to follow the lead of my counsel on that.”

Also in the impeachment inquiry, a deposition planned for Friday of a senior career official at the Defense Department has been postponed until next week. House investigators expect Laura Cooper to provide details about the military aid that was withheld from Ukraine.

House investigators plan to resume several closed-door depositions next week, beginning Tuesday with acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor.

Taylor, on text messages with two other U.S. diplomats, raised alarms about the White House holding back military aid to Ukraine, calling it “crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

On Wednesday, lawmakers are expected to hear from Ambassador Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, and Michael Duffey, associate director of national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget. Duffey’s signature was on the letters reapportioning the Ukraine aid.

On Thursday, Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense whose portfolio includes Russia and Ukraine, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director of European Affairs on the National Security Council, are expected to testify.

 

The Washington Post’s Karoun Demirjian contributed to this report.

 

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