Democrats subpoena diplomat in impeachment inquiry

Cheryl Sanders
October 9, 2019

The Trump administration has blocked the U.S. ambassador to the European Union from appearing before a congressional impeachment investigation.

Trump weighs in on the State Department's refusal to let Gordon Sondland give a closed-door interview on Capitol Hill; chief White House correspondent John Roberts reports. He said the panel is probing whether Trump solicited foreign help from Ukraine for his 2020 reelection, whether a never-realized White House meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Trump was conditioned on the country conducting investigations, whether US military assistance to Ukraine was conditioned on those investigations and whether the administration has obstructed justice.

That shouldn't come as a huge surprise, since the president himself has asserted that the entire investigation is illegitimate and the State Department has already objected to its employees testifying before Congress.

Trump indicated on Tuesday morning that it might have been his own decision to block Sondland's testimony, tweeting that he would "love to send Ambassador Sondland" to testify, "but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court". "In order to fulfil his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his administration can not participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances".

In those texts, Sondland tried to shut down a diplomat who questioned withholding aid from Ukraine.

In response, Democrats slapped Sondland with a subpoena that "compels" him to appear on October 16. Marie Yovanovitch, the former USA ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled from the post, is scheduled to testify Friday, and the committee has called two other State Department officials.

Through his lawyer on Tuesday, Sondland said he hoped "the issues raised by the State Department that preclude his testimony will be resolved promptly".

Notably, Schiff also said the State Department is withholding text messages or emails Sondland has on a personal device.

But Jim Jordan, top Republican on the oversight committee, said he understood why the state department had blocked Mr Sondland's appearance, calling the inquiry "unfair and partisan".

House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Sondland's no-show was "yet additional strong evidence" of obstruction of Congress by Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

"We consider this interference to be obstruction to the impeachment inquiry", they said.

Luskin said Sondland "is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify". A trial on whether to remove him from office would then be held in the U.S. Senate. "He stands ready to testify on short notice, whenever he is permitted to appear", Luskin said.

A Trump donor and Portland, Oregon, hotelier, Sondland became the USA envoy to the European Union in July 2018.

According to text messages released by House committee leaders last week, Sondland was heavily involved in contacts with Zelenskiy as he sought a meeting with Trump, and Ukrainian officials expressed concern at the administration's decision to block USA military assistance for Kiev.

"As I said on the phone, I think it's insane to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign", Taylor replied. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo's of any kind. A whistleblower complaint about a July 25 phone call in which Trump pressed his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, prompted the inquiry. "The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelenskiy promised during his campaign", Sondland says.

Trump cited that text, which he referred to as a tweet, in his defense Tuesday, writing, "That says it ALL!"

Other reports by iNewsToday