Trump administration blocks U.S. ambassador to European Union from impeachment inquiry

Clay Curtis
October 10, 2019

The Trump administration barred Gordon Sondland, the U.S. European Union ambassador, from closed-door testimony as several committees are investigating President Donald Trump's dealings with the president of Ukraine.

In the text messages provided to Congress, the Ukrainians' desire to have a one-on-one meeting between Trump and Zelensky is linked to the Ukrainians opening an investigation, something that was discussed before the July 25 phone call where Trump urged the Ukrainian President to investigate Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Trump gave his version of why the envoy was blocked, tweeting on Tuesday that "I would love to send Ambassador Sondland" to testify, "but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court".

He has no choice but to comply.

"As the sitting U.S. Ambassador to the European Union and employee of the State Department, Ambassador Sondland is required to follow the Department's direction", Luskin mentioned. After the call, Sondland assured another diplomat in a text message that there were "no quid pro quo's of any kind" with Ukraine.

"No longer finest is the Congress being deprived of his testimony ... but we are also mindful that the ambassador has text messages or emails on a inner most tool, which had been supplied to the Verbalize Division", the Home Intelligence Committee chairman suggested reporters.

The attorney said Mr Sondland was "profoundly disappointed" as he had travelled to Washington from Brussels in order to prepare for his appearance.

Sondland's absence raised questions about whether other witnesses called by the committee would appear. While the Democrats are already in court to force some of that evidence, they are making it clear that they do not intend to wait much longer.

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Some of the road blockages have affected petrol deliveries, leading to fuel shortages in parts of the country. Once inside they waved flags and chanted slogans before being forced back by security forces using tear gas.

Schiff and other Democrats have said that they will consider such obstruction if they draft articles of impeachment against the president. Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan said Tuesday that Trump was simply "doing his job" to prevent corruption in Ukraine.

Jordan said GOP members of the committee "fully understand why the administration" declined to have Sondland testify, linking the decision to what went down with Volker. At the time, the government in Kiev was eagerly awaiting the release of almost $400 million in US military aid and the arrangement of a face-to-face meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

A trial on whether to remove him from office would then be held in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Trump continues to enjoy almost unwavering support from members of his party. Giuliani was communicating with Zelenskiy about the investigations that Trump wanted. The department also missed a Friday deadline set by House Democrats to respond to a subpoena and turn over documents related to Ukraine.

The impeachment probe is focusing on a whistleblower's allegations that Trump used almost $400 million in USA military aid to secure a promise from Ukraine's president to investigate Biden, a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

The Democratic-led inquiry is trying to establish whether the Republican president withheld almost $400m (£327m) in aid to nudge Ukraine's president into launching an inquiry into Mr Biden, whose son, Hunter Biden, was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

About Sondland: The ambassador is mentioned in a series of text messages between United States diplomats and a Ukrainian aide.

The three Democratic chairs of the committees warned Pompeo in a letter late last month, "The failure of any of these Department employees to appear for their scheduled depositions shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House's impeachment inquiry". The distinction matters because while grand jury testimony is ordinarily secret, one exception authorizes a judge to disclose it in connection with a judicial proceeding such as impeachment.

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