Trump Administration Blocks Ambassador's Testimony, A Key Witness in Ukraine Scandal

Trump Administration Blocks Ambassador's Testimony, A Key Witness in Ukraine Scandal

The State Department waited until 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday to tell U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland not to show up for his scheduled deposition with three House committees later that morning, the ambassador's lawyer told Yahoo News.

Text messages released by House Democrats last week show Sondland working with another of Trump's diplomats, former Ukrainian envoy Kurt Volker, to get Ukraine to agree to investigate any potential interference in the 2016 USA election and to probe the Ukrainian energy company that appointed Biden's son Hunter to its board.

Impeachment is a measure by which Can not Sondland explain his no-show?Mr. Sondland said he had been instructed by the Department of State the congressional deposition.

He "is profoundly disappointed he will not be able to testify today".

Monday, the committee chairmen subpoenaed records, to be turned over by October 15, from the Defense Department and White House budget office - and requested the same from the White House and Vice President Mike Pence last weekend.

The White House has declared it will not co-operate with what it termed an "illegitimate" impeachment probe by House of Representative Democrats, setting up a constitutional clash between US President Donald Trump and Congress.

House committee chairmen said they would subpoena the envoy to force him to appear.

House investigators meant to grill Sondland - a hotel magnate whose companies funneled $1 million to Trump's inaugural committee - about what happened during the 4 1/2-hour delay and what communications he had with President Trump and other administration officials about the topic.

"I would love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and great American, to testify, but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republicans' rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public.to see", Trump wrote on Twitter.

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Among the most striking messages was the one in which Sondland sought to reassure a third diplomat that their actions were appropriate and then added: "I suggest we stop the back and forth by text". The administration cut off military aid to Ukraine and seemed to dangle it as bait for the Ukraine leadership if they agreed to investigate the Biden affair.

Concerns about the July 25 call, and possible Trump threats to Ukraine, came to the attention of Congress in a report by a whistleblower.

The request for Sondland's appearance marked a shift for the investigation because he is a political appointee.

Sondland's colleague, Kurt Volker, the State Department's Special Envoy to Ukraine, quit as the political heat grew.

Sondland, a wealthy hotelier and longtime Republican donor, has been vocal in his support for the president's dealings with Ukraine.

He also said Ukrainian officials had wanted to meet with US leaders to discuss Russian incursions, raising questions about whether such a meeting was "conditioned" on Ukraine's willingness to "play ball" and investigate the Bidens. He presented his credentials at the European Commission in July. Yovanovitch was recalled from the post early and is scheduled to be deposed Friday. Yovanovitch was the United States ambassador to Ukraine until Trump recalled her in May before her term was up, after the president's supporters questioned her loyalty.

As Schiff continued by outlining the objective of the Trump impeachment inquiry, he referred to the block of Sondland, and any others asked to testify, as "acts of obstruction of a co-equal branch of government". Administration officials, and some of their Republican allies in Congress, have questioned whether they have any obligation to cooperate with the inquiry.

The White House was expected to tell Pelosi this week that it would ignore lawmakers' demands for documents until the House holds a vote to approve the impeachment inquiry.

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

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