Gordon Sondland will not testify in impeachment inquiry

10 Octobre, 2019, 01:03 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • U.S. Representative Jordan speaks to reporters outside House Intelligence Committee offices on Capitol Hill in Washington

The State Department is blocking US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland from appearing for scheduled Tuesday morning testimony before Congress.

She and her co-hosts were discussing the State Department's decision to prevent Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, from testifying during a closed-door session with the House Intelligence Committee.

The messages between the diplomats, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and a Ukrainian presidential aide show that they helped coordinate administration efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating Trump's political rivals as it sought aid and access.

Sondland attorney Robert Luskin says that as the sitting US ambassador to the European Union and an employee of the State Department, Sondland is required to follow the department's direction.

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

Now his testimony is on hold - and it's not clear whether the department will also block other witnesses that Democrats are seeking.

Sondland, a Trump donor rewarded with a plum ambassadorship, has become embroiled in the Ukraine controversy after text messages emerged showing Sondland and other high-ranking diplomatic officials discussing Ukraine, military aid to that country and investigations of the 2016 election.

Intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff told reporters the sent has text messages or emails "deeply relevant" to the inquiry on a personal device.

House Democrats are looking into Trump's handling of US relations with Ukraine and his desire for Ukraine to investigate potential Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden.

Kurt Volker, the former USA envoy to Ukraine, spent some 10 hours behind closed doors on Thursday with the committees, providing a deposition and text messages.

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Some Republicans have cited Sondland's text messages as proof that Trump did nothing wrong.

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". Previous witnesses have been career officials, including the former US special envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, and Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the US Intelligence Community.

But Gordon Sondland nonetheless donated $1 million to Trump's election effort and ultimately scored a plum post as US ambassador to the European Union.

The letter came shortly after the Trump administration on Tuesday abruptly blocked a key witness in the Ukraine scandal from appearing before a congressional impeachment inquiry.

The diplomat's lawyer said he had agreed to be deposed by House Democrats probing the matter. All the talks include efforts to keep the whistleblower's identity concealed from committee members and the public.

A complaint filed against Trump based on the call was filed by a person who has not been identified publicly.

Asked whether House Republicans could take legal action to unmask the whistleblower's identity, Republican Representative Jim Jordan said: "I think the American people have the right to know who the whistleblower is".

"There are four issues that we are looking at, at least four issues that we are looking at, all that go to the heart of our national security".

"The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents, we consider [it] yet additional strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress, a co-equal branch of government", Schiff said.

The talks centered around how much the White House should be cooperating with requests from House Democrats without a formal impeachment inquiry vote, which the White House has asserted they need for this to be a legitimate probe, despite Democrats saying otherwise.

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