State Department blocks ambassador’s testimony
House Democrats on Tuesday subpoenaed Gordon Sondland, President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, after the State Department blocked his impeachment inquiry appearance.
WASHINGTON – House Democrats on Tuesday subpoenaed Gordon Sondland, a U.S. ambassador involved in the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine, after the State Department blocked his appearance before their impeachment inquiry.
Sondland, President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, was scheduled to appear before a trio of committees Tuesday morning to answer questions about his role in pushing Ukraine’s president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
“Early this morning, the U.S. Department of State directed Ambassador Gordon Sondland not to appear today for his scheduled transcribed interview before the U.S. House of Representatives Joint Committee,” Robert Luskin, Sondland’s attorney, said.
Luskin said Sondland had agreed “to appear voluntarily ... in order to answer the committee’s questions on an expedited basis.” But as a sitting U.S. ambassador, he is required to follow the State Department’s directive, Luskin said.
“In light of Secretary (of State Mike) Pompeo’s direct intervention to block your appearance before our Committees, we are left with no choice but to compel your appearance at a deposition pursuant to the enclosed subpoena,” chairmen of the three House committees wrote to Sondland.
Trump defended the decision to prewell” vent Sondland’s testimony, saying the Democrats’ inquiry is illegitimate.
“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 Republican’s rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public,” Trump tweeted Tuesday.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who leads the House Intelligence Committee, said the administration’s move to block Sondland’s testimony, as well as withhold relevant documents, is “strong evidence of obstruction” of justice.
“The ambassador has text messages or emails on a personal device, which have been provided to the State Department,” Schiff said. “The State Department is withholding those messages, as as blocking Sondland’s testimony.
Sondland had traveled to Washington from Brussels. Luskin said Sondland still wants to cooperate.
“Ambassador Sondland believes strongly that he acted at all times in the best interests of the United States, and he stands ready to answer the committee’s questions fully and truthfully,” he said.
A State Department spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
“This is obstruction,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va. “Sondland is a key witness to the President’s attempts to seek campaign interference from Ukraine. The President is obviously terrified of what Sondland might tell Congress.”
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland wants to cooperate with the House inquiry, his lawyer says.