Tes­ti­mony blocked

State Depart­ment blocks am­bas­sador’s tes­ti­mony

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Deirdre Sh­es­green and Christal Hayes

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.”

DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

U.S. Am­bas­sador to the Euro­pean Union Gor­don Sond­land wants to co­op­er­ate with the House in­quiry, his lawyer says.

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