White House blocks ambassador's impeachment testimony; lawmakers vow subpoena
White House blocks ambassador's impeachment testimony; lawmakers vow subpoena
State Dept. orders EU ambassador cited in Ukraine texts not to appear for deposition with House
10 October, 2019, 01:10
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". "Those messages are also deeply relevant to this investigation and the impeachment inquiry". "Must have helped. Most impt is for Zelensky to say that he will help investigation-and address any specific personnel issues-if there are any", Volker wrote to Sondland the week before the call occurred.
Sondland appeared to be a key figure in the president's attempt to persuade Ukraine's new government to commit to an investigation into his political opponents.
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.
The messages also show Sondland trying to reassure a third diplomat that their actions were appropriate, but that they should take precautions by limiting their text messages.
The attorney said Mr Sondland was "profoundly disappointed" as he had travelled to Washington from Brussels in order to prepare for his appearance.
- House Democrats unveiled broad legislation Tuesday to protect the country's elections as they investigate whether Trump inappropriately solicited foreign election help from Ukraine ahead of the 2020 vote.
Following the White House's letter, members of the Trump administration will not be authorised to testify in Congress and will ignore subpoenas, a senior administration official told reporters.
Schiff and other Democrats have said that they will consider such obstruction if they draft articles of impeachment against the president. Yovanovitch was the US ambassador to Ukraine until Trump recalled her in May before her term was up, after the president's supporters questioned her loyalty.
"As a sitting U.S. ambassador to the European Union and employee of the State Department, Ambassador Sondland is required to follow the Department's direction", the statement explained, adding that Sondland was "profoundly disappointed" that he was not able to testify on Tuesday and hoped "the issues raised by the State Department" would be resolved.
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Documents containing text messages between USA and Ukrainian officials submitted to Congress on Thursday by former US special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, showed that Sondland was involved in coordinating Washington's engagement with Zelensky's government before and after the presidential phone call.
An attorney for Sondland says the State Department directed his client not to appear for a scheduled interview Tuesday before a joint House committee taking depositions in the impeachment probe of the Republican president.
In 2018, Trump nominated Sondland to be the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.
In a separate thread that included William Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, the three discuss a plan for an "interview" in exchange for the release of almost $400 million of USA security assistance to Ukraine.
He spoke to Trump in September as diplomats raised questions about why security aid to Ukraine was being withheld.
"Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions", Sondland wrote last month, before urging Taylor, the US charges d'affaires in Ukraine, to call him instead. "The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo's of any kind".
Sondland replied: "Absolutely, but we need to get the conversation started and the relationship built, irrespective of the pretext".
Graham, a Trump ally, said he wants testimony about the firing of a former Ukrainian prosecutor widely seen as corrupt.
"I suggest we stop the back and forth by text,"Mr Sondland added".
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to indicate the correct number of teens charged and arrested . The Hamilton-Wentworth School District Board said all communication was being directed by Hamilton police.
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