Monday, 14 October, 2019

USA ambassador Gordon Sondland now plans to testify in Trump impeachment inquiry

Who is Marie Yovanovitch Former ambassador to testify at inquiry into Trump
Steven Clarke | 11 October, 2019, 19:40

A lawyer for Mr. Sondland said Friday that the ambassador would testify before House committees next Thursday but wouldn't produce requested documents.

The statement continued: "Ambassador Sondland has at all times acted with integrity and in the interests of the United States". She was expected to answer questions about efforts by Mr. Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to press Ukraine's government to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and how career USA diplomats handled that pressure.

The statement also noted that Sondland will not release document Congress is requesting, however, and that it's up to the State Department to do so.

"Notwithstanding the State Department's current direction not to testify, Ambassador Sondland will honor the committees' subpoena, and he looks forward to testifying on Thursday", Sondland's attorney Robert Luskin and Kwame Manley said in a statement.

Democrats are investigating Trump's direct pleas to Ukrainian officials to launch investigations of political rival Joe Biden and his family.

The committees subpoenaed Sondland hours later for a deposition next week, and his attorneys said Friday he would testify on October 17, despite the administration's position.

The State Department traditionally relies on mutual legal assistance treaties, under which US and foreign officials agree to exchange evidence and information in criminal investigations.

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At a rally in Minnesota last night, Mr Trump said the investigation was a brazen attempt to overthrow the Government and would result in a political backlash against Democrats at the ballot box. Chief among the reasons it listed is the fact that the probe was announced without an authorizing vote of the full House of Representatives, as has been done in past presidential impeachment cases.

The inquiry was launched after a whistleblower complaint from a person within the USA intelligence community about a July 25 phone call, in which Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate domestic political rival Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

The former diplomat who spoke with Yovanovitch said the ambassador refused to do "all this offline, personal, informal stuff" and made clear that the US government had formal ways to request foreign governments' help with investigations.

Ms. Yovanovitch, now a senior fellow at Georgetown University, hasn't responded to emailed requests for comment.

Sondland is not authorized to release the documents the House committees have sought, they said, adding that Sondland hopes the material will be shared with the committees before his Thursday appearance.

Yovanovitch, a respected 30-year career diplomat, was attacked by Giuliani and others who embraced an unproven, right wing conspiracy theory that the ambassador was part of a liberal scheme to bring down former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who pleaded guilty to fraud and lying to federal officials.

"I heard very bad things about her", Trump said to reporters at the White House last week. He said he'd been directed by the state department to not speak to the committees.

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