Wed | Oct 16, 2019

Trump bars envoy's testimony, escalates impeachment fight

Published:Tuesday | October 8, 2019 | 12:51 PM
In this July 10, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump is joined by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union ( second from right) as he arrives at Melsbroek Air Base, in Brussels, Belgium. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump intensified his fight with Congress Tuesday over the Democrats’ impeachment investigation, as the administration blocked a United States diplomat from testifying behind closed doors about the president’s dealings with Ukraine.

House committee chairmen said they would subpoena the envoy to force him to appear.

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. European Union ambassador, was barred from appearing in a closed-door session with three House panels investigating Trump’s entreaties to Ukraine.

Text messages released last week revealed conversations between Sondland and two other U.S. diplomats who were acting as intermediaries as the president urged Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden’s family and the 2016 U.S. election.

House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Sondland’s no-show was “yet additional strong evidence” of obstruction of Congress by Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

That will only strengthen the Democrats’ case as they conduct an impeachment inquiry and consider an eventual impeachment vote, he said.

“By preventing us from hearing from this witness and obtaining these documents, the president and secretary of state are taking actions that prevent us from getting the facts needed to protect the nation’s security,” Schiff said.

“For this impeachment inquiry we are determined to find answers.”

Sondland’s absence raised questions about whether other witnesses called by the committee would appear.

Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled from the post, is scheduled to testify Friday, and the committee has called two other State Department officials.

Trump indicated on Tuesday morning that it might have been his own decision to block Sondland’s testimony, tweeting that he would “love to send Ambassador Sondland” to testify, “but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court.”

Sondland’s attorney, Robert Luskin, said in a statement that his client was “profoundly disappointed” that he wouldn’t be able to testify.

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