Leading Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, the chairmen of the three House committees claimed they will be issuing a subpoena to a key official that has allegedly been prevented by the State Department from testifying before them.
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, was to appear for a deposition before the committees on Tuesday before he was stopped by the State Department.
Sondland was instructed not to appear before a scheduled meeting where staff from three House committees are investigating Trump’s actions around Ukraine and his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, his attorney Robert Luskin said.
“As the sitting U.S. Ambassador to the EU and employee of the State Department, Ambassador Sondland is required to follow the Department’s direction,” Luskin told ABC News.
“Ambassador Sondland is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today,” Luskin said, adding that 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.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said on Tuesday they would subsequently proceed to subpoena Sondland later for testimony and documents, The Hill reported.
“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,” President Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) among other Republicans, said that the Democratic-controlled process was fundamentally unfair, and demanded that Schiff publish the transcript of testimony that then-U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker had made.
Jordan shot back at ABC Senior Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce when questioned that, if Republicans claimed there was no wrongdoing, wasn’t that a reason for the GOP to want him to appear.
“There is no wrongdoing. Ambassador Volker was clear. Why not release the transcript so you can all see what Ambassador Volker told us?” Jordan said. “There is no wrongdoing, he was completely as clear as could be: no quid pro quo.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) echoed the words of President Trump, and stressed, “What we see in this impeachment is a kangaroo court, and chairman Schiff is acting like a malicious Captain Kangaroo.”
Stating on Saturday that his department will “obviously do all the things we’re required to do by law,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also pointed out House Democrats for “bullying” and “intimidating” State Department officials by contacting them directly and asking them to provide documents that he says belong to the executive branch, ABC News reported.
Volker testified before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees last week and provided text messages from among himself, Sondland, and William Taylor, a top official in the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, according to The Hill.
The messages have shown that Sondland is rejecting concerns from Taylor that Trump wanted the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings in exchange for financial aid. Sondland also suggested that the diplomats move their conversations offline, The Hill reports.
“Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions,” Sondland said.
“The president has been crystal clear no quid pro quos of any kind. The president is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelenskiy promised during his campaign. I suggest we stop the back and forth by text,” Sondland wrote.
The House committees have scheduled to hear a testimony from Marie Yovanovitch, who served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine until May, when she was recalled from the position by the Trump administration.