Published: Thu, October 10, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

What’s new: House Democrats subpoena United States diplomat Sondland

What’s new: House Democrats subpoena United States diplomat Sondland

The chairmen of three House committees leading the impeachment investigation said they would compel testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a Trump donor who started his diplomatic job in July.

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

Shortly after the announcement that Sondland would not testify, President Trump said that while he would "love" for Sondland to testify, it would be "before a totally compromised kangaroo court".

He has no choice but to comply.

"As the sitting U.S. Ambassador to the European Union and employee of the State Department, Ambassador Sondland is required to follow the Department's direction", Luskin said in a statement to ABC News.

"This letter reads to me much more like a press release prepared by the press secretary than an analysis by the White House counsel", he said. "And they have done it with enormous efficacy and they've sacrificed immensely, and we've basically just said to them, 'See ya.'" The Turks, she added, "are like the hungry wolf trying to kill the lamb", but "Trump woke up on the wrong side of the bed, it appears", and he made a decision to give Turkey the green light, "which is why, finally, the Republicans in Congress have gotten a pulse today".

Democrats believe that Sondland, who donated $1 million to Trump's inaugural committee, could provide valuable information. "Ambassador Sondland had previously agreed to appear voluntarily today, without the need for a subpoena, in order to answer the Committee's questions on an expedited basis".

And now, text messages he exchanged with other diplomats are at the center of a scandal over whether Trump improperly pressured Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

In a single textual content message, Sondland wrote that Trump "really wants the deliverable", referring to a transparent demonstration from Ukraine that it might undertake the investigations.

"The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents, we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress", Mr Schiff told reporters.

Democrats are eager to speak to both to gather more information about what was going on behind the scenes before and after Trump's call with Zelensky.

The move escalates the confrontation between the White House and congressional Democrats investigating the president for possible impeachable offenses including obstruction of justice.

McDermott also said Sondland was "profoundly disappointed" he couldn't testify Tuesday, but is ready to appear on short notice, if he's permitted.

"You have designed and implemented your inquiry in a manner that violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process", he said, adding House Democrats had left Trump "no choice". Yovanovitch was the USA ambassador to Ukraine until Trump recalled her in May before her term was up, after the president's supporters questioned her loyalty.

The messages involving Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani show them coordinating to pressure Kiev into investigating Biden, as Ukraine sought United States military aid and access.

Taylor, a career diplomat who previously served as ambassador to Ukraine, expresses concern: "I think it's insane to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign".

They are also demanding that he produce documents, including communications from his personal device that have been turned over to the State Department but not to Congress.

Democrats say it is not needed because the impeachment process is in its earliest stages, equivalent to gathering evidence for an indictment.

Sondland responds that he is "incorrect about President Trump's intentions".

Sondland pushed back, saying Trump had been "crystal clear no quid pro quo's of any kind". Zelensky, a former comedian, assumed office on May 20.

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