Politics

US Ambassador Blocked From Testifying to Congress in Impeachment Inquiry: Lawyer

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An attorney for Ambassador Gordon Sondland says the State Department has directed Sondland not to appear for his scheduled interview before a joint House committee taking depositions in the impeachment probe of President Donald Trump.

Sondland had previously agreed to appear voluntarily Tuesday to answer the committees questions in a closed session. He would have been the second current or former State Department to testify, following former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker.

Sondlands attorney Robert Luskin said that as the sitting U.S. ambassador to the European Union and an employee of the State Department, Sondland is required to follow the departments direction. No reason for the direction was cited, he said.

Luskin said Sondland “is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify.”

Sondland “believes strongly that he acted at all times in the best interests of the United States,” the attorney added.

Luskin is also representing Stefan Halper, who spied on the Trump campaign, in a defamation lawsuit that was filed by Svetlana Lokhova, a historian.

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 Republicans rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public….

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— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2019

….to see. Importantly, Ambassador Sondlands tweet, which few report, stated, “I believe you are incorrect about President Trumps intentions. The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quos of any kind.” That says it ALL!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2019

The State Department has not confirmed Luskins account of the situation with Sondland. Trump later Tuesday said he wanted Sondland to testify.

“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 Republicans rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public to see,” he said in a statement.

Messages between Sondland and another ambassador were released along with other selected messages last week by House Democrats, who argued that the messages “reflect serious concerns by a State Department official about the detrimental effects of withholding critical military assistance from Ukraine and the importance of setting up a meeting between President Trump and the Ukrainian president without further delay.”

Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July to look into CrowdStrike, a technology firm hired by the Democratic National Committee after the committee suffered a security breach. Trump also asked Zelensky to probe the past actions of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who served on the board of the energy company Burisma from 2014 to 2019.

Joe bidne is welcomed by Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko
Joe bidne is welcomed by Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko
Then-Vice President Joe Biden upon his arrival for a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kyiv on Jan. 16, 2017. (Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images)

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