Trump bars envoy's testimony, escalating impeachment fight

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President Donald Trump's administration on Tuesday blocked the U.S. ambassador to the European Union from giving testimony in the House of Representatives' impeachment investigation of the Republican president.

Trump weighs in on the State Department's refusal to let Gordon Sondland give a closed-door interview on Capitol Hill; chief White House correspondent John Roberts reports. "House Democrats have repeatedly warned that if the administration tries to interfere with their investigation, it will be construed as obstruction, a charge they see as potentially worthy of impeachment". He would have been the first, current State Department employee to testify without a subpoena.

Sondland, 61, seems by no means to have held a place in authorities earlier than being named the ambassador to the European Union in June 2018.

The impeachment inquiry has heightened bitter partisan divisions in Congress. Trump's fellow Republicans control the Senate, where a trial on whether to oust the president would be held if the House ultimately votes to impeach him.

Sondland labored carefully with Kurt Volker, the USA particular envoy to Ukraine, to form US global coverage round Trump's need to analyze Joe Biden's son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gasoline firm, in addition to an unsubstantiated idea that Ukraine had interfered within the 2016 presidential election to undermine Trump's candidacy.

The chairmen of the three committees responded by issuing a legal summons, known as a subpoena, demanding Mr Sondland's testimony and certain documents.

Sondland's appearance would have followed officials, including the former US special envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, and Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the USA intelligence community.

Through his lawyer on Tuesday, Sondland said he hoped "the issues raised by the State Department that preclude his testimony will be resolved promptly".

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.

Mr Sondland is a Seattle-based hotelier who donated $1 million to the Republican president's inauguration committee.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday his department will "obviously do all the things we're required to do by law", but he has accused House Democrats of "bullying" and "intimidating" State Department officials by reaching out to them directly and asking them to turn over documents he says belong to the executive branch.

"We consider this interference to be obstruction to the impeachment inquiry", they said.

He "is profoundly disappointed he will not be able to testify today. He stands ready to testify on short notice, whenever he is permitted to appear".

A Trump donor and Portland, Oregon, hotelier, Sondland became the US envoy to the European Union in July 2018. On the time, the federal government in Kiev was eagerly awaiting the discharge of practically $400 million in US navy assist and the association of a face-to-face assembly between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. "It goes to the core of whether the president abused his office to seek political help in his re-election campaign and did so to the detriment of our nation's security".

"Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The president has been crystal clear, no quid pro quos of any kind", Sondland told Taylor. The investigators are interested in what the ambassador knew and what his role was in Trump's efforts to get Ukraine to probe former Vice President Joe Biden, who leads the field of potential challengers to the Republican president. "The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelenskiy promised during his campaign", Sondland says.

Sondland then suggests to the group take the conversations off line, typing, "I suggest we stop the back and forth by text".



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