White House rules out cooperation in Trump impeachment probe

White House rules out cooperation in Trump impeachment probe”

- The Trump administration blocked a USA diplomat from testifying behind closed doors about the president's dealings with Ukraine.

Intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff told reporters the envoy has text messages or emails "deeply relevant" to the inquiry on a personal device.

Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland had previously agreed to be deposed, but "early this morning, the US Department of State directed (him) not to appear today for his scheduled transcribed interview", Sondland's lawyer Robert Luskin said in a statement. He is "profoundly disappointed" after traveling from Brussels, lawyer says, and still wants to testify.

In a series of text messages revealed last week, Sondland is seen consulting with former USA special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker to press Ukraine's new president Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his top aides to investigate, in order to obtain a meeting at the White House and later military aid.

Mr Schiff said Mr Sondland's no-show was "yet additional strong evidence" of obstruction of Congress by Mr Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that will only strengthen a possible impeachment case. "In order to fulfil his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his administration can not participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances".

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi echoed Schiff's comments at an event in Seattle, saying it was an "abuse of power" for Trump to thwart witness testimony.

Sondland, a wealthy hotelier and longtime Republican donor, has been vocal in his support for the president's dealings with Ukraine. He spoke to Trump in September as diplomats raised questions about why security aid to Ukraine was being withheld.

Textual content messages made public final week present that Sondland, whose portfolio doesn't embrace U.S. -Ukraine relations, inserted himself into the trouble to acquire a dedication from Ukraine to launch the investigations. He said those communications had been provided to the Department of State, which was withholding them.

"Ambassador 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", the statement notes.

"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.

"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 see", Trump wrote on Twitter.

Democrats have struggled to investigate Trump and his administration all year as the White House has blocked and ignored subpoenas for documents and testimony.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Schiff laid out four parameters of the committee's investigation. Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan said Tuesday that Trump was simply "doing his job" to prevent corruption in Ukraine.

House investigators meant to grill Sondland - a hotel magnate whose companies funneled $1 million to Trump's inaugural committee - about what happened during the 4 1/2-hour delay and what communications he had with President Trump and other administration officials about the topic. Giuliani was communicating with Zelenskiy about the investigations that Trump wanted.

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

Lawmakers have an opportunity on Friday to hear from another key witness in the Ukraine scandal: former U.S. ambassador to Kiev Marie Yovanovitch, who is scheduled to appear before the House Intelligence Committee. In exchange, the American officials dangled the offer of a Washington meeting between Trump and Zelenskiy.

Among the most striking messages was the one in which Sondland sought to reassure a third diplomat that their actions were appropriate and then added: "I suggest we stop the back and forth by text".

He had no diplomatic experience, U.S. media report, before Mr Trump nominated him to his position as ambassador in May.

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