Trump Blocks Sondland Testimony, Dems Decry It As Obstruction Of Justice
A key witness in the impeachment inquiry who was involved in conversations between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian officials has been barred by the administration from testifying before a House committee.
Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, was tasked by Trump to take a lead role in discussions with Ukraine, per reporting from the New York Times. Within that role, he was also part of a group of officials that attempted to assist in crafting a message from Ukraine that would have been a public announcement by that country that it was stepping up investigative measures on corruption.
Trump stands accused of abusing his powers as president to achieve political ends against a potential political rival. According to a whistleblower complaint, Trump allegedly pressured Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky during July phone conversation to open an investigation into Joe Biden, a Democratic candidate for president. Per that complaint, it was also alleged that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine, possibly in order to ensure Zelensky would acquiesce to his demands.
Sondland was involved in a text message conversation with another U.S. official, who expressed misgivings with their actions.
“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” William Taylor, a top U.S. official working in Ukraine, said in September.
Sondland responded to Taylor’s beef. “Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind,” he said.
Democrats in the House wanted to know more specifics regarding that conversation, but Trump said in a tweet on Tuesday that he blocked Sondland from testifying because it would be before “a totally compromised kangaroo court.”
A number of Democrats decried the president’s decision, and suggested his refusal to allow Sondland to testify was itself illegal.
By blocking the testimony of key witnesses like Ambassador Sondland, the White House’s actions are seen as evidence of obstruction.
— Mark DeSaulnier (@RepDeSaulnier) October 8, 2019
“By blocking the testimony of key witnesses like Ambassador Sondland, the White House’s actions are seen as evidence of obstruction. We will not be deterred in our inquiry,” said Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, a member of the House Oversight Committee.
House Intelligence chair Rep. Adam Schiff echoed DeSaulnier’s sentiments in a statement made shortly after Trump’s announcement.
“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,” Schiff said, according to CNN.