A key witness in the Democratic impeachment probe, Amb. Gordon Sondland, was barred from testifying at the last-minute Tuesday by the Trump administration, sources confirmed to ABC News.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the Democrat leading the impeachment investigation, said the “failure to produce this witness” would be considered “strong evidence of obstruction.”
Hours later, Schiff, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings announced they would subpoena Sondland for both his testimony and documents.
“The White House has once again attempted to impede and obstruct the impeachment inquiry,” the three said in a statement.
Notably, Schiff also said the State Department is withholding text messages or emails Sondland has on a personal device.
“We know from the text messages that Ambassador Sondland was in discussion with Ukrainian counterparts, with fellow diplomatic personnel, and the president, and at least one U.S. senator, about the course of events we are investigating,” Schiff said.
“The American people have the right to know if the president is acting in their interests, in the nation’s interest … and not in his narrow personal, political interests,” he said.
Sondland worked with other senior State Department officials to facilitate conversations between President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and top Ukrainian officials as the president and Giuliani sought a Ukrainian investigation into Trump’s political opponents.
In a series of text messages revealed last week, Sondland is seen consulting with former U.S. 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. In those texts, Sondland denied that there were any “quid pro quo’s.”
President Trump seemed to say he blocked Sondland from testifying in a tweet Tuesday, saying, “Unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican’s rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public to see.”
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Source: ABC News