President Donald Trump said that he blocked a U.S. ambassador from testifying to House investigators because doing so would put him in front of a “kangaroo court.”
Tuesday morning, it was reported that Ambassador Gordon Sondland had been barred from testifying at a scheduled deposition, which was part of House Democrats’ impeachment probe of President Trump and his correspondence with Ukrainian officials.
Later in the morning, President Trump took to Twitter to explain the reasoning behind the decision to block Sondland’s testimony:
“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 Republican’s rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public to see.”
….to see. Importantly, Ambassador Sondland’s tweet, which few report, stated, “I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind.” That says it ALL!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2019
Sondland — the United States ambassador to the European Union — was originally scheduled to provide closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs committees, but was directed not to do so at the last minute.
“Early this morning, the U.S. Department of State directed Ambassador Gordon Sondland not to appear today for his scheduled transcribed interview before the U.S. House of Representatives Joint Committee,” Sondland’s attorney said in a statement, adding that the ambassador had agreed to testify voluntarily “in order to answer the committee’s questions on an expedited basis.”
As a sitting ambassador, the statement explained, Sondland is bound to State Department policy. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said that the administration’s decision was “additional strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress.”
House Oversight Committee top Republican Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said that while he and his colleagues had hoped to hear Sondland’s testimony, they also “understand the reason why the State Department decided not to have Ambassador Sondland appear today; it’s based on the unfair and partisan process that Mr. Schiff has been running.”
Sondland is a key figure in the controversy surrounding President Trump’s communications with Ukrainian government officials currently fueling the impeachment probe. In testimony given last week, former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker told lawmakers that he consulted with Sondland in August about a proposed anti-corruption statement to be given by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The current impeachment controversy centers on President Trump’s desire to have Ukrainian officials look into alleged corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, related to a past investigation of Burisma — a Ukrainian energy company that employed Hunter Biden as a board member. According to the testimony and a corresponding text message, Volker and Sondland discussed whether or not the statement should mention Burisma and allegations of interfering in the 2016 elections. Volker testified that the statement was ultimately scrapped.
Later Monday morning, the Democratic chairmen of the committees that Sondland was scheduled to testify before responded to the administration’s decision by announcing that they would subpoena Sondland “for both his testimony and his documents.”