Oct 8, 2019

Schiff: State Department withholding "relevant" messages from Sondland

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told reporters Tuesday that the State Department is withholding relevant messages from U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland's personal device about the Trump administration's interactions with the Ukrainian government.

"There was no indication that [Sondland] would be a no show. Not only is the Congress being deprived of his testimony ... today, but we're also aware that the ambassador has text messages or emails on a personal device, which have been provided to the State Department — although we have requested those from the ambassador. And the State Department is withholding those messages as well. Those messages are also deeply relevant to this investigation and the impeachment inquiry."

Highlights:

  • "We know from those text messages that diplomatic personnel raised a concern with [Sondland] that military assistance was being withheld to secure help from Ukraine in the president's re-election campaign."
  • "We know that Ambassador Sondland was a key player in efforts to obtain a commitment from Ukraine to investigate a bogus conspiracy theory about the 2016 election, as well as Joe Biden and his son."
  • "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, a co-equal government."
  • "By preventing us from hearing from this witness and obtaining these documents, the president and secretary of state are taking actions that prevent us from getting the facts needed to protect the nation's security."
  • "This is one of the few impeachment inquiries in the history of our country. 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."

The big picture: The Trump administration directed Sondland not to appear for a scheduled deposition with the House Oversight, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees just before he was due to appear.

  • Sondland's legal counsel released a statement saying he "is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today."
  • "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."

Go deeper: Trump administration directs Sondland not to appear for House deposition

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Trump administration directs EU ambassador not to appear for House deposition

United States Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Photo by Daniel Mihailscu/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration directed the U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland not to appear for a scheduled deposition with House Democrats on Tuesday, according to the New York Times.

Why it matters: Democrats want to question Sondland about his role in President Trump's pressure campaign on Ukraine to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and Biden's son, Hunter.

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House Democrats subpoena EU ambassador blocked from Ukraine testimony

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The chairs of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees have subpoenaed U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, who was blocked by the Trump administration from testifying in their Ukraine investigation on Tuesday, to turn over documents by Oct. 14 and appear at a deposition on Oct. 16.

The big picture: The chairs said in a statement that the State Department's decision to stop Sondland from testifying will be considered evidence of obstruction in their impeachment inquiry. They added that the State Department is withholding relevant messages from Sondland's personal device about the Trump administration's interactions with the Ukrainian government.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Oct 8, 2019

Scoop: EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland to testify next week

Photo: Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland will testify next Wednesday before the House committees investigating President Trump and Ukraine, despite being blocked by the State Department from appearing at a closed-door deposition this week, 4 congressional sources tell Axios.

Driving the news: Sondland's lawyer confirmed Friday that the ambassador does plan to testify — "notwithstanding the State Department's current direction not to testify."

Go deeperArrowOct 11, 2019