Oct 8, 2019

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.

  • The Trump administration gave the order just hours before Sondland was scheduled to sit for a deposition in the Capitol, and House Democrats have warned that they will consider any attempts by the administration to interfere with their investigation as obstruction, possible grounds for impeachment.

Context: Sondland and the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker reportedly drafted a statement in August that would have committed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigating the Ukrainian energy company that once counted Hunter Biden as a board member.

  • Both Sondland and Volker were both named in the whistleblower complaint that is now at the center of the Trump impeachment inquiry.
  • Volker testified before a group of House committees last week, claiming no knowledge of any Trump administration push to pressure Ukraine. He also release text messages that featured conversations between him, Sondland and Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine.

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

  • "Ambassador Sondland believes strongly that he acted at all times in the best interests of the United States, and he stand ready to answer the Committee's questions fully and truthfully."

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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.

Go deeperArrowOct 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

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