Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union ensnared in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump, will give a deposition to House committees investigating the president’s pressure on a foreign leader to investigate a domestic political rival.
Sondland will meet behind closed doors Tuesday with the three panels — Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and House Oversight — spearheading the probe, according to a committee aide.
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The official on Saturday confirmed the schedule on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. NBC News first reported Sondland’s planned appearance.
A whistleblower’s complaint revealed a July 25 call in which Trump pressed Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the activities of former vice president Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and his son and subsequent efforts to restrict access to records of the call. It also alleged that Trump asked Zelensky to look into unproven allegations that Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election originated in Ukraine.
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Trump again maligned the whistleblower, Democrats and the news media in tweets Saturday morning, baselessly calling the New York Times and The Washington Post “pure fiction.”
“The so-called Whistleblower’s account of my perfect phone call is “way off,” not even close. (Rep. Adam) Schiff and (Speaker Nancy) Pelosi never thought I would release the transcript of the call. Got them by surprise, they got caught. This is a fraud against the American people!” Trump also tweeted.
As part of their investigation, the committees subpoenaed the White House for documents on Friday, a step they had announced earlier in the week, and demanded documents from Vice President Pence.
“During a press conference on Wednesday, President Trump was asked if he would cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry. He responded, ‘I always cooperate.’ President Trump’s claim is patently false,” the three committee chairmen wrote. “The White House has refused to engage with — or even respond to — multiple requests for documents from our Committees on a voluntary basis. After nearly a month of stonewalling, it appears clear that the President has chosen the path of defiance, obstruction, and cover-up.”
The three are Intelligence Committee Chairmen Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Foreign Affairs Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) and Oversight and Reform Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.).
Sondland worked behind the scenes to carry out Trump’s wishes in a country that’s not part of the European Union. The ambassador met with Zelensky to give “advice” about how to “navigate” Trump’s demands, the whistleblower reported. And in text messages turned over to House investigators Thursday, Sondland insisted that Trump’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine was not a quid pro quo — as diplomat William B. “Bill” Taylor had feared, according to the texts.
“Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions,” Sondland wrote last month, before urging Taylor, the U.S. charges d’affaires in Ukraine, to call him instead.
[ Trump’s calls with foreign leaders have long worried aides, leaving some ‘genuinely horrified’ ]
Kurt Volker , the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, spent some 10 hours behind closed doors on Thursday with the committees, providing a deposition and text messages.
Unlike Volker, who turned all his communications over to Congress, Sondland transmitted his texts and documents to the State Department, which means the committees will have to fight the agency for access to them.
Greg Miller contributed to this story.
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LINK ORIGINAL: Washington Post