A central witness in House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump is refusing to appear for a deposition under orders from the State Department, his lawyer confirmed.
Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union, had been expected to testify Tuesday morning.
Sondland was identified in recently released text messages with other diplomats discussing an effort by Trump to pressure Ukrainian leaders to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter — possibly by withholding military aid and a White House visit.
“As the sitting U.S. Ambassador to the EU and employee of the State Department, Ambassador Sondland is required to follow the Department’s direction,” his attorney, Robert Luskin, said in a statement. “Ambassador Sondland is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today. Ambassador Sondland traveled to Washington from Brussels in order to prepare for his testimony and to be available to answer the Committee’s questions.”
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Though Sondland, through his lawyer, expressed hope that he would still be permitted to testify, the move to block his appearance is an indication that the Trump administration is continuing efforts to prevent officials from cooperating with any congressional inquiries. Democrats have already indicated they consider these efforts to be evidence of obstruction.
Trump on Tuesday defended the decision to block Sondland from appearing before House investigators.
“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,” Trump tweeted.
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