White House rules out cooperation in impeachment probe
White House rules out cooperation in impeachment probe
Impeachment inquiry: Trump administration blocks US envoy Sondland's testimony
09 October, 2019, 18:24
The letter comes the same day Trump intensified his fight with Congress by blockingGordon Sondland, the U.S. European Union ambassador, from testifying behind closed doors about the president's dealings with Ukraine.
Three House committees are demanding that Sondland appear at a deposition October 16. "In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch, and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his Administration can not participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances", Cipollone wrote in the letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Intel Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), House Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel (D-NY) and House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
The impeachment inquiry is focused on a whistleblower's allegations that Trump used almost $400 million in United States military aid to secure a promise from Ukrainian President Vlodomyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, who leads the field of his potential challengers, and his son, Hunter.
"There shouldn't be a situation where you can have a primary witness, an accuser in an impeachment inquiry, and the president never able to know who the accuser is and never able to cross examine him", said the senior administration official.
"There is no valid basis to withhold documents from the committees by relying on instructions from Secretary Pompeo, who is a fact witness in this inquiry and who is now defying his own duly issued subpoena for documents - particularly if the Department's goal is to block the committees from gaining access to your documents prior to your testimony".
The committee chairmen said earlier Tuesday that they had learned Sondland also had messages on a personal device that the State Department is withholding from Congress. The use of the personal device, they warned, makes it appear that Sondland failed to comply with rules requiring that federal employees use official accounts for government business.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-California, said Sondland had taken part in conversations regarding military aid to Ukraine, along with Trump's request that Ukraine investigate the Biden family.
"Unlike Ambassador Volker, however, you have refused to produce to the committees these highly relevant documents from your non-official electronic messaging systems", they wrote.
"He stands ready to testify on short notice, whenever he is permitted to appear", Sondland's lawyer, Robert Luskin, said in a statement.
Former federal prosecutor and current CNN legal analyst Renato Mariotti urged House Democrats not get bogged down on the administration obstructing the process.
Another whistleblower has come forward making allegations about Trump's tax returns, according to The Washington Post, claiming that there were "inappropriate efforts to influence" the IRS auditing the president's finances.
"Mr. President, you are not above the law".
Sondland has been a key figure in the widening Ukraine scandal involving the president, members of his Cabinet and high-ranking diplomats. "I suggest we stop the back and forth by text", Sondland wrote. It's clear from the letter that the White House believes taking an aggressive posture toward a co-equal branch of government is advantageous against the widening probe.
"I think [Trump] really wants the deliverable", Sondland wrote.
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