WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the European Union has been subpoenaed to testify to a U.S. House investigators looking into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine as part of the impeachment inquiry, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday night.
Gordon Sondland had been scheduled to testify on Tuesday to the Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform committees, but was prevented from appearing by the State Department. The subpoena is for a closed-door session next Wednesday, according to the person, who was granted anonymity to discuss it.
Less than an hour before his deposition was supposed to begin on Tuesday, Robert Luskin, the lawyer representing him, informed the committees that the State Department instructed his client not to appear.
Sondland, a hotel executive who donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee, had come under increased scrutiny after Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, turned over text messages in his closed deposition last week that showed Sondland seeking to encourage Ukrainian officials to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
He said Sondland had agreed to appear willfully, not under subpoena, and “is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today,” but that “he stands ready to answer the committee’s questions fully and truthfully.”
Trump tweeted that he “would love” for Sondland 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.
On Tuesday, the White House said Trump and his administration wouldn’t participate in the House impeachment inquiry in a scathing letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling the proceedings unconstitutional and invalid.
Democrats are trying to establish what leverage Trump used to ask Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, now a political rival for the 2020 election.
Sondland’s testimony is a key part of the impeachment inquiry, given his role in the events that underpin the investigation. According to the whistle-blower complaint that sparked the process, “Ambassadors Volker and Sondland reportedly provided advice to the Ukrainian leadership about how to ‘navigate’ the demands that the president had made of Mr. Zelenskiy.”
The texts given to the committees last week also show that Sondland helped script a proposed announcement by Ukraine’s leader to say his government would investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. That announcement was never made.
The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, is scheduled to testify behind closed doors on Friday.
Axios reported earlier that Sondland had agreed to testify, but that could not be confirmed.
©2019 Bloomberg News
Visit Bloomberg News at www.bloomberg.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
PHOTO (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194):IMPEACHMENT-SONDLAND