Donald Trump on Tuesday insisted that lawmakers will not hear from EU ambassador Gordon Sondland in the impeachment inquiry.
“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”, the president said, in a tweet, before insisting that “Republican’s [sic] rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public”.
To be clear, this is evidence of obstruction and will be treated as such by House Democrats. Sondland, a Trump donor, was instrumental in pushing the president’s agenda in Ukraine. He featured heavily in the whistle-blower complaint and in a series of laughably incriminating text messages turned over to Congress by former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker last week.
Those texts include an exchange between Volker, Sondland and Bill Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, during which Taylor said this: “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign”.
After speaking to the White House, Sondland tried to do some damage control. “Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s”, he texted to Taylor, nearly five hours later.
There was nothing “crystal clear” about Trump’s intentions, unless you mean it the other way around – that is, most people involved “clearly” believed there was, in fact, a quid pro quo.
In another exchange, from September 1, Taylor asks Sondland “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigation?”
“Call me”, Sondland responds.
It doesn’t get much worse than that for the president. Other exchanges show Volker and Sondland working to draft a statement for Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky that would have committed the country to pursuing investigations of Trump’s political rivals including, of course, Joe and Hunter Biden.
On Tuesday morning, prior to Trump’s tweets, reports indicated Mike Pompeo’s state department had ordered Sondland not to appear before Congress.
His lawyer said he has no choice but to comply with Pompeo’s directive.
Adam Schiff, who was, as of Tuesday morning, drafting a subpoena for Sondland’s testimony, said the administration’s failure to deliver the ambassador is obstruction.