Rep. Adam Schiff speaks to reporters after Ambassador Gordon Sondland fails to appear on Tuesday
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland was originally slated to appear before the House impeachment inquiry on Tuesday, but just after midnight, Sondland received a telephone call from the State Department ordering him not to appear. On Friday, after the issuance of a subpoena, Sondland has agreed to appear, with his testimony slated for Oct. 17.
That initial testimony would have been voluntary, and Sondland had offered to come in. But the ambassador’s extensive knowledge of the events in Ukraine made Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo anxious to close down his testimony. Soon after the inquiry committees were told that Sondland would not appear, the White House issued a letter declaring that Trump would not cooperate with the inquiry. The chairmen of the three committees involved in the inquiry issued a statement directly describing the action from the White House, and the order for Sondland not to appear, as “obstruction of the impeachment inquiry”—which was itself one of the impeachment charges against Richard Nixon.
Sondland, a hotel magnate who became ambassador through the usual route—he gave Trump $1 million for his sparsely attended inaugural “celebration”—became a focus of public attention after a series of texts were released showing that he played a central role in Ukraine. He both spoke to Ukrainian officials to set up Trump’s phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky, and was also involved in making sure that those officials were aware of Trump’s desire for a trumped-up investigation into Joe Biden.
In particular, Sondland is sure to be asked about his exchanges with U. S. Charge d’Affaires William Taylor.
Taylor: Are we now saying that security assistance and White House meetings are conditioned on investigations?
Sondland: Call me.
What Sondland said to Taylor, what he said to Ukrainian officials, and his instructions from both Trump and Pompeo, are sure to form the nexus of his testimony.