- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2019

House Democrats are set to subpoena U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland after the Trump administration blocked his testimony Tuesday.

The chairmen of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees announced their intentions in a statement while accusing the State Department of defying another subpoena for documents related to the Ukraine controversy by withholding key text messages that Mr. Sondland had on a personal device.

“These actions appear to be part of the White House’s effort to obstruct the impeachment inquiry and to cover up President Trump’s misconduct from Congress and the American people. Ambassador Sondland’s testimony and documents are vital, and that is precisely why the administration is now blocking his testimony and withholding his documents,” they wrote.

The intelligence committee’s work in investigating the whistleblower allegations — that President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate 2020 Democratic presidential front-runner Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter — has become the central point of the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

Earlier Tuesday morning, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff slammed the administration’s decision.

“The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these documents, we consider yet additional strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress,” Mr. Schiff told reporters.

Last week, the Democrats repeatedly warned that any further stonewalling would not only be more evidence of obstruction of justice — an impeachable offense — but also allow them to conclude that the withheld information would corroborate the allegations in the whistleblower report.

Neither Mr. Schiff nor the committee chairmen’s letter referenced their earlier threat.

But Rep. David Cicilline, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday’s block by the Trump administration was proof the Congress needed to invoke its long-dormant inherent contempt powers.

“Real, punitive consequences will stop this obstruction,” the Rhode Island Democrat tweeted.

Republicans, however, accused Mr. Schiff of misleading the American public.

They defended the administration’s decision to refuse Congress, accusing the Democrats of orchestrating a “kangaroo court.”

“We understand the reason why the State Department decided not to have Ambassador Sondland appear today. It’s based on the unfair and partisan process that Mr. Schiff has been running,” Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan said.

Republicans demanded that Democrats release to the public the full testimony of former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, who met behind closed doors with lawmakers last week, arguing that without it, Americans are getting a sliver of the story.

“[Schiff] won’t because it destroys his narrative. It undercuts it. It blows it up,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin, New York Republican.

Mr. Sondland has emerged as a prominent figure in the Ukraine controversy, appearing in text messages released by Democrats discussing the delay on military aid to Ukraine and working with Mr. Volker to get a commitment from the Ukrainians to open an investigation into the Bidens.

Republicans also are demanding that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suspend the inquiry until the House holds a formal vote to authorize and establish equal power between the parties.

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