UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY) — The Trump administration stepped up a showdown with Democrats in Congress on Tuesday by barring the US ambassador to the European Union from giving evidence as part of an investigation into the removal of President Donald Trump.
Ambassador Gordon Sundland has voluntarily agreed to testify before the House of Representatives, which was expected to question him over pressure Trump may have put on Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden.
“But early this morning, the State Department instructed him not to go to testify,” his lawyer Robert Luskin said.
While the lawyer said the State Department was behind the decision, Trump quickly took responsibility for it and told his followers on Twitter that he wanted to send Sunderland to appear before the House of Representatives. “But unfortunately, he would testify before a farce court where Republican rights are being taken away. People seeing honest truths.”
The move, which came hours before Sunderland testified, escalates the confrontation between the White House and Democrats investigating Trump’s possible irregularities, including impeachment of justice.
Democrats leading the investigation have repeatedly said the administration’s efforts to block the investigation would be seen as a hindrance to justice. They reiterated this point on Tuesday after the White House move.
“We consider not to allow this witness to be seen as further evidence of the obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress,” House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters.
Sunderland was one of several US diplomats whose name appeared on a series of text messages given to Democrats leading the investigation.
The letters between diplomats, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and an aide to the Ukrainian presidency show they have helped coordinate the administration’s efforts to press Ukraine to investigate Biden.
In their letters, the diplomats discussed the possibility of a summit between Trump and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelinsky on a pledge to investigate interference in the 2016 US presidential election and a company that employed Joe Biden’s son, who is contesting Trump for the presidency in the 2020 election.
Luskin said Sunderland, a wealthy hotel investor and main donor to the 2016 Trump presidential campaign, traveled from Brussels to Washington and was ready to testify.
“Ambassador Sundland really believes that he has always acted in the best interests of the United States and is ready to answer the Committee’s questions fully and honestly,” he said.
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