Ambassador to Testify Before Congress 10/14 06:26
A U.S. ambassador is expected to tell Congress that his text message
reassuring another envoy that there was no quid pro quo in their interactions
with Ukraine was based solely on what President Donald Trump told him,
according to a person familiar with his coming testimony in the impeachment
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A U.S. ambassador is expected to tell Congress that his
text message reassuring another envoy that there was no quid pro quo in their
interactions with Ukraine was based solely on what President Donald Trump told
him, according to a person familiar with his coming testimony in the
Gordon Sondland, Trump's hand-picked ambassador to the European Union, is
among administration officials being subpoenaed to appear on Capitol Hill this
week against the wishes of the White House. It's the latest test between the
legislative and executive branches of government, as the impeachment inquiry by
House Democrats deepens.
On Monday, the House panels leading the investigation expect to hear from
Fiona Hill, a former top National Security Council expert on Russia.
Sondland's appearance, set for Thursday, comes after a cache of text
messages from top envoys provided a vivid account of their work acting as
intermediaries around the time Trump urged Ukraine's new president, Volodymr
Zelenskiy, to start investigations into a company linked to the family of a
chief Democratic presidential rival, Joe Biden.
One witness who may not be called before Congress is the still anonymous
government whistleblower who touched off the impeachment inquiry. Top Democrats
say testimony and evidence coming in from other witnesses, and even the
president himself, are backing up the whistleblower's account of what
transpired during Trump's July 25 phone call with Zelenskiy. Lawmakers have
grown deeply concerned about protecting the person from Trump's threats over
the matter and may not wish to risk exposing the whistleblower's identity.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee,
said Sunday, "We don't need the whistleblower, who wasn't on the call, to tell
us what took place during the call. We have the best evidence of that."
Schiff said it "may not be necessary" to reveal the whistleblower's identity
as the House gathers evidence. "Our primary interest right now is making sure
that that person is protected," he said.
The impeachment inquiry is testing the Constitution's system of checks and
balances as the House presses forward with the probe and the White House
dismisses it as "illegitimate" without a formal vote of the House to open
In calling for a vote, the White House is trying to press House Democrats
who may be politically reluctant to put their names formally behind
impeachment. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has resisted those
efforts and is unlikely to budge as Congress returns. Democrats say Congress is
well within its power as the legislative branch to conduct oversight of the
president and it is Republicans, having grown weary of Trump's actions, who may
be in the greater political bind over a vote.
Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said Sunday he'd be fine with taking a formal vote,
"but it's not required."
"Look, my own opinion is that we ought to just take this off the table
because it's such a non-issue, and there's no doubt in my mind that of course
if Nancy Pelosi does that she will have the votes and that will pass," Himes
Sondland's appearance comes after text messages from top ambassadors
described their interactions leading up to Trump's call and the aftermath.
Sondland is set to tell lawmakers that he did understand the administration
was offering Zelenskiy a White House visit in exchange for a public statement
committing to investigations Trump wanted, according to the person, who
demanded anonymity to discuss remarks not yet given.
But Sondland will say he did not know the company being talked about for an
investigation, Burisma, was tied to Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, the person
said. Sondland understood the discussions about combating corruption to be part
of a much broader and publicized Trump administration push that was widely
shared, the person said.
In the text exchange, the diplomats raised alarm that Trump appeared to up
the ante, withholding military aid to Ukraine over the investigation.
One seasoned diplomat on the text message, William Taylor, called it "crazy
to withhold security assistance" to Ukraine in exchange for "help with a
Sondland responds that the assertion is "incorrect" about Trump's
intentions. "The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo's of any
kind," he said in the text message.
The person familiar with Sondland's testimony said that before Sondland sent
that text, he spoke to Trump, who told him there was no quid pro quo. Sondland
then repeated that message to Taylor.
Schiff appeared on "Face the Nation" on CBS and Himes spoke on ABC's "This