Three House committees on Tuesday announced their intention to subpoena Gordon Sondland, President Donald Trump's ambassador to the European Union, hours after the White House blocked Sondland from testifying.
Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said that Trump's refusal to allow Sondland to speak to their committees appeared "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."
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) October 8, 2019
Sondland also turned over electronic messages from his personal devices to the State Department, leading the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees to subpoena the documents.
NEW: Dems will be issuing a subpoena for Sondland testimony/docs.
State Dept left Sondland's attorneys a voicemail at 12:30 a.m. informing them that testimony would be blocked. Sondland also recovered relevant texts on his personal device, but turned them over to State, Dems say. pic.twitter.com/wOrnrjJstI
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) October 8, 2019
"Ambassador Sondland's testimony and documents are vital, and that is precisely why the administration is now blocking his testimony and withholding his documents," the congressmen said.
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NBC News reported after the committees made their announcement that Sondland, Ambassador William Taylor, and recently-resigned envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker communicated frequently via WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging app, about Ukraine and Trump's efforts to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.
— Josh Lederman (@JoshNBCNews) October 8, 2019
"The use of WhatsApp has raised questions about problems it poses for complying with federal record-keeping requirements," NBC reporter Geoff Bennett wrote.
Giuliani tells me he won't testify or give documents to impeachment hearings being led by Schiff & would welcome legal fight over contempt. Others won't cooperate either, he says. "The position I'm stating now is the position of the administration." https://t.co/koifkuDDSe
— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) October 8, 2019
Critics urged Democrats to take decisive action by holding the ambassador in contempt of court if he disobeys the subpoena—going beyond the symbolic votes taken after Attorney General William Barr, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and former White House counsel Don McGahn refused to testify before Congress earlier this year.
"Just one time... just once, I would like to see breaking news of someone refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena to be immediately followed by breaking news of their arrest for contempt," tweeted attorney and former House candidate Pam Keith.