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As Democrats Threaten Subpoena for Sondland, Calls Grow for Contempt Order If He Refuses to Comply

The president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said Tuesday that members of the Trump administration do not intend to cooperate with the House's impeachment inquiry

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence Committee speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on October 08, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Schiff spoke on reports that the Trump administration has blocked the testimony of U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland in the House impeachment inquiry. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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."

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.

"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.

"The use of WhatsApp has raised questions about problems it poses for complying with federal record-keeping requirements," NBC reporter Geoff Bennett wrote.

Washington Post reporter Josh Dawsey tweeted shortly after the committees made their announcement that Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, indicated that no Trump officials will cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.
 
"The position I'm stating now is the position of the administration," Giuliani reportedly told Dawsey.

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.

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