The government of Donald Trump on Tuesday blocked a key testimony in the political trial investigation of the US Congress, in a new escalation in the confrontation between the Democrats who control the lower house and the Republican Executive.
The State Department prevented the appearance of the United States ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, a decision defended by Trump himself, who described the legislative process with a view to his dismissal of "operetta court."RELATED
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"I would love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and a great American, to give his testimony, but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally partial operetta court," the president tweeted.
Trump is accused of trying to get help from Ukraine to get incriminating information about former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, the best-positioned candidate to challenge him for re-election next year. In the United States, requesting foreign aid in an election is illegal, whether incentives are offered or not.
White House hinders the process
The order to Sondland not to testify, communicated just hours before the meeting with lawmakers, only contributes to the argument that the White House is hampering the process to determine whether Trump committed contested crimes, lawmakers leading the investigation said.
Also read: President Donald Trump calls the political trial investigation against him "coup d'etat"
"We consider this interference to be an obstruction of the political trial investigation," they said in a statement, announcing that they will now formally cite Sondland to provide testimony and provide documents.
Since the president of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, formally launched the political trial procedures on September 24, lawmakers have issued multiple subpoenas demanding the delivery of files on the Ukrainian case, including diplomacy chief Mike Pompeo , to the White House and the Pentagon.
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But the Trump administration has resisted collaborating, accusing the Democrats of wanting to harm the president before the presidential elections in November 2020. The Democrats, however, have indicated that obstructing justice was one of the three reasons invoked in the Richard Nixon's impeachment process in 1974, before the Republican president ended up resigning.
Counteroffensive in the Senate
Sondland, a rich hotel entrepreneur and a major donor of the Trump campaign and investiture ceremony, had voluntarily agreed to give his testimony in the House of Representatives.
The ambassador traveled especially from Brussels for this appearance, but his lawyer, Robert Luskin, said that this morning from the State Department he was ordered not to appear. «Ambassador Sondland hopes that the problems (…) that prevent his testimony will be resolved quickly. He is ready to testify in the short term, as long as he is allowed, ”Lusikin said in a statement to the press.
Sondland is one of the US diplomats who participated in a chain of text messages delivered to Congress last week by the US special ex-envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker.
The exchanges, which also include Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and a Ukrainian presidential assistant, highlighted Washington's efforts to pressure Kiev to investigate Biden and his son Hunter for alleged corruption in business in Ukraine.
Trump and Zelenski meeting
The messages discuss an eventual meeting in the White House between Trump and the brand-new Ukrainian president Volodimir Zelenski in exchange for examining possible irregularities of the Biden. The delivery of US military aid also seems to be subject to that favor.
"We know that Ambassador Sondland has been a key player in the effort to achieve Ukraine's commitment to investigate a fallacious conspiracy theory regarding the (presidential) elections of 2016, as well as Joe Biden and his son," said Adam Schiff, one of the three Democratic lawmakers who conduct the political trial investigation.
Republicans who support Trump's call last week for Ukraine, and also China, to open investigations into the Biden with the pretext of eradicating corruption, launched a counteroffensive in the Senate, in which they are the majority. Lindsey Graham, a great ally of Trump in the upper house, announced his intention to invite Giuliani to testify about alleged cases of "corruption" in Ukraine.
«I'm tired of hearing only one side of the story. Now is the time to give voice to everything in Ukraine, ”Graham tweeted.