U.S. ambassador to EU will defy State Dept. and testify for House panels

Three days after State Department officials, in a post-midnight phone call, ordered Gordon Sondland, a central player in the Ukraine controversy, not to testify in the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump, his lawyer said on Friday that he will appear before Congress next week.

“Notwithstanding the State Department’s current direction to not testify, Ambassador Sondland will honor the Committees’ subpoena, and he looks forward to testifying next Thursday,” Robert Luskin, Sondland’s attorney, said in a statement.

Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, had been called to testify in private before three House committees on Tuesday, but the State Department directed him not to show up. Luskin told Yahoo News that Sondland got the order from a State Department official in a phone call at 12:30 a.m. on the morning he was scheduled to appear.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff blasted the Trump administration for blocking Sondland’s testimony, saying that Sondland had turned over to the State Department text messages or emails “deeply relevant” to the investigation, but that the department had refused to provide them to Congress.

In his statement Friday, Luskin said that his client cannot turn over those documents under federal law.

“The State Department has sole authority to produce such documents, and Ambassador Sondland hopes the materials will be shared with the Committees in advance of his Thursday testimony.”

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