White House Blocks Sondland Testimony, Signaling Plan to Stonewall Impeachment Inquiry – The New York Times
Text messages provided to Congress last week showed that Mr. Sondland and another senior diplomat had worked on language for a statement they wanted the Ukrainian president to put out in August that would have committed him to the investigations sought by Mr. Trump. The diplomats consulted with Mr. Giuliani about the statement, believing they needed to pacify him in order to allow the United States to normalize relations with the Ukrainians.
Mr. Sondland was also involved in a back-and-forth with top American diplomats to Ukraine over text last month that suggests some senior State Department officials believed that Mr. Trump may have been holding up the security aid as leverage for getting its leaders to conduct the investigations Mr. Trump wanted.
“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” William B. Taylor Jr., a top American official in Ukraine, wrote in one exchange in early September.
After receiving the text, Mr. Sondland called Mr. Trump, who asserted it was false.
“Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions,” Mr. Sondland wrote in the messages. “The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind.”
Mr. Sondland added: “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text.”
There have been conflicting accounts of Mr. Sondland’s views, however. Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, told The Wall Street Journal last week that Mr. Sondland had told him in August that the release of the aid was contingent upon Ukraine opening the investigations. Mr. Johnson said he was alarmed and asked Mr. Trump if there was a quid pro quo involved. The president adamantly denied it, he said.
Robert D. Luskin, Mr. Sondland’s lawyer, said in a statement that as a State Department employee, his client had no choice but to comply with the administration’s direction. He said Mr. Sondland was “profoundly disappointed” he was not able to testify, and would do so in the future if allowed.
“Ambassador Sondland believes strongly that he acted at all times in the best interests of the United States, and he stands ready to answer the committee’s questions fully and truthfully,” Mr. Luskin said.