Monday, July 13, 2020

House Democrats Calling for Sondland's Resignation Amid Impeachment Inquiry

A dozen Democrats in the House are calling for U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland to step down amid the unfolding impeachment inquiry scandal linked to Ukraine.

The call came before House leaders subpoenaed Sondland after President Donald Trump blocked him from testifying at a deposition related to the impeachment probe that lawmakers had scheduled for Tuesday.

Echoing some Republican lawmakers, Trump argued the impeachment proceedings are illegitimate and akin to a “kangaroo court.”

Sondland was expected to testify Tuesday before the Democrat-led panels pursuing the impeachment inquiry. The House Committees on Oversight and Reform, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs are leading the investigation.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, described Trump’s move to prevent Sondland from testifying as “obstruction.”

NBC News surveyed all 235 Democrat members of the House about whether or nor Sondland should resign.

“Many of the lawmakers said they were withholding judgment until Sondland testifies Tuesday and urged him to fully cooperate with the committees, warning that failure to do so would amount to obstruction,” NBC News noted.

Overall, 12 members of the House Democratic Caucus called for Sondland’s resignation. More House Democrats likely came out in support of Sondland stepping down after he opted not to testify.

NBC News identified the Democrat representatives calling for Sondland’s resignation as Reps. Tim Ryan (OH), Lloyd Doggett (TX), Gerry Connolly (VA), Bennie Thompson (MS), Denny Heck (WA), Filemon Vela (TX), David Price (NC), Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J), Anthony Brown (MD), Dwight Evans (PA), Julia Brownley (CA) and Gwen Moore (WI).

On September 27, U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker resigned from his post amid the impeachment inquiry. This week, Volker also stepped down as the executive director of the McCain Institute.

Sondland and Volker got caught in the middle of the ongoing impeachment investigation.

The “whistleblower” report that triggered the impeachment inquiry mentions Sondland, saying he tried to help urge Ukraine to investigate Biden.

Both Volker and Sondland played a role in getting Ukraine to help with probes into corruption allegations linked to former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Volker explained to House leaders they were pushing Ukraine to investigate domestic energy company Burisma Holdings, not Biden.

“[A]t no time was I aware of or took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden,” Volker said.

His comments came in the form of written testimony prepared for his deposition last week.

As vice president, Biden pushed Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor in 2016, who was investigating the owner of Burisma, Mykola Zlochevsky.

At the time, Hunter was serving on the board of Burisma, prompting allegations of corruption.

Volker and Sondland also sought Ukraine’s help in investigating the Russian collusion hoax.

Sondland said in a text message that there was “no quid pro quo of any kind” between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The text message contradicts the “whistleblower” complaint that Trump threatened to withhold aid if Ukraine refused to investigate Biden and his son.

Volker provided a series of text messages to congressional investigators.

He described the communication exchange as evidence that the Trump administration did not coerce Ukraine into investigating the Bidens in exchange for aid, the claim behind the impeachment inquiry.

Nevertheless, the Democrats released what they described as a “subset” of the texts, arguing the complete opposite, saying Volker and Sondland helped bully Ukraine.

Edwin Mora

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