Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, was scheduled to testify this morning in a closed-door meeting of the joint U.S. House of Representatives committee investigating whether to impeach President Donald J. Trump.
After Sondland, who before accepting his appointment last year was the founder and CEO of Portland-based Provenance Hotels, returned from Europe to Washington, D.C.. But the State Department abruptly told him not to testify today.
That decision, according to a statement released this morning by Sondland's personal attorney, Jim McDermott, "profoundly disappointed" Sondland.
The decision also marks a shift in the Trump administration's approach to the Congressional investigation. Kurt D. Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine and another person involved in Trump's communication with that country, was allowed to provide testimony Oct. 3, according to the New York Times. Blocking access to Sondland and potentially other sources is likely to ratchet up tensions between Congressional Democrats and Trump's team.
Here is the statement McDermott provided:
Early this morning, the U.S. Department of State directed Ambassador Gordon Sondland not to appear today for his scheduled transcribed interview before the U.S. House of Representatives Joint Committee. Ambassador Sondland had previously agreed to appear voluntarily today, without the need for a subpoena, in order to answer the Committee's questions on an expedited basis. As the sitting U.S. Ambassador to the EU and employee of the State Department, Ambassador Sondland is required to follow the Department's direction.
Ambassador Sondland is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today. Ambassador Sondland traveled to Washington from Brussels in order to prepare for his testimony and to be available to answer the Committee's questions. Arrangements had already been made with Joint Committee staff regarding the logistics of his testimony. 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.
Ambassador Sondland hopes that the issues raised by the State Department that preclude his testimony will be resolved promptly. He stands ready to testify on short notice, whenever he is permitted to appear.