Washington, 09 Oct 2019: The White House on Tuesday blocked a top US diplomat from speaking to US Congress as part of the impeachment investigation of Donald Trump, dramatically escalating the battle with Democrats over his presidency.
Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland had voluntarily agreed to be deposed by House Democrats who were expected to press him about Trump's effort this year to pressure Ukraine into investigating a political rival Joe Biden, his lawyer said.
But "early this morning, the US Department of State directed (him) not to appear today for his scheduled transcribed interview," Sondland's attorney Robert Luskin said in a statement.
While the lawyer pointed to State, Trump swiftly owned the decision, telling followers on Twitter that he would "love" to have sent Sondland to sit for a Capitol Hill deposition.
"But unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican's rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public to see," the president said.
The move, just hours before Sondland was to meet lawmakers, intensifies the confrontation between the White House and congressional Democrats investigating the president for possible impeachable offenses including obstruction of justice.
Democrats leading the probe have repeatedly stated that administration efforts to impede the investigation will be construed as obstruction. They hammered the point home Tuesday after the White House blockage.