Schiff Avoids Press Questions After Deeming Trump Blocking Sondland Testimony ‘Obstruction’
WASHINGTON, DC — Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) avoided questions from reporters Tuesday after he delivered a statement about U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to block an ambassador from testifying. As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Schiff is leading the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. He walked away as reporters fired off questions.
Hours before the U.S. European Union Amb. Gordon Sondland was scheduled to testify on Tuesday, the Trump administration directed the top diplomat not to appear.
Sondland was expected to testify before the Democrat-led House Committees on Oversight and Reform, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs pursuing the impeachment investigation.
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Schiff blasted the decision to prevent Sondland’s testimony from taking place as “obstruction” to his impeachment quest.
“The failure to produce this witness, the failure to produce these [impeachment inquiry-related] documents we consider yet additional, strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress, a co-equal branch of government,” he said.
House Democrats will likely attempt to pass articles of impeachment against Trump for alleged obstruction of justice, among other things.
Referring to Trump’s decision to block Sondland’s testimony, Schiff stressed:
We will consider this act today … as well as the withholding of the ambassador’s documents as well as efforts that may been made to discourage or having the effect of discouraging other State Department witnesses from coming forward and testifying as they have agreed to, to be further acts of obstruction of a co-equal branch of government.
Echoing Trump, Republicans told reporters Tuesday that the reason the administration is preventing Sondland from testifying is that the impeachment inquiry process is unfair.
Republican members of those panels, who took questions from the press, spoke with reporters about Sondland after Schiff on Tuesday.
Rep. Jim Jordan from Ohio, the top Republican on the oversight and reform panel, explained:
The reason why the State Department decided not to have Amb. Sondland here today is based on the unfair and partisan process that Mr. Schiff has been running.
The way [Schiff] treated … [former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt] Volker in his interview last week, that treatment is the reason why the administration — the State Department — said we’re not going to subject Amb. Sondland to the same treatment.
Look we were actually looking forward to hearing from Amb. Sondland. We thought he was going to reinforce exactly what Amb. Volker told us last week.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also defended the Trump administration’s decision to block Sondland from testifying.
He dismissed the committees pursuing the impeachment investigation as a “kangaroo court.”
Zeldin told reporters:
As far as the administration goes, if they don’t want to send Amb. Sondland here because this is a kangaroo court, because there has not been a vote once on impeachment inquiry, because minority does not have any rights for subpoenas, because the president doesn’t have the right to … ask questions, subpoena power, to present evidence. This entire thing is a political charade. It’s a clown show.
In a text message from Sondland, the ambassador clearly said there was “no quid pro quo of any kind” between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Last week, Volker provided a series of texts to the House committees conducting the impeachment investigation.
Rep. Jordan noted that House Democrats cherry-picked and mischaracterized the texts to advance their impeachment agenda, making it seem like Volker provided self-damaging evidence.
In written testimony, Volker explicitly said he provided the texts as evidence that the Trump administration did not bully Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden and his son.
Nevertheless, the Democrats and the liberal mainstream media used the texts to argue the complete opposite.
Jordan and other Republicans who witnessed Volker’s interview firsthand have demanded that Democrats release the full transcript of the former envoy’s testimony.
An intelligence community “whistleblower” claimed that Trump attempted to pressure Ukraine into investigating former Biden and his son by withholding foreign aid during a July 25 phone call with the Eastern European country’s president.
The allegation triggered the impeachment inquiry late last month.
Trump denies the claims. During the call, Trump urged Zelensky to investigate the former vice president and his son’s link to suspected criminal Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of energy company Burisma Holdings.