Democrats swiftly condemned a move by the Trump administration Tuesday to block a planned deposition by Gordon Sondland, a key figure in the Ukraine controversy, as a new Washington Post-Schar School poll showed public opinion has shifted quickly against President Trump, with a majority of Americans now saying they endorse an impeachment inquiry.
The latest developments come as House Democrats weigh extraordinary steps to secure testimony from a whistleblower whose complaint centered on Trump’s July call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky that sparked the inquiry.
Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, was scheduled to be deposed by three committees at 9:30 a.m. about his activities as lawmakers seek to learn more about Trump pressing Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden at a time when U.S. military assistance had been suspended.
●House Democrats consider masking identity of whistleblower from Trump’s GOP allies in Congress.
●Demoralized State Department personnel question Pompeo’s role in Ukraine crisis.
●Melania Trump seems unfazed by her husband’s possible impeachment.
9:25 a.m.: Trump says Sondland would have faced a ‘kangaroo court’
Trump said blocking Sondland’s appearance was justified because he was scheduled to be deposed by “a totally compromised kangaroo court.”
“I would love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and great American, to testify, 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,” Trump said in a tweet.
9:10 a.m.: State Dept. order to Sondland draws condemnation from Democrats
The State Department’s move to block Sondland from appearing before congressional committees on Tuesday drew swift condemnation from Democrats.
“This is part of the obstructionism of the White House that has been taking place since the beginning of the year,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), a Judiciary Committee member, said in an interview. “We have a lawless, runaway executive branch of government, and the president has ordered wholesale defiance of the lawful demands of Congress.”
Raskin said that the administration’s actions “can be reduced to an article of impeachment.”
“In a certain sense they are digging their own impeachment pit if they thumb their nose at the people’s representatives,” Raskin said.
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said blocking Sondland amounted to “obstruction.”
“Sondland is a key witness to the President’s attempts to seek campaign interference from Ukraine,” he said in a tweet. “The President is obviously terrified of what Sondland might tell Congress.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said the Trump administration’s move showed “consciousness of guilt.”
“An innocent president allows his team to be interviewed. But a guilty one blocks testimony,” Swalwell tweeted.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) planned to address reporters about the issue at 9:30 a.m.
— Mike DeBonis
8:50 a.m.: White House blocks Sondland deposition
The Trump administration on Tuesday blocked a planned deposition by Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, who has emerged as a central figure in the impeachment inquiry.
Sondland was scheduled to be deposed by lawmakers about his activities as Trump urged Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter.
Text messages made public last week show that Sondland, whose portfolio does not include U.S.-Ukraine relations, inserted himself into the effort to obtain a commitment from Ukraine to launch the investigations. At the time, the government in Kiev was eagerly awaiting the release of nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid and the arrangement of a face-to-face meeting between Trump and Zelensky.
In one text message, Sondland wrote that Trump “really wants the deliverable,” apparently referring to a clear demonstration from Ukraine that it would undertake the investigations.
Sondland worked closely with Kurt Volker, the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, to shape U.S. foreign policy around Trump’s desire to investigate Hunter Biden, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, as well as an unsubstantiated theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 presidential election to undermine Trump’s candidacy.
Read more here.
— Shane Harris
7:45 a.m.: Murphy seeks to simplify the case for impeachment
With Republicans laboring to undermine the impeachment inquiry, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) sought to simplify the storyline on Tuesday.
“Morning all,” Murphy wrote in a morning tweet. “1. The President tried to conspire with a foreign country to destroy his political opponents. 2. He sent out a transcript verifying this. 3. His aide released text messages detailing the conspiracy. 4. This isn’t allowed in a democracy. Have a great day.”
7:15 a.m.: Leading Republicans resurrect May video of Rep. Al Green
Leading Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), have resurrected a video clip of Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) expressing concerns that Trump will be reelected if he’s not impeached.
In a tweet on Monday night, McCarthy shared the video from an appearance by Green on MSNBC, quoting him saying, “I’m concerned that if we don’t impeach this president, he will get reelected.”
“Here’s what it looks like when Democrats are being honest,” McCarthy wrote.
McCarthy made no mention of the fact that the clip was from May, long before the controversy over Trump’s call with Zelensky ignited.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway also shared the video clip of Green on Twitter on Tuesday morning.
Green has been an advocate of Trump’s impeachment since 2017.
6 a.m.: In new poll, majority of Americans say they endorse opening of House impeachment inquiry of Trump
A majority of Americans say they endorse the decision by House Democrats to begin an impeachment inquiry of Trump, and nearly half of all adults also say the House should take the additional step and recommend that the president be removed from office, according to a poll.
The findings in the Washington Post-Schar School poll indicate that public opinion has shifted quickly against the president and in favor of impeachment proceedings in recent weeks as information has been released about Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian government officials to undertake an investigation into Biden, a potential 2020 campaign rival, and Biden’s son Hunter.
Previous Post-Schar School or Post-ABC News polls taken at different points throughout this year found majorities of Americans opposing the start of an impeachment proceeding, with 37 percent to 41 percent saying they favored such a step. The recent revelations appear to have prompted many Americans to rethink their position.
Read more here.
— Dan Balz and Scott Clement
5 a.m.: Trump continues push for Schiff to be ‘Impeached!’
Amid a spate of tweets and retweets that continued past midnight, Trump renewed his call for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) to be removed from office.
In one tweet, Trump shared a video of House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) saying he supports a resolution censuring Schiff for his handling of the impeachment inquiry.
Trump and other Republicans have seized on an opening statement by Schiff at a hearing in which he provided an embellished version of Trump’s call with Zelensky. Schiff later said his statement was partly parody and that Trump should have recognized that.
“Adam should be Impeached!” Trump wrote in his tweet.
While House members can be expelled from the chamber, they cannot be impeached.