October 11, 2019

Trump’s Stonewalling on Impeachment Shows Cracks With Testimony
(Bloomberg) -- Three days after the White House said it was going to block all cooperation with the House impeachment inquiry, one State Department official testified and another plans to.Their appearances raise questions about whether the Trump administration may back down from its threat to stonewall House Democrats’ request for testimony and documents, or whether the White House is being selective in how it proceeds.On Oct. 17, the committees will hear from a witness Republican lawmakers expect will be friendly to the president: Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union who donated more than $1 million to Trump’s inauguration.On Friday, three House panels heard testimony damaging to Trump from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who said in a closed-door session that she was removed from the post “under pressure” from Trump and a “concerted campaign” against her.Yovanovitch still works in the State Department, and the Democratic chairmen of the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees said Friday the department “at the direction of the White House” directed her “not to appear for her voluntary interview.” They said the Intelligence panel responded by issuing a subpoena to compel her to testify.No-Cooperation StanceThe Trump administration had set out what appeared to be an unyielding no-cooperation stance in a letter Tuesday from White House Counsel Pat Cipollone to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the three chairmen of the committees leading the impeachment inquiry.He rejected what he said were “legally unsupported demands made as part of what you have labeled -- contrary to the Constitution of the United States and all past bipartisan precedent -- as an ‘impeachment inquiry.’”The Democratic chairmen said in their statement Friday that “any efforts by Trump administration officials to prevent witness cooperation with the committees will be deemed obstruction of a co-equal branch of government.”The White House declined to comment on Friday’s testimony.Matthew Whitaker, a former acting attorney general in the Trump administration, told Fox News on Friday that the White House may have decided that trying to prevent Yovanovitch from testifying would be too bruising.“From what I can tell, they determined that the fight to keep her from testifying wasn’t worth it,” Whitaker said. “I would expect that this is part of a strategy they’ve adopted to pick the right fights and fight the right battles to ultimately win the overall war.”The testimony by Yovanovitch and Sondland gives lawmakers a chance to question two key figures in the impeachment inquiry, which is focused on Trump’s July call with Ukraine’s president, and his suggestion to investigate a political rival, Democrat Joe Biden.Left unsaid by the White House is whether the administration will cooperate with the House inquiry under pressure from subpoenas -- or when it expects that the results are likely to help the president.Impeachment SupportPolls show rising support for full impeachment proceedings against Trump, who has said he did nothing wrong and publicly repeated some of the things he was accused of doing on the private call.Yovanovitch said in her opening statement that she was targeted by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.“I do not know Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me,” she said. “But individuals who have been named in the press as contacts of Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”She said the idea she was disloyal to Trump is “fictitious.”“I have heard the allegation in the media that I supposedly told the embassy team to ignore the President’s orders ‘since he was going to be impeached,’” she said. “That allegation is false.”While Sondland has indicated he will testify, he said he doesn’t have the power to provide documents sought by Congress because they are under the control of the State Department.To contact the reporters on this story: Josh Wingrove in Washington at jwingrove4@bloomberg.net;Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.net;Erik Wasson in Washington at ewasson@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Kevin Whitelaw at kwhitelaw@bloomberg.net, Justin Blum, Larry LiebertFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
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