World

Envoy barred from appearing in Trump probe

By AAP Newswire

The US State Department has barred the US ambassador to the European Union from appearing before the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Lawyer Robert Luskin said his client Gordon Sondland was "profoundly disappointed" that he would not be able to testify before the congressional investigation.

He added that "Ambassador Sondland travelled to Washington from Brussels in order to prepare for his testimony and to be available to answer the Committee's questions."

Sondland had been scheduled to be be grilled over the president's push to get Ukraine to investigate his Democrat rival Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Trump gave his version of why the envoy was blocked, tweeting on Tuesday that "I would love to send Ambassador Sondland" to testify, "but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court".

In response, three Democratic House chairmen say they will issue a subpoena to Sondland for his testimony and communications on his personal devices that have not been turned over.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings insisted they consider Sondland's Tuesday morning no-show "to be obstruction of the impeachment inquiry".

Text messages released by House Democrats show Sondland working with another of Trump's envoys to get Ukraine to agree to investigate any potential interference in the 2016 US election and also probe the energy company that appointed Biden's son Hunter to its board.

In exchange, US officials dangled the offer of a Washington meeting with Trump for Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden or his son.

The messages also show Sondland trying to reassure a third diplomat that their actions were appropriate, but that they should take precautions by limiting their text messages.