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U.S. envoy to testify in impeachment probe, against State Dept order

11 October 2019

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland confirmed through his attorney that he will appear to testify before House committees steering the impeachment inquiry after the State Department blocked his deposition earlier this week. "By federal law and regulation, the State Department has sole authority to produce such documents, and he hopes the materials will be shared with the Committees in advance of his Thursday testimony", the statement read.

Marie Yovanovitch was apparently removed from her post as USA ambassador to Ukraine after she told Giuliani that he should use official governmental channels to relay his investigation requests, the Associated Press reported, citing an ex-diplomat who spoke to Yovanovitch about the issue.

Bill Taylor, the longtime State Department official who mildly opposed USA diplomats' efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden was asked to testify as part of the House impeachment inquiries.

According to media reports, Trump took the action after complaints by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others that Yovanovitch had obstructed Giuliani's efforts to persuade Ukraine to investigate former US vice-president Joe Biden. On Friday morning, however, Sondland's lawyer issued a statement saying Sondland would appear after all on October 17. "He has no agenda apart from answering the Committees' questions fully and truthfully", they added.

The career diplomat was recalled from her post in May after criticism from some Republicans, including Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, that she was not supportive of the administration's policies.

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She is "a top-notch diplomat, careful, meticulous, whip smart", and unlikely to have badmouthed Trump, either to Ukrainian officials or her colleagues, said John Herbst, a predecessor as ambassador in Ukraine who worked alongside Yovanovitch there in the early 2000s.

On Monday, Fiona Hill, a former White House adviser who focused on Russian Federation, is expected to testify. She is expected to face questions about her knowledge, if any, of the Ukraine episode.

She was born in Montreal to Russian parents, her family moving to the USA a few years later.

President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy looks on during a meeting in NY on September 25, 2019, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Text messages between Volker and Sonland suggest that State Department officials were working at the behest of the White House to coordinate investigations into Hunter Biden's business dealings.

President Trump, despite admitting that he wanted the Bidens investigated, has said he did nothing wrong.

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Those former officials close to the former ambassador suggested that if Taylor were made to choose between staying on to guide United States policy as charge d'affaires in Kiev - a post he came out of retirement to take - or resigning to be able to testify, he would choose the former.

In a July 25 call, Trump told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that Yovanovitch was "bad news", according to a partial transcript released by the White House.

Democrats have called her removal politically motivated. He said he'd been directed by the state department to not speak to the committees.

Sondland was originally scheduled for a deposition this past Tuesday but did not show up. To date, there has been no response.

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U.S. envoy to testify in impeachment probe, against State Dept order