Sondland pressed on why Trump has blocked witnesses: 'I wish I could answer'

During his testimony Wednesday before the House Intelligence Committee, Gordon Sondland was pressed on why so many members of the Trump administration, including the president himself, were refusing to testify in the impeachment inquiry.

“I wish I could answer,” responded Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

His remark came at the end of an exchange with Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., who read from Sondland’s opening statement. “You said, ‘As you know, I have already provided 10 hours of deposition testimony. I did so despite directives from the White House and the State Department that I refuse to appear as many others have done. I agreed to testify because I respect the gravity of the moment. And I believe I have an obligation to account fully for my role in these events.’”

“By ‘obligation,’ you mean simply your legal obligation or did you mean something bigger?” Heck asked.

“Well, both my legal obligation and my moral obligation,” Sondland replied.

“Your moral obligation,” Heck echoed before recounting how Sondland’s family had immigrated to the U.S., and the ambassador, a wealthy businessman, had successfully assimilated. “No doubt on some level you’re grateful and it has created a sense of patriotism in you. Is that fair to say?”

“Very fair,” Sondland said.

Heck then ticked off the members of the administration and Trump associates who have refused to testify in the impeachment inquiry, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney; former GOP Rep. Sean Duffy; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; former national security adviser John Bolton; Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget; and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

“Why then, sir, with your courage to come before us, does that same standard not apply to Mr. Mulvaney, Mr. Duffy, Mr. Pompeo, Mr. Bolton, Mr. Vought, Mr. Giuliani — why shouldn’t those same sentiments beat within their hearts to do their patriotic duty and do what you have done, sir? Indeed, why doesn’t that same standard apply to the president of the United States?”

Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via Reuters)

Throughout his testimony, Sondland noted that he was being prevented from reviewing State Department records on key conversations detailing the administration’s attempts to procure a Ukrainian investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden.

“Having access to the State Department materials would have been very helpful to me in trying to reconstruct with whom I spoke and met, when, and what was said,” Sondland testified, adding, “I am not a note taker. I am not a memo writer. Never have been.”

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