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Ambassador to Testify Before Congress  10/14 06:26

   A U.S. ambassador is expected to tell Congress that his text message 
reassuring another envoy that there was no quid pro quo in their interactions 
with Ukraine was based solely on what President Donald Trump told him, 
according to a person familiar with his coming testimony in the impeachment 
probe.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- A U.S. ambassador is expected to tell Congress that his 
text message reassuring another envoy that there was no quid pro quo in their 
interactions with Ukraine was based solely on what President Donald Trump told 
him, according to a person familiar with his coming testimony in the 
impeachment probe.

   Gordon Sondland, Trump's hand-picked ambassador to the European Union, is 
among administration officials being subpoenaed to appear on Capitol Hill this 
week against the wishes of the White House. It's the latest test between the 
legislative and executive branches of government, as the impeachment inquiry by 
House Democrats deepens.

   On Monday, the House panels leading the investigation expect to hear from 
Fiona Hill, a former top National Security Council expert on Russia.

   Sondland's appearance, set for Thursday, comes after a cache of text 
messages from top envoys provided a vivid account of their work acting as 
intermediaries around the time Trump urged Ukraine's new president, Volodymr 
Zelenskiy, to start investigations into a company linked to the family of a 
chief Democratic presidential rival, Joe Biden.

   One witness who may not be called before Congress is the still anonymous 
government whistleblower who touched off the impeachment inquiry. Top Democrats 
say testimony and evidence coming in from other witnesses, and even the 
president himself, are backing up the whistleblower's account of what 
transpired during Trump's July 25 phone call with Zelenskiy. Lawmakers have 
grown deeply concerned about protecting the person from Trump's threats over 
the matter and may not wish to risk exposing the whistleblower's identity.

   Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, 
said Sunday, "We don't need the whistleblower, who wasn't on the call, to tell 
us what took place during the call. We have the best evidence of that."

   Schiff said it "may not be necessary" to reveal the whistleblower's identity 
as the House gathers evidence. "Our primary interest right now is making sure 
that that person is protected," he said.

   The impeachment inquiry is testing the Constitution's system of checks and 
balances as the House presses forward with the probe and the White House 
dismisses it as "illegitimate" without a formal vote of the House to open 
impeachment proceedings.

   In calling for a vote, the White House is trying to press House Democrats 
who may be politically reluctant to put their names formally behind 
impeachment. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has resisted those 
efforts and is unlikely to budge as Congress returns. Democrats say Congress is 
well within its power as the legislative branch to conduct oversight of the 
president and it is Republicans, having grown weary of Trump's actions, who may 
be in the greater political bind over a vote.

   Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said Sunday he'd be fine with taking a formal vote, 
"but it's not required."

   "Look, my own opinion is that we ought to just take this off the table 
because it's such a non-issue, and there's no doubt in my mind that of course 
if Nancy Pelosi does that she will have the votes and that will pass," Himes 
said.

   Sondland's appearance comes after text messages from top ambassadors 
described their interactions leading up to Trump's call and the aftermath.

   Sondland is set to tell lawmakers that he did understand the administration 
was offering Zelenskiy a White House visit in exchange for a public statement 
committing to investigations Trump wanted, according to the person, who 
demanded anonymity to discuss remarks not yet given.

   But Sondland will say he did not know the company being talked about for an 
investigation, Burisma, was tied to Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, the person 
said. Sondland understood the discussions about combating corruption to be part 
of a much broader and publicized Trump administration push that was widely 
shared, the person said.

   In the text exchange, the diplomats raised alarm that Trump appeared to up 
the ante, withholding military aid to Ukraine over the investigation.

   One seasoned diplomat on the text message, William Taylor, called it "crazy 
to withhold security assistance" to Ukraine in exchange for "help with a 
political campaign."

   Sondland responds that the assertion is "incorrect" about Trump's 
intentions. "The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo's of any 
kind," he said in the text message.

   The person familiar with Sondland's testimony said that before Sondland sent 
that text, he spoke to Trump, who told him there was no quid pro quo. Sondland 
then repeated that message to Taylor.

   Schiff appeared on "Face the Nation" on CBS and Himes spoke on ABC's "This 
Week."


(KR)

 
 
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