Two of New York's top congressmen turned up the heat in the ongoing impeachment investigation of President Trump on Tuesday, Oct. 8.
Earlier on Tuesday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham announced that he would invite Rudolph Giuliani, New York City's former mayor, to testify about Ukraine.
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, reacted on Twitter: "We welcome Mr. (Rudy) Giuliani testifying. Given the apparent depth of his involvement in the president’s effort to convince foreign governments to investigate a political rival, he must testify under oath."
Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said, "It is time for the Senate to inquire about corruption and other improprieties involving Ukraine," noting that his invitation was for Giuliani to "come before the Senate Judiciary Committee to inform the Committee of his concerns.”
Graham did not specify if the invitation was for Giuliani to meet privately with the committee and staff or to testify publicly.
In a related development on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, joined two other House committee chairmen in commenting on the latest White House refusal to provide key testimony and documents.
Engel, who represents parts of Westchester and the Bronx, said his Committee on Foreign Affairs issued a subpoena to Ambassador Gordon Sondland.
The U.S. ambassador to the European Union was scheduled to be interviewed by House committees earlier Tuesday as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry. But Sondland was ordered not to appear for his deposition by the State Department. Sondland was mentioned in the original whistleblower complaint and is a key witness to the Trump-Ukraine dealings.
Sondland's lawyer, Robert Luskin, said in the statement that the ambassador "is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today."
Sondland traveled from Brussels for the testimony and made arrangements with House committee staff to appear. Sondland "believes strongly that he acted at all times in the best interests of the United States" and remains ready to testify "on short notice," Luskin said.
Engel joined the chairmen of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Committee on Oversight and Reform in issuing this statement: “The House of Representatives is engaged in an impeachment inquiry to determine whether the President violated his oath of office and endangered our national security by pressing Ukraine to launch sham investigations to assist his personal and political interests rather than the interests of the American people. Today, the White House has once again attempted to impede and obstruct the impeachment inquiry.
“This morning, we learned from Ambassador Sondland’s personal attorneys that the State Department left a voicemail last night at 12:30 a.m. informing them that the Trump Administration would not allow the Ambassador to appear today as part of the House’s impeachment inquiry.
“In addition, Ambassador Sondland’s attorneys have informed us that the Ambassador has recovered communications from his personal devices that the Committees requested prior to his interview today. He has turned them over to the State Department, however, and the State Department is withholding them from the Committees, in defiance of our subpoena to Secretary (Mike) Pompeo.
“These actions appear to be part of the White House’s effort to obstruct the impeachment inquiry and to cover up President Trump’s misconduct from Congress and the American people. . ." said Engel and the other chairmen said, adding: “We consider this interference to be obstruction of the impeachment inquiry."
The House committee chairmen said they will be issuing a subpoena to Sondland for both his testimony and documents.
A call record of President Trump’s July 25 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky indicates that Trump pressed Ukraine to initiate investigations to benefit him personally and politically.
Text messages among senior State Department officials put Sondland at the center of efforts to extract from the Ukrainians a pledge to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden and debunked conspiracy theories concerning the 2016 election in exchange for a White House visit the Ukrainian president desperately sought.
Sondland routinely spoke to the president and had conversations with both Trump and Zelensky before and after the July 25 call, noting in a July 26 TV interview that he spoke to the president “a few minutes before” Trump made the July 25 phone call.
New York congressmen Sean Patrick Maloney of Cold Spring and Anthony DelGado of Rhinebeck also are playing a role in the ongoing impeachment inquiry as members of the House Intelligence Committee.