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Trump administration blocks ambassador's testimony, a key witness in Ukraine scandal

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President Trump, joined by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, in Brussels, Belgium.
President Trump, joined by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, in Brussels, Belgium.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Updated 9:36 a.m. ET

The Trump administration has blocked Gordon Sondland, President Trump's ambassador to the European Union, from testifying before Congress Tuesday.

Sondland has been a key figure in the widening Ukraine scandal involving the president, members of his Cabinet and high-ranking diplomats.

"Early this morning, the U.S. Department of State directed Ambassador Gordon Sondland not to appear today for his scheduled transcribed interview before the U.S. House of Representatives Joint Committee," the law firm representing Sondland said in a statement. "Ambassador Sondland had previously agreed to appear voluntarily today, without the need for a subpoena, in order to answer the Committee's questions on an expedited basis. As the sitting U.S. Ambassador to the EU and employee of the State Department, Ambassador Sondland is required to follow the Department's direction."

The statement described Sondland as "profoundly disappointed" and noted that he traveled from Brussels to Washington for the testimony and to prepare.

"Ambassador Sondland believes strongly that he acted at all times in the best interests of the United States, and he stands ready to answer the Committee's questions fully and truthfully," the statement notes. "Ambassador Sondland hopes that the issues raised by the State Department that preclude his testimony will be resolved promptly. He stands ready to testify on short notice, whenever he is permitted to appear."

Shortly after the announcement that Sondland would not testify President Trump himself weighed in. He noted that he would "love" for Sondland to testify, it would be "before a totally compromised kangaroo court." He also highlighted one of the text messages Sondland sent, part of the package of texts that have become part of the controversy surrounding the Ukraine scandal.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters Tuesday morning after learning of Sondland being blocked from testifying.

"We will consider this act today," Schiff said, adding, "to be further acts of obstruction of a coequal branch of government."

Schiff continued, noting that the American people have the "right to know" if the president is "working in their interest," not in his "narrow" political interests for his reelection.

Sondland, a Trump donor rewarded with a plum ambassadorship, has become embroiled in the Ukraine controversy after text messages emerged showing Sondland and other high-ranking diplomatic officials discussing Ukraine, military aid to that country and investigations of the 2016 election.

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