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What’s new: House Democrats subpoena US diplomat Sondland

October 9, 2019
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FILE - In this July 10, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump is joined by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, second from right, as he arrives at Melsbroek Air Base, in Brussels, Belgium. Sondland, wrapped up in a congressional impeachment inquiry, was a late convert to Trump, initially supporting another candidate in the Republican primary and once refusing to participate in a fundraiser on his behalf. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
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FILE - In this July 10, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump is joined by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, second from right, as he arrives at Melsbroek Air Base, in Brussels, Belgium. Sondland, wrapped up in a congressional impeachment inquiry, was a late convert to Trump, initially supporting another candidate in the Republican primary and once refusing to participate in a fundraiser on his behalf. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — For only the fourth time in U.S. history, the House of Representatives has started a presidential impeachment inquiry. House committees are trying to determine if President Donald Trump violated his oath of office by asking a foreign country to investigate a political opponent.

Here’s a quick summary of the latest news:

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

— The White House declared Tuesday it will not cooperate with what it termed the “illegitimate” impeachment probe by House Democrats, sharpening the constitutional clash between President Donald Trump and Congress.

— The Trump administration blocked a U.S. diplomat from testifying behind closed doors about the president’s dealings with Ukraine. Gordon Sondland, ambassador to the European Union, had been scheduled for an interview before a joint House committee taking depositions in the impeachment probe.

— House Democrats subsequently subpoenaed Sondland after he failed to show up at his scheduled deposition.

— House Democrats unveiled broad legislation Tuesday to protect the country’s elections as they investigate whether Trump inappropriately solicited foreign election help from Ukraine ahead of the 2020 vote.

— As Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukrainian officials last spring to investigate one of Trump’s main political rivals, a group of individuals with ties to the president and his personal lawyer were also active in the former Soviet republic.

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WHAT’S NEXT

Attention turns to whether the administration will try to block Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, from speaking to House investigators. Yovanovitch was recalled from the post early and is scheduled to be deposed Friday.

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NUMBERS THAT MATTER

Four hours, 32 minutes and 24 seconds — the time it took Sondland to respond to a text message from Bill Taylor, an embassy officer in Ukraine, who voiced concerns that U.S. military aid to the country was being held up to “help with a political campaign.”

According to records released by the Democratic chairmen of House committees running the impeachment probe, Taylor’s text was time-stamped 12:47:11 a.m. Sept. 9.

Before responding, Sondland called Trump for assurances that there was no promised trade of favors, according to a person familiar with the exchange. Sondland then responded “Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind.” That text was time-stamped 5:19:35 a.m., more than four hours after Taylor’s text.

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WORTH WATCHING

Democratic House freshmen who flipped Republican seats in 2018 find themselves in perilous waters as they head home to their districts after joining the call for Trump’s impeachment.

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