USA envoy to testify in impeachment probe, against State Dept order


Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch has arrived on Capitol Hill for a deposition in the Democrats' impeachment inquiry despite President Donald Trump's position that his administration won't cooperate with the probe.

Sondland attorneys Robert Luskin and Kwame Manley say Sondland will honor a congressional subpoena and "looks forward to testifying" October 17.

"Ambassador Sondland has at all times acted with integrity and in the interests of the United States", Mr. Luskin said. She was expected to answer questions about efforts by Mr. Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to press Ukraine's government to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and how career USA diplomats handled that pressure. He said the state department has control of those documents.

Three current State Department officials are then scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday - Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and Ulrich Brechbuhl, a State Department counselor.

Democrats believe President Donald Trump abused his powers by withholding military aid in exchange for a political favor from a foreign power to interfere in US elections.

According to a White House summary, Trump described her as "bad news" to Zelenskiy in the July call in which he sought Zelinskiy's help to investigate Biden and his son.

She has emerged as a key fact witness in the House Democrats' investigation following a whistleblower complaint about President Trump's telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25 that triggered the inquiry.

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Yovanovitch has led USA embassies in Kyrgyzstan and Armenia and is now a State Department fellow at Georgetown University.

It couldn't immediately be determined why the Trump administration, which has said it won't cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, permitted Ms. Yovanovitch to testify.

That prompted a subpoena by committees leading the probe in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives for Sondland to be deposed in closed session. They say the State Department has sole authority to produce such documents and that Sondland hopes they'll be shared with the committees before his testimony.

Sondland was one of a handful of US diplomats who facilitated Trump's interactions with Ukrainian leaders, according to a trove of text messages that former USA special envoy Kurt Volker provided to House investigators last week.

The investigation of Trump could lead to the approval of articles of impeachment - or formal charges - against the president in the House.

Yovanovitch, a respected 30-year career diplomat, was attacked by Giuliani and others who embraced an unproven, right wing conspiracy theory that the ambassador was part of a liberal scheme to bring down former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who pleaded guilty to fraud and lying to federal officials.

Yovanovitch was accused of impeding a Ukrainian investigation into the Bidens - an allegation the State Department said at the time was "outright fabrication".