The congressional impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal took another twist on Tuesday, with the chair of the House Intelligence Committee accusing the State Department of withholding potentially incriminating text messages and emails belonging to EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland.
Speaking to reporters shortly after the State Department—acting on the orders of President Donald Trump—blocked Sondland from testifying before Congress, Schiff claimed “the ambassador has text messages or emails on a personal device” which “the State Department is withholding” from the committee.
Sondland’s texts became a new front in the Democrats’ inquiry after former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker turned over a series of messages that seemed to confirm the Trump administration’s efforts to secure an investigation from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter in exchange for American aid.
Among the messages Volker provided was an exchange between Sondland and former Ukraine Ambassador Bill Taylor, in which Taylor said he thinks it’s “crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” After a nearly five hour delay—during which Sondland reportedly called Trump—Sondland finally replied simply that “the president has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind” and urged Taylor “to stop the back and forth by text.”
Given what reads like Sondland’s effort to curb the paper trail, the fact that the State Department is withholding even more of his messages looks very much like the Trump administration is trying to block the Democrats’ investigation—a move Schiff called “strong evidence of obstruction of the constitutional functions of Congress.”
The question now becomes: What is Congress gonna do about it?