Democrats say they will force America’s EU ambassador to testify at the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, just hours after the president blocked him from appearing.
A subpoena will be issued to legally compel Gordon Sondland to give evidence.
Text messages revealed last week showed how Mr Sondland and other US diplomats discussed Mr Trump’s desire for Ukraine investigate the family of his likely presidential rival, Joe Biden.
Mr Trump tweeted earlier on Tuesday that he would “love” to send Mr Sondland to testify but “he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court”.
I would love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and great American, to testify, but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican’s rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2019
The heads of house intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight panels have now taken action to force Mr Sondland to appear after accusing the State Department of obstructing their inquiry.
They said they would subpoena Mr Sondland for his testimony, and also for messages from his devices.
Democrats launched their impeachment probe amid claims Mr Trump tried to pressure Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Mr Biden while at the same time withholding military aid.
Mr Biden’s son was on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm, Burisma.
The Bidens have not been shown to have done anything wrong, while President Trump has called the impeachment inquiry a witch-hunt and dismissed claims he used military aid to influence Ukraine’s president.
The text messages revealed last week between Mr Sondland and other diplomats showed them discussing a statement in which the Ukraine government would announce an investigation into Burisma, as well as alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US election.
Mr Sondland, a wealthy hotelier and Trump donor, was due to be a key witness for the committees conducting the impeachment investigation.
He was expected to be asked why the EU ambassador was involved in dealings with Ukraine – which is not in the EU.
Concerns about the 25 July phone call between Mr Trump and the Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy were originally raised by a whistleblower, with a second also coming forward in recent days to back up the complaint.