State Department orders ambassador at center of Ukraine scandal not to testify to Congress

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Ambassador Gordon Sondland was supposed to testify on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning, but the State Department stopped him at the last minute.

An attorney for Ambassador Gordon Sondland says the State Department has directed Sondland not to appear for his scheduled interview before a joint House committee taking depositions in the impeachment probe of Donald Trump.

Sondland is wrapped up in the congressional impeachment inquiry and had previously agreed to appear voluntarily Tuesday to answer the committee's questions in a closed session.

Sondland attorney Robert Luskin says that as the sitting U.S. ambassador to the European Union and an employee of the State Department, Sondland is required to follow the department's direction. No reason for the direction was cited, he said.

Luskin says Sondland "is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify." He added that Sondland "believes strongly that he acted at all times in the best interests of the United States."

Sondland 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.

But he nonetheless donated $1 million to Trump's election effort and ultimately scored a plum post as U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

Now, a whistleblower's complaint and text messages released by another envoy portray Sondland as a potentially important witness to allegations the Republican president sought to dig up dirt on rival Joe Biden in the name of foreign policy.