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Newsline: Stunning ambassador’s testimony links Trump to abuse of power

US ambassador to EU Gordon Sondland wrote his name in history and triggered a turning point in the House impeachment inquiry with stunning testimony implicating the President in an abuse of power. In effect, one of President Donald Trump’s political appointees confirmed the core allegation of the entire scandal: that he conditioned aid and recognition for Ukraine on personal favors that could help him in his 2020 reelection campaign. (https://edition.cnn.com/2019/11/21/politics/donald-trump-impeachment-gordon-sondland-today/index.html) This was no “Never Trumper” bureaucrat perpetrating what some of the President’s conservative backers have called a coup. He was a glad-handing businessman who paid $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee and ended up with a plum job. Sondland destroyed once and for all the earliest presidential talking point that there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine. He explicitly said the prospect of a White House visit for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was conditional on Ukraine announcing an investigation against Trump’s possible 2020 rival Joe Biden.

Newsline: Embattled US Ambassador vows to return to Brussels

After a short time in his hometown Portland this week, Gordon Sondland plans to return to Brussels and resume his work as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union. His lawyer confirmed Thursday that Sondland will stay on the job. “Ambassador Sondland has no intention of resigning,” said Jim McDermott, his Portland lawyer. Sondland has been bruised politically and personally since he emerged as a key witness in the impeachment inquiry. He’s been denounced as a perjurer by some pundits and mocked by late-night talk show hosts. It’s believed that Sondland will return to Brussels next week – apparently with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s blessing. “Ambassador Sondland has the full support of Secretary Pompeo,” McDermott said. (https://www.oregonlive.com/politics/2019/11/embattled-ambassador-gordon-sondland-vows-hes-not-quitting-and-will-soon-return-to-brussels.html) Sondland’s unlikely transformation from wealthy obscurity to international notoriety won’t end anytime soon. He will likely be subpoenaed to appear in public hearings in the coming weeks – and is expected to attend. He defied the Trump Administration by appearing for closed-door testimony after being subpoenaed last month.

Newsline: Trump’s Embattled E.U. Envoy Oversees Lavish Renovations to Brussels Residence

hile the Ukraine scandal has thrown a harsh light on the bipartisan tradition of rewarding top campaign donors with ambassadorships, in the case of Gordon Sondland, it has also brought unwanted scrutiny to the hotelier’s fondness for sumptuous interiors. Ordinarily, the position of U.S. ambassador to the European Union is among the more technocratic postings available inside the State Department, encompassing a Brussels office staffed by bookish diplomats with expertise on issues like data privacy and energy security. Sondland, who donated $1 million to Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, was also interested in the drapes. According to government spending reports, Sondland is overseeing extensive renovations at the U.S. embassy on Rue Zinner, just down the street from the royal Parc de Bruxelles. The renovations might have gone unnoticed had Sondland not become ensnared in the House impeachment inquiry into the Trump administration’s apparent effort to solicit dirt on Joe Biden. Now, chatter has picked up among diplomats about the ambassador’s makeover of the embassy, which has included a new pool-Jacuzzi heating system and a professional kitchen remodel. (https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/10/ambassador-gordon-sondland-renovations-brussels-residence) It’s not unheard of for ambassadors to make changes to their diplomatic residences. As one former ambassador explained, “These things cost money and they are old buildings and they do require upkeep.” Nor is it atypical for diplomats to refresh properties to their liking—perhaps new carpeting, a fresh paint job. But it is the extent of the renovations on the Brussels residence that is raising eyebrows.

Newsline: E.U. ambassador to testify that ex-Ukraine ambassador was ‘great’ despite Trump ouster

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland will tell Congress on Thursday that he thought former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was “great” and that he has nothing negative to say about her job performance, despite her ouster by President Donald Trump. A person with knowledge of Sondland’s testimony tells NBC News that Yovanovitch was an able and professional diplomat, and that he had no issues with her whatsoever. The person spoke to NBC News on the condition of anonymity. (https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/trump-impeachment-inquiry/e-u-ambassador-testify-ex-ukraine-ambassador-was-great-despite-n10661110) Yovanovitch told House impeachment investigators last week that Trump personally pressured the State Department to have her removed from her position. Sondland is expected to testify under subpoena on Thursday as part of the impeachment inquiry. Sondland will also testify that after he attended Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s inauguration in May, he met with Trump, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and former U.S. special envoy Kurt Volker in the Oval Office. In that meeting, Sondland will say, Trump told them that any in-person meeting between Trump and Zelenskiy would have to be approved by Rudy Giuliani.

Newsline: EU Ambassador set to testify in impeachment inquiry

US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a key witness within the State Department and to the President’s action in the ongoing impeachment inquiry, intends to testify to the House under subpoena next Thursday, according to his lawyers. (https://edition.cnn.com/2019/10/11/politics/sondland-testimony-subpoena-house/index.html) Sondland’s testimony will come amid a significant week in the Hill’s efforts to hear from witnesses about the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine, the core of the House impeachment inquiry. Lawmakers have been eager to press Sondland about text messages he exchanged related to President Donald Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the freezing of foreign aid to Ukraine. As of this morning, Sondland hasn’t received guidance from the State Department on whether he should appear under subpoena, his lawyers said in a new statement on his behalf. “Notwithstanding the State Department’s current direction to not testify, Ambassador Sondland will honor the Committees’ subpoena, and he looks forward to testifying on Thursday,” his attorneys Robert Luskin and Kwame Manley wrote in a statement. “He has no agenda apart from answering the Committees’ questions fully and truthfully.” Sondland planned to voluntarily appear on the Hill earlier this week, but his testimony was derailed that morning when the State Department blocked him from testifying. House Democrats issued a subpoena Tuesday evening demanding Sondland turn over documents and appear for a deposition next week.

Newsline: US Ambassador to EU barred from testifying at impeachment hearing

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who was scheduled to be interviewed by Congress Tuesday as part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry, was ordered not to appear for his deposition by the the State Department, according to a statement issued by his attorney. Sondland was mentioned in the original whistleblower complaint and a key witness to the Trump-Ukraine dealings. Sondland’s lawyer, Robert Luskin said in the statement that Sondland “is profoundly disappointed that he will not be able to testify today” and went on to say that the ambassador had traveled from Brussels for the testimony and made arrangements with the Joint Committee staff to appear. (https://www.cbsnews.com/live-news/trump-impeachment-inquiry-latest-dem-steps-to-protect-whistleblower-live-updates-2019-10-08/) Sondland “believes strongly that he acted at all times in the best interests of the United States” and remains ready to testify “on short notice,” Luskin said.

Newsline: China’s Paris embassy blasts France and EU over Hong Kong remarks

Accusing the EU of having “publicly glorified the abuses of rioters”, the embassy said the EU’s call for de-escalation and restraint was “criminal and very dangerous” and amounted to an attack on the Hong Kong police’s right to self-defence. (http://en.rfi.fr/asia-pacific/20191007-china-paris-embassy-blasts-france-and-eu-over-hong-kong-remarks) The embassy reacted to remarks by a French Foreign Ministry spokesperson on October 3 and a similar statement by the EU one day earlier, expressing concern over the use by police of live rounds against the Hong Kong protesters, and saying that fundamental freedoms, including the right of assembly of Hong Kongers must continue to be upheld and the possibility to hold peaceful demonstrations must be ensured.