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Trump administration orders top diplomat not to speak in House impeachment inquiry

Alexa Díaz and Sarah D. Wire, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Republicans on Tuesday accused Schiff of selectively releasing the most damming text messages.

Volker answered questions from representatives and committee staff for several hours last week, and Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., told reporters that his testimony "obliterated" Democrats' narrative. Republicans say Volker -- despite his text message linking a Ukrainian investigation to a Trump meeting -- agreed that there was no quid pro quo and that Zelenskiy was not even aware that the aid had been withheld at the time of the July 25 call.

In the whistleblower complaint that triggered the impeachment inquiry, the whistleblower wrote that a day after the July 25 call between Trump and Zelenskiy, Volker and Sondland met with the Ukrainian leader to offer advice about how to "navigate" Trump's request.

The complaint also alleged that U.S. officials had raised concerns in the spring about Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, and his dealings between Ukrainian officials and the president. Volker and Sondland met with Giuliani in "an attempt to 'contain the damage' to U.S. national security," the whistleblower wrote.

Since the inquiry was announced, the president's allies have resisted Democrats' demands for documents and testimony. Democratic leaders have said they won't accept White House efforts to impede the probe.

But Schiff did not say exactly how the House would respond to the administration blocking a federal employee from complying with their investigation.

Meanwhile, one of Trump's closest allies on Capitol Hill, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he would give Giuliani an opportunity to testify publicly in the Senate Judiciary Committee that he leads.

"Given the House of Representatives' behavior, it is time for the Senate to inquire about corruption and other improprieties involving Ukraine," he wrote on Twitter.

 

The move allows Republicans, who control the Senate, an opportunity to lead some of the debate over the House's impeachment inquiry. But the hearing carries risks. Several House Republicans have publicly warned the president that Giuliani's public comments have been a political liability.

In addition, the Judiciary panel is stacked with 2020 Democratic presidential contenders who are well-versed in tough questioning, including Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

(Los Angeles Times staff writer Jennifer Haberkorn in Washington contributed to this report.)

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