Sondland Subpoenaed for Both Testimony and Documents
Washington, D.C. (Oct. 8, 2019)—Today, Rep. Adam B. Schiff, the Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent a letter to Ambassador Gordon Sondland conveying a subpoena that compels him to testify at a deposition next Wednesday and to produce documents recovered from his personal devices before the deposition.
“Pursuant to the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry, we are hereby transmitting a subpoena that compels you to appear at a deposition on October 16, 2019, at 9:30 a.m. at the Capitol, HVC-304, and to produce the documents set forth in the accompanying schedule by October 14, 2019,” the Chairmen wrote.
Subpoena for Deposition
On September 27, 2019, the Committees requested that Sondland appear for a deposition and produce documents in his possession by the date of his appearance.
On October 1, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent the Committees a letter arguing that the Committees’ request for testimony from Department officials “can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State.” He claimed that Congress lacks authority to conduct depositions without agency representatives in the room, despite Congress’ clear authority and long precedent of doing so.
That same day, the Committees responded to Pompeo’s concerns by sending a letter to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan explaining that:
- Pompeo is now a fact witness and should not be making any decisions regarding witness testimony or document production to protect himself or the President;
- Pompeo held exactly the opposite view on depositions when he served as a key Republican Member of the Benghazi Select Committee;
- the longstanding rule excluding agency counsel is intended for exactly these circumstances—to prevent an agency head with an obvious conflict of interest, and who is directly implicated in the abuses we are currently investigating, from trying to prevent his own employees from coming forward to tell the truth to Congress; and
- there are significant criminal and other penalties for blocking federal employees from providing information to Congress.
Having received no further response from the Department, the Committees worked with Sondland’s attorneys to schedule a voluntary interview for today. However, less than two hours before the interview was to begin, Sondland’s attorneys informed staff that a State Department official left a voicemail at 12:30 a.m. this morning directing Sondland not to appear.
“In light of Secretary Pompeo’s direct intervention to block your appearance before our Committees, we are left with no choice but to compel your appearance at a deposition pursuant to the enclosed subpoena,” the Chairmen wrote.
Subpoena for Documents
On October 1, 2019, Sondland’s attorneys informed the Committees that he “will not be producing documents,” including “any emails, texts, or messages on services such as What’s App,” but instead has turned them over to the State Department instead of the Committees.
Sondland’s counsel argued that “any request for these or other materials relevant to your inquiry must be directed in the first instance to the State Department.”
Of course, the Committees have made repeated attempts to obtain documents from the State Department voluntarily—followed by the issuance of a subpoena for documents that were due last Friday—but the Department has refused to cooperate or produce a single document.
“Secretary Pompeo’s obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry does not alleviate you of your independent legal obligation to produce to the Committees any responsive documents in your personal possession, custody, or control,” the Chairmen wrote. “There is no valid basis to withhold documents from the Committees by relying on instructions from Secretary Pompeo, who is a fact witness in this inquiry and who is currently defying his own duly issued subpoena for documents—particularly if the Department’s goal is to block the Committees from gaining access to your documents prior to your testimony.”