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Looks like the White House plan to shout SCREW YOU, CONGRESS, YOU AIN'T MY DADDY! over and over until the Democrats get bored and go home isn't entirely foolproof. Last week, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone screeched out a letter insisting that absolutely no one in the Executive Branch would be cooperating with the House's UNLEGAL impeachment inquiry, so there! And yet, this morning as we are typing, former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is testifying before the House committees investigating all the nasty, dirty high crimes and misdemeanors committed by Donald Trump and his cronies. ALLEGEDLY.

Turns out tanking your employee's career and smearing her in the press is a lousy way to convince her to defy Congress to cover your sorry ass. Who knew!


Yovanovitch is a consummate professional who has worked for the State Department since 1986, with postings in Canada, Russia, the UK, Somalia, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia before she was confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate as Ambassador to Ukraine in 2016. By the summer of 2018, Yovanovitch got crosswise with the Trump administration because she opposed Rudy Giuliani's efforts to drum up a smear campaign against Joe Biden. The AP reports that Rudy's recently arrested pals Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman told associates three months beforehand that their own plans to muscle in on the Ukrainian-American natural gas trade would fare better after Yovanovitch got the boot. And after a concerted effort by Giuliani, Donald Trump Jr., and GOP Congressman Pete Sessions -- having received a pledge of $20,000 campaign cash as well as millions through a Trump pac funded in part by $325,000 from Parnas and Fruman -- Yovanovitch was indeed pushed out in May 2018.

Safe bet that Yovanovitch has a lot to say about Trump's buddies and what role the State Department played in pushing Donald Trump's electoral priorities at the expense of the US's national interest. Which is probably why Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered his employees not to testify, a move the House Democratic Chairs characterized as obstruction of Congress. We don't know yet what she's telling them, but Devin Nunes is sure mad about it.

Dear Lord, not ... A MANEUVER!

Pompeo's efforts to shield himself behind government employees didn't work with Marie Yovanovitch, who agreed to appear voluntarily. And they didn't work with EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who canceled his voluntary appearance on White House orders -- but changed his mind when served with a congressional subpoena.

Last night, Axios reported that "Republicans close to Trump encouraged the president to let the ambassador come before the committees. Trump's allies believe Sondland's testimony will be helpful to their side." LOL, okay! Gordon Sondland, the guy who texted Kurt Volker that "potus really wants the deliverable" from the Ukrainians before agreeing to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at the White House, who was in the room when Rick Perry handed Zelenskiy a list of desired candidates that included two of his own donors to sit on the board of the state-owned Ukrainian oil company, who personally spoke to Trump about his insistence on getting the Biden investigation going in Ukraine -- THAT GUY is going to be "helpful"? LOL, okay.

This morning, Sondland's real lawyer Robert Luskin, whom Sondland can pay with his own cash and not rely on the RNC to foot the bill, told a different story.

Notwithstanding the State Department's current direction to not testify, Ambassador Sondland will honor the Committee subpoena and he looks forward to testifying on Thursday.

Translation: He blinked.

BUT, Sondland says he can't produce any of the documents requested, because "federal law and State Department regulations prohibit him from producing documents concerning his official responsibilities." Presumably, this means the texts, emails, and WhatsApp messages where he discussed the NO QUID PRO QUO with Volker and the various other State Department employees working on Ukraine.

Here on Planet Earth, Congress's oversight authority empowers them to see those documents, and Sondland has even less authority to withhold them than Richard Nixon did to withhold the Oval Office tapes. But if Sondland wants to split the baby -- trying to keep from becoming a GOP target while not getting cited for contempt of Congress -- this is probably a pretty good path. The White House will, no doubt, lean on him to refuse to discuss conversations with any member of the executive branch citing executive privilege.

So, it's a hot mess. But if Pompeo and Trump think they're going to be able to save themselves by ordering federal employees to obstruct Congress and risk fines and imprisonment, it looks like they're shit out of luck.

[Axios / WaPo]

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