Reporters are staked out around the Capitol today, as they have been in recent weeks, for any sighting of witnesses coming and going to the House impeachment inquiry.
Today, it was Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, who showed up to testify about President Trump’s policy toward Ukraine and his effort to steer diplomats toward personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani for direction.
As Sondland walked to the Capitol with his attorney, NBC News correspondent Geoff Bennett approached and attempted to ask the ambassador a question. The attorney with Sondland, Robert Luskin, tried to push Bennett out of the way, placing his hands on him at one point.
“As a respected attorney, I am sure you understand how the free press works,” Bennett protested.
The man moved away, and Bennett approached Sondland and asked, “Can you say definitively there was no quid pro quo?”
“I am not giving any comment until my testimony. Thanks,” he answered.
Bennett followed up, “Why was it important for you to show up here today?”
“It is always important to show up when Congress calls,” he answered. He was subpoenaed to testify after the Trump administration blocked him from appearing before Congress last week.
Then Bennett asked him, “Are you here to salvage your reputation sir?”
Sondland shot back, “I don’t have a reputation to salvage.”
Media stakeouts are part of the environment on Capitol Hill – various locations are even identified as preferred spots to catch passing lawmakers as they move from congressional offices to the House and Senate chambers for votes. But the stakeouts have taken on added importance in coverage of the behind-closed-doors impeachment inquiry, with reporters making any effort to capture comments or visuals on what is taking place.
In prepared remarks that Sondland planned to give the congressional inquiry, he said that Trump directed him to talk to Giuliani concerning his efforts to arrange a White House meeting with the new president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.
“Mr. Giuliani emphasized that the president wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing Ukraine to look into anticorruption issues,” Sondland said in his opening statement. “Mr. Giuliani specifically mentioned the 2016 election (including the DNC server) and Burisma as two anticorruption investigatory topics of importance for the president.”
The impeachment inquiry centers on Trump’s July 17 phone call with Zelensky, in which he asked the Ukrainian leader to investigate what Trump says was Ukraine’s role in the 2016 election and to launch a probe of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Hunter Biden was on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma at the time his father was vice president. No wrongdoing has been found on the part of the Bidens.
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