‘They must be scared’: Obama lawyer says it is ‘huge’ Trump won’t let Ambassador Sondland testify
Composite image of former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal and Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC (screengrabs)

The White House "must be scared" to prevent Ambassador Gordon Sondland from testifying before Congress, a top former attorney in the Obama administration concluded on MSNBC.

"Deadline: White House" anchor Nicolle Wallace interviewed former acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal about the administration's late-night decision to block Sondland from testifying about the solicitation of foreign election interference at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

The host reported, "Donald Trump has declared war on the House impeachment inquiry."

"The perils for the president in doing so are immense and could include adding a separate article of impeachment for obstructing the inquiry that, of course, was one of the Nixon articles of impeachment," she noted.

"Donald Trump turning to stonewalling as the impeachment inquiry is soaring in terms of support from the American public. Adopting the defiant posture of obstructing a probe that 58% of the American public supports -- including nearly a third of Republicans -- is so potentially damaging to the president politically that it’s leading to questions today about what exactly the president is afraid that the diplomat scheduled to testify today would reveal," she explained.

Wallace read from a New York Times story on the scandal titled, "White House Blocks Sondland Testimony, Signaling Plan to Stonewall Impeachment Inquiry."

"The decision to block Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, from speaking with investigators for three House committees came just hours before he was to appear on Capitol Hill, provoking an immediate conflict with potentially profound consequences for the inquiry and for the president himself," The Times reported.

However, Wallace noted the testimony is not critical after the evidence already in the public domain.

"Despite the Trump Administration pulling the plug on today’s planned testimony early this morning, there’s already ample evidence from Sondland’s text messages with other diplomats he was deeply involved in the effort to get the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens," she reported. "There’s also a smoking gun text exchange in which he’s confronted with the concern from another diplomat that military aid had been tied to the Ukrainians digging up dirt on the president’s rival."

"And if the substance of all those communications were something that White House lawyers felt so good about, it seems to me Sondland would be up on Capitol Hill right now telling that story and Donald Trump would be live tweeting his own exoneration. But he’s not," Wallace noted.

The host turned to Katyal for analysis.

"It seems we already have a lot of evidence from this witness. All of it pretty incriminating for this president. What is the impact? It seems like the cons outweigh the pros unless there’s something I’m missing," Wallace said.

"Yeah, there’s something huge going on here because coming in, the president, I think, was suffering from the fact there are all these text messages, all this stuff that shows Trump was guilty. His only hope was to have his pal, Sondland, come in, say, 'Oh, no, that wasn’t the case,' try to explain what happened and the like. Three hours before he was to testify, the White House pulls the plug on that," Katyal noted.

"That’s really suggestive of the fact I think Sondland was going to come in and do the president no favors," he said. "The wind was definitely not at the president’s back and now it’s blowing him down."

Katyal concluded that the White House, "must be scared he’s going to say something bad."