Democrats release Sondland, Volker transcripts

House Democrats on Tuesday released the transcripts of testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Rand Paul says Trump has 'every right' to withhold Ukraine aid over corruption Intelligence panel Democrat: 'I think we will end up calling' some witnesses on GOP list MORE as part of their impeachment inquiry. 

Democrats are investigating whether Trump pressured Ukraine to open investigations into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Trump DACA fight hits Supreme Court Juan Williams: Honesty, homophobia and Mayor Pete MORE and his son Hunter Biden, and whether military aid was withheld from the country to convince Ukraine to open the probe. Volker helped set up the July 25 phone call between President TrumpDonald John TrumpThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Impeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point Judd Gregg: The big, big and bigger problem MORE and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that is at the center of the inquiry.

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Sondland and Volker were involved in texts with another diplomat that have been publicly released. In the texts, Sondland said the president had been clear to him there had been no quid pro quo of any kind with Ukraine, before suggesting the men end the conversation over texts. 

Sondland denied in his testimony that he pushed for Ukraine to do an investigation of Biden, but Democrats after hearing from other witnesses have questioned whether Sondland, a wealthy hotelier and GOP mega-donor before joining the administration, was truthful in his testimony.

Democrats have started the slow dribble of transcript releases in a week when a host of top administration officials are expected to defy congressional subpoenas and refuse to testify as part of the impeachment inquiry.
 
On Monday, four officials declined to appear in the Capitol for interviews, despite subpoenas seeking their participation. And two others were no-shows on Tuesday: Wells Griffith, a top energy expert at the National Security Council, and Michael Duffey, a senior national security aide at the White House Office of Management and Budget. 
 
Behind Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffImpeachment week: Trump probe hits crucial point This week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry Sunday shows — New impeachment phase dominates MORE (D-Calif.), Democrats have maintained that any such lack of cooperation will be used as further evidence of obstruction of Congress — a charge that could emerge as a separate article of impeachment against Trump as the process evolves.
 
But the slow drip of transcript releases also ensures that the impeachment investigation stays near the top of the news cycle in a week when the House is on recess and requested witnesses are refusing to appear.