Pompeo: Congress Can’t Interview State Dept. Officials About Trump-Ukraine

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) speaks during a meeting with North Korea's director of the United Front Department, Kim Yong Chol (R-back to camera) at the Park Hwa Guest House in Pyongyang on July 6, 2018. - P... US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) speaks during a meeting with North Korea's director of the United Front Department, Kim Yong Chol (R-back to camera) at the Park Hwa Guest House in Pyongyang on July 6, 2018. - Pompeo arrived in Pyongyang on July 6 to press Kim Jong Un for a more detailed commitment to denuclearisation following the North Korean leader's historic summit with President Donald Trump. (Photo by Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW HARNIK/AFP/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised to prevent State Department officials with knowledge of the President’s pressure campaign against Ukraine from testifying before the House, according to a Tuesday letter from the secretary.

Pompeo branded the attempt from the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight Committees to depose five State Department officials as a bid to “intimidate, bully, and treat improperly.” The secretary of state wrote in the letter to Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) that the planned interviews were not “feasible.”

Pompeo said that he intends to “use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead and serve alongside at the Department of State.”

He added that the State Department “would be in further contact with the Committee in the near future as we obtain further clarity on these matters.”

Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is the first official set to be deposed on Wednesday. After her, the recently resigned U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker is scheduled for a Thursday deposition, while other State Department officials — including U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl — are scheduled for depositions next week.

Pomepo expressed the most alarm in the letter at the prospect of State Department employees appearing without a representative from the executive branch in the room.

In the past, White House lawyers have intervened in House depositions to block testimony of those called to appear.

“This amounts to an attempt to circumvent the Executive Branch’s unquestionably legitimate constitutional interest in protecting potentially privileged information related to the conduct of diplomatic relations,” Pompeo wrote, adding that the five officials set to be deposed “may not attend” without an attorney from the executive branch.

The three House panels hit back at Pompeo, saying that he was likely a “fact witness” in Congress’s inquiry.

“He should immediately cease intimidating Department witnesses in order to protect himself and the President,” the statement reads. “Any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress—including State Department employees—is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry.”

This story has been updated.

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Notable Replies

  1. Thus adding to the list of impeachable offenses…

    This ought to press the House to move to invoke “inherent contempt”. Better work on converting those basement conference rooms into cells.

  2. Avatar for lafe19 lafe19 says:

    He wants subpoenas? Fine, send them out. I assume he’ll also cover the costs for these people to lawyer up out of his own pocket? /s

  3. Here we go, the first attempt at total blockage of any and all testimony and evidence production. As expected, it’s based on no legal standing, only on bluster and lies, and it ignores Congress’ power of oversight, especially in the case of impeachment. It can’t stand…if this was Schiff’s committee he would immediately take it to them hard to force testimony, I’m not sure what will happen here with Engel though, but hopefully he does the same. And, maybe some of them will show up anyways, because they are the ones who will be punished for refusing to testify.

    Democrats should also make a big deal about this, and call it “more cover up” and more evidence that the Ukranian phone call was illegal. Hammer the administration hard, show they are hiding something, that’s the way to make them seem guilty.

  4. Avatar for ur ur says:

    Can you spell ‘Congressional oversight’ Sec. Pompeo?

    Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘co-equal branches of government’ or perhaps the phrase ‘separation-of-powers’ rings a bell?

  5. Avatar for iamwil iamwil says:

    They could add confinement facilities by building cages on the lawn of the Capitol.

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