Three Democratic House chairmen fired back at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who alleged on Tuesday, Oct. 1 that attempts to get current and former State Department employees to testify without department counsel was part of “an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly” professionals at the department.
Pompeo said that House Democrats scheduled depositions for five current and former department personnel without giving them adequate time to secure counsel in addition to trying to get the personnel to sit for depositions without department counsel present.
Pompeo sent a letter to Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee, saying the timeline the committees laid out was “not feasible” and advising that without subpoenas, the committees could not compel the personnel to sit for depositions.
Engel, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a joint statement later on Tuesday: “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.”
Cummings is chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and Schiff is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
“Secretary Pompeo was reportedly on the call when Trump pressed Ukraine to smear his political opponent. If true, Pompeo is now a fact witness in the House impeachment inquiry. He should immediately cease intimidating department witnesses in order to protect himself and the President,” they said.
— House Intelligence Committee (@HouseIntel) October 1, 2019
Democrats have been trying to drum up enough votes for impeachment based on the alleged abuse of the office of president that President Donald Trump committed during a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. An impeachment inquiry was launched on the basis of a complaint filed by an anonymous person relying on media reports and secondhand information.
A transcript of the call was released last week along with the complaint and an assessment from the inspector general of the intelligence community, who found the person who filed the complaint seemed to have political bias in favor of “a rival candidate” for the presidency, though the specific candidate was not named.
Trump during the call asked Zelensky to look into what former Vice President Joe Biden did in 2016. Biden last year bragged that he got a prosecutor in Ukraine fired by threatening to withhold $1 billion in aid.
That prosecutor said afterward that he was probing Burisma, an energy company whose board Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, sat on from 2014 to 2019. The prosecutor said then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told him he should wrap up the probe and when he refused, he was ousted on behalf of Biden.
Biden is running for the Democratic presidential nomination.
He has spoken little about the allegations. He did tell reporters he never discussed his son’s business dealings with him, but Hunter Biden said earlier this year he did speak about Burisma with his father.