Pompeo: Attempt by House Committee to Get Records ‘An Attempt to Intimidate, Bully’

October 1, 2019 Updated: October 1, 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he will comply with a subpoena issued by House Democrats who are trying to acquire documents and communications regarding U.S. officials’ contact with Ukrainian officials, but denounced a committee chairman for the request sent to the department about making five current and former department officials available for depositions.

Pompeo sent a letter on Oct. 1 to Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in response to the request, saying that it “can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State, including several career Foreign Service Officers.”

Pompeo said he’s become aware of staff on Engel’s committee sending “intimidating communications” to people at the department outside the normal channels.

“Let me be clear: I will not tolerate such tactics, and I will 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.

The letter brings about “significant legal and procedural concerns,” Pompeo said, including the committee trying to compel the five individuals to appear on certain dates starting on Oct. 3, but not actually issuing subpoenas for depositions and lacking any other authority to compel appearance at a deposition.

Rules of the House require the committee to provide a notice of deposition, but none have been issued.

Additionally, according to Pompeo, the five people need time to arrange for private counsel, “as is their constitutional right,” and once they obtain counsel, that counsel must meet with counsel from the State Department to discuss “legitimate interests in safeguarding potentially privileged and classified information.”

Pompeo said the committee was trying to get State Department workers to appear for depositions without counsel from the department present, which “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.”

The committee communications also stated that each of the five individuals “personally produce a vast amount of documents,” but the records in question are the property of the State Department and are subject to restrictions, Pompeo said.

“By purporting to induce individual Department professionals and career Foreign Service Officers to produce materials that are not theirs to produce — which could potentially constitute a violation of numerous civil and criminal statutes and regulations if proper procedures are not followed — the Committee has engaged in an act of intimidation and an invitation to violate federal records laws,” Pompeo asserted.

Lastly, the committee claimed that failure by individuals to meet the timeline “shall constitute evidence of obstruction” but “there is no legal basis for such a threat.”

“I urge you to exercise restraint in making such unfounded statements in the future.”

Engel’s committee and two other committees had scheduled depositions for five former and current State Department officials starting on Oct. 2. They include former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker, and Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent.

Pompeo said the separate subpoena issued to him will be responded to by the return date of Oct. 4.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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