As the clash over the brewing Ukraine scandal and the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump intensifies between the administration and House Democrats, the chairs of three House committees have urged the State Department and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “halt all efforts to interfere” in their investigations.
Any effort by the department or Pompeo “to intimidate or prevent witnesses from testifying or withhold documents from the Committees” is a criminal violation, warned the chairs of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees in a letter Tuesday. Such behavior would also “constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry.”
The Democrats’ stern warning was written in response to a fiery letter by Pompeo sent earlier in the day to Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
In his letter, Pompeo objected to attempts by House committee leaders to depose five current and former State Department officials, arguing that the timeline proposed for the depositions was “unfeasible.” House Democrats were attempting to “intimidate” and “bully” officials, Pompeo said.
“I will not tolerate such tactics,” he said.
In their response, Engel, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said it was Pompeo and his department who were employing tactics of intimidation.
The committee leaders also suggested Pompeo was attempting to “cover up illicit activity and misconduct.”
Pompeo “appears to have an obvious conflict of interest,” the chairmen wrote, noting that the secretary of state was reportedly on a July 25 call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump urged Ukraine’s leader to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
“If true, Secretary Pompeo is now a fact witness in the impeachment inquiry. He should not be making any decisions regarding witness testimony or document production in order to protect himself or the president,” the chairmen wrote.
“Given the Secretary’s own potential role… the Committees may infer that he is trying to cover up illicit activity and misconduct, including by the President. This would be a blatant cover-up and a clear abuse of power,” they added.