State Secretary Mike Pompeo on Tuesday accused Democratic presidents of three House committees investigating the role of the State Department in Rudy Giuliani's case efforts in Ukraine After attempting to "intimidate, intimidate and improperly treat" five State Department officials asked for testimony.
Hours later, representatives Eliot Engel, DN.Y., Adam Schiff, D-California, and Elijah Cummings, D-Md, responded by arguing that Pompeo was trying to "intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking to Congress," accusing her. to obstruct the House impeachment inquiry. Referring to the news that Pompeo was in the call of President Donald Trump with the Ukrainian president, the three chairs considered Pompeo a "de facto witness in the House impeachment inquiry."
Despite Pompeo's objection, at least two of the five officers are applying for testimony, including Kurt Volker, the special envoy of Ukraine who helped connect Rudy Giuliani with the Ukrainian authorities and resigned last Friday.
In the fierce letter, released on Twitter and addressed to Engel, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Engel Pompeo criticized testimony in the impeachment investigation for being hasty and potentially violating executive privilege, accused the committee staff of not following the protocol and seemed to say that authorities would not appear.
"Based on the deep procedural and legal deficiencies noted above, the Committee's deposition request dates are not feasible," Pompeo concluded.
PHOTO: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan Pompeo get off the plane as they arrive at Rome's Ciampino Military Airport on October 1, 2019 (Andrew Medichini / AP)
On Tuesday night, Engel, Cummings, and Schiff – chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs, Oversight, and Intelligence committees, respectively – responded to Pompeo's letter from the previous day with one of them – but addressed Pompeo's # 2. , Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs. John Sullivan State.
The presidents wrote that "they may infer that (Pompeo) is trying to cover up illicit activity and misconduct, including by the president. That would be blatant cover-up and a clear abuse of power."
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They add: "Secretary Pompeo now appears to have an obvious conflict of interest…. He must not make any decision about witnessing or producing documents to protect himself or the president."
Congressmen again accused Pompeo of intimidation and obstruction, but added the threat that could be "punishable by a fine or up to five years in prison."
Five State Department officials are scheduled to testify, according to a letter from Mayors of the Democratic Chamber on Friday: Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe George Kent, Counselor of the Department of state Ulrich Brechbuhl, US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Volker.
Pompeo made it appear that none of the officers would appear for his scheduled testimonials: "The committee has not issued any summonses for testimonials, and we are not aware of any other authority by which the committee might compel appearance to make a statement."
He says there was no official notification of an affidavit and the department did not have enough time to prepare staff – some of whom sought personal lawyers, he says, while others need more time to do so. Even after that, employees and their attorneys need to meet with State Department attorneys, because the department has "legitimate interests in protecting potentially classified and classified information," Pompeo said.
"This information may also remain subject to federal rules relating to unauthorized disclosure of classified information," Pompeo added, saying executive attorneys should also be present for the testimonials.
Hours later, however, a House Intelligence committee official told ABC News that Volker, who no longer works in the department, told Congress he would still appear on Thursday. Yovanovitch, who was scheduled for a deposition on Wednesday, will now appear on October 11, with the agreement of both committees and their board, according to the official.
Pompeo's letter provoked a sharp backlash from the three presidents, who accused him of intimidating the State Department officials he says he is defending – which is "illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry. In response, Congress may infer further obstruction that withheld documents and testimony would reveal information supporting the complaint, "they said in a statement.
House Democrats have called for a swift investigation into Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani for Ukraine's new president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Democratic vice-president and presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
PHOTO: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte shake hands during their meeting on October 1, 2019 at the Palazzo Chigi in Rome. (Alberto Pizzoli / AFP / Getty Images)
The State Department was increasingly involved in the controversy following news that Pompeo was part of the July 25 liaison between Trump and Zelenskiy, where it pressed the new president to cooperate with Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr in an investigation. Senior officials like Volker and Sondland also helped Giuliani get in touch with the Zelenskiy government, with the department confirming in August that Volker contacted Giuliani to put him in touch with Zelenskiy's consultants at their request.
Pompeo himself was also summoned by the three committees to produce documents related to the controversy. In his letter, he does not say whether he will comply, only that the department "intends to respond to this subpoena by the expected return date" on Friday.
While Democratic Mayors warned that not attending these statements or failing to comply with the subpoenas would be "evidence of obstruction," Pompeo criticized that, writing: "There is no legal basis for this threat … I urge you to exercise restraint by doing so." such unfounded statements in the future. "
He also accused Engel's committee staff of trying to "intimidate" the five employees by contacting them directly, not through departmental channels: "I will not tolerate these tactics and will use every means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempt. to intimidate dedicated professionals, whom I am proud to lead and serve in the State Department. "
In Italy on Tuesday, during a photo shoot with the country's prime minister, Pompeo ignored a reporter's question about whether he was at the Ukraine call.
Katherine Faulders and John Parkinson of ABC News contributed to this report.