House committee chairs warn Pompeo that stonewalling could be used as evidence of obstruction

The chairmen of three committees leading the House's impeachment inquiry warned Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoDemocrats warn State Dept against punishing individuals who testify in impeachment hearings Pompeo condemns 'deplorable' killings of Iraqi protesters Trump-appointed State Department official embellished her résumé, made fake Time cover: report MORE on Tuesday that preventing witnesses from speaking with Congress could be interpreted as evidence of obstruction.

Earlier Tuesday, Pompeo indicated five current and former State Department officials would not show up for depositions scheduled by House Democrats in connection with their investigation, citing insufficient time for them to prepare and questioning lawmakers' authority to compel the appearances.

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House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocrats sharpen their message on impeachment White House struggles to get in sync on impeachment Hillicon Valley: Microsoft pushes for DACA fix ahead of court hearing | Twitter seeks feedback on 'deepfakes' | Trump officials unveil plan to notify public of 2020 interference MORE (D-Calif.), Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelOvernight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Bipartisan House members call on Trump to rescind Erdoğan invitation House Democrats pull subpoena for ex-Trump national security official MORE (D-N.Y.) and Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsMaya Rockeymoore Cummings, Elijah Cummings's widow, will run for his House seat Former NAACP president to run for Cummings's House seat Elijah Cummings's widow 'thinking carefully' about running for his old seat MORE (D-Md.) accused Pompeo of trying to intimidate witnesses and warned that it could be interpreted as attempting to withhold critical information from Congress as it tries to confirm the details of a whistleblower complaint about President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report Giuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry Giuliani associate Lev Parnas discussed Ukraine with Trump at private dinner: report MORE trying to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report Giuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry Giuliani associate Lev Parnas discussed Ukraine with Trump at private dinner: report MORE.

“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. In response, Congress may infer from this obstruction that any withheld documents and testimony would reveal information that corroborates the whistleblower complaint," Schiff, Engel and Cummings said in a joint statement.

The three chairmen also cited recent news reports that Pompeo was on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which the president brought up investigating Biden and his son's business dealings in Ukraine.

“Secretary Pompeo was reportedly on the call when the President pressed Ukraine to smear his political opponent. If true, Secretary 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," Schiff, Engel and Cummings wrote.

"We’re committed to protecting witnesses from harassment and intimidation, and we expect their full compliance and that of the Department of State," they added.

Pompeo said in his letter that the State Department "will be in further contact as we obtain further clarity on these matters" but said the requested dates for depositions with State Department officials "are not feasible."

“I’m concerned with aspects of your request that 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 wrote in a letter to Engel.

“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,” Pompeo wrote. 

 
The three committee chairmen said in a letter to Pompeo last week that the depositions would be conducted jointly by their three committees. The depositions had been scheduled for Oct. 2, 3, 7, 8 and 10.
 
The committees are seeking depositions with five officials: Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine; Kurt Volker, Trump’s former special envoy for Ukraine who resigned late last week; State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent; State Department counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl; and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

The Foreign Affairs Committee, in consultation with the other two panels, had also subpoenaed Pompeo for documents related to Trump pressuring the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens. 
 
Pompeo said in his Tuesday letter that the State Department "intends to respond" by Oct. 4.