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 PompeoReport: Pompeo had secret meeting with GOP donors in London The shifting impeachment positions of Jonathan Turley The Hill's Morning Report - Dem dilemma on articles of impeachment 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 SchiffWhite House adopts confident tone after Pelosi signals go on impeachment Democrats could introduce articles of impeachment next week The shifting impeachment positions of Jonathan Turley MORE (D-Calif.), Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHouse leaders: Trump administration asking South Korea to pay more for US troops 'a needless wedge' Trump administration releases 5M in military aid for Lebanon after months-long delay Two budget staffers resigned after voicing concerns about halted Ukraine aid, official says MORE (D-N.Y.) and Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsImpeachment can't wait Adam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings Tucker Carlson calls Trump 'full-blown BS artist' in segment defending him from media coverage 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 TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments MORE trying to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump to hold campaign rally in Michigan Castro hits fundraising threshold for December debate Buttigieg draws fresh scrutiny, attacks in sprint to Iowa 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.