Top progressive calls for Pompeo's salary to be withheld over Sondland's blocked testimony

Top progressive calls for Pompeo's salary to be withheld over Sondland's blocked testimony
© Aaron Schwartz

Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanSteyer endorses Markey in Massachusetts Senate primary Celebrities fundraise for Markey ahead of Massachusetts Senate primary Why Veterans Affairs workers don't trust the Trump administration MORE (D-Wis.) is advocating for Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBack to the future: In January 2021 America needs to rejoin the world and start leading again Iran releases photo of damaged nuclear fuel production site: report To support Hong Kong's freedom, remember America's revolution MORE’s salary to be withheld until EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland is permitted to testify before Congress as part of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. 

In a letter sent to Pompeo on Tuesday, the Democrat who is one of the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, argued that a provision of the law allows Congress to withhold any federal official’s compensation if they prevent another government employee from communicating with lawmakers or committees. 

The letter came after the State Department blocked Sondland from testifying in a House deposition scheduled for Tuesday, ramping up tensions between congressional Democrats and the Trump administration amid an impeachment inquiry.

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Pocan in his letter referred to "section 713 of Division D of Public Law 116-6 signed by the President earlier this year."

"As you are aware, this section prohibits paying the salary of any ‘officer or employee of the Federal Government who prohibits or prevents…any other officer or employee of the Federal Government from…communication or contact with any Member, committee, or subcommittee of the Congress,’” the Wisconsin Democrat wrote.  

“I believe the person prohibiting Ambassador Sondland from testifying before the House Intelligence Committee is in violation of this statute, and that their salary should be withheld until Ambassador Sondland appears before Congress," Pocan also wrote.

Pocan also referred to a story from The Wall Street Journal last week that reported Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP Congress eyes tighter restrictions on next round of small business help Republicans fear backlash over Trump's threatened veto on Confederate names MORE (R-Wis.) saying he had been told by Sondland of a quid pro quo tying nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine to a commitment from the country to probe matters arising from the 2016 election.

Johnson then raised the matter with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump second-term plans remain a mystery to GOP Trump to hold outdoor rally in New Hampshire on Saturday Eighty-eight years of debt pieties MORE, according to the Journal, but Trump denied he had told aides to make the aid contingent on a probe from Ukraine into the 2016 election.

"As you can imagine, as a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, I find Senator Johnson’s account appalling,” Pocan wrote in his letter.

Democrats have repeatedly blasted the administration for stonewalling their investigation, alleging the White House is obstructing Congress by failing to provide requested testimony and documents. 

The White House on Tuesday wrote to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiRussian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide On The Money: Breaking down the June jobs report | The biggest threats facing the recovery | What will the next stimulus bill include? Military bases should not be renamed, we must move forward in the spirit of reconciliation MORE (D-Calif.) and three Democratic committee leaders to say it would not cooperate with the House’s ongoing impeachment inquiry.

Republicans have pushed back on the inquiry, arguing that Democrats have rushed the process and assert the president has not engaged in impeachable behavior.