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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 PocanProgressive lawmakers call for United Nations probe into DHS 'human rights abuses' The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Barrett touts independence to sidestep confirmation questions Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair MORE (D-Wis.) is advocating for Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoArmenia and Azerbaijan say they will implement ceasefire agreement Monday Entire Nigerian police force mobilized after days of violent protests that have killed at least 69 Hillicon Valley: Treasury sanctions Russian group accused of targeting critical facilities | Appeals court rules Uber, Lyft must comply with labor laws | Biden: Countries that target US elections will 'pay a price' 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 JohnsonSenators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Sunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day Two Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 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 TrumpFox News president, top anchors advised to quarantine after coronavirus exposure: report Six notable moments from Trump and Biden's '60 Minutes' interviews Biden on attacks on mental fitness: Trump thought '9/11 attack was 7/11 attack' 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 PelosiBrown says Biden's first moves as president should be COVID relief, voting rights Sunday shows - Spotlight shifts to positive tests among Pence aides Pelosi dismisses talk of White House compromise on stimulus: They 'keep moving the goal post' 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.