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 PocanThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Donald Trump' if the US doesn't elect a progressive House revives agenda after impeachment storm MORE (D-Wis.) is advocating for Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoGOP rejects effort to compel documents on delayed Ukraine aid End impeachment's government shutdown The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules 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 JohnsonBiden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' Trump lawyers urge senators to swiftly acquit Trump in impeachment trial Hillicon Valley: Barr asks Apple to unlock Pensacola shooter's phone | Tech industry rallies behind Google in Supreme Court fight | Congress struggles to set rules for cyber warfare with Iran | Blog site Boing Boing hacked 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 says US has coronavirus 'totally under control' Senate Republicans muscle through rules for Trump trial Collins breaks with GOP on attempt to change impeachment rules resolution 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 PelosiOvernight Health Care: Justices won't fast-track ObamaCare case before election | New virus spreads from China to US | Collins challenger picks up Planned Parenthood endorsement Why Senate Republicans should eagerly call witnesses to testify Trump health chief: 'Not a need' for ObamaCare replacement plan right now 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.