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 PocanOvernight Health Care: House to vote next week on drug prices bill | Conway says Trump trying to find 'balance' on youth vaping | US spent trillion on hospitals in 2018 Progressive leader warns members could vote no on drug price bill as it stands Democrats work to bring labor on board trade deal MORE (D-Wis.) is advocating for 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’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 sound alarm on dangers of ransomware attacks after briefing Push to investigate Bidens sets up potential for Senate turf war Overnight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases 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 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, 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 Pelosi 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments Bloomberg: Trump should be impeached On The Money: Congress races to beat deadline on shutdown | Trump asks Supreme Court to shield financial records from House Democrats | House passes bill to explicitly ban insider trading 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.