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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 PocanFormer Progressive Caucus co-chair won't challenge Johnson in 2022 Congressional Progressive Caucus announces new leadership team Battle for Pentagon post in Biden Cabinet heats up MORE (D-Wis.) is advocating for Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoBiden should expand contact between US and Taiwanese officials On The Money: Retail sales drop in latest sign of weakening economy | Fast-food workers strike for minimum wage | US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits 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 JohnsonGOP senators call for commission to investigate Capitol attack Wisconsin Democrats make ad buy calling on Johnson to resign Efforts to secure elections likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress 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 TrumpFacebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Sasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP Section 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media 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 PelosiMissouri woman seen with Pelosi sign charged in connection with Capitol riots Boebert communications director resigns amid Capitol riot: report Revising the pardon power — let the Speaker and Congress have voices 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.