Engel announces contempt proceedings against Pompeo
The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Friday announced contempt proceedings against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying the country’s top diplomat has ignored the panel’s request to investigate his conduct.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said the committee will begin drafting a resolution to hold the secretary in contempt following his refusal to provide subpoenaed documents related to an investigation into whether he has misused government resources for political reasons.
The accusations of contempt are related to two subpoenas. The first stretches back to a September request to the State Department for documents related to the House impeachment investigation into President Trump’s withholding of military assistance to Ukraine.
The second subpoena is related to tens of thousands of documents that the State Department has provided to two Republican-controlled Senate committees related to their investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden’s diplomacy in Ukraine during the Obama administration.
Engel on Friday said Pompeo’s refusal to comply with the subpoenas left him no choice but to initiate contempt proceedings.
“The Secretary’s ongoing defiance of two duly authorized subpoenas on matters directly linked to American foreign policy toward Ukraine has left the Committee no further option but to begin drafting a resolution finding Secretary Pompeo in contempt of Congress,” Engel said in a statement.
“He seems to think the office he holds, the Department he runs, the personnel he oversees, and the taxpayer dollars that pay for all of it are there for his personal and political benefit,” the New York Democrat added.
Engel went on to say that Pompeo was willing to work with the GOP-led investigations in the Senate as Republicans seek to “amplify [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s debunked conspiracy theories” about President Trump’s political foes, while refusing to provide the same information to his panel.
Engel argued that Pompeo is helping both the Republican-led Senate and Russia’s agenda to sow discord in the 2020 election by spreading unsubstantiated claims about the Bidens.
In a 45-page letter to the House committee last week rejecting the subpoena, the State Department maintained it is not obligated to produce the documents because the panel is investigating Pompeo, not allegations against Biden.
Engel called the response an attempt to get his committee to support a conspiracy theory against the Democratic presidential nominee.
“Mr. Pompeo’s final response makes it clear where he stands: the Department would turn over the documents if the Committee announced that we, too, were pursuing an investigation into the same conspiracy theory that’s been debunked again and again,” Engel said.
The contempt proceedings are the latest clash between Engel and Pompeo, with the outgoing chairman scrutinizing other aspects of the secretary’s conduct at the State Department.
Earlier this week the panel’s subcommittee on oversight and investigations launched an investigation into whether Pompeo violated the Hatch Act by delivering a speech to the Republican National Convention while on official diplomatic travel in Jerusalem.
The contempt proceedings further underscore the divide between Democrats and Republicans ahead of the November elections and GOP efforts to paint Biden as aiding corruption in Ukraine during the Obama administration.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is investigating the work Biden’s son Hunter did for a Ukrainian gas company.
Critics of the probe argue Johnson is seeking to hurt Trump’s Democratic opponent, and that the president’s allies have been leaning on the State Department for assistance.
Johnson has said the investigation’s findings will likely be released sometime in September.
The contempt proceedings against Pompeo come the same month that William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said Russia is trying to hurt Biden and others whom it views as an anti-Russia “establishment,” an assessment cited by Engel on Friday.
“Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump’s candidacy on social media and Russian television,” Evanina warned.
“For example, pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption – including through publicizing leaked phone calls – to undermine former Vice President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party,” he said.
Updated at 1:13 p.m.