House chairman: Pompeo won't testify at Iran hearing Tuesday

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: US formally rejects Beijing's South China Sea claims | House set to consider defense policy bill next week | 57 injured as firefighters battle warship blaze Pompeo formally rejects Beijing's claims in South China Sea Wells Fargo told employees to delete TikTok from work phones MORE will not testify at a House committee hearing on Iran on Tuesday, the committee’s chairman announced Monday.

“I’m disappointed and frustrated that Secretary Pompeo will not appear before the committee tomorrow,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance Engel70 progressive groups call for next Foreign Affairs chair to reflect 'progressive realism' Overnight Defense: US formally rejects Beijing's South China Sea claims | House set to consider defense policy bill next week | 57 injured as firefighters battle warship blaze Many Democrats want John Bolton's testimony, but Pelosi stays mum MORE (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Monday.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Pompeo’s decision not to testify.

ADVERTISEMENT

Pompeo is on a trip to California until Wednesday, according to a Thursday statement from the State Department.

Pompeo’s rejection of the committee’s invitation comes as questions continue to swirl about the intelligence that led to a U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Killing Soleimani brought the United States and Iran to the brink of war, though both sides have appeared to step back after an Iranian missile strike on an Iraqi base housing U.S. troops resulted in no casualties.

Administration officials have had shifting explanations for why they carried out the Soleimani strike, from citing his past attacks to claiming he was plotting an “imminent” attack.

On Friday, President TrumpDonald John TrumpWayfair refutes QAnon-like conspiracy theory that it's trafficking children Stone rails against US justice system in first TV interview since Trump commuted his sentence Federal appeals court rules Trump admin can't withhold federal grants from California sanctuary cities MORE claimed Soleimani was threatening four U.S. embassies. On Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperWhite House CTO chosen to serve as acting Pentagon tech chief Congress pulls punches on Russian bounties firestorm Senate Democrats demand to see copies of Trump's intelligence briefings on Russian bounties MORE said he “didn’t see” specific intelligence that Soleimani was planning to attack four embassies but added that he shares Trump’s “view” that that could have happened.

ADVERTISEMENT

On Monday, Trump added that it “doesn’t really matter” if Soleimani posed an imminent threat “because of his horrible past.”

In his statement Monday, Engel said Pompeo should “welcome” the opportunity to testify and clarify the administration’s position.

“Each passing day raises new questions about the strike that killed General Soleimani,” Engel said. “Was there really an imminent threat? Was it part of a larger operation? What was the legal justification? What is the path forward? With the wildly muddled explanations coming from the administration, the secretary should welcome the opportunity to make the case and answer questions before the American people. The committee expects to hear from him soon.”

After a closed-door briefing last week with Pompeo, Esper, CIA Director Gina HaspelGina Cheri HaspelRussian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday Top intelligence officials to brief Gang of Eight on Thursday MORE and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, Engel raised the possibility of subpoenaing Pompeo if he would not appear voluntarily at the open hearing, but said no decisions had been made.

A committee spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Monday's statement means Engel will not issue a subpoena.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee invited Pompeo to testify last Tuesday, saying in a letter that his participation would “provide the committee with valuable context as it considers legislation related to the use of military force, as well as strategy and aims of U.S. policy in Iraq and the broader Middle East.”

Tuesday’s hearing is scheduled to proceed with expert testimony from Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, Brookings Institution nonresident senior fellow Avril Haines and former national security adviser Stephen Hadley.