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

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoAmerica needs a new strategy for Pacific Island Countries Harris to hold fundraiser for McAuliffe ahead of Virginia governor's race It's in our interest to turn the page on relations with Suriname 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 EngelNYC snafu the latest flub from a broken elections agency Cynthia Nixon backs primary challenger to Rep. Carolyn Maloney Democrats call on Blinken to set new sexual misconduct policies at State Department 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.

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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 TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE claimed Soleimani was threatening four U.S. embassies. On Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperBiden, Trump battle over who's to blame for Afghanistan Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief defends Milley after Trump book criticism | Addresses critical race theory | Top general says Taliban has 'strategic momentum' in war The Biden administration and Tunisia: Off to a good start 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.

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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 HaspelBiden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections CIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Biden announces veteran diplomat William Burns as nominee for CIA director 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.