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

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Lawmakers tear into Pentagon over .8B for border wall | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on wall funding | Senators urge UN to restore Iran sanctions Former Laura Bush staffer decries Taliban's treatment of women amid peace deal Bipartisan Senate resolution would urge UN to renew Iran arms embargo, travel restrictions 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 EngelOvernight Defense: Army says it isn't investigating Vindman | White House outlines legal justification for Soleimani strike | Service member dies in Africa Trump administration outlines legal justification for Soleimani strike Pompeo to testify on Iran in February 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 John TrumpTrump passes Pence a dangerous buck Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — Trump taps Pence to lead coronavirus response | Trump accuses Pelosi of trying to create panic | CDC confirms case of 'unknown' origin | Schumer wants .5 billion in emergency funds Trump nods at reputation as germaphobe during coronavirus briefing: 'I try to bail out as much as possible' after sneezes MORE claimed Soleimani was threatening four U.S. embassies. On Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperSaudi military students resume US flight training: report Overnight Defense: Lawmakers tear into Pentagon over .8B for border wall | Dems offer bill to reverse Trump on wall funding | Senators urge UN to restore Iran sanctions Bipartisan Armed Services leaders tear into Pentagon over use of .8B for border wall 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 HaspelFormer CIA chief: Not 'right' for Haspel to applaud at State of the Union Schiff schedules public hearing with US intel chief  Senate Democrat says he is concerned intelligence community is 'bending' Soleimani presentations 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.