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Three House committees last week sent subpoenas to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding his involvement with President Donald Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president back in July.
The House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight committees all sent subpoenas to Pompeo demanding “documents related to efforts by President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to dig up dirt on 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden,” reported The Daily Beast.
“The subpoenaed documents shall be part of the impeachment inquiry and shared among the Committees,” according to the letter sent to Pompeo on Friday. “Your failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry.”
The whistleblower complaint, made by someone who did not listen to the president’s phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, claimed that a specific State Department employee listened in on the call. That assertion turned out to be false, as it was Pompeo himself who listened to the call.
The Beast also reported that the House committees have scheduled depositions with five State Department officials they say are important to their latest probe into Trump. From the Beast:
They include Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker—the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and the U.S. special envoy for Ukraine, respectively—whom the whistleblower alleges were tasked with helping Ukrainian officials navigate Trump’s expectations.
The first person scheduled to be deposed is Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled in May under circumstances the whistleblower described as politically motivated. Trump called Yovanovitch “bad news” in his July call with Zelensky.
On Tuesday, Pompeo responded to the subpoena demands on Twitter, saying he was “concerned with aspects of the Committee’s request that can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully, & treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State, including several career [Foreign Service Officers].”
In a follow-up tweet, Pompeo said: “Let me be clear: I will not tolerate such tactics, and I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead and serve alongside at the Department of State.”
Let me be clear: I will not tolerate such tactics, and I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead and serve alongside at the Department of State.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) October 1, 2019
In his official response to Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Pompeo says the subpoena request “raises significant legal and procedural concerns.”
“First, your letter raises fundamental legal questions related to the authority of the Committee to compel an appearance for a deposition solely by virtue of these letters,” Pompeo wrote. “Your letter implies that you have sought to compel Department officials to appear for depositions on the identified dates, yet the Committee has not issued any subpoenas for depositions and we are not aware of any other authority by which the committee could compel appearance at a deposition.”
Pompeo also tells Engel that the subpoena did not give notice of deposition.
“Second, your letter provides a woefully inadequate opportunity for the Department and the requested witnesses to prepare,” Pompeo continued. “These individuals have retained, or may be retaining, private counsel, as is their constitutional right, and in the course of the Department’s discussions with these individuals, several have indicated that they need more time both to retain and to consult with private counsel.”
The House letters gave State Department officials one week to prepare.
Pompeo also excoriated Engel for trying “to circumvent the Executive Branch’s unquestionably legitimate constitutional interest in protecting potentially privileged information related to the conduct of diplomatic relations” by preventing State Department counsel from participating in House Democrats’ depositions of former State employees.
Pompeo also took Engel to task for providing State little time to prepare for his demands and then claiming that failure to produce the documents within that limited time “shall constitute evidence of obstruction.”
“There is no legal basis for such a threat,” Pompeo wrote. “Given the serious substantive and procedural deficiencies in the Committee’s requests, including the Committee’s apparent effort to circumvent Executive Branch constitutional interests in having Department counsel present at any depositions, the Committee’s assertion lacks any recognized legal basis. I urge you to exercise restraint in making such unfounded statements in the future.”