House panel halts contempt proceedings against Pompeo after documents turned over

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is halting contempt proceedings against Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHillicon Valley: FBI chief says Russia is trying to interfere in election to undermine Biden | Treasury Dept. sanctions Iranian government-backed hackers Treasury Dept. sanctions Iranian government-backed hackers The Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association – Pence lauds Harris as ‘experienced debater’; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep MORE after the State Department gave the panel documents it had sought.

Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelThe Hill’s Morning Report – Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association – Pence lauds Harris as ‘experienced debater’; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep Coons beats back progressive Senate primary challenger in Delaware Overnight Defense: Trump hosts Israel, UAE, Bahrain for historic signing l Air Force reveals it secretly built and flew new fighter jet l Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to ‘forever chemicals’ MORE (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the panel, said the State Department handed over documents that had been given to Senate Republicans in their investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenCast of ‘Parks and Rec’ reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response Biden tells CNN town hall that he has benefited from white privilege MORE as well as those it gave to the Senate after President TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president’s policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is ‘unwise’ Cast of ‘Parks and Rec’ reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE’s impeachment. 

Engel had subpoenaed the documents and threatened to hold Pompeo in contempt if he did not give them to House Democrats.

“It shouldn’t have taken a subpoena, let alone the threat of contempt, for Secretary Pompeo to comply with the Committee’s oversight request,” Engel said in a statement Friday. “Nevertheless, I’m gratified that we’ve received these materials and can review them before Senate Republicans issue their report.”

The controversy surrounded two batches of documents the House committee had asked the State Department to provide. The first is regarding documents involving the House impeachment investigation into Trump’s withholding of military assistance to Ukraine. Engel was also asking for documents the State Department has provided to two Republican-controlled Senate committees that are probing Biden’s work in Ukraine during his time as vice president.

The pressure campaign from Engel came as his committee is investigating Pompeo over whether he has misused government resources for political reasons.

The State Department had initially rebuffed Democrats’ request for documents it sent to the two Senate committees, saying it was not obliged to provide the information on Biden because the foreign affairs panel is investigating Pompeo, not allegations against the former vice president.

Engel repeated past condemnations of the Senate GOP probes, accusing Pompeo of aiding Republicans’ efforts to hurt Biden heading into the presidential election.

“This ‘investigation’ is obviously designed to

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Top Pompeo Aides Face U.S. House Democrats Over Saudi Weapons, Official’s Firing | Top News

By Patricia Zengerle and Daphne Psaledakis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top aides to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will testify to members of Congress on Wednesday about the firing of the former State Department inspector general, months after Democratic-led committees launched an investigation into his dismissal.

President Donald Trump abruptly fired Steve Linick from his position as the State watchdog in May, as he investigated the administration’s decision to pursue billions of dollars in military sales to Saudi Arabia despite congressional opposition.

His firing was one of a series of Trump’s dismissals of officials responsible for preventing fraud and abuse at government agencies. The firings prompted concern among members of Congress, including some of Trump’s fellow Republicans, over whether Trump was interfering with legitimate oversight.

Linick was also investigating allegations that Pompeo and his wife Susan had misused government resources by having department staff handle personal matters.

On Wednesday three top Pompeo aides – Brian Bulatao, Under Secretary for Management, Acting Legal Adviser Marik String and Clarke Cooper, Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs – will appear before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees.

Underscoring tensions between Congress and the administration over Linick’s firing amid the investigations, Bulatao and String agreed to testify only after the panels announced subpoenas.

“All the facts that we know suggest that there is an aversion to accountability,” a committee aide said.

Congress had requested an investigation into the Trump administration’s May 2019 decision to push ahead with $8 billion in military sales to Saudi Arabia and neighboring countries by declaring a “national emergency” over tensions with Iran in order to sidestep congressional objections to the sales.

Lawmakers had been blocking many of the sales for months out of concern the Raytheon smart bombs and other equipment might contribute to the human catastrophe in Yemen, where bombings by a Saudi-led coalition have caused heavy civilian casualties.

A report issued by the State Inspector General’s office in August found that State did not fully evaluate the risks to civilians in Yemen when it pushed through the huge precision-guided munitions sale, although it did not violate the law.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Mary Milliken and David Gregorio)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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House Dems investigating Pompeo, wife to face off with senior State Dept. officials

Two House Democratic chairs have been investigating allegations against Pompeo.

Months of tension between House Democrats and the State Department are set to spill out into public display on Wednesday when senior department officials testify about the firing of the agency’s inspector general.

President Donald Trump’s removal of the federal watchdog at the request of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came as the independent office was investigating Pompeo and his wife leading to accusations of retaliation that the Pompeos have denied.

Those accusations were revived on Friday after the House published a transcript of two top Pompeo aides’ closed-door testimony.

The House Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees’ Democratic chairs have been investigating several allegations against the top U.S. diplomat, including his unprecedented speech to the Republican National Convention, his cooperation with a Republican-led Senate investigation of Trump’s opponent Joe Biden and his private dinners at the State Department for elite guests.

Inspector general Steve Linick was fired in May. At the time, Pompeo confirmed he requested to have Linick removed and accused him of leaking or “investigating policies he simply didn’t like.”

Linick’s office was investigating allegations of the Pompeos’ use of career staff to run personal errands, the secretary’s use of an emergency authority to bypass Congress and sell arms to Saudi Arabia, the department rescinding an award to a Finnish journalist who criticized Trump and allegations of “workplace violence” in the Office of the Chief of Protocol.

Pompeo has denied that Linick’s firing was retaliatory — at first saying he was unaware of any investigations and then saying while he answered questions about the arms sale probe, he didn’t know the full scope.

PHOTO: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens during the third annual U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue at the State Dept., Monday, Sept. 14, 2020 in Washington.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens during the third annual U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue at the State Dept., Monday, Sept. 14, 2020 in Washington.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo listens during the third annual U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue at the State Dept., Monday, Sept. 14, 2020 in Washington.

Stephen Akard, a longtime aide to Vice President Mike Pence who had served as acting inspector general after Linick was fired, told the House committees that “Pompeo was interested in the release of” the OIG’s Saudi arms sale probe, but that he had recused himself from it. As a political appointee who still served as director of State’s Office of Foreign Missions, he wanted to avoid any potential conflicts of interest before resigning in August.

Akard’s sworn affidavit, released by the committee Monday, is the latest participation by a department official in the committee’s probe. Its chair, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., released transcripts Friday from two top Pompeo aides, a longtime confidante Toni Porter and a career official Lisa Kenna, who serves as executive secretary, a key gatekeeper for a secretary of state.

Porter told the committees that she was interviewed two weeks ago by the Office of Inspector General about “misuse of government resources” by Pompeo and his wife Susan

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House readies contempt resolution as Pompeo defies subpoenas

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Foreign Affairs Committee is moving to hold Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in contempt after he has repeatedly rejected the committee’s subpoenas for records related to Ukraine that the department has turned over to the Republican-led Senate.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said Friday that the panel will prepare a contempt resolution because of what he called Pompeo’s “unprecedented record of obstruction and defiance of the House’s constitutional oversight authority.” The House has asked for the same documents that the State Department has turned over for a Senate investigation into Democrat Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and his activities in Ukraine, but Pompeo has refused to provide them.

In a letter to Engel this week, the department said Pompeo would turn over the documents if the House panel was investigating, like the Senate, “identical or very similar corruption issues involving Ukraine and corrupt influence related to U.S. foreign policy.” Democrats have said they believe that investigation by the Senate Homeland and Governmental Affairs Committee is a politically motivated, election-year probe that is aiding Russia’s attempts to sow chaos in American democracy and spreading Russian disinformation.

The department reiterated that position Friday after Engel said he would pursue contempt, saying in a statement that they would provide the materials “with the only condition being that he send a letter explaining what foreign policy issue he is investigating that requires these documents.”

The committee’s contempt resolution will also cite Pompeo’s refusal to comply with a subpoena issued during the House impeachment inquiry last year. The House impeached President Donald Trump in December — and the Senate acquitted him in February — for his pressure on Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden as Joe Biden was running for the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump. The president and his associates asked Ukraine for the probes as he was withholding military aid to the country.

“Mr. Pompeo is demanding that the committee do essentially the same thing Russia is doing, according the Office of the Director of National Intelligence: ‘spreading claims about corruption’ in order to ‘interfere in the American presidential election,’” Engel said. “In other words, Pompeo will give the committee what we were seeking if we join in a smear of the president’s political rival. Sound familiar?”

The contempt resolution is the latest — and likely futile — attempt by the Democrat-led House to pressure Trump’s administration into complying with requests for testimony and information on a wide range of issues. While congressional subpoenas are legally binding, officials who have rebuffed Congress have faced little consequence for defying them, while Trump has fired or demoted federal employees who have complied with requests individually.

Contempt itself is largely a symbolic gesture that has generally been used to embarrass officials who refuse congressional requests, and Democratic attempts to legally fight the administration’s refusals have been drawn out in lengthy court battles.

The State Department has also defied subpoenas in the committee’s investigation of Trump’s firing of

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