House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Eliot Engel of New York announced Friday his panel would carry out contempt proceedings against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whom he accused of showing ‘disdain’ for failing to comply with a subpoena.
In a stinging letter, the retiring Engel blasted the nation’s top diplomat for refusing to hand over documents about Ukraine that the committee first sought more than a yea ago as part of the impeachment inquiry.
He also blasted Pompeo for turning over thousands of documents to Senate Republicans as part of their own separate investigation, which he said was designed to push Russia’s ‘debunked conspiracy theories.’
‘The Secretary’s ongoing defiance of two duly authorized subpoenas on matters directly linked to American foreign policy toward Ukraine has left the Committee no further option but to begin drafting a resolution finding Secretary Pompeo in contempt of Congress,’ Engel said in a statement.
‘He seems to think the office he holds, the Department he runs, the personnel he oversees, and the taxpayer dollars that pay for all of it are there for his personal and political benefit,’ he said.
Engel’s statement focused on Ukraine, following President Donald Trump’s infamous July 25 call to president Volodymyr Zelensky and cited recent U.S. intelligence warnings of Russian misinformation in the 2020 elections.
He referenced Pompeo’s own angry letter where he ‘categorically rejects your baseless assertion’ that his agency acted inappropriately. He called the claim State was politicizing requests ‘inaccurate and misleading.
Engel bristled at Pompeo’s statement that if he can assert that his committee is investigating ‘identical or very similar corruption issues involving Ukraine,’ that State is ‘ready to commence’ document production.
Engel shot back: ‘I want no part of it. Under no circumstances will I amplify Putin’s debunked conspiracy theories or lend them credence. And I won’t stand by and see the Committee or the House treated with such disdain by anyone.’
Many Democrats consider the Senate Republican probes an attempt to try to muddy Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by probing some of the same issues Donald Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has been trying to promote.
Although the mere holding of contempt proceedings would have no immediate effect on Pompeo, it sets in motion a process that could lead to a House vote with a punishment that technically can result in imprisonment and fines.
It comes days after Democrats howled at Pompeo’s appearance at the Republican National Convention via a speech he gave from Jerusalem on an official government trip. Democrats are also seeking documents and information about various Inspector General investigations at State, including one that involved use of staff for personal errands such as walking Pompeo’s dog.