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Pompeo Pushes Back on House Democrats, Hard

Says State Dept. officials will not be appearing for scheduled depositions
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2019 12:56 PM CDT
Updated Oct 1, 2019 7:26 PM CDT
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Shown is a letter from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019 in Washington.   (AP Photo/Wayne Partlow)

(Newser) – On Friday, the House panels conducting the impeachment inquiry requested that five current and former State Department officials appear this week and next for depositions. On Tuesday, Mike Pompeo made clear that won't happen, the Washington Post reports. The secretary of state sent a letter to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (Pompeo posted the letter in full on Twitter) outlining a number of "serious substantive and procedural deficiencies" in the request, which he called nothing more than "an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly, the distinguished professionals of the Department of State." He faulted the committee for not providing the five enough time to prepare and said the panels are trying to block State Department counsel from coming with them.

He also noted the five weren't issued subpoenas, and "we are not aware of any other authority by which the committee could compel appearance at a depositions"; therefore, the scheduled depositions "could only be read as a request for a voluntary appearance." The officials requested have all somehow been involved in US-Ukraine relations: Marie Yovanovitch, former ambassador to Ukraine; Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine; Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent; US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland; and State Department Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl. Later Tuesday, CNN reports, the chairmen of the three committees requesting the depositions issued a statement warning Pompeo that "any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress ... is illegal." The AP reports that Volker, who resigned last week, has agreed to talk to the committees behind closed doors this week and Yovanovitch will appear Oct. 11. (Read more Trump impeachment stories.)

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