State Department Watchdog Requests Urgent Meeting With Congress

WASHINGTON (CN) – The State Department’s inspector general Tuesday requested a last-minute meeting with several congressional committees to discuss documents relating to Ukraine, according to multiple reports.  

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leaves the stage after speaking in Finland on May 6, 2019. (Mandel Ngan/Pool photo via AP)

The inspector general, Steve Linick, is expected to meet with House and Senate appropriations, oversight, foreign affairs and intelligence committees Wednesday. He intends to discuss and provide copies of documents relating to the State Department and Ukraine, according to a letter obtained by The Washington Post. 

The committees are seeking voluntary testimony from current and former State Department officials as the House probes the Trump administration’s dealings with foreign leaders.  

As the head of the State Department’s watchdog, Linick acts independently from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and his actions in this matter appear to run counter to Pompeo’s.

Pompeo issued a fiery letter to House lawmakers Tuesday saying he will use all means at his disposal to stop what he sees as congressional “bullying” of State Department officials in Democrats’ impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

The three-page letter is addressed to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and follows a subpoena last week demanding Pompeo turn over a series of documents related to Trump’s request that the Ukrainian government investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, which sparked the impeachment probe.

House Democrats also sought to interview several State Department officials.

“I am concerned with aspects of your request … that can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State, including several career foreign service officers, whom the committee is now targeting,” Pompeo wrote in Tuesday’s letter.

Engel was joined in his request last week by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California and House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings of Maryland.

Since Sept. 9, the committees have tried to get a number of records they believe could illuminate precisely what occurred before, during and after President Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The State Department has ignored those requests for weeks. In Tuesday’s letter, Pompeo said lawmakers provided a “woefully inadequate” amount of time for the department to respond or to prepare requested witnesses for interviews with Congress.

Current and former department officials including Ambassadors Marie Yovanovitch, Kurt Volker and Gordon Sondland, as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent and Counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl, are expected to be deposed beginning this week.

Volker resigned last week. Yovanovitch was abruptly booted from her post in May.

Pompeo also objected on the grounds that the officials may have already retained counsel and according to agency guidelines, State Department attorneys must consult with employees’ counsel so the government’s “legitimate interests in safeguarding potentially privileged and classified information” is preserved.

The secretary further dismissed Engel, Schiff and Cummings’ assertion that a refusal to comply with their request was tantamount to evidence of obstruction in the House’s impeachment inquiry.

“There is no legal basis for such a threat,” Pompeo wrote.

Pompeo has until Friday to release documents related to Trump’s call with Zelensky.  The Wall Street Journal confirmed Monday that Pompeo was on the call, which is not unusual given his position as the nation’s chief diplomat.

The State Department did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.

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