House committee to hold Pompeo in contempt for amplifying ‘Putin’s debunked conspiracy theories’

Eliot Engel says panel was left with ‘no further option but to begin drafting a resolution’

James Crump
Friday 28 August 2020 23:06 BST
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House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Eliot Engel has announced that the panel will carry out contempt proceedings against US secretary of state Mike Pompeo.

In a statement on Friday, Mr Engel said that the committee will begin drafting a resolution of contempt, after Mr Pompeo has repeatedly refused to provide subpoenaed documents as part of an investigation to determine whether he has misused government resources for political purposes, according to The Hill.

The committee is beginning proceedings against Mr Pompeo as he is still yet to hand over documents relating to Ukraine that were subpoenaed for president Donald Trump’s impeachment enquiry in 2019.

Mr Engel and the committee are also drafting the resolution because Mr Pompeo provided Republican controlled senate committees documents subpoenaed by his panel, for an investigation into Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his son.

In July, Mr Engel issued a subpoena for more than 16,000 pages of documents the State Department sent to the Republican backed Senate Finance and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees, but the State Department has refused to provide them.

On Friday, Mr Engel wrote: “The Secretary’s ongoing defiance of two duly authorised subpoenas on matters directly linked to American foreign policy towards Ukraine has left the committee no further option but to begin drafting a resolution finding Secretary Pompeo in contempt of Congress.”

The committee’s chairman added: “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.”

Mr Engel accused the secretary of state of attempting to disrupt November’s presidential election, by helping the Republican led committees investigate Mr Biden, but not Mr Trump.

The Senate investigation is looking into Mr Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and his position on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, according to ABC News.

So far there is no evidence to support corruption by the Democratic presidential nominee, but Mr Trump has repeatedly criticised Hunter as part of his reelection campaign.

In a press release issued in June, the Office of William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Centre, said the Russian government is taking active “measures to primarily denigrate former vice president Biden.”

The office added that the Ukrainian member of parliament Andriy Derkach “is spreading claims about corruption — including through publicizing leaked phone calls — to undermine Biden and the Democratic Party,” according to ABC.

In reference to the investigation, Mr Engel said: “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.”

In a response to the subpoena last week, the State Department wrote that it does not need to give the committee the documents, as the panel is investigating Mr Pompeo and not the investigation against the former vice president and his son.

The committee chair said that “Mr Pompeo’s final response makes it clear where he stands: the Department would turn over the documents if the committee announced that we, too, were pursuing an investigation into the same conspiracy theory that’s been debunked again and again.”

Mr Pompeo is separately being investigated by the House Foreign Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, over a speech he delivered at the Republican National Convention (RNC) earlier this week.

The subcommittee is investigating whether Mr Pompeo breached the Hatch Act, by delivering a speech to the RNC while he was away on diplomatic duty in Jerusalem.

The Hatch Act, that was brought into law in 1939, states that civil service employees cannot engage in political activity and the subcommittee alleges that his speech on Tuesday breached the federal law.

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