House Democrats announce contempt proceedings against Mike Pompeo

Mike Pompeo, U.S. secretary of state, speaks during the Republican National Convention from Israel, August 25, 2020

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Democrat-led House Foreign Affairs Committee announced Friday that it will launch proceedings to hold Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in contempt.

The contempt resolution against Pompeo, President Donald Trump’s second secretary of State, is being drafted in response to the Cabinet official’s “ongoing refusal to comply” with a congressional subpoena and “his transparently political misuse of Department resources,” the committee said.

Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., said in a release that Pompeo “has demonstrated alarming disregard for the laws and rules governing his own conduct and for the tools the constitution provides to prevent government corruption.”

“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,” Engel said.

Engel cited Pompeo’s alleged refusal to fully cooperate with the impeachment inquiry into Trump, as well as the top diplomat’s speech to the Republican National Convention this week, which was recorded in Jerusalem. That speech is under investigation by the Foreign Affairs subpanel on oversight, led by Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas.

The chairman also slammed Pompeo’s refusal to turn over documents to Democrats that the State Department had already given to a Republican-led Senate committee investigating allegations related to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. 

“I want no part of it. Under no circumstances will I amplify [Russia President Vladimir] 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,” Engel said.

In a statement Friday afternoon, a State Department spokesperson blasted the House panel’s announcement as “political theatrics” and “an unfortunate waste of taxpayer resources.” 

“We have previously offered to provide copies of these documents to Chairman Engel, with the only condition being that he send a letter explaining what foreign policy issue he is investigating that requires these documents. Once this letter is received, the Department will produce the documents,” the spokesperson said.

Democrats have been quick to criticize the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s commitment to investigating allegations related to Biden’s son Hunter, who sat on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings while his father was vice president.

Joe Biden, while serving as Barack Obama’s veep, pressured Ukraine’s government to fire one of its prosecutors because of concerns that the prosecutor was not doing enough to fight corruption. His stance was in line with that of European governments concerned about corruption in Ukraine.

But Trump and his allies have accused the ex-vice president of acting out of concern that the prosecutor was investigating Burisma.

Engel, as well as Biden’s campaign, have called the Senate’s probe a politically motivated “smear.”

Hunter Biden and his connection to Burisma played a major role in the impeachment proceedings against Trump. The president was impeached in the House in December on articles of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. He was later acquitted by the Republican-majority Senate.

— CNBC’s Amanda Macias contributed to this report.

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