Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fired a broadside at House Democrats on Tuesday, saying State Department officials scheduled to appear this week before committees conducting the impeachment inquiry would not be made available until “we obtain further clarity on these matters.”
The refusal, in a letter to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), described the demand for depositions by five officials who played a role in U.S. relations with Ukraine as “an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly, the distinguished professionals of the Department of State.”
A spokesman for the committee had no immediate comment.
The statements came as Pompeo’s role in the Ukraine investigation broadened with reports that he was a participant in the July 25 call by President Trump to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, which led to the impeachment investigation.
Before that report, first published by The Wall Street Journal, Pompeo had brushed off questions about the incident, saying last week that he had not yet read the transcript of the telephone call released by the White House, or the whistleblower complaint that it sparked.
The committee, along with the House Intelligence and Oversight panels, had requested the five officials to appear for depositions this week and next, to begin Wednesday with Marie Yovanovitch, who was recalled by Pompeo as ambassador to Ukraine in May, prior to the end of her tour.
Other State Department officials scheduled for depositions include Kurt Volker, the administration’s special envoy to Ukraine, who resigned last week; Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent; U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland; and State Department Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl.
On Friday, the committees also subpoenaed Pompeo over what they said was his failure to respond to previous requests related to the inquiry. Pompeo left the country late Monday on a week-long trip to Europe.
His Tuesday letter chastising the committees said that he would “not tolerate such tactics, and I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead and serve alongside at the Department of State.”
Saying that no subpoenas had been issued for the five depositions, he said “we are not aware of any other authority by which the committee could compel appearance at a depositions,” and that the scheduled depositions thus “could only be read as a request for a voluntary appearance of the five Department officials.”
The committees, Pompeo said, had provided insufficient time for the officials to prepare and to consult both private and State Department lawyers, as well as consultations “regarding the Department’s legitimate interests in safeguarding potentially privileged and classified information.”