Pompeo says State Department being bullied by impeachment inquiry

WASHINGTON, Shabtai Gold (dpa)- US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashed out at the impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives, accusing Democratic lawmakers of using intimidation against his staff while leaving open whether he would comply with a subpeona for documents.
Pompeo also said in a letter to Congress that it was "not feasible" for lawmakers to question five State Department officials this week and next as part of the investigations into President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine.

Lawmakers were providing "woefully inadequate" time in their request to depose the diplomats, Pompeo said. The documents the lawmakers are requesting may be subjected to privileges and secrecy of the executive branch of government, the letter added.
The three Democratic lawmakers spearheading the investigations into Trump shot back with accusations of their own, accusing the secretary of "stonewalling" the constitutional role of Congress and warning they may consider this formal obstruction.
"In response, Congress may infer from this obstruction that any withheld documents and testimony would reveal information that corroborates the whistleblower complaint," the three committee chairs wrote back.
The impeachment inquiry centres around a July 25 phone call that Trump held with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. A White House released a reconstructed transcript of the call last week.
In the call, the Republican president asked his Ukrainian counterpart to consider opening an investigation into Trump's political rival, Joe Biden. Trump asks Zelensky for a "favour." 
A government whistleblower complaint filed in August had also raised the alarm over the call. Trump has been attacking the whistleblower, whose identity is still secret. The person's lawyers have expressed concern their client might be in harm's way.
Lawmakers have cited media reports saying that Pompeo was on the call, and warning that this could make him a direct witness in the case.
Regarding the subpoena issued against him, Pompeo said only that he would respond by the end of the week, the given deadline, without further indications of whether he would comply.
The secretary, currently on a trip to Europe, blasted lawmakers for "an attempt to intimidate, bully and treat improperly" his staff.
The three chairs also said that Pompeo's efforts to block the officials from being deposed within the next 10 days could itself be seen as intimidation.
Trump has accused Biden of corruption in Ukraine, primarily in connection with his son, Hunter Biden, who was appointed to a top role at a Ukrainian gas company while the former vice president was a key point person on the eastern European country.
Biden has denied any wrongdoing, but he is facing intense scrutiny, at least with regards to an appearance of a possible conflict of interest.

Tuesday, October 1st 2019
Shabtai Gold (dpa)

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