Preventing State Department counsel from participating, Pompeo contended in his Oct. 1 letter to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, “amounts to an attempt to circumvent the Executive Branch’s unquestionably legitimate constitutional interest in protecting potentially privileged information related to the conduct of diplomatic relations.”
A Democratic committee aide who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter said that despite Pompeo’s claim, the House has “clear authority” to hold depositions without government lawyers present and has “a long precedent of doing exactly that.”
The Trump administration has blocked requests from multiple House committees conducting oversight of the president’s policies, his personal finances and his communications with Ukraine, among other matters.
As a member of the special House committee, by contrast, then-congressman Pompeo pressed the Obama administration to cooperate with the panel’s inquiry, demanding documents and testimony from dozens of government officials.
Over the course of more than two years, the panel spoke to 81 witnesses and reviewed 75,000 pages of documents, according to its final report. Most notably, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton testified for more than 11 hours before the panel Oct. 22, 2015.
During the September 2015 deposition, the official, Bryan Pagliano, invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination. Pagliano was accompanied by his personal attorney, Mark MacDougall, according to a House record of the deposition. But he was not accompanied by any State Department lawyers.
Asked about Pompeo’s participation in the 2015 deposition, a State Department spokesperson did not directly answer. The spokesperson instead noted that House Democrats adopted new rules this year barring agency counsel from attending depositions.
“The key constitutional issue raised in the secretary’s letter stems from new regulations adopted by House Democrats in January that explicitly prohibit agency counsel from attending depositions, regulations that were not in place during the 114th Congress (when the Secretary served on the Select Benghazi Committee),” the spokesperson said.
On Wednesday, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) said he would subpoena the White House for documents related to the House’s impeachment inquiry focused on Ukraine.
In a memo, Cummings said that the White House’s “flagrant disregard of multiple voluntary requests for documents — combined with stark and urgent warnings from the Inspector General about the gravity of these allegations — have left us with no choice but to issue this subpoena.”
The subpoena will be issued Friday, according to the memo.
Karoun Demirjian contributed to this report.