U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has acknowledged he was on the telephone call that triggered the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump.
“I was on the phone call,” Pompeo confirmed Tuesday at a news conference in Rome, without offering details about what was said during the conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
But during an interview last week on ABC News’ ‘This Week,’ Pompeo was vague about what he knew about the call, which eventually precipitated a whistleblower complaint expressing concern Trump was seeking foreign interference in the 2020 election by asking Ukraine to investigate Democratic candidate Joe Biden.
“So, you just gave me a report about a I.C. (intelligence community) whistleblower complaint, none of which I’ve seen,” Pompeo had said.
U.S. President Donald Trump insists he did nothing wrong in the phone call. He has been criticizing the impeachment inquiry launched by House Democrats against him as a "coup," while the heads of several House of Representatives committees accuse Pompeo of blocking their efforts to gather documents and interview witnesses.
The State Department's inspector general is expected to meet Wednesday with staff from the House and Senate appropriations, oversight, foreign affairs and intelligence committees to discuss documents that lawmakers have requested as they probe the July phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy.
The House intelligence, oversight and foreign affairs committees had asked to hear testimony Wednesday from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, but that session was postponed until next week. Former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker is expected to speak to the committees on Thursday.
Secretary Pompeo sent a letter Tuesday to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel saying requests for State Department documents and depositions with current and former officials "can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly" the department's staff.
He said the requests raise "significant legal and procedural concerns," and dismissed warnings that not cooperating would amount to obstruction.
'A fact witness'
Engel, along with Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, responded by pointing to reports that Pompeo was on Trump's call with Zelenskiy, saying that means he has an "obvious conflict of interest" and "should not be making any decisions regarding witness testimony or document production in order to protect himself or the President."
They wrote that if it is true Pompeo participated in the call, then he is "now a fact witness in the impeachment inquiry."
Majority Democrats in the House are pursuing the impeachment inquiry to see whether they want to officially bring charges against Trump under their constitutional authority to seek to remove officials who engage in "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."