After the Trump administration blocked U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland from testifying before the House as part of the body’s impeachment inquiry, Rep. Mark Pocan on Tuesday sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reminding him of the federal law that prohibits paying the salary of any official who bars a government employee from communicating with Congress.
Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, demanded to know who ordered Sondland not to testify. As The Guardian reported, a State Department official left a voicemail with Sondland’s lawyers early Tuesday morning ordering the ambassador not to attend House hearings.
“I ask that you direct the person who prohibited Ambassador Sondland from communicating with Congress to section 713 of Division D of Public Law 116-6 signed by President Trump earlier this year,” Pocan wrote to Pompeo. “As you are aware, this section prohibits paying the salary of any ‘officer or employee of the federal government from… communication or contact with any member, committee, or subcommittee of Congress.”
“I believe the person prohibiting Ambassador Sondland from testifying before the House Intelligence Committee is in violation of this statute,” Pocan continued, “and that their salary should be withheld until Ambassador Sondland appears before Congress.”
In a tweet containing his full letter to Pompeo, Pocan said “we refuse to bankroll this administration while they hold witnesses hostage.”
Just sent @SecPompeo a letter flagging that the Feb 2019 spending bill prohibits pay to federal officials who prevent other officials from communicating with Congress.
We refuse to bankroll this administration while they hold witnesses hostage. Sondland must testify on Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/2q9qyFANRv
— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) October 8, 2019
As Common Dreams reported, the Trump administration’s decision to bar Sondland from testifying was viewed by Democrats in Congress and progressive observers as further evidence of White House obstruction as the House moves forward with its impeachment probe.
House Democrats issued a subpoena to Sondland shortly after he did not appear at Tuesday’s scheduled hearing.
In text exchanges with America’s top Ukraine diplomat Bill Taylor that were released by House Democrats earlier this month, Sondland appeared to defend President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine’s leader to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
After Taylor raised alarm last month that the White House was attempting to condition aid to Ukraine on an investigation into Biden, Sondland replied five hours later, “Call me.”
Over a week later, Sondland insisted to Taylor that Trump “has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind.”
As MSNBC‘s Chris Hayes said in response to the text exchanges, “Sondland taking five hours to respond, talking to Trump, and then replying ‘no quid pro quo’ shows 1) they knew what they were doing 2) knew it was wrong 3) settled on the ‘no quid pro quo’ defense before it ever became public.”
Trump rages at Sally Yates minutes before she testifies in the Senate: Greatest political crime of the century!
President Donald Trump lashed out at former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates on Wednesday, just minutes before she was set to deliver her opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Sally Yates has zero credibility,” Trump tweeted, as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham was speaking at the hearing.
“She was a part of the greatest political crime of the Century, and ObamaBiden knew EVERYTHING! Sally Yates leaked the General Flynn conversation? Ask her under oath. Republicans should start playing the Democrats game!“
Graham is accusing former Justice Department officials of abusing their power by surveilling some Trump’s associates during their investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.
Trump makes pitch on Catholic TV: ‘Catholics like their Second Amendment so I saved the Second Amendment’
President Donald Trump this week made a pitch to Catholic voters based on his assertion that he "saved the Second Amendment."
In a Tuesday interview with the Catholic TV network EWTV, correspondent Tracy Sabol asked Trump if he had a message for Catholic voters.
"Well, I think anybody having to do with, frankly, religion, but certainly the Catholic Church, you have to be with President Trump when it comes to pro-life, when it comes to all of the things, these people are going to take all of your rights away, including Second Amendment," the president said, "because, you know, Catholics like their Second Amendment. So I saved the Second Amendment."
‘Jim Acosta is a fake reporter!’ Trump angrily denies reports that he ‘still doesn’t get’ coronavirus threat
CNN's Jim Acosta must have struck a nerve with President Donald Trump.
Trump angrily denied Acosta's reporting that some members of the president's coronavirus task force were alarmed that Trump kept trying to change the subject during Tuesday's meeting about the deadly pandemic, and sources familiar with the White House meeting feared he still doesn't understand the gravity of the situation.
“He still doesn’t get it,” the source said. “He does not get it.”
As some members of the task force tried to stress the dire nature of the situation to the president during the meeting, the source said Trump repeatedly attempted to change the subject.