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Pompeo raps Democrats for bullying tactics in impeachment probe

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pauses during a press conference at the US Department of State on August 7, 2019, in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused Democrats of trying to “intimidate” and “bully” State Department employees in their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

In a letter to US Congress on Tuesday, Pompeo expressed concern over details of the country’s House Committee request related to Trump’s impeachment probe and accused Democrats of sticking to what he described as “bully”-like tactics pertaining to the investigation.

“I’m concerned with aspects of the Committee’s request that can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully, & treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State, including several career FSOs,” Pompeo said in a Tweet, referring to Foreign Service Officers.

“Let me be clear: I will 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,” he added.

House Democrats, spearheaded by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, launched the impeachment inquiry of Trump after a whistleblower’s disclosure of the president’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which Trump allegedly sought Ukraine’s help to smear the former vice president and current front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden.

Trump reportedly urged Zelensky about eight times during the phone call to work with his lawyer Rudy Giuliani to investigate government corruption involving Biden and his son, Hunter.

The US president dismissed the Ukraine allegations as another witch-hunt attempting to smear his already tarnished reputation.

House Democrats formally subpoenaed Pompeo last Friday — the first subpoena since Pelosi formalized an impeachment inquiry — and ordered five State Department officials to give testimonies over the next two weeks on whether Trump had pressured the Ukraine president to dig up dirt on Biden and his son.

The officials include former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, Ambassador Kurt Volker, the US Special Representative for Ukraine, and Ambassador Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union.

Pompeo, House spar over impeachment

The American diplomat announced on Tuesday that his department officials identified as key players in the Ukraine affair would be unable to comply with a schedule of depositions set to begin Wednesday.

“Based on the profound procedural and legal deficiencies noted above, the Committee's requested dates for depositions are not feasible,” Pompeo wrote.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee said a failure to appear on the given dates would "constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry."

“Any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress — including State Department employees — is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry. In response, Congress may infer from this obstruction that any withheld documents and testimony would reveal information that corroborates the whistleblower complaint,” the Committee said in a statement.

According to the Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday, nearly half of Americans believe Trump should be impeached, a figure that increased by 8 percentage points during the past week as more people learned about the scandal.

The opinion poll found that 45 percent of adults believe the US president "should be impeached," compared with 37 percent in a similar poll taken last week.

The poll findings reflect several other recent surveys, which have shown that support is increasing among Americans for an impeachment inquiry into Trump.

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