WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo failed to comply with a Friday deadline to turn over Ukraine-related documents to House Democrats leading an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Pompeo said the State Department sent a letter to Congress Friday night, but not the requested documents, and he accused House Democrats of harassing State Department employees in their quest for information.
"Sadly there have been congressional inquiries that have harassed and abused State Department employees," Pompeo told reporters in Greece during a news conference with that country's foreign minister.
"We'll obviously do all the things that we are required to do by law," he said, without specifying how long it might take to comply.
The State Department's delay in producing reams of documents related to the agency's dealings with Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, and Ukrainian leaders comes amid an increasingly high-stakes standoff between the executive branch and Congress. Democrats are investigating allegations that Trump used the power of his office to press a foreign government for damaging information about a top political rival.
Democrats leading the inquiry suggested they were in negotiations with Pompeo's team over the subpoena.
"Secretary Pompeo has failed to meet the deadline to produce documents required by the subpoena. However, the State Department has contacted the Committees on this matter and we hope the Department will cooperate in full promptly," said a committee official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The committee source lawmakers still expected to proceed with testimony for several State Department witnesses next week.
Pompeo's comments alleging "harassment" of State Department employees has sparked fury among some former Obama administration officials, who recalled Pompeo's demands when he was a Kansas congressman. Pompeo helped lead the House probe into the State Department’s handling of a terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in eastern Libya where four Americans died, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
In that congressional inquiry, Pompeo accused the Obama administration of delay and obstruction as GOP leaders asked the State Department for records related to the attack. Democrats "have played hide the ball and have denied us records that the American people deserve and that our committee needs to complete our investigation," he charged in an October 2015 interview.
"No one I know believes that the secretary is acting in the interests of the rank and file" employees at the State Department, said Brett Bruen, a former foreign service officer who worked on global engagement in the Obama administration. He noted that the Trump administration's decision to recall the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, after complaints about her from Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, has not given State Department employees confidence that he's willing to stand up for them.
"Ambassadorial appointments were rescinded for those found to have been even mildly critical of the president in their use of private social media," Bruen said. "Ambassadors, like our chief of mission to Ukraine, who are seen as not falling in line with questionable demands, are sent packing."
The White House indicated on Friday that it would not cooperate with any document requests unless and until the full House votes to authorize the impeachment inquiry. It was not clear if Pompeo's delay was related to the White House directive or if the State Department was working with the committee to comply. The State Department press office did not respond to a request for comment.
Pompeo launched a broadside against the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry earlier this week, suggesting he would fight their request to depose five State Department employees involved in the Ukraine controversy. Democrats accused him of "stonewalling" the proceedings and seeking to intimidate witnesses.
On Thursday, former State Department official Kurt Volker, Trump's ex-envoy to Ukraine, testified for more than nine hours behind closed doors. He shared text messages and other information that shed new light on Trump's efforts to press Ukrainian leaders to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Biden is a leading candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
On Friday, the House Intelligence Committee questioned Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general, about a whistleblower complaint that brought Trump's requests about Biden to light.
The State Department's failure to turn over documents on Friday came amid an escalating showdown between House Democrats and the White House. Earlier in the day, House Democrats subpoenaed the White House for documents relating to the Ukraine scandal and demanded information from Vice President Mike Pence on his involvement in the controversy.
Impeachment inquiry: Vice President Mike Pence gets document request from House Democrats
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Impeachment: Pompeo misses subpoena deadline for Ukraine documents