Dems drop Pompeo contempt threat after records turned over

FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020 file photo, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to reporters following a meeting with members of the U.N. Security Council, at the United Nations. The United States is preparing to declare that all international sanctions against Iran have been restored, despite overwhelming opposition. Few countries believe restoring all international sanctions is legal, and the U.S. move could provoke a credibility crisis at the United Nations.(Mike Segar/Pool via AP, File) (Mike Segar)

WASHINGTON – The House Foreign Affairs Committee has dropped a threat of contempt against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after the State Department turned over 16,000 pages of records related to a Senate investigation of Democrat Joe Biden’s son.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., had subpoenaed Pompeo and threatened to hold him in contempt of Congress after months of requesting the records, which had already been turned over to the Republican-led Senate.

The GOP probe by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee is looking at Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine, an investigation that Democrats say is an effort to boost President Donald Trump’s reelection bid. The chairman of that committee, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, has said he will issue a final report in the coming weeks.

“It shouldn’t have taken a subpoena, let alone the threat of contempt, for Secretary Pompeo to comply with the Committee’s oversight request,” Engel said in a statement. “Nevertheless, I’m gratified that we’ve received these materials and can review them before Senate Republicans issue their report.”

The State Department’s decision to turn over the records is a rare win for House Democrats who have been repeatedly frustrated by Trump administration officials who have defied or outright ignored their requests. While congressional subpoenas are legally binding, officials who have rebuffed Congress have faced little consequence for defying them, while Trump has fired or demoted federal employees who have complied with requests individually.

Contempt itself is largely a symbolic gesture that has generally been used to embarrass officials who refuse congressional requests, and Democratic attempts to legally fight the administration’s refusals have been drawn out in lengthy court battles.

The committee did not make the State Department documents available and it was unclear if or when they would release them. Engel said in his statement that the committee is “going to make sure the American people see the whole picture.”

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens, and Hunter Biden has denied using his influence as a board member for a gas company in Ukraine with his father, who was vice president at the time.

Pompeo and his aides have had previously said that the committee had not shown that its demand on the Ukraine documents was for a legitimate legislative purpose and suggested that it was entirely partisan. The department had said it would turn over the documents if the House panel was investigating, like the Senate, “identical or very similar corruption issues involving Ukraine and corrupt influence related to U.S. foreign policy.”

The committee had said it was preparing a contempt resolution that would have also included Pompeo’s refusal to comply with a subpoena issued during the House impeachment inquiry last year.

The House impeached Trump in December — and the Senate acquitted him in February — for his pressure on Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden as Joe Biden was running for the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump. The president and his associates asked Ukraine for the probes as he was withholding military aid to the country.

Engel said that subpoena is still in effect.