State Department watchdog schedules “urgent” meeting with Congress

Key facts and latest news

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed he was on a July call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump urged Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
  • House Democrats said they plan to issue a new subpoena for the White House to produce documents.
  • The State Department inspector general scheduled an “urgent” briefing for Wednesday afternoon with congressional committee staff.
  • Soon after the July call, White House officials moved a record of the call to a highly classified computer system, severely restricting who could access it.

Washington — House Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry into President Trump said they plan to issue a new subpoena demanding the White House turn over documents about the president’s July phone call with the leader of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed he was on the call, and pushed back against lawmakers who warned him against obstructing the impeachment probe.

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“We won’t tolerate folks on Capitol Hill bullying and intimidating State Department employees, that’s unacceptable and it’s not something that I’m going to permit to happen,” Pompeo said during a trip to Italy.

The chairmen of three House committees warned Pompeo he would be considered a “fact witness” and should play no role in dictating investigators’ access to witnesses or documents.

“We are deeply concerned about Secretary Pompeo’s effort now to potentially interfere with witnesses whose testimony is needed before our committee,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said during a briefing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

The clash comes ahead of a hastily scheduled mysterious briefing requested by the State Department’s inspector general, who requested a meeting to review unspecified documents with staffers of relevant congressional committees on Wednesday afternoon.

​Pelosi and Schiff hold press conference

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, joined by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff arrives to speak during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, October 2, 2019.

Susan Walsh / AP

11:08 a.m.: The House speaker and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee are holding a press conference on Capitol Hill. Watch live here.

​Trump calls impeachment inquiry “bad for country”

10:35 a.m.: The president is blaming “do nothing Democrats” for focusing their efforts on impeachment — something he claims they’ve been at since he was first elected.

All the Do Nothing Democrats are focused on is Impeaching the President for having a very good conversation with the Ukrainian President. I knew that many people were listening, even have a transcript. They have been at this “stuff” from the day I got elected. Bad for Country!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2019

Mr. Trump also tweeted he “knew that many people were listening” to the July 25 call and “even have a transcript.” — Emily Tillett

​House committees prep subpoena for White House docs

10:23 a.m.: The House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees are preparing to issue a subpoena to the White House this Friday if it does not turn over a broad set of documents related to the July 25 call.

In a memo on Wednesday, committee chairs Adam Schiff, Eliot Engel and Elijah Cummings said their respective committees are investigating the extent to which Mr. Trump “jeopardized national security by pressing Ukraine to interfere with our 2020 election and by withholding security assistance provided by Congress to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression, as well as any efforts to cover up these matters.”

“Over the past several weeks, the Committees tried several times to obtain voluntary compliance with our requests for documents, but the White House has refused to engage with — or even respond to — the Committees,” their memo states.

The White House has neglected to turn over related documents when they were first requested early last month.

“The White House’s flagrant disregard of multiple voluntary requests for documents–combined with stark and urgent warnings from the Inspector General about the gravity of these allegations–have left us with no choice but to issue this subpoena,” the memo reads.

This is the latest threat of subpoena action after Engle issued a subpoena for Pompeo, and Schiff issued a separate subpoena to Rudy Giuliani. — Emily Tillett and Rebecca Kaplan

Pompeo confirms he was on call between Trump and Zelensky

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, his wife Susan and U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich walk across the Sala Regia state hall with a curator during a private visit at the Vatican.

Andreas Solaro / AFP/Getty Images

7:25 a.m.: Addressing reporters in Rome during an overseas visit, Pompeo confirmed he was on the July call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“I was on the phone call,” he told the press. “I know precisely what the American policy has been with respect to Ukraine. It’s been remarkably consistent, and we will continue to drive those sets of outcomes.”

The secretary neglected to answer questions on whether or not he had heard anything on the call that had raised any red flags, but said the call was about helping Ukraine get corruption of their government and “taking down the threat that Russia poses to Ukraine.”

He said that effort will continue “even while all this noise in Washington is going on.”

On the outstanding depositions for State Department officials to come before Congress, Pompeo argued that congressional committees had said department lawyers wouldn’t be allowed to attend.

“What we objected to was the demands that were put … deeply violating fundamental principles of separation of ‎powers. They contacted State Department employees directly. Told them not to contact legal counsel in the State Department. They said that the State Department wouldn’t be able to be present. There are important constitutional prerogatives that the executive branch has to be present so that we can protect important information so our partners, countries like Italy, can have confidence that the information they provide to the State Department will continue to be protected,” Pompeo explained.

Referring to his stern letter to committee chairs, he said: “So the response that I provided to them was one that acknowledged that we will of course do our Constitutional duty to cooperate with this co-equal branch but we are going to do so in a way that is consistent with the fundamental values of the American system.”

“We won’t tolerate folks on Capitol Hill bullying and intimidating State Department employees, that’s unacceptable and it’s not something that I’m going to permit to happen,” Pompeo said. –– Emily Tillett

Australia’s PM downplays call with Trump

6:40 a.m.: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison downplayed his phone call with President Trump over the Russian interference probe, saying the conversation was not “ladled with pressure.”

In an interview with Sky News, Morrison said Mr. Trump contacted him to ask “for a point of contact” for Attorney General William Barr’s investigation into what triggered the FBI’s Russia probe.

“A couple of weeks ago the president contacted me and asked for a point of contact between the Australian government and the U.S. attorney, which I was happy to do on the basis that was something we’d already committed to do,” he said.

“It was a fairly uneventful conversation,” Morrison defended, later calling the conversation “brief” and a “fairly polite request.”

Barr had asked Mr. Trump to call Morrison to alert him that the attorney general would be reaching out, a department official previously told CBS News. The New York Times first reported the two leaders had spoken. Morrison was just one of several foreign officials Barr had sought out for assistance in the Department of Justice’s review of the origins of the Mueller probe. — Emily Tillett

Giuliani threatens lawsuit against members of Congress

6:00 a.m.: During an appearance on Fox News Tuesday night, President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said he’s considering filing a lawsuit against individual congress members for violating his, the president’s, and possibly the administration’s civil and constitutional rights.

Although Giuliani only specifically cited House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff as a potential target, he says that Congress has “violated” the president’s ability to perform Article 2 of the Constitution and violated Giuliani’s attorney-client privilege.

In terms of his subpoena, Giuliani says he does not regret revealing on national television the text messages he has with Ukrainian officials and the state department. He admitted that he has “many more,” however, Giuliani also said that turning them over was a “complicated” issue because they’re all his “work product” as an attorney.

​State Department inspector general to brief committee staff on Ukraine docs

Tuesday, 6:03 p.m.: The State Department’s internal watchdog invited congressional committee staff to attend a briefing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday “to discuss and provide staff with copies of documents related to the State Department and Ukraine.”

Inspector General Steve Linick invited Democratic and Republican staffers from eight House and Senate committees to attend the briefing. A copy of the invitation seen by CBS News was designated “urgent,” and said the inspector general “obtained the documents from the Acting Legal Advisor of the Department of State.”

Several senior congressional aides from the committees said they don’t know what is in the documents and that the invitation came as a surprise to them.

“It could be anything,” one aide said. — Nancy Cordes

​House Intel says ex-Ukraine envoy will testify as planned

Tuesday, 4:50 p.m.: The special envoy to Ukraine who abruptly resigned his post after his apparent entanglement with Rudy Giuliani came to light will appear as scheduled for a deposition before House lawmakers on Thursday, a House Intelligence Committee official said.

Kurt Volker resigned Friday amid scrutiny over his supposed role in facilitating contacts between Giuliani and various Ukrainian officials. He was scheduled to appear before the House committees leading the impeachment probe on Thursday and will appear behind closed doors as planned, the official said.

The official said former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will now appear on October 11, under an agreement reached with her counsel. She was previously scheduled to appear on Wednesday.

Both officials are among the five included in Pompeo’s earlier letter to the committees protesting the demand for their testimony. — Olivia Gazis and Stefan Becket

​House chairmen accuse Pompeo of witness intimidation

Pompeo accuses House Democrats trying to “bully” diplomats

Tuesday, 2:32 p.m.: The chairmen of three House committees demanding documents from Pompeo and depositions of State Department officials responded to the secretary’s letter Tuesday afternoon, accusing him of obstructing their investigation.

“Secretary Pompeo was reportedly on the call when the President pressed Ukraine to smear his political opponent. If true, Secretary Pompeo is now a fact witness in the House impeachment inquiry,” the chairmen wrote. “He should immediately cease intimidating Department witnesses in order to protect himself and the President.”

The letter came from the chairmen of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Intelligence Committee and Oversight and Reform Committee — Eliot Engel, Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings, respectively.

“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,” the lawmakers continued. “In response, Congress may infer from this obstruction that any withheld documents and testimony would reveal information that corroborates the whistleblower complaint.”

The chairmen said they are “committed to protecting witnesses from harassment and intimidation, and we expect their full compliance and that of the Department of State.” — Stefan Becket

Pompeo responds to Democrats’ demand for depositions

Tuesday, 10:51 a.m.: In a letter to the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Democrats of trying to “intimidate” and “bully” State Department officials with a request for testimony about their involvement in the Ukraine call. Pompeo said the committee’s request does not provide enough time for the department and its employees to adequately prepare.

Pompeo, who is traveling in Italy, wrote that the request “can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State, including several career Foreign Service Officers.”

He added, “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.”

On Friday, three committee chairs wrote to Pompeo informing him they had scheduled depositions for five officials: former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, former special envoy Kurt Volker, Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent, State Department Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl and U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland. All five officials were mentioned in the whistleblower complaint.

Volker resigned abruptly from his post as special envoy for Ukraine on Friday and is scheduled to be deposed on Thursday.

The chairmen also issued a subpoena for documents from Pompeo related to the call. — Emily Tillett