A Democratic member of the House Appropriations Committee has threatened to withhold executive branch pay over the canceled testimony of a United States diplomat amid the House’s ongoing impeachment efforts.
Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump said that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland would not appear at a planned deposition that was part of House Democrats’ ongoing impeachment efforts because he didn’t want the official to be subject to a “compromised kangaroo court.”
That afternoon, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claiming that the White House’s decision violated federal law passed earlier this year and that whomever was responsible for it could have their pay withheld.
In the letter, Pocan sited a section of federal appropriations law passed in February that prohibits paying the salary of any “officer or employee of the Federal Government who prohibits or prevents … any other officer or employee of the Federal Government from … communication or contact with any Member, committee, or subcommittee of the Congress.”
“I believe the person prohibiting Ambassador Sondland from testifying before the House Intelligence Committee is in violation of this statute, and that their salary should be withheld until Ambassador Sondland appears before Congress,” wrote Pocan, who sits on three appropriations subcommittees.
“We refuse to bankroll this administration while they hold witnesses hostage. Sondland must testify on Ukraine,” Pocan tweeted after sending the letter.
“Early this morning, the U.S. Department of State directed Ambassador Gordon Sondland not to appear today for his scheduled transcribed interview before the U.S. House of Representatives Joint Committee,” Sondland’s attorney said in a statement, adding that the ambassador had agreed to testify voluntarily “in order to answer the committee’s questions on an expedited basis.”
As a sitting ambassador, the statement explained, Sondland is bound to State Department policy.
Later Tuesday morning, the Democratic chairmen of the committees that Sondland was scheduled to testify before responded to the administration’s decision by announcing that they would subpoena Sondland “for both his testimony and his documents.”