Pompeo Skips House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on Iran Policy

January 15, 2020 by Kate Michael
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a cabinet meeting at the White House July 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/TNS) *FOR USE WITH THIS STORY ONLY*

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to attend a hearing on Tuesday to examine the Administration’s policy on Iran, including its recent decision to assassinate Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

Pompeo had been invited to attend the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, “From Sanctions to Soleimani Strike to Escalation: Evaluating the Administration’s Iran Policy,” but declined, stating he would be in California and unable to attend. 

Some members expressed frustration that he was a no-show.

“Mr. Pompeo’s absence today is the loudest testimony. It speaks volumes,” declared Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif. “It shows that the Secretary of State cannot defend the decision-making process that led us to this point.” 

“I don’t think there’s a member of this Committee who doesn’t want to hear from Mr. Pompeo, and the American people certainly deserve to hear answers with our troops and diplomats being asked to stand in harm’s way,” agreed the committee’s chairman, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.

Instead, the committee heard testimony from a panel of former State Department and National Security personnel, including Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations (former State Department Director of Policy Planning); Avril Haines, senior research scholar at Columbia University (former National Security Advisor and former Deputy Director of CIA); and Stephen Hadley, a former National Security advisor. 

These panelists spoke of the threat posed by Iran, the legality of the Administration’s action in targeting Solemani, and the consequences of the American response, particularly as Solemani was an official of the Iranian government.

In the absence of Pompeo, the panel discussed suggestions to re-establish deterrence and reduce tensions with Iran, including presenting Iran with a new deal for an amended Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in collaboration with allies and signatories.

“[Soleimani] was actively plotting to take big action that would put dozens, if not hundreds, of U.S. lives at risk,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, quoting an earlier statement from Pompeo. 

Yet without his further testimony, it is unknown exactly whether these plots were substantiated and  whether there was a legal basis for the strike.

“There is no doubt that Soleimani had the blood of Americans on his hands and was a force of instability in the region, but just because he was an evil person does not make killing him legal… or wise,” Haas said.

Despite differing opinions on the legality of the strike, representatives reiterated the need to exert jurisdiction under Article 1 of the Constitution, which grants Congress exclusive power to declare war.  

“Over and over again we see from the Trump Administration a clear disregard for Congressional oversight responsibilities as an equal branch of government,” stated Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-NY. 

Pompeo’s failure to attend the hearing was seen by some as an example of this attitude.

“Each passing day raises new questions about the strike that killed General Soleimani … the Secretary should welcome the opportunity to make the case and answer questions before the American people,” Engel said.   

After the hearing, Engel stated that he would be sending a letter to Pompeo, asking for answers on the legal basis for the strike. Engel went on to say that should responses from Pompeo not be forthcoming,  the committee will “consider other actions in the future, including subpoenas.”

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