Bronx, NY—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today responded to recent reporting that the Department of State has instructed personnel around the world to round up more records in support of the Senate Republican-led smear campaign against former Vice President Biden, itself amplifying a Russian misinformation campaign targeting the upcoming election. In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chairman Engel decried the continued politicized use of Department resources to aid this scheme, in which the Department has already produced more than 16,000 pages at the request of Senators Johnson and Grassley, while ignoring virtually all oversight efforts by the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC). Chairman Engel underscored that any records produced to the Senate pursuant to this latest “tasker” are also responsive to HFAC’s July 31 subpoena and should be immediately turned over to HFAC as well.
Chairman Engel wrote, “[T]he Department’s rapid, all-hands-on-deck response to the Senators’ patently partisan request, in contrast to its continued defiance of a duly authorized subpoena from the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, reinforces the increasingly obvious conclusion that the Department under your leadership is advancing a narrow political agenda to assist the President’s reelection while ignoring legitimate attempts at oversight. Such political agendas are incompatible with the missions of executive branch agencies and officials funded by hardworking U.S. taxpayers who expect their government to serve them without regard to party.”
On the same day Senate Republicans acquitted President Trump in his impeachment trial, the Department began producing records to the Senate Committees on Homeland Security and Government Affairs and Finance, which now total more than 16,000 pages. Those Committees do not have primary jurisdiction over the State Department. Earlier this week, POLITICO published a July 28, 2020 letter from Senators Johnson and Grassley with a sweeping request for additional records, as well as the August 17, 2020 State Department “tasker” memorandum instructing virtually every Department office and bureau along with every overseas diplomatic post to engage in a burdensome, vague, and overbroad search for additional records.
The U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) has warned that at least one of the foreigners providing information to the Senators “is spreading claims about corruption – including through publicizing leaked phone calls – to undermine former Vice President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party.” Such leaked calls, one of which President Trump recently retweeted, are part of what the DNI has warned are Russian efforts to interfere in the upcoming U.S. presidential election in support of Donald Trump. And by providing Department records to a blatantly political Senate investigation, possibly corrupted by Russian disinformation, risks inadvertently bolstering the Kremlin’s efforts.
In May, Chairman Engel launched a probe to determine if State Department resources were being misused by aiding this scheme. On July 31, after the Department refused to voluntarily produce the records that have been sent to the Senate as part of the smear campaign against Vice President Biden, Chairman Engel issued a subpoena for those records. The Department has thus far refused to comply with the subpoena, claiming falsely that the Committee was not conducting an investigation related to these matters when the Committee had already stipulated in writing it was in fact investigating Secretary Pompeo’s own politicized use of Department resources. Chairman Engel set a Friday deadline for the Department to comply with the subpoena.
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