The Washington Post reports that once again, ostensible Secretary of State Mike Pompeo looks to be dodging an invitation to Congress to explain administration positions on absolutely anything. He’s been asked to testify to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the theoretical “imminent” danger posed by Iranian Maj. Gen. Soleimani, before being assassinated by the United States in an operation apparently pushed by Pompeo himself. It doesn’t look like he’ll be taking the opportunity.
“Right now it looks like he’s not coming,” Rep. Eliot Engel told the Post. “We haven’t heard from him.”
As the Post‘s Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman explain, this is becoming a significantly more important dodge, on Pompeo’s part, with the news that Soleimani was one of two attempted assassinations of Iranian officials on the same day. The second attack, targeting another Quds commander, took place in Yemen on the same day. That makes the Soleimani attack less a target of opportunity or an assassination of a particular terrorist-sympathetic official; it instead appears to have been one prong of a larger U.S. military attack on the Quds Force itself.
While that operation seems to have been larger in scope than Trump’s team was telling the public, however, the rationale for the attack, an alleged “imminent” danger to U.S. forces, has been getting softer by the day. A new Trump claim that four U.S. embassies were being targeted is, according to lawmakers, news to them; the claim wasn’t part of last week’s House and Senate briefings to lawmakers. It’s also news to Trump’s own Secretary of Defense, who was forced to admit on Face the Nation this morning that he “didn’t see” any such evidence.
We know less, in other words, then we did before administration briefed the House and Senate on the justifications for the Soleimani assassination. And that’s exactly the problem that the State Department, which has taken a dominant role on this despite military operations not generally being in their portfolio, might want to be clearing up.
It is likely that Pompeo’s reluctance to further explaining the “imminence” of the danger posed by Soleimani stems directly from the White House’s ever-changing stories. Whatever Trump is claiming in public, the forever self-serving Pompeo wants to dodge stepping in that, as the Secretary of Defense just did. Those that do not robustly defend Trump’s oft-egregiously false claims do not stay in Trump’s inner circle for long.
But Pompeo might have an even more self-serving reason for hiding from Congress. He doesn’t want to testify about his role in the Ukrainian extortion scheme that has now led to impeachment charges against Trump and which as implicated multiple top administration members—something that is very, very likely to come up, when Democratic lawmakers have the opportunity to question him about State Department antics. Wanted criminals do not generally waltz into courthouses to pay their parking tickets; one of the three Trump officials who oversaw an extortion scheme that would have seen Trump exchange foreign military aid for a “probe” of his next possible election opponent does not want to put himself before the House Foreign Affairs Committee even to talk about the weather.
So Pompeo, for now, won’t be “testifying” to Congress about any of his own actions. Not assassinations; not Ukraine policy. Nothing. The precariousness of Pompeo’s position, both in furthering Trump’s actions and in cover-up, means he is more likely to resign his post than willingly submit to questions about those acts, but the most likely eventual outcome is that he is forced to do both.