Sec. Pompeo didn't appear at the hearing on Iran policy — he was on FOX instead

Elizabeth Howe
January 14, 2020 - 2:20 pm

Getty Images

The loudest seat at Tuesday's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on recent Iran policy decisions was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's empty one — especially after he showed up on FOX News during the hearing.

The HFAC hearing titled "From Sanctions to the Soleimani Strike to Escalation: Evaluating the Administration’s Iran Policy" assembled a panel of former national security advisors, State Department directors, and CIA directors to discuss the decision to kill Iranian General Qasem Soleimani as well as the decisions the administration has made since. While the members of Congress posed a wide range of questions to the panelists, one question was repeated among Democratic committee members — where was Pompeo?

Rep. Mast put a halt to discussion during a hearing on recent Iran policy — with a question about service members

"Mr. Pompeo's absence today is the loudest testimony," said Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif. "It speaks volumes. It shows that the secretary of state cannot defend the decision-making process that led us to this point."

During that decision-making process, Sherman explained, President Donald Trump did not consult experts, a "disdainful tweet" was "treated by the President as official notice of future military action," and a rally in Toledo, Ohio received more classified information than Congress. 

"The secretary's failure to come here speaks quite loudly about a presidential decision-making process that was shallow, simplistic, and disdainful," Sherman said. 

Sherman was not alone in his interpretation of Pompeo's absence. More often than not, members of the committee dedicated the first portion of their limited speaking time to voice concerns over the secretary's absence.

"It is particularly striking to me, first of all, that Secretary Pompeo is not here today to speak directly to this committee," said Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y. "Over and over again we see from the Trump administration a clear disregard for congressional oversight responsibilities as an equal branch of government."

Senator flummoxed by "lame, insulting" White House brief on Soleimani drone strike

"I have disagreed with actions of previous administrations when it came to acts of military aggression that set us on the course for war," Meeks added. "But I have to say this — at least they showed up for those actions to produce a case. This administration does not even have the guts to make the case for what it did."

"The president has given more information to FOX News than to members of Congress — but with each new piece of information, the story gets more and more confusing," said Rep. Theodore Deutch, D-Fl. 

In fact, during the third hour of the debate, the absent secretary of state himself appeared on FOX News, committee chairman Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., announced to the chamber.

"Conflicting information from the White House, the State Department, and the Defense Department should give all Americans pause," Deutch said. "Not pause as to whether or not Soleimani was a bad man who deserved his fate — of course he was and he did. But pause to question whether this action makes us safer today and in the long run."

Other committee members were less concerned with Pompeo's absence at the hearing — instead, they questioned why the hearing was necessary at all. 

"The people in this building, the people in this town should be ashamed of themselves. It's despicable. It's unthinkable to me," said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Penn. "That this president finally did it is a ray of sunshine for the world. This guy is a murdering terrorist and should have been taken out." 

"This hearing is absurd," Perry added. 

Instead of using his time to question Pompeo's presence, Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fl., used his allotted time to illustrate the necessity of taking out Soleimani with a "metaphor."

"I look at Soleimani as a terrorist machine gun nest. He's been spraying rounds at the U.S. for many years on many different fronts...This is something I have very specific experience with in the theaters of war and our battlefields," Mast said. "Just because this machine gun nest might be taking a moment to reload, that doesn't mean that it's not an imminent threat."

Mast served in the U.S. Army for more than 12 years as an explosive ordnance disposal technician. He lost both of his legs to an IED in 2010. After explaining the nature of "imminent threat" on the battlefield, he asked the chamber a question to illustrate a further point — that any single death of an American service member justified the killing of Soleimani. 

Rep. Mast put a halt to discussion during a hearing on recent Iran policy — with a question about service members

"If you walk out of this hallway and you take a right and another right and another right, you're going to come to several beautiful walls that have the names of our fallen service members from the War on Terror," Mast said. "And I would ask, can any of you provide me one name on that wall that doesn't justify killing Soleimani?

"I've got two minutes and 30 seconds. I'll be more than happy to sit here and wait." 

 The chamber sat in silence until Mast's time ended. No one provided an answer to his question. 

Want to get more connected to the stories and resources Connecting Vets has to offer? Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter.