- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2020

Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Friday sparred with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over a host of issues throughout a two-hour hearing on the administration’s policy justification for the fatal January strike on former Iranian Quds force commander Qassem Soleimani.

The hearing kicked off on a tense note when committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat, blasted the secretary for repeatedly denying requests from the committee, over the course of nearly two months, to publicly testify on the strike.

“Mr. Secretary, it shouldn’t have been so difficult to get you here, and your appearance here today is far too short,” Mr. Engel said in his opening remarks. “While we had to wait for you, the world doesn’t wait for anyone.”

The secretary appeared before the committee for exactly two hours, in accordance with strict guidelines issued by the department.

But it was this time constraint that visibly angered many Democrats on the committee, who repeatedly referred back to an 11-hour hearing with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after the 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.

“I can remember vividly, you thundering away at Secretary Clinton during the Benghazi hearing,” Rep. Gregory Meeks, New York Democrat, told Mr. Pompeo, referencing the secretary’s time as a U.S. representative from 2011 to 2017.

“You know what? She showed up voluntarily, sat there for 11 hours. But with you, sir, we had to move heaven and earth to get you here today for just two hours. To me that shows disregard for the oversight responsibility for the United States Congress,” he continued.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle did little questioning throughout the hearing as Republicans grew frustrated with the Democratic criticism of the secretary’s restrictions and policy justifications of the strike.

“I apologize. This hearing has been a joke,” Rep. Lee Zeldin, New York Republican, told Mr. Pompeo. “What we just witnessed … it’s an embarrassment.”

Mr. Engel shot back at Mr. Zeldin and said, “What’s really an embarrassment was that we couldn’t get more than two hours from the secretary of state, that’s really an embarrassment to the committee.”

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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