Engel & Levin Offer Trump Administration Official Chance to Clarify False Testimony on Arms Sales “Emergency” Declaration

Assistant Secretary Clarke Cooper Offered False Timeline before Foreign Affairs Committee

August 14, 2020

Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Representative Andy Levin, a member of the Committee, today called on Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper to sit for a transcribed interview with the Committee after new facts have emerged suggesting that he offered false testimony regarding Secretary Pompeo’s phony emergency declaration used last year to push through more than $8 billion in arms sales to Gulf countries. In a letter to Mr. Cooper, Reps. Engel and Levin pointed to the State Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) report released this week that establishes a timeline for that policy decision that directly contradicts Mr. Cooper’s testimony at a June 2019 Committee hearing. Specifically, the report shows that the State Department, with Secretary Pompeo’s understanding, worked toward finalizing the emergency declaration for nearly two months in April and May 2019, while Mr. Cooper testified that an emergency arose between May 21 and 24, 2019 that drove the decision.

“With the release to Congress of the unredacted, unclassified version of the Inspector General’s report on this matter on August 11, we now are concerned that your testimony that an emergency arose between May 21-24, 2019 was false. The Department demanded that OIG maintain redactions in the unclassified report it released publicly which hide details of the emergency declaration timeline.  The timeline in the unclassified, unredacted report makes clear that Secretary Pompeo wasn’t reacting to an emergency in May 2019, but rather was carrying out a plan that was months in the making,” wrote Engel and Levin. “If this factually inaccurate statement was made intentionally, it was a lie to Congress, and lying to Congress is a federal crime.”

The version of the OIG report released to the public included redactions that obscured the complete timeline of the decision to use an emergency declaration to advance the arms sales. That information is critical to understanding whether the emergency provision was invoked to respond to a legitimate emergency. The public version of the report lists only May 21, 2019, the date Mr. Pompeo briefed the House of Representatives; May 23, 2019, the date Mr. Pompeo formally approved the emergency declaration; and May 24, 2019, the date the Department transmitted the declaration to Congress. The complete, unredacted version of the report included three additional dates: April 3, 2019, when the use of the emergency authority was first proposed; April 23, 2019, when drafts of the emergency certification were circulated at the Department; and May 4, 2019, when Mr. Pompeo personally decided that the “emergency” be certified by May 24.  

Mr. Cooper, who was sworn in as Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs on May 3, 2019, testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on June 12, 2019. Under questioning from Mr. Levin, Mr. Cooper testified that an emergency arose between May 21, when Mr. Pompeo briefed the House, and May 24, when the emergency declaration was transmitted to Congress.

The Committee on Foreign Affairs, as part of its joint investigation with the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations into the firing of former State Department Inspector General Steve A. Linick, previously requested on May 27, 2020 that Mr. Cooper appear for a transcribed interview. He has so far refused.

The letter to Mr. Cooper can be found here.

# # #