After dodging and deflecting the question of what he knows about the infamous July call that launched the impeachment probe of President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo finally admitted he was on it.
"I was on the phone call,” Pompeo said Wednesday, explaining he was on the call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky because “I know precisely what the American policy is with regard to Ukraine. It has been remarkably consistent, and we will continue to drive those set of outcomes.”
Pompeo had avoided giving a direct answer when asked about the call last week.
Speaking at a press conference in Rome with his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio, the Secretary of State did not elaborate on what was discussed during the call, but added that the U.S. team were focused on “taking down the threat Russia poses there” and “helping the Ukrainians get graft out and get corruption outside of their government and help this new government now in Ukraine build a successful, thriving economy.”
Pompeo refused to answer a question about whether he had heard anything inappropriate on Trump's call.
According to a rough draft of the July 25 call, Trump urged Zelensky to investigate Trump’s Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter over unsubstantiated corruption allegations going back several years.
Pompeo’s admission comes the same day the State Department’s inspector general, who operates independently from Pompeo, has requested an “urgent” briefing with congressional staff from multiple committees related to their requests for information and documents on Ukraine.
Pompeo has become increasingly embroiled in the impeachment probe led by House Democrats by attempting to delay five State Department officials from giving evidence and submitting documents to the committees conducting the probe.
Despite Democrats saying such witness interference by the Trump administration in itself could lead to an impeachment probe, Pompeo doubled down on Wednesday, asserting that House investigators contacted “State Department employees directly” and told them not to contact State Department lawyers for advice.
He added that the State Department would “do our Constitutional duty to cooperate” with Congress but wouldn’t tolerate “bullying and intimidation.”
Democrats on Tuesday accused Pompeo of “stonewalling” the inquiry and said that he was a “fact witness.”
Despite Pompeo’s efforts, Democratic lawmakers have been able to schedule several interviews, including a closed-door deposition with the former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker on thursday, and one next week with ousted U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Cover: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets the media in Rome, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Pompeo is in Italy at the start of a four-nation tour of Europe as the push to impeach President Donald Trump gains steam at home. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)