Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed Wednesday that he was on the controversial July phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy which is now the subject of an impeachment inquiry launched by the House last week.
“I was on the phone call,” he told the reporters during a news conference alongside Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio.
“I know precisely what the American policy is with respect to Ukraine,” Pompeo added. “It’s been remarkably consistent, and we will continue to try to drive those sets of outcomes.”
Pompeo’s admission comes after The Wall Street Journal reported his being on the call earlier this week. Late last month, Pompeo was asked what he thought of the discussion between Trump and Zelenskiy during an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”
“So, you just gave me a report about a I.C. whistle-blower complaint, none of which I’ve seen,” Pompeo said before defending the administration’s Ukraine policy.
The secretary of state’s comments additionally took place amid the backdrop of the State Department’s Inspector General scheduling a surprising briefing on Capitol Hill Wednesday with staffers from a group of House and Senate committees on documents related to the State Department and Ukraine, multiple Congressional sources told NBC News. Meanwhile, former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will soon sit for depositions before the House committees involved in the impeachment inquiry.
On Tuesday, Pompeo pushed back against a request from those committees to interview current and former State Department officials as part of their inquiry, accusing Democrats of trying to “intimidate” and “bully” them.
“I am concerned with aspects of your request … that can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State, including several career Foreign Service Officers, whom the committee is now targeting,” Pompeo wrote in a letter to House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.
The recent impeachment push ratcheted up as it became clear a whistleblower complaint being withheld by the administration last month centered around Trump’s actions toward Ukraine, including asking his Ukrainian counterpart to probe former Vice President Joe Biden, whose son Hunter worked for Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that was under investigation. Biden, with the backing of the international community, pushed to have the top Ukrainian prosecutor fired at a time when Hunter sat on the board of that company.
That complaint was made public last week. In it, the whistleblower said White House officials were so concerned about what the president said that July 25 call that they intervened to “lock down” the transcript of the conversation. The whistleblower, whose name and gender have not been released, wrote that they believed Trump was “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country” in the 2020 election.
The White House released a summary of the president’s discussion with Zelenskiy one day prior to the complaint being made public — a summary that showed Trump asked Zelenskiy to probe Biden.