Trump impeachment: Pompeo confirms listening in on Ukraine call
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has confirmed he was listening in as the president asked Ukraine to investigate a political opponent.
The call – between Donald Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky – is at the centre of a Democratic impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump.
Mr Pompeo dodged questions about the call in an interview just days ago.
President Trump denies improperly pressuring Ukraine and has accused opponents of mounting a “coup”.
During the conversation, which triggered a whistleblower’s formal complaint, the US president asked Mr Zelensky to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Mr Pompeo’s admission during a news conference in Italy came after media reported he was party to the conversation as well. “I was on the phone call,” Mr Pompeo said.
He did not directly answer a question on whether anything in the phone call alarmed him, but said it had focused on US policy with Ukraine.
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“It’s been remarkably consistent, and we will continue to try to drive those set of outcomes,” he said.
On one hand, the former member of Congress wants to respect the legislative branch’s investigatory prerogatives. He was, after all, right in the middle of the extensive questioning of Hillary Clinton as part of the 2015 Republican-led Benghazi hearings into the 2012 jihadist attack on the US consulate there while Mrs Clinton led the state department.
On the other, the secretary of the state is in the executive branch now. He answers to Donald Trump, whose administration has fought a pitched battle to resist nearly every congressional request for documents and testimony.
Hence Mr Pompeo’s sternly worded rebuke of House Democrats in a Tuesday letter, followed by Wednesday’s assurance that “we will of course do our constitutional duty to co-operate with this co-equal branch”.
Complicating all of this is the fact that Mr Pompeo, due to his participation in Mr Trump’s July Ukraine call and evasive response to subsequent press questions about his involvement, is right in the middle of the investigation – making him more than simply a disinterested party.
Mr Pompeo may attempt to justify the president’s attempts to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden as “fully consistent with US policy”, but Democrats – and a big chunk of the American public – don’t see it that way.