Politics

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirms he was on the Trump-Ukraine call at the center of the impeachment probe

Key Points
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledges he listened in on the call between President Trump and Ukraine's president.
  • Pompeo previously appeared to deny knowledge of the intelligence community whistleblower complaint that helped to spark the impeachment inquiry.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a joint press conference with Italy's Foreign Minister following their meeting at Villa Madama in Rome on October 2, 2019, as part of Pompeo's four-nation tour of Europe.
Alberto Pizzoli | AFP | Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged on Wednesday he listened in on the phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine's president at the center of the House's impeachment inquiry.

"I was on the phone call," the top U.S. diplomat told reporters during a joint news conference with Italy's foreign minister in Rome.

Pompeo's confirmation follows news reports that he listened in on the phone call. In an ABC News interview earlier this month, he appeared to deny knowledge of the contents of an intelligence community whistleblower report that helped to spark the congressional impeachment inquiry.

The whistleblower outlined concerns that Trump abused his power by urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate unsubstantiated accusations of wrongdoing against the Biden family. It also alleges a White House effort to cover up records of the July 25 call, which Pompeo now acknowledges that he heard as it happened.

"So, you just gave me a report about a I.C. whistleblower complaint, none of which I've seen," the secretary of State said in the Sept. 22 ABC interview, which took place days before the Trump administration released a summary of the call and then a redacted version of the whistleblower's complaint.

Pompeo quickly found himself embroiled in the investigation into whether Trump abused his power after Democrats moved forward with the probe last week. On Friday, the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Pompeo for documents as it looks into whether Trump compromised national security by pushing for a probe into former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his main rivals for the presidency in 2020, and by delaying nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine.

The heads of three House Democratic panels also told Pompeo they had scheduled depositions with five State Department officials as part of the inquiry.

Pompeo has clashed with Democrats over their requests to take depositions from officials. In a letter dated Tuesday to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., Pompeo said he was "concerned with aspects of your request ... that can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully and treat improperly" those officials.

"I will not tolerate such tactics, and I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead and serve alongside at the Department of State," he said.

Engel, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., responded to Pompeo in a statement Tuesday. They said that if Pompeo did listen in on Trump's call with Zelensky, he "is now a fact witness in the House impeachment inquiry."

The lawmakers said he should "immediately cease intimidating Department witnesses in order to protect himself and the President."

"Any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress — including State Department employees — is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry," they said. "In response, Congress may infer from this obstruction that any withheld documents and testimony would reveal information that corroborates the whistleblower complaint."

Kurt Volker, the former special U.S. envoy to Ukraine who resigned last week, and Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, will still testify to the House Intelligence Committee despite Pompeo's opposition, according to NBC News.

VIDEO1:1901:19
How to impeach the President of the United States