Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remained dismissive and evasive of questions surrounding the House Democratic impeachment probe, despite his department’s increasing entrenchment in that inquiry.
Pompeo sought to downplay the inquiry as Beltway “noise” in a series of interviews in Wichita, Kansas, on Thursday – just days after the top US diplomat in Ukraine presented damning testimony related to quid pro quo related to presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine.
In his closed-door deposition Tuesday, Taylor said he had been told that “everything” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wanted, including a White House meeting and military aid to the country, would be held up until he publicly announced the launch of investigations sought by President Donald Trump. Those probes have targeted former Vice President Joe Biden, the President’s chief political rival, and sought to establish that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election and undermine the US intelligence community’s assessment that Russia is to blame. Taylor’s appearance cut the legs out from under the White House defense that there had been no quid pro quo and has been “reverberating” among congressional Republicans who see it as game changer in the impeachment inquiry.
In interview with KMUW Radio and The Wichita Eagle, Pompeo repeatedly insisted he would not talk about the inquiry, dodging questions about the concerns Taylor expressed in a diplomatic cable to the secretary of state, whether Giuliani’s efforts aligned with the State Department’s mission in Ukraine and the department’s compliance in the congressional inquiry. In both interviews, Pompeo accused the reporters of being “fixated” on the probe.
“Look, I came here today to talk about workforce development. I came here today to talk about the great things that are going on here in Kansas,” Pompeo, who went to Kansan city for workforce development events with presidential adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump, told The Wichita Eagle.
“This inquiry will proceed. Congress will perform its oversight function, the State Department will continue to do all of the things that were required to do under the law and the Constitution,” he said.
The State Department has repeatedly attempted to block its diplomats from testifying – all have had to be subpoenaed. The department has also failed to turn over documents related to the Ukraine to the three House committees, despite a subpoena. Later in the interview, Pompeo suggested that the impeachment inquiry proceedings were unfair.
He brushed aside a question from the newspaper about whether he was concerned about the impact the impeachment inquiry was having on his image and his leadership at the department.
“I don’t think about that stuff. I work hard. I do the right thing as best I can tell every day. I try to make sure my team is similarly focused,” Pompeo responded. “And whatever the noise is in Washington or whatever some journalist wants to ask about some storyline that’s going on, the American people should know that the State Department will continue to do its mission.”
The secretary of state, who has come under fire for failing to publicly defend his workforce, offered a terse line of confidence when asked about a White House statement suggesting Taylor and other diplomats were “unelected radical bureaucrats.”
“I’ve said repeatedly this a talented, diverse workforce capably delivering on America’s mission set,” he told KMUW.