Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seemed to voice subdued approval of the work of the top US diplomat in Ukraine whose testimony undermined the administration claims that President Donald Trump had not pushed for investigations into his political rivals in exchange for US aid.
Pompeo said he and Bill Taylor, the charge d’affaires in Kiev, are “in full accord” on US policy there, but did not specifically address a question about his confidence in the diplomat himself.
Pompeo, conducting interviews over a two-day visit in Kansas, has been 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 impeachment inquiry as Beltway “noise” in a series of interviews in Wichita, Kansas, on Thursday and Friday – just days after Taylor presented damning testimony related to a quid pro quo underlying 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 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 – an attempt to 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 a game changer in the impeachment inquiry.
After stonewalling questions about Taylor on Thursday, Pompeo spoke about the veteran diplomat Friday, shortly before Trump dismissed Taylor as a “never Trumper.”
“I’ve watched Bill — he and I have talked about Ukrainian policy at some length,” Pompeo told Wichita State University’s student newspaper, “The Sunflower,” on Friday. “How do you take down corruption? How do you now help the new leader there, President Zelensky? How do we deliver on America’s national security interests? And he and I, we’re full accord on that.”
“He and I both share this vision of how American interests in Ukraine can be properly represented, I have every reason to think that he’s still out there, banging away at that problem set,” Pompeo said.
“But I will say this: we all, as human beings, can get it wrong, too,” Pompeo continued. “We all have a responsibility to make sure we’re getting it as right as we can each and every day.”
On Friday morning, Trump disparaged Taylor and suggested that Pompeo had made a mistake in hiring him to take over the role in Kiev.
“The problem is – here’s the problem, he’s a Never Trumper and his lawyer’s a Never Trumper,” Trump started.
When asked why Pompeo hired Taylor, Trump responded “everybody makes mistakes. Mike Pompeo. Everybody makes mistakes.”
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond contributed to this story