Mike Pompeo confirms he was on Trump-Ukraine call
Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, has admitted for the first time listening in on the phone call between the president of Ukraine and Donald Trump that has sparked an impeachment investigation into the US president.
Speaking on an official visit to Italy on Wednesday, Mr Pompeo confirmed media reports of his presence on the call between the two leaders, which has prompted a whistleblower to accuse Mr Trump of attempting to trade favours with the Ukrainian leader in return for intelligence he could use against Joe Biden, his potential Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential race.
Mr Pompeo has come under increasing scrutiny for his role in the scandal, with the secretary of state attempting to stall an impeachment investigation into Mr Trump’s behaviour, which the US president has described as a “coup”.
“Was I on the phone call? Yes, I was on the call,” Mr Pompeo said in a press conference in Rome. “It was about taking down the threat Russia poses there in Ukraine, helping the Ukrainians get graft out of their government, and to help this new government in Ukraine build a successful thriving economy”.
Mr Pompeo said he had been trying to defend employees of his department from what he said was intimidation from Democratic lawmakers.
“What we objected to was the demands that deeply violate principals of separation of powers. They contacted state department employees directly and told them not to contact legal counsel . . . We won’t tolerate folk on Capitol Hill bullying and intimidating state department employees”.
The publication of a whistleblower complaint last week added fresh details to allegations that Mr Trump had abused his office by asking his Ukrainian opposite number Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Mr Biden and the business dealings of his son, Hunter.
In recent days Mr Trump’s attorney-general, William Barr, has also come under scrutiny for his contact with foreign governments, including Australia and Italy, which may have had intelligence on individuals related to the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 US election.
Mr Pompeo did not comment on any overseas trips or contact Mr Barr has had with foreign governments.
The state department inspector-general has requested a meeting with lawmakers in Congress on Wednesday to share documents related to Ukraine. One person familiar with the situation said that the inspector-general would meet lawmakers in a secure facility on Capitol Hill, suggesting the documents are sensitive.