Mike Pompeo has confirmed he was on a July phone call between Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that has provoked an impeachment inquiry against the US president in the House of Representatives.
“I was on the phone call,” Mr Pompeo said during a press conference in Rome on Wednesday morning. He said he listened to the conversation between the two presidents and the purpose of the call was to discuss battling corruption in Ukraine.
“I know precisely what the American policy is with respect to Ukraine. It's been remarkably consistent and we will continue to try to drive those set of outcomes,” Mr Pompeo added.
The US Secretary of State had previously declined to acknowledge he was aware of a whistleblower complaint stemming from the phone call, in which Mr Trump allegedly pressured his Ukrainian counterpart to launch a corruption investigation into one of his 2020 political rivals, Joe Biden.
When asked what he knew about those conversations on 22 September, Mr Pompeo told ABC’s Martha Radditz : “So, you just gave me a report about a I.C. whistle-blower complaint, none of which I've seen.”
While Mr Pompeo did not outright deny he was on the phone call, critics noted on Thursday how he was previously unable to answer any questions about the issue before it was reported he had listened in to the conversation.
His position seemingly changed a day after numerous outlets reported he was on the call, citing anonymous officials within the Trump administration.
Speaking to reporters about the call in Rome, Mr Pompeo said the conversation between Mr Trump and Mr Zelensky “was on taking down the threat that Russia poses there in the Ukraine.”
“It was about helping Ukrainians to get graft out and corruption outside of their government and to help now this new government in the Ukraine build a successful thriving economy,” he added.
Mr Pompeo also described working on the issue with Ukraine as a “privilege”.
His comments came as Democrats intensified their impeachment inquiry against the US president and his administration.
On Tuesday, the secretary of state battled back against a House committee’s demands to interview five current or former officials from the US State Department for its investigation into the Ukraine scandal, describing the efforts as an attempt to “bully” the department.
“I am concerned with aspects of your request,” he wrote in a letter to the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, “that can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State, including several career Foreign Service Officers, whom the committee is now targeting.”
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