U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this weekend pushed back against claims that he is not supporting his subordinates in the face of the impeachment probe, saying House Democrat investigators are mistreating his department.
Referring to the impeachment investigation during Sunday’s broadcast of ABC News’s This Week, Pompeo told host George Stephanopoulos:
This is deeply unfair to the officers that serve under me. It’s wrong. I can’t comment on what they’re saying because I have not been permitted to either have a lawyer present or to see the recorded transcripts or the translations of what was said in those. So I can’t comment on what people may or may not be saying in that room. …Frankly, you can’t either. You weren’t there either, George.
This has been unfair in the Nth degree. We’ve got officers going up there to testify about important security-related matters without a State Department lawyer in the room, and then we’re not being prepared to – being allowed to know what it says. We’re not able to protect the State Department. We’re not able to protect the United States of America. And [Rep.] Adam Schiff [D-CA] ought to be embarrassed by the kangaroo court that he is running.
Republicans have demanded that House Democrats release the transcript of the impeachment inquiry testimonies, to no avail. Schiff, the leader of the investigation, has said he will release “all” the transcripts but will not say when.
Pompeo also dismissed reports that morale is low at the State Department.
“I see these stories about morale being low. I see things precisely the opposite. I see motivated officers,” he told ABC News, adding, “I am incredibly proud of the work that they have done, and I will always defend them when it’s appropriate.”
State officials are at the center of the impeachment probe, which House Democrats are so far conducting behind closed doors.
The White House has said it will not cooperate in the impeachment investigation. Nevertheless, some former and current State Department officials have already testified and provided some documents.
Pompeo missed an impeachment inquiry subpoena deadline for documents issued by House Democrats. He said he intends to follow the law.
During an interview with Politico Friday, the secretary stressed that State Department lawyers are not allowed to accompany officials when they give a deposition in the impeachment inquiry.
“That’s unheard of … I haven’t seen you all report that,” he continued.
Pompeo indicated that during the House Republicans’ probe into the 2011 consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya, “State Department attorneys [were allowed] to listen to depositions and review transcripts of interviews after they were transcribed,” Politico noted. Pompeo served in the House select committee on Benghazi.
During the interview with Politico, Pompeo again voiced his concerns with the impeachment investigation process, noting that the proceedings are putting state secrets at risk.
This is deeply troubling to me. Because I have an obligation to protect the State Department. Not only [is it] classified information, but private conversations that are confidential, are information we don’t want in the hands of others. And we’ve not been permitted to see what it is our former employees have told this committee.
The American people ultimately hold their elected officials accountable. I believe deeply in the process. But you have to have a process that’s fair and reasonable.
Pompeo noted that the State Department had shared its concerns with Democrat leaders conducting the investigation.
Former Pompeo aide Michael McKinley told impeachment investigators last Wednesday that State officials “were discouraging people from testifying, and were not supporting diplomats who had received subpoenas and requests to appear before the House,” the New York Times reported, citing a person familiar with his testimony.
McKinley said he resigned, in part, over Pompeo’s refusal to support officials in the crosshairs of the impeachment inquiry.
Pompeo acknowledged that he was on the infamous July 25 call between President Donald Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky that triggered the investigation.
Pompeo has described the impeachment inquiry as a “silly gotcha game.”