Pompeo to Probe Ukraine Envoy Threats 01/18 09:31
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday broke nearly 72 hours of silence
over alleged surveillance and threats to the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine,
saying he believed the allegations would prove to be wrong but that he had an
obligation to evaluate and investigate the matter.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday broke nearly 72
hours of silence over alleged surveillance and threats to the former U.S.
ambassador to Ukraine, saying he believed the allegations would prove to be
wrong but that he had an obligation to evaluate and investigate the matter.
In interviews with conservative radio hosts, Pompeo said he had no knowledge
of the allegations until earlier this week when congressional Democrats
released documents from an associate of President Donald Trump's personal
attorney suggesting that Marie Yovanovitch was being watched. He also said he
did not know and had never met Lev Parnas, the associate of Rudy Giuliani who
made the claims.
Pompeo, who was traveling in California when the documents were released,
had been harshly criticized by lawmakers and current and former diplomats for
not addressing the matter. The documents provided by Parnas suggested there may
have been a threat to Yovanovitch shortly before she was abruptly recalled last
"We will do everything we need to do to evaluate whether there was something
that took place there," he said in a radio interview with Tony Katz, an
Indianapolis-based broadcaster. "I suspect that much of what's been reported
will ultimately prove wrong, but our obligation, my obligation as secretary of
state, is to make sure that we evaluate, investigate. Any time there is someone
who posits that there may have been a risk to one of our officers, we'll
obviously do that."
"It is always the case at the Department of State that we do everything we
can to ensure that our officers, not only our ambassadors but our entire team,
has the security level that's appropriate," Pompeo said.
"We do our best to make sure that no harm will come to anyone, whether that
was what was going on in our embassy in Baghdad last week or the work that was
going on in Kyiv up and through the spring of last year when Ambassador
Yovanovitch was there, and in our embassy in Kyiv even today," he said.
Pompeo made similar but less specific comments to conservative commentator
Until he spoke, the State Department had declined repeated requests to offer
any public defense of Yovanovitch, drawing fire from many.
House Democrats on Friday evening released a new batch of messages from
Parnas that added to the questions about the ambassador's security. In them, an
unidentified individual with a Belgian country code appears to describe
"Nothing has changed she is still not moving checked today again," the
individual wrote in one message, later adding, "it's confirmed we have a person
inside." In another message the person wrote, "She had visitors."
The ouster of Yovanovitch as ambassador is central to the impeachment
inquiry into Trump, who faces a charge that he abused his presidential power by
pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, using military
aid to the country as leverage. Trump says the inquiry is a "hoax."
At the time, Trump's allies were trying to have Yovanovitch, who was seen as
a roadblock to a Biden investigation, removed from her post. She was recalled
in late May ahead of the end of her tour.
Yovanovitch returned to Washington after being told in a late-night phone
call to get on the next plane home for her own safety by the director general
of the Foreign Service, according to witness testimony in the impeachment
inquiry. The nature of any possible threat was not specified and remains
unclear, although the Parnas documents suggest the surveillance was a prelude
to some kind of action.