A Dozen Questions for Mike Pompeo

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s embroilment in the Ukraine scandal has earned him perhaps the harshest criticisms anyone in his position has ever received in American history both from outside observers and within the State Department. Two veterans of the Department recently wrote an assessment of his tenure under the title, “Pompeo Might Go Down as the Worst Secretary of State in Modern Times.” Pompeo’s Senior Advisor Michael McKinley told Congress last week that he had resigned over the politicization of the State Department on Ukraine. McKinley is reportedly no longer on speaking terms with Pompeo. Respected former Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns wrote in an article in Foreign Affairs, “The Demolition of U.S. Diplomacy”: “In my three and a half decades as a U.S. Foreign Service officer, proudly serving five presidents and ten secretaries of state from both parties, I’ve never seen an attack on diplomacy as damaging, to both the State Department as an institution and our international influence, as the one now underway.” He wrote that Pompeo had “allowed specious opposition research about [U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie] Yovanovitch to circulate around the department and sat on his hands as Trump slandered Yovanovitch.” In retaliation, Pompeo fired back that Burns “must be auditioning to be Elizabeth Warren’s secretary of state.” Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post wrote, “If Pompeo ever wanted to get more hated within @StateDept this line…is certainly going to do it.” Nicholas Burns, who held many diplomatic posts including State Department spokesman, said, “Mike Pompeo has lost all credibility as a leader of our career diplomats with this grossly unfair charge.”

How did Pompeo reach this low point? The Secretary has defied several letters, including subpoenas, from the chairs of three House committees to provide information about the shadow foreign policy operation of Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, a scheme to produce false information to smear Trump’s potential opponent in the 2020 presidential contest, former Vice President Joe Biden. Four of Giuliani’s associates have already been arrested, and Giuliani is reportedly under criminal investigation by the Southern District of New York. Trump’s effort to coerce the Ukrainian government in a quid pro quo of withholding U.S. military aid has provoked an impeachment inquiry. Pompeo, who Giuliani has identified as being in the loop of the scheme, has refused to honor all subpoenas for information, and ordered past and present State Department officials not to testify before three House Committees acting as the fact-finding arm of the impeachment inquiry—an order senior former and current officials have ignored. Pompeo has further stated he wants State Department lawyers to be present at their depositions to monitor their testimony, presumably to intimidate them, undermine the inquiry and to coordinate with the White House. When Pompeo appeared on ABC’s This Week on October 20, in response to questioning by George Stephanopoulos about Giuliani’s role, Pompeo offered an all-purpose stonewalling answer: “I have had one consistent policy as the secretary of state, to not talk about internal deliberations inside the administration.” Herewith, twelve questions for Pompeo:

 

1. Have you received information that Russia has taken any action to promote allegations that Joe Biden or Hunter Biden engaged in improper conduct with reference to Ukraine?

2. Has anyone contacted you or others at the State Department with respect to indicted Ukrainian oligarch and Putin associate Dmitry Firtash? If so, identify the person or persons making contact and the substance of the communication.

3. What contacts has Rudy Giuliani had with you or others at the Department of State concerning Ukraine? What were the subjects of these contacts, when did they take place and what did he want the State Department to do? Giuliani stated, “I never talked to a Ukrainian official until the State Department called me and asked me to do it and then I reported every conversation back to them.” Were you the one who called Giuliani? Did you personally delegate your communications with him and in what form were they reported back to you? Did you receive any directives or requests from Donald Trump about your relationship with Giuliani? Did you report conversations with Giuliani back to Trump?

4. When first asked about whether you were aware of the telephone conversation of July 25 between Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky you denied any knowledge, but later you stated that you were in fact on the call. The memorandum that the White House released of that call appears to account for no more than half of the time consumed by that call, and omits some references which were in the whistleblower’s contemporaneous two-page memo. What if anything did you say during the call that was not included in the memo? What was said by anyone to the best of your recollection in the portions of the conversations that were signified by ellipses as deleted or otherwise omitted?

5.Did you support the removal of US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovich? Why was she removed? Did you talk with her personally about the grounds for her removal? If not, why not? If so, what did you tell her?

6. Did you approve or otherwise sign off on any communication to any Ukrainian official asking them to investigate Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, or any matters relating to the 2016 elections? Which of these topics was covered and what was requested, by whom?

7. On September 9, the House Committees on Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform wrote you requesting records, which you have refused to turn over, regarding the “corrupt scheme” of Rudy Giuliani not only “to coerce the Ukrainian government” to target Joe Biden but also to pressure the Ukrainian government to prosecute those “who provided key evidence against Mr. Trump’s convicted campaign manager Paul Manafort.” What do you know about Giuliani’s effort about the latter operation to target any person who gave evidence against Manafort? Did Giuliani or Trump or anyone else discuss this matter with you? Did you permit the involvement of State Department officers in the Manafort part of Giuliani’s scheme?

8. Have you received or are you aware of any requests from Ukraine that the US investigation of oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, a former business partner and patron of Ukraine President Zelensky, for money laundering be dropped? Are you aware of any discussions of U.S. legal proceedings against Kolomoisky?

9. Are you aware of any efforts by former Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Giuliani or their associates to influence the appointment of new directors to the board of NAK Naftogaz, including a campaign donor to Perry and associates of Dimitry Firtash?

10. Other than Ukraine, have you signed off on shutting down assistance to any country until that country addressed any alleged corruption issue in which a U.S. person was said to be involved?

11. Have you or anyone at the State Department undertaken any action in response to the statement from Donald Trump that China should investigate Hunter Biden to pursue the issue with China or with any other country?

12. Rudy Giuliani reportedly sent you a file of articles about U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Joe Biden and Hunter Biden in an envelope falsely labeled to make it appear as if it had come from the White House. The articles were written by then-columnist for The Hill John Solomon and contain falsehoods from sources who were Giuliani’s associates, including the attorneys Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing, who employed Lev Parnas, an organized crime figure now indicted for campaign finance felonies, and who also represent Dimitry Firtash, as well as Solomon himself. Did you ever read, circulate or act on the information in those articles?  What communications have you had with DiGenova and Toensing? With Solomon?

Photo credit: Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images

 

About the Author(s)

Sidney Blumenthal

Sidney Blumenthal, the former assistant and senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, is the author of All the Powers of Earth (Simon & Schuster 2019), the third volume of his five volume biography, The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln.