U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the U.S. State Department
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cursed out an NPR reporter after she pressed him to answer questions about the removal of former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch from her post in Ukraine, the outlet reported Friday.
The reporter, “All Things Considered” co-host Mary Louise Kelly, interviewed Pompeo on Friday amid President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, which centers around the president’s dealings with Ukraine.
But Pompeo declined to answer multiple questions from Kelly about Ukraine, saying he had only agreed to discuss the administration’s policies with regard to Iran. Kelly disputed that those were the terms of the interview.
NPR reported that “immediately after the questions on Ukraine, the interview concluded. Pompeo stood, leaned in and silently glared at Kelly for a period of several seconds before leaving the room.”
An aide to the Cabinet official asked Kelly to follow Pompeo to his living quarters at the State Department without a recording device, but did not specify that the ensuing exchange would be off the record, according to NPR.
Mary Louise Kelly accepts the award for best reporter/correspondent/host – non-commercial for “All Things Considered” on “NPR News” at the 43rd annual Gracie Awards at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Richard Shotwell | Invision | AP
“Inside the room, Pompeo shouted his displeasure at being questioned about Ukraine,” NPR reported. “He used repeated expletives, according to Kelly, and asked, ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?'”
On a radio program for NPR that aired Friday, Kelly provided more details about her unrecorded exchange with Pompeo.
“I was taken to the Secretary’s private living room, where he was waiting, and where he shouted at me for about the same amount of time as the interview itself had lasted,” Kelly said.
“He used the F word in that sentence, and many others. He asked if I could find Ukraine on a map I said yes. He called out for his aides to bring him a map of the world with no writing, no countries marked,” Kelly said.
“I pointed to Ukraine,” she said. “He put the map away. He said, ‘People will hear about this,’ and then he turned and said he had things to do, and I thanked him again for his time and left.”
Neither the White House nor the State Department immediately responded to CNBC’s requests for comment on NPR’s report. Kelly did not immediately respond to a LinkedIn message asking for further details.
Pompeo on Friday tweeted his plans to travel to Ukraine.
Yovanovitch’s ouster has at times taken center stage in Trump’s impeachment proceedings.
The House voted to impeach Trump on Dec. 18 on articles of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, both related to his efforts to have Ukraine announce probes into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, and a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 presidential election.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, with help from associates including Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, had allegedly sought for Yovanovitch’s removal in order to clear the way for Ukraine to announce the probes that involved Trump’s political rivals.
Yovanovitch was removed from her post in Kyiv in the spring of 2019. She testified before the House in November as part of its impeachment inquiry that she felt threatened by Trump and his allies, who had disparaged her even after she was removed from her post.
Yovanovitch said that corrupt Ukrainian officials and Trump associates, including Giuliani, had orchestrated a “smear campaign” against her.
Earlier Friday, ABC News reported that a newly surfaced recording contains audio of Trump, at an April 2018 gathering with Fruman and Parnas, demanding that Yovanovitch be fired.
A transcript of the recorded portion of NPR’s interview with Pompeo shows Kelly first asking questions about the tense relations between the U.S. and Iran. Pompeo defended Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement struck during the Obama administration.
Then Kelly changed the subject to Ukraine, asking if Pompeo owed Yovanovitch an apology.
Pompeo said, “I agreed to come on your show today to talk about Iran. That’s what I intend to do.”
Kelly responded: “I confirmed with your staff … last night that I would talk about Iran and Ukraine.”
The back-and-forth continued as Kelly pressed Pompeo on whether or not he should apologize to the former U.S. ambassador.
“I’ll say only this. I have defended every State Department official,” Pompeo said. But when asked where he has defended Yovanovitch in particular, Pompeo said, “I’ve said all I’m going to say today.”
Read NPR’s full report.