During a press conference in Rome, Italy, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted to reporters that he was in the same room with President Donald Trump during a controversial phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in July.
“I was on the phone call,” Pompeo said, per reporting from NBC News.
The secretary of State’s comments confirmed reporting that had come about late on Tuesday evening via the Wall Street Journal. Sources told the paper that Pompeo had indeed been in on the phone call, in which Trump seemingly pressed Zelensky to open up an investigation in his country against potential political rival Joe Biden.
The revelations of the call, brought forward by an intelligence community whistleblower, prompted Democrats in Congress to announce last week the start of an impeachment inquiry into the president.
Prior to WSJ’s reporting, it was unclear whether Pompeo had been involved in the call or not. Late last week, when reporters asked Pompeo questions regarding the call, he refused to give answers. His response seemed to imply he didn’t know much about the matter.
“So, you just gave me a report about a IC whistle-blower complaint, none of which I’ve seen,” Pompeo said to reporters at the time.
The statement on Wednesday by Pompeo, according to journalist Sam Stein, is tantamount to “an admission he basically lied…about a week and a half ago when he acted like he didn’t have knowledge of it.”
"I was on the phone call."
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admits that he was on the July 25 phone call in which President Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. https://t.co/V5ORf33o8j pic.twitter.com/tmEBC1721Z
— CNN (@CNN) October 2, 2019
On Tuesday, before the WSJ report had been published, Pompeo had sent a strongly-worded letter to Democratic chairs of various House committees, lambasting them for sending out requests to staff within the State Department demanding they comply with deposition and records requests, CBS News reported.
In his statement, Pompeo said the requests “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.”
Almost an hour after Pompeo’s statement, the report detailing how he had been involved in the call was published. The Democratic chairs responded to the news by saying Pompeo could be viewed as a “fact witness” now due to his involvement in the call, and that he shouldn’t be issuing such warnings when he’s so close to the event being investigated.
“He should immediately cease intimidating Department witnesses in order to protect himself and the President,” the House chairs said in a joint statement.