Pompeo confirms he was on Trump’s Ukraine phone call


By MATTHEW LEE AP diplomatic writer

ROME (AP) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed on Wednesday that he was on the phone between President Donald Trump and the Ukrainian president who is the subject of an impeachment inquiry in Washington.

“I was on the phone,” Pompeo said in Rome at a press conference with his Italian counterpart, Luigi Di Maio.

Pompeo did not say whether he thought the content of the July 25 appeal was inappropriate or whether he believed it justified the complaint of an intelligence community whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry .

“The phone call was in the context of (…) what is the US policy towards Ukraine,” he said. “It has been remarkably consistent, and we will continue to strive for this set of results.”

Pompeo said he was proud to work with the State Department’s Ukraine team – including former Special Envoy Kurt Volker, who matched Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to an aide to the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy – to help the country fight corruption and Russian aggression.

“This is what our team, including Ambassador Volker, has focused on,” Pompeo said. “It was about removing the threat that Russia poses over there in Ukraine. It was about helping the Ukrainians eliminate corruption and bribery outside their government and now helping this new Ukrainian government. to build a prosperous and prosperous economy. “

“This is what State Department officials that I have had the privilege of leading have committed to, and this is what we will continue to do even during all this noise,” he said. .

Volker abruptly resigned his post as special envoy last Friday after Giuliani suggested the department was well aware of its efforts to get Ukraine to open a corruption investigation into Hunter, the son of the former vice president. Joe Biden.

Pompeo is increasingly under scrutiny by House Democrats who are leading impeachment proceedings against Trump. On Tuesday, he turned down the House’s requests for talks with State Department officials about the administration’s dealings with Ukraine who are the focus of the investigation.

Pompeo defended his response to House committee chairs, who suggested that Pompeo’s participation in the Trump-Zelenskiy call should force him to recuse himself from decisions on how to deal with Congress.

Pompeo claimed House investigators contacted “State Department employees directly” and told them not to contact State Department attorneys for advice. He said the State Department “will do our constitutional duty to cooperate” with Congress but will not tolerate “harassment and intimidation.”

“We will of course do our constitutional duty to cooperate with this co-equal branch, but we will do so in a manner consistent with the core values ​​of the American system,” Pompeo said. “And we will not tolerate the people of Capitol Hill bullying and intimidating State Department employees. It is unacceptable, and it is not something that I am going to allow to happen.”

Earlier Wednesday, Pompeo criticized governments that wield absolute power as threats to religious freedom, telling a Vatican conference on human dignity and faith that when governments hold all power, religion is a threatens.

“When the state rules absolutely, human dignity is trampled on, not cherished,” he said. “When the state rules absolutely, moral standards are completely crushed. When the state rules absolutely, it requires its citizens to worship the government, not God.”

He cited China, Cuba, Iran, Myanmar and Syria in particular for suppressing religious freedom.

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