Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Rudy Giuliani when deciding not to issue a statement in support of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, according to testimony from Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale released Monday evening.
Hale told the House Intelligence Committee in a Nov. 6 deposition that Pompeo ordered the State Department not to issue a statement in support on Yovanovitch in March 2019, as The Hill columnist John Solomon published a series of articles with trumped up claims against the then-sitting U.S. ambassador in Kyiv.
Hale added that Pompeo spoke with Giuliani as attacks against Yovanovitch continued, and the State Department maintained its silence after issuing an initial statement in support.
The diplomat also testified that Pompeo called Fox News host Sean Hannity as the conservative TV personality pushed narratives published by Solomon on his show.
“What the Secretary had consistently been saying, which is: If there are these allegations, I need to see what the evidence is,” Hale said, when asked to explain why he believed Pompeo called Hannity.
At one point, Hale testified that Yovanovitch was to be asked to issue a statement “reaffirm[ing] her loyalty, as the Ambassador and foreign service officer, to the President of the United States and the Constitution.”
“They were debating in her embassy whether she should do it on camera or a written statement,” Hale said. “I don’t know exactly who initiated that idea.”
The testimony adds to mounting questions about Pompeo’s role in the Ukraine pressure campaign. While Pompeo has so far avoided speaking to House impeachment investigators, a growing public record suggests that he was in contact early on with key players in the pressure campaign.
Hale also told lawmakers about the role of T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, a longtime Pompeo aide assigned the role of counselor of the State Department. In Hale’s telling, Pompeo asked Brechbul to “get in touch with Americans” thought to be involved in spreading negative information about Yovanovitch. The idea, Hale suggested, was to check out whether the allegations were accurate pending a statement in support.
“A statement would be on hold until such time as those conversations had been concluded,” the testimony reads.
Separate reporting has suggested that two recently indicted associates of Rudy Giuliani’s – Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman – played a role in disseminating attacks on Yovanovitch. But Hale did not name them in his testimony.
Brechbul purportedly received the order from Pompeo on March 26. Yovanovitch had sent an email on March 24 saying that the attacks had reached a fervor which was preventing her from doing her job.
Hale is the highest-ranked career foreign service officer in the State Department, and served as ambassador in three separate posts.
At one point, Hale said that he called Yovanovitch to get an “assessment of what was happening.”
From there, Hale recalled, Yovanovitch began to discuss potential motives for Giuliani.
“They seemed to focus on his business practices, his business connections in Ukraine, but she also mentioned the fact that the Mueller report had just come out,” Hale said.
He added that Yovanovitch believed Giuliani “might have an interesting in reminding the public” about Hunter Biden’s involvement on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
Read the transcript here:
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