In a Friday interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo finally addressed the alleged surveillance of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, saying that he’d “never heard about this at all.”
“Until this story broke, the best of my recollection, I’d never heard of this at all,” Pompeo told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Pompeo also washed his hands of any association with Lev Parnas, the associate of President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who provided a tranche of messages to Congress that included exchanges about getting rid of and tracking Yovanovitch.
“Never met him,” Pompeo said.
According to the Hill, the State Department agreed Thursday to brief senators about what officials knew of attempts to track Yovanovitch after heavy pressure from the Democrats. At that point, Pompeo still had not publicly acknowledged the threats.
Pompeo had already come under fire for his refusal to put out a statement backing up Yovanovitch during Giuliani’s smear campaign. In Friday’s interview, Pompeo still did not come to Yovanovitch’s defense, or raise any objections or concerns about the alleged tracking of a U.S. diplomat.
Other foreign policy experts, including a current State Department official, have raised the alarm about the egregious treatment of an American official. “Not just insane, but deeply chilling,” the State Department employee characterized the revelations to Foreign Policy magazine.
The new evidence also raises more questions about what Pompeo knew at the time.
Per the New York Times, State Department records show that Pompeo spoke to Giuliani at least twice in late March. Giuliani said that during the calls, he gave Pompeo the results of his Ukraine research. This was around the same time Pompeo was facing pressure from both Giuliani and the White House to fire Yovanovitch. She was recalled to Washington a month later.
Pompeo is scheduled to give a televised briefing Friday morning, though the State Department already abruptly cancelled two unrelated briefings just after Parnas’ messages were released to the public.
Messages Parnas gave to the House Intelligence Committee were released earlier this week and revealed a Connecticut contractor named Robert Hyde telling Parnas that Yovanovitch’s movements were being tracked. It has been long known that Giuliani was working to oust Yovanovitch to clear the way for someone who would be more amenable to forcing Ukraine to concoct a phony investigation into Joe Biden and his son.
“She under heavy protection outside Kyiv,” Hyde sent to Parnas in March. “They are moving her tomorrow,” he added days later.
“They are willing to help if we/you would like a price,” he texted Parnas later that day, March 25. “Guess you can do anything in Ukraine with the money… what I was told.”
“Lol,” Parnas said in response.
Both men have claimed that the exchange was not a serious one.
“I don’t believe it’s true,” Parnas said to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Wednesday about Hyde’s surveillance talk. “I think he was either drunk or he was trying to make himself bigger than he was. So I didn’t take it seriously.”
“It was just colorful, we were playing,” Hyde told Eric Bolling on Sinclair TV the same day. “I thought we were playing. I didn’t know he was so serious.”
Still, FBI agents visited Hyde’s home and business Thursday.
Ukraine has also opened an investigation into the threats, citing the messages which “contain a possible violation of the law of Ukraine and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which protects the rights of a diplomat on the territory of the foreign country.”