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Diplomacy

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

In her role as a pool reporter, Kelemen was to travel with Pompeo and share information as a representative of all radio news outlets, not just NPR. But last week, Pompeo ignited a feud with NPR when host Mary Louise Kelly pressed him on his failure to stand up for State Department officials who got wrapped up in the Ukraine impeachment scandal. Reporters need the department’s permission to fly on the plane along with the secretary for foreign trips, though this practice is usually uncontroversial.

The association said in a statement that it “can only conclude that the State Department is retaliating against National Public Radio as a result of this exchange.”

It defended Kelemen specifically, saying she is a “consummate professional who has covered the State Department for nearly two decades.” Punishing members of the press association is “unacceptable,” the statement said. It also noted that around the world, the U.S. State Department promotes and defends journalism.

But when he was put under pressure by Kelly in the recent NPR interview, Pompeo became terse and combative when she raised the issue, and he refused to answer her questions. He suggested, falsely, that she was relying on anonymous sources when she cited internal complaints about the department, even though she referred to public congressional testimony of one of his former top aides.

Kelly said that after the on-air interview, Pompeo became even more aggressive, swearing at her and demanding she find Ukraine on an unmarked map, which she did. When she revealed these details publicly, Pompeo claimed she violated an off-the-record agreement, though he didn’t contradict her account. Kelly denied she agreed to go off the record. Pompeo also claimed that Kelly had agreed not to discuss the Ukraine matter with him before the interview, a charge NPR likewise denied. The New York Times reported that it obtained emails between Kelly and the State Department that, in fact, explicitly said she would discuss Ukraine.

The State Department has not yet commented publicly on the matter.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo faced a brutal series of questions on Friday about his handling of the Ukraine scandal in an interview on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Host Mary Louise Kelly called out the fact that Pompeo hasn’t supported members of his department who have been caught up in the scandal and the impeachment proceedings that resulted from it. Most notably, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was smeared and ousted by President Donald Trump a group of cronies he worked with to solicit dirt from the country, and Pompeo never took a public stand in her defense.

“People who work for you in your department, people who have resigned from this department under your leadership, saying you should stand up for the diplomats who work here,” said Kelly.

“I don’t know who these unnamed sources are you’re referring to,” Pompeo said, stammering over the first few words. “I can’t tell you this —”

“These are not unnamed sources,” interjected Kelly. “This is your senior adviser Michael McKinley, a career foreign service officer with four decades of experience who testified under oath that he resigned in part due to the failure ‘of the State Department to offer support to foreign service employees who got caught up in the impeachment inquiry on Ukraine.’”

Indeed, McKinley told the House investigators:

The timing of my resignation was the result of two overriding concerns: the failure, in my view, of the State Department to offer support to Foreign Service employees caught up in the Impeachment Inquiry on Ukraine; and, second, by what appears to be the utilization of our ambassadors overseas to advance domestic political objectives.

Despite this well documented and publicized fact, Pompeo still tried to pretend as if the quote might fake. (When McKinley first resigned, Pompeo’s remarks suggested it was a choice based on personal considerations, rather than principled objections, but the testimony later blew up these deceptions.)

“I’m not going to comment on things that Mr. McKinley may have said,” Pompeo told Kelly. “I’ll say only this: I have defended every State Department official. We’ve built a great team. The team that works here is doing amazing work around the world —”

“Sir, respectfully, where have you defended Marie Yovanovitch?” probed Kelly.

Pompeo couldn’t answer, so he just kept lying.

“I’ve defended every single person on this team,” Pompeo said. “I’ve done what’s right for every single person on this team.”

“Can you point me toward your remarks where you have defended Marie Yovanovitch?” Kelly pressed.

“I’ve said all I’m going to say today,” Pompeo said. “Thank you.”

Listen to the exchange below:

UPDATE: Kelly later disclosed that following their interview, Pompeo called her into a conference room, challenged her to find Ukraine on an unmarked map (she did), and cursed her obscenely.