(CNSNews.com) - Democrats, including their liberal media amplifiers, are making much of Mike Pompeo's reluctance to say whether he was listening to President Trump's July 25 phone call to Ukraine President Zelensky.
On Sunday, the Secretary of State dodged the question when it was put to him by ABC's Martha Raddatz. But on Wednesday, speaking alongside Italy's foreign minister, Pompeo said, "I was on the phone call."
Congressional Democrats say this makes Pompeo a "fact witness" in their case against Trump -- that Trump, as Democrats put it, was shaking down or extorting political favors from Zelensky to help Trump find dirt on a political rival.
A White House summary of that phone call, released by Trump, shows that Trump did bring up the Bidens (see below) after asking Zelensky to cooperate in the ongoing investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.
(Trump mentioned the Bidens after Zelensky mentioned Rudy Giuliani, who has been looking into Hunter Biden’s activities in Ukraine for months. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it -- it sounds horrible to me,” Trump told Zelensky.)
House Democrats want to depose five former and current State Department officials, starting this week, to find out what involvement Trump associates, including Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, had in Ukraine.
“The failure of any of these Department employees to appear for their scheduled depositions shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry,” Democrat committee chairs wrote in a letter to Pompeo last week.
Pompeo on Tuesday said he is "concerned with aspects of the Committee’s request that 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, whom the Committee is now targeting,” Pompeo wrote.
“Let me be clear," Pompeo added. "I will not tolerate such tactics, and I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead and serve alongside at the Department of State."
Also on Tuesday, House Committee Chairmen Eliot Engel (Foreign Affairs), Adam Schiff (intelligence), and Elijah Cummings (Oversight) accused Pompeo of "intimidating (State) Department witnesses in order to protect himself and the President."
They wrote: "Any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress -- including State Department employees -- is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry. In response, Congress may infer from this obstruction that any withheld documents and testimony would reveal information that corroborates the whistleblower complaint."
Pompeo wants State Department employees to have Executive Branch legal counsel with them when they are deposed.
On Wednesday, a reporter asked Pompeo if he heard anything "inappropriate" on the Trump-Zelensky phone call. Pompeo did not directly answer that question. The reporter also asked Pompeo why he objects to having State Department employees appear before House committees.
Pompeo said the premise of the question is wrong:
What we objected to was the demands that were put that are -- deeply violate fundamental principles of separation of powers. They contacted State Department employees directly, and told them not to contact legal counsel at the State Department. At least that's been reported to us. They said that the State Department wouldn't be able to be present.
There are important constitutional prerogatives that the Executive Branch has to be present so that we can protect the important information. So our partners, countries like Italy, can have confidence that the information that they provide the State Department will continue to be protected.
And so the response that I provided to them was one that acknowledged that we will, of course, do our constitutional duty to cooperate with this co-equal branch. But we are going to do so in a way that is consistent with the fundamental values of the American system.
And we won't tolerate folks on Capitol Hill bullying, intimidating State Department employees. That's unacceptable, and it's not something I'm going to permit to happen.
As for was I on the phone call? I was on the phone call. And the phone call was in the context of -- now I guess I've been a secretary of state for coming on a year and a half. I know precisely what the American policy is with respect to Ukraine. It's been remarkably consistent, and we will continue to try to drive those set of outcomes.
It's what our team, including Ambassador Volker, were focused on -- was taking down the threat that Russia poses there in Ukraine.
It was about helping the Ukrainians to get graft out and corruption outside of their government, and to help now this new government in the Ukraine build a successful, thriving economy. It's what the State Department officials that I've had the privilege to lead had been engaged in. And it's what we will continue to do, even while all this noise is going on.
As for Trump's controversial phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky:
Zelensky told Trump that his country is "ready to buy more Javelins (missiles) from the United States for defense purposes." (At the time, Zelensky apparently was unaware that Trump had temporarily frozen the military aid appropriated by Congress.)
I would like you to do us a favor, though, because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike-- I guess you have one of your wealthy people-- The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. [Trump is talking about the origins of the Russia probe.]
I think you're surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people, and I would like you to get to the bottom of it [again, the Trump-Russia probe]. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it's very important that you do it if that's possible.
We are open for any future cooperation. We are ready to open a new page on cooperation in relations between the United States and Ukraine. For that purpose, I just recalled our ambassador from United States, and he will be replaced by a very competent and very experienced ambassador who will work hard on making sure that our two nations are getting closer...
I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently, and we are hoping very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine. I just wanted to assure you once again that you have nobody but friends around us...We are great friends, and you, Mr. President, have friends in our country so we can continue our strategic partnership. I also plan to surround myself with great people and in addition to that investigation, I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly. That I can assure you.
After Zelensky mentioned Giuliani and "all the investigations" – [note that Zelensky brought up Giuliani’s name and referred to “all the investigations”] -- Trump responded:
Good, because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good, and he was shut down, and that's really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down, and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General.
Rudy very much knows what's happening, and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news, so I just want to let you know that.
The other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution, so if you can look into it -- it sounds horrible to me.
Zelensky went on to talk about the fired prosecutor: "Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100 percent my person, my candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. (The company on whose board Hunter Biden sat -- Hunter Biden, the troubled son of Joe Biden, who was then serving as vice president.)