Secretary of State Mike Pompeo admitted Wednesday that he participated in a White House phone call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, an incident which is at the center of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
The admission came as at least three State Department officials prepared to speak with House committees regarding the Trump administration's relations with Ukraine and the phone call.
While visiting Rome, Pompeo told reporters, "As for was I on the phone call? I was on the phone call." The statement contradicted his earlier indication that he knew nothing about the call.
Pompeo's comments came amid news that the inspector general of the State Department, Steve Linick, has requested an "urgent" closed-door meeting on Wednesday with the House Oversight, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs Committees, which subpoenaed Pompeo last week. The committees demanded documents related to the phone call by October 4 and asked for depositions from five other State Department officials. Pompeo said Tuesday that he would not obey the subpoena.
The secretary of state said the phone call was part of standard communications between the U.S. and Ukraine and was focused on the Trump administration's support for the country. Pompeo's deflection of questions about the appropriateness of the phone call, in which Trump asked Zelensky to find incriminating information about 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden's son, represented the administration's familiar pattern of admitting wrongdoing, one critic noted on social media.
\u201cTHE CYCLE:\n- deny galling thing\n- yell FAKE NEWS! about galling thing\n- admit galling thing\n- pretend galling thing isn't galling\u201d— shauna (@shauna) 1570018670
The admission comes in stark contrast to Pompeo dodging a direct question last week about whether he knew anything about the conversation between Trump and Zelensky.
\u201cPOMPEO to Martha Raddatz about Trump's Ukraine call: "You just gave me a report about an IC whistleblower complaint. None of which I've seen."\n\nPOMPEO today: "I was on the phone call."\u201d— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1570023824
Some on social media said Linick's urgent request to speak with the panels may lead to the release of significant new information that Pompeo has refused to give the committees.
"The truth will come out," legal analyst Barb McQuade tweeted.
\u201cIG\u2019s request for urgent meeting with congressional committees seems very significant. This comes shortly after Pompeo stiff-armed them on subpoenas. The truth will come out. Didn\u2019t these guys read \u201cAll the President\u2019s Men\u201d? Or even see the movie? https://t.co/173zoitpvm\u201d— Barb McQuade (@Barb McQuade) 1569979683
\u201cNow another Inspector General gets involved: @StateDept IG requests an urgent closed-door mtg w/ key committees on Ukraine tmrw. Was "highly unusual & cryptically worded," source says. Came 1 hr after Pompeo's said house dems were bullying State officials. https://t.co/cMJBzqKNdl\u201d— Kylie Atwood (@Kylie Atwood) 1569970429
\u201cNow is the time for IGs to shine. They are the only executive branch appointees who are independent and non-political. Note that both the State and Intelligence Community IG are lawyers and former DOJ prosecutors. They know crime when they see it. \n\nhttps://t.co/sp5eLyIcSK\u201d— Michael R. Bromwich (@Michael R. Bromwich) 1569978682
As Linick prepared to address the committees, at least two State Department officials whose depositions were requested said that t hey would speak with the committees in the coming days. Recently-resigned Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker plans to meet with the Democratic-led panels Thursday while former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch will address them on Oct. 11.
While Pompeo accused House Democrats of "bullying" and "intimidating" State Department officials on Tuesday, The Guardian reported that "it soon became clear that Pompeo had only limited power to stop the congressional committees from gathering evidence for an impeachment inquiry."
Former Obama White House official Ben Rhodes tweeted that Pompeo's conduct since news broke of Trump's call with Zelensky should be considered an impeachable offense.
\u201cPompeo tried to corrupt the State Department, plainly lied about being on the call that was at the heart of the corruption, and is trying to obstruct justice. In any normal world he would have to go.\u201d— Ben Rhodes (@Ben Rhodes) 1570023702