President Donald Trump on Tuesday praised Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for bullying and berating NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly, who last week infuriated Pompeo by asking him basic questions about Ukraine and the ongoing impeachment trial.
"That reporter couldn't have done too good a job on you," Trump said during a press conference in the White House held with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "Think you did a good job on her, actually."
Pompeo smiled and laughed along with the audience as Trump rambled on about rumors that the secretary of state is planning a Senate run.
"They all want him to," the president said. "Kansas, great state."
Trump's remarks, and the laughter they provoked, were met with disgust.
"Congrats to all of those in the audience laughing along to attacks on the free press," tweeted Georgetown professor Don Moynihan.
Watch Trump's comments:
Trump to Mike Pompeo on NPR: "That was very impressive, Mike. That reporter couldn't have done too good a job on you yesterday, huh? [laughter] Think you did a good job on her, actually. [laughter] That's good." Via CSPAN pic.twitter.com/OQDR6IS2T8
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 28, 2020
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As Common Dreams reported on Saturday, Kelly said Pompeo lashed out at her with an expletive-filled rant following an interview Friday in which she asked the secretary of state about Ukraine and other topics.
"Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?" Pompeo asked, according to Kelly.
Pompeo claimed in a statement Saturday that Kelly agreed beforehand that the interview would not include questions about Ukraine. The secretary of state also said Kelly agreed to keep the post-interview conversation off the record.
Kelly denied agreeing to such preconditions, and emails obtained by the Washington Post Sunday showed Kelly confirmed with Pompeo's press aide that the interview would include questions on Ukraine.
The State Department on Monday escalated the fight with NPR by barring reporter Michele Kelemen from traveling with Pompeo on an upcoming trip to Eastern Europe.
In a statement late Monday, the State Department Correspondents' Association criticized the decision to bar Kelemen.
"Michele is a consummate professional who has covered the State Department for nearly two decades," the association said. "We respectfully ask the State Department to reconsider and allow Michele to travel on the plane for this trip."
In a tweet on Monday night, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) warned that "when Trump administration officials are allowed to bar press simply for doing their job... we are entering the chilling realm of an autocracy."