A leading State Department official testified before Congress on Saturday and touched upon Secretary of State Mike Pompeo‘s role in the administration’s dealings with Ukraine — the issue at the center of the Democrats’ fast-evolving impeachment investigation into President Trump.
Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs, broached the topic of Pompeo while being deposed in the Capitol by the three House committees — Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs — leading the impeachment investigation, according to Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
“I can’t get into the details,” Perry said, “but certainly there are questions.”
Perry, who has been a vocal defender of Trump throughout the impeachment process, emphasized that he felt there was nothing in Reeker’s testimony to indicate that the president or anyone is his orbit had acted inappropriately in their dealings with Ukrainian officials.
“The accusations that are being leveled against the president aren’t being corroborated in any of this witness testimony,” Perry said. “And today, in my opinion, is no different.”
Democrats, though, emerged from the closed-door testimony with a different view; Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), a member of the Oversight and Reform Committee, suggested Reeker was providing more evidence of presidential misconduct in Ukraine.
“He is corroborating previous witnesses and their testimony. So it’s helpful in that respect,” Lynch said. “I think it’s fair to say it’s a much richer reservoir of information than we originally expected.”
Pompeo has emerged as a central figure in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, particularly after revelations that the secretary of State was on the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asked Zelensky to launch a corruption investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading 2020 Democratic presidential contender.
That request was confirmed in a transcript of the call released by the White House earlier this month. A government whistleblower has taken the episode a step further, alleging that Trump had threatened to withhold almost $400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine if Zelensky failed to comply.
In May, as the pressure campaign was evolving, Pompeo recalled then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, a career diplomat who has served under numerous administrations of both parties. Yovanovitch’s removal came after she voiced concerns that the administration had crossed a line in enlisting foreign help to boost Trump’s 2020 campaign, and in her testimony to Congress earlier this month, she told lawmakers she thought her removal was politically motivated.
The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that Reeker was prepared to testify that his effort to rally support for Yovanovitch was thwarted by Pompeo, whose defense of Trump’s handling of the Yovanovitch affair has infuriated many State Department veterans.
Yet Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), another Trump ally, suggested that the media was sensationalizing testimony that was fundamentally unrevealing.
“That would be an unbelievable headline,” Meadows said. “And I would say, in general, that’s not consistent with what we’re hearing from the deposition.”
Meadows characterized Reeker as a “B player” in the Ukraine episode.
“I don’t see him as being directly involved with firsthand knowledge,” Meadows said, adding that Reeker was not on the July 25 phone call. “Ukraine was one of dozens of countries that he oversees.”
Democrats have already subpoenaed Pompeo for documents related to his involvement in the Ukraine saga, but following last week’s testimony from former Pompeo adviser Michael McKinley, many Democrats want Pompeo to appear before Congress as well.
“The secretary has some hard questions to answer,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said last week after McKinley’s deposition.