WASHINGTON – P. Michael McKinleyFormer Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified Wednesday before the House impeachment panel amid ongoing questions about the expulsion of the former US ambassador to Ukraine and a parallel foreign policy operation run by Rudy Giuliani , personal advocate of President Donald Trump.
McKinley told lawmakers he stepped down as State Department because of growing frustration with Pompeo's refusal to defend career diplomats who felt marginalized by Giuliani's pressure campaign in Ukraine, according to Various media reports.
McKinley did not speak to reporters before or after more than five hours of testimony. He resigned last week after a career that lasted decades and included positions as US ambassador to Brazil and Afghanistan.
The timing of McKinley's departure raised questions about Pompeo's role in the controversy in Ukraine.
Giuliani targeted former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch while pressuring the Ukrainian government to launch politically dyed investigations that could have helped Trump's reelection campaign. Trump pulled Yovanovitch ambassador's work before his term ended, and critics blamed Pompeo for not defending her.
The Washington Post reported that McKinley's resignation came amid low State Department morale and concerns that Pompeo was not supporting those involved in the Ukraine controversy. Pompeo denied the allegations in an interview last week with The Tennessean.
"I protect all State Department employees," Pompeo said. "This is one of the reasons why we asked the House of Representatives to stop their abusive cases, where they would not let State Department attorneys sit with our employees. This is not fair."
Michael McKinley, former aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, arrives at the Washington Capitol on Wednesday, October 16, 2019, to testify before congressional congressmen as part of the House impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. (Photo: Andrew Harnik, AP)
Rep. Ted Lieu of California declined to say whether McKinley addressed Pompeo's role in the Ukraine issue. But he said: "From the public record, it is very clear that Secretary Pompeo has obstructed the information, ordering the witnesses not to come to Congress."
"I think Secretary Pompeo needs to put duty, honor and the country first, rather than protecting a corrupt president," Lieu said.
Rep. Harley Rouda of California said McKinley spoke more about his State Department experience during Pompeo's term than about the specific details of the controversy in Ukraine. Rouda and others refused to say what McKinkley told them about his decision to resign.
Republicans complained about Democrats holding private statements, argued that the hearings should be public and the legislators of any committee should be allowed to attend. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the senior Republican of the Supervisory and Reform Committee, called Schiff's approach "laughable" and said he could not discuss McKinley's testimony.
"But once again, we have these secret interviews in the Capitol basement that members can't even get into," Jordan said.
Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York said it was not shocking that McKinley left the State Department because he planned to retire before the end of the year. Zeldin said little first-hand information resulted from the interrogation and accused Democrats of trying to put words in McKinley's mouth.
"So Ambassador McKinley was very passionate about how much he improved, which was enhanced by Secretary Pompeo, and was directly contradictory to the way the questions were being formulated," Zeldin said.
Zeldin said the president can remember any ambassador like Yovanovitch at any time for any reason. But he said the removal does not justify impeachment.
"It's 100% within the president's authority," Zeldin said.
Also on Wednesday, Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine who testified before the committees on October 3, was seen entering the committee offices. Volker resigned in late September following revelations about his role in helping Giuliani contact Ukrainian officials, including key advisers to President Volodymyr Zelensky. Volker returned Wednesday to review the transcript of his testimony, according to one source.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, declared a formal impeachment inquiry on September 24 following reports of Trump's connection to Zelensky on July 25 to urge an investigation of his political rival, former vice president Joe Biden.
Three committees – Foreign Relations, Intelligence, Supervision and Reform – focused on Trump's negotiations with Ukraine, interviewing former officials like McKinley and Volker.
But Trump has vowed to fight what he describes as a partisan and unconstitutional witch hunt for lack of House vote authorizing the investigation. Management notified Pelosi on October 8 that would no longer cooperate with demands for documents and testimonials. Trump claims that he was absolutely justified in asking for the investigation of corruption in Ukraine.
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