WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that the State Department will examine alleged surveillance from former US ambassador Marie Yovanovitch by associates of Rudy Giuliani, personal lawyer to President Donald Trump.
"We will do whatever is necessary to assess whether something has happened there," he told Tony Katz, a radio host. But in his first remarks on the subject, Pompeo also calls into question claims that Giuliani's associates may be tracking the American diplomat.
"I suspect that much of what was reported will turn out to be wrong, but our duty, as Secretary of State, is to ensure that we evaluate, investigate," he said. "Whenever there is someone who says it may have been a risk for one of our officers, we will obviously do that."
Pompeo said he didn't know about the alleged surveillance before this week.
"I never heard of it," said Pompeo Hugh Hewitt, a conservative radio host. "Until the story broke, I had never heard of it."
The allegations emerged Tuesday, when Congressional Democrats released text messages and documents suggesting that Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate, discussed tracking Yovanovitch in March 2019.
O text messaging show Parnas communicating with Robert Hyde, a candidate for the pro-Trump congress in Connecticut who claimed to have Yovanovitch under surveillance. In March, Parnas sent articles to Hyde criticizing Yovanovitch. Hyde replied, "Wow. I can't believe that Trumo [sic] didn't fire that damn thing."
Hyde also sent Parnas a series of messages suggesting that he had hired people in Ukraine to keep an eye on the ambassador and was receiving updates on her whereabouts and activities. "She talked to three people. Her phone is off. The computer is off," Hyde wrote in a message. In another, "They'll let me know when she's on the move."
The State Department had not answered any questions about the new evidence, even though Ukrainian officials launched an investigation in the allegations.
In a statement released on Thursday, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said it did not want to interfere in U.S. internal affairs, but it could not ignore potentially illegal activities and needed to protect the rights and security of foreign diplomats posted to its territory.
The Ukrainian investigation aims to determine whether "there was really a violation" or "just bravado and false information during informal conversations between two US citizens," the statement said.
On Friday, Pompeo also told Hewitt that he "never met" Parnas, who has emerged as a central player in impeachment cases against Trump. The House challenged Trump after accusations surfaced that he had asked Ukraine for help in unearthing one of its 2020 political rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden.
An Ukrainian-born associate of Giuliani, Parnas helped Giuliani pressure the president of Ukraine to investigate Biden. Parnas said this week that Trump and Giuliani were routinely informed about developments behind the scenes of the work he did on his behalf in Ukraine.
“He was aware of all my movements. I would not do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the president. I have no intention, I have no reason to speak to any of these officers, ”said Parnas. Rachel Maddow from MSNBC in an interview earlier this week.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham replied to Parnas' statements.
"These allegations are being made by a man who is currently on bail for federal crimes and is desperate to reduce his exposure to prison," she said of Parnas, who is facing financial charges unrelated to the campaign. "The facts have not changed – the president has done nothing wrong and this impeachment, which was made and carried out by Democrats, was a farce from the beginning."