Secretary of State Mike Pompeo privately dismissed Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s assertions that former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch had criticized the president, the New York Times reported Sunday.
A record of the private conversation was contained in the manuscript of former White House national security adviser John Bolton’s upcoming book. Pompeo apparently followed through on the order to recall Yovanovitch last May despite privately questioning the rationale for her dismissal.
According to the manuscript, Pompeo privately speculated that Giuliani wanted Yovanovitch fired so that he could advance his own business interests in Ukraine without her interfering. (Some of Giuliani’s clients were at the time being targeted by Ukrainian anti-corruption efforts that the ambassador supported). Yovanovitch offered the same explanation for her removal when she testified before the House Intelligence Committee last year.
The news follows a contentious interview Pompeo gave to NPR on Friday, during which host Mary Louise Kelly asked the secretary of state why he didn’t express support for Yovanovitch. Kelly said that after the interview, Pompeo berated her for asking about Yovanovitch and demanded Kelly identify Ukraine on an unmarked map. The secretary of state, meanwhile, said his and Kelly’s team had agreed not to discuss Ukraine at all in the interview.
“NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly lied to me, twice,” Pompeo said in a statement after reports of the confrontation were released. “First, last month, in setting up our interview and, then again yesterday, in agreeing to have our post-interview conversation off the record. It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency.”
Kelly said that Pompeo had in fact not requested that the post-interview conversation be kept off the record. Emails obtained by the Washington Post appear to show Kelly and Pompeo’s teams did agree that questions regarding Ukraine would be allowed in the interview.
Yovanovitch was reportedly fired after Giuliani and associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman claimed the former ambassador was badmouthing the president. The former ambassador stated in testimony to House Democrats that Parnas and Fruman were pushing for a replacement who would cooperate with their efforts to coerce investigations that would benefit the president as well as their efforts to advance their own business interests.