Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said the State Department will investigate the possibility that former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was illegally surveilled while serving in Kiev.
“We will do everything we need to do to evaluate whether there was something that took place there,” Pompeo told conservative radio host Tony Katz in an interview.
Earlier this week, House Democrats released texts between Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas and Connecticut Republican congressional candidate Robert Hyde in which Hyde rails against Yovanovitch and suggests he had her under surveillance while she was in Kiev and was reporting her actions back to Parnas.
“She’s under heavy protection outside Kiev,” read one message; “it’s confirmed, we have a person inside,” read another, possibly referring to the U.S. embassy.
The secretary of state added that he is skeptical of reports that Yovanovitch was spied on.
“I suspect that much of what’s been reported will ultimately prove wrong, but our obligation, my obligation as secretary of state, is to make sure that we evaluate, investigate. Any time there is someone who posits that there may have been a risk to one of our officers, we’ll obviously do that,” Pompeo said. “I’ve not met this guy, Lev Parnas, to the best of my knowledge. I’ve never encountered, never communicated with him.”
“Until this story broke, I had, to the best of my recollection, had never heard of this at all,” Pompeo said in another interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Ukraine announced Thursday it would open a probe into the spying allegations.
Hyde has denied he participated in a spying operation targeting Yovanovitch, and Parnas defended him on Wednesday, saying he believed Hyde was not being serious when he sent the texts.
“I don’t believe it’s true. I think he was either drunk, or he was trying to make himself bigger than it was, so I didn’t take him seriously,” Parnas told MSNBC.
Yovanovitch was fired from her post in Kiev in May, prompting speculation that she was dismissed because she was undermining efforts by the White House to secure a promise from Ukraine that it would investigate Joe Biden. Giuliani said last month that he informed President Trump “a couple of times” about Yovanovitch’s chilling effect on investigations into Biden as well as potential Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election.
During her testimony before the House in November, the former ambassador said that she believed Giuliani and his associates wanted to replace her with an ambassador who would be more amenable to their business dealings in Ukraine.