Former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Michael McKinley, directly contradicted public comments made by the top US diplomat when he testified under oath last month as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
McKinley, who resigned amid the Ukraine controversy, raised concerns about former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s removal, which was pushed by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and has become a central part of the inquiry, according to a transcript of that testimony released Monday.
While Pompeo told ABC News last month that McKinley never raised the idea of issuing a statement of support for Yovonovitch, McKinley directly contradicted that statement while under oath, telling lawmakers he mentioned it on three separate occasions.
Specifically, McKinley who testified behind closed doors on October 16, said that he raised the Yovanovitch matter with Pompeo three times and proposed releasing a statement of support for the former diplomat, who was abruptly recalled from her post, but did not receive a response from the secretary of state, including when he told Pompeo he was leaving the department.
“I said: We’ve seen the situation that’s developing outside. Wouldn’t it be good to put out a statement on Yovanovitch? Since my impression is the Department, you know, at least tried to keep her in Ukraine. I had gotten that from the newspapers,” McKinley said. “He listened. That was it. Sort of , ‘Thank you.’ That was the limit of the conversation.”
McKinley told lawmakers that he raised the issue on two other occasions, including during a phone call to discuss his resignation.
“I spoke with the Secretary again when he called from Europe to discuss my resignation,” McKinley said. “I was pretty direct. I said, ‘You know, this situation isn’t acceptable. We need to you know, I’ve already made my recommendation, but … I am resigning.’ And that was the conversation. Again, I didn’t get a reaction on that point.”
McKinley’s testimony contradicts public comments that Pompeo made in an interview last month with ABC News after McKinley’s testimony.
“From the time that Ambassador Yovanovitch departed Ukraine until the time that (McKinley) came to tell me that he was departing, I never heard him say a single thing about his concerns with respect to the decision that was made,” Pompeo said of McKinley. “Not once … did Ambassador McKinley say something to me during that entire time period.”
McKinley testified that he chose to resign because of what he saw as the use of ambassadors “to advance domestic political objectives” and a failure of the State Department to offer support for those officials caught up in the impeachment inquiry.
“The timing of my resignation was the result of two overriding concerns: the failure in my view, of the State Department to offer support to Foreign Service employees caught up in the impeachment inquiry; and, second, by what appears to be the utilization of our ambassadors overseas to advance domestic political objectives,” McKinley said. “To see the emerging information on the engagement of our missions to procure negative political information for domestic purposes, combined with the failure I saw in the building to provide support for our professional cadre in a particularly trying time, I think the combination was a pretty good reason to decide enough, that I had no longer a useful role to play.”
The State Department did not respond to CNN’s request for comment about the contradiction.
‘Strange parallel universe’
As the State Department becomes engulfed by the House impeachment inquiry, diplomats say they find themselves caught in a “strange parallel universe,” where the administration officials they serve accuse them of being part of a “swamp” trying to take the President down.
Officials from the nation’s oldest Cabinet agency have been central to the inquiry into Trump’s alleged attempts to exchange aid to Ukraine for an investigation into his political foes. As the inquiry unfolds, the department itself and some individual officials have become the target of intensifying White House vitriol.
The State Department has been catapulted into a “strange parallel universe,” one Washington-based official previously told CNN, groping for a way to describe the way staff feel about the situation: The administration they serve is attacking them, career diplomats are having to hire lawyers simply for having done their jobs and anger is growing about the silence on the seventh floor, where the secretary’s offices are housed.
CNN’s Nicole Gaouette and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.