Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly lashed out at a reporter for NPR after an interview in which he was questioned about Ukraine and issues that are at the center of the impeachment trial against President Trump.
NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly said during a segment on “All Things Considered” on Friday that Pompeo forcefully questioned whether Americans care about Ukraine and if the veteran journalist — who had recently returned from reporting in Iran — could find the former soviet country on a map.
“He asked, ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’ He used the F-word in that sentence and many others,” Kelly told her co-host Ari Shapiro, according to a transcript of the program.
“He asked if I could find Ukraine on a map. I said yes, and he called out for aides to bring us a map of the world with no writing. I pointed to Ukraine. He put the map away.”
“He said, ‘People will hear about this,’” Kelly recounted.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The secretary is expected to travel to Ukraine on Thursday, committing to a trip that was postponed in December over increasing tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
Pompeo is a key figure in the impeachment trial against Trump following testimony from multiple officials about an effort by the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to push for the removal of then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in order to clear the way to pressure the Ukrainian government to announce investigations that would politically benefit Trump.
The secretary has been accused of failing to protect Yovanovitch from a smear campaign spearheaded by Giuliani. He has also been implicated in green-lighting Giuliani’s shadow foreign policy in Ukraine, with U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland testified that “everyone was in the loop.”
Kelly asked Pompeo if he tried to block Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine.
“The Ukraine policy has been run from the Department of State for the entire time that I have been here,” Pompeo responded. “I’ve been clear about that, I know exactly what we were doing, I know precisely what the direction our State Department gave to our officials around the world about how to manage our Ukraine policy.”
Pompeo has rarely given media interviews to mainstream outlets, typically speaking with conservative news or local outlets when traveling outside of Washington. The secretary said he agreed to sit down with NPR’s Kelly to discuss the administration’s strategy on Iran.
Kelly was recently in Tehran and reported on the fallout surrounding the U.S. targeted killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
“You know, I agreed to come on your show today to talk about Iran,” Pompeo said when asked if he owed Yovanovitch an apology. “That’s what I intend to do.”
“I have defended every State Department official. We’ve built a great team,” he added.
Pompeo has said in previous media interviews that the State Department is obligated to launch an investigation surrounding the allegations that Yovanovitch was surveilled but has provided no details of any inquiries.
Pompeo grew increasingly irate when Kelly pressed him on his failure to speak out in defense of Yovanovitch after relentless public attacks on her professionalism and character led to her removal.
“Can you point me toward your remarks where you have defended Marie Yovanovitch?” Kelly asked.
“I’ve said all I’m going to say today,” Pompeo answered. “Thank you. Thanks for the repeated opportunity to do so. I appreciate that.”