Inside the epic White House fight over hydroxychloroquine

The White House coronavirus task force had its biggest fight yeton Saturday, pitting economic adviser Peter Navarro against infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci. At issue: How enthusiastically should the White House tout the prospects of an antimalarial drug to fight COVID-19?

Behind the scenes: This drama erupted into an epic Situation Room showdown. Trump’s coronavirus task force gathered in the White House Situation Room on Saturday at about 1:30pm, according to four sources familiar with the conversation. Vice President Mike Pence sat at the head of the table.

  • Numerous government officials were at the table, including Fauci, coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx, Jared Kushner, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, and Commissioner of Food and Drugs Stephen Hahn.
  • Behind them sat staff, including Peter Navarro, tapped by Trump to compel private companies to meet the government’s coronavirus needs under the Defense Production Act.

Toward the end of the meeting, Hahn began a discussion of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which Trump believes could be a “game-changer” against the coronavirus.

  • Hahn gave an update about the drug and what he was seeing in different trials and real-world results.
  • Then Navarro got up. He brought over a stack of folders and dropped them on the table. People started passing them around.
  • “And the first words out of his mouth are that the studies that he’s seen, I believe they’re mostly overseas, show ‘clear therapeutic efficacy,'” said a source familiar with the conversation. “Those are the exact words out of his mouth.”

Navarro’s comments set off a heated exchange about how the Trump administration and the president ought to talk about the malaria drug, which Fauci and other public health officials stress is unproven to combat COVID-19.

  • Fauci pushed back against Navarro, saying that there was only anecdotal evidence that hydroxychloroquine works against the coronavirus.
  • Researchers have said studies out of France and China are inadequate because they did not include control groups.
  • Fauci and others have said much more data is needed to prove that hydroxychloroquine is effective against the coronavirus.
  • As part of his role, Navarro has been trying to source hydroxychloroquine from around the world. He’s also been trying to ensure that there are enough domestic production capabilities inside the U.S.

Fauci’s mention of anecdotal evidence “just set Peter off,” said one of the sources. Navarro pointed to the pile of folders on the desk, which included printouts of studies on hydroxychloroquine from around the world.

  • Navarro said to Fauci, “That’s science, not anecdote,” said another of the sources.

Navarro started raising his voice, and at one point accused Fauci of objecting to Trump’s travel restrictions, saying, “You were the one who early on objected to the travel restrictions with China,” saying that travel restrictions don’t work. (Navarro was one of the earliest to push the China travel ban.)

  • Fauci looked confused, according to a source in the room. After Trump imposed the travel restrictions, Fauci has publicly praised the president’s restriction on travel from China.
  • Pence was trying to moderate the heated discussion. “It was pretty clear that everyone was just trying to get Peter to sit down and stop being so confrontational,” said one of the sources.
  • Eventually, Kushner turned to Navarro and said, “Peter, take yes for an answer,” because most everyone agreed, by that time, it was important to surge the supply of the drug to hot zones.
  • The principals agreed that the administration’s public stance should be that the decision to use the drug is between doctors and patients.
  • Trump ended up announcing at his press conference that he had 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine in the Strategic National Stockpile.

Between the lines: “There has never been a confrontation in the task force meetings like the one yesterday,” said a source familiar with the argument. “People speak up and there’s robust debate, but there’s never been a confrontation. Yesterday was the first confrontation.”

  • In response to a request for comment on Axios’ reporting, Katie Miller, a spokesperson for the vice president, said: “We don’t comment on meetings in the Situation Room.”

The bottom line: The way to discuss the drug’s potential has become a fraught issue within the Trump administration.

  • Most members of the task force support a cautious approach to discussing the drug until it’s proven.
  • Navarro, on the other hand, is convinced based on his reading that the drug works against the coronavirus and speaks about it enthusiastically.
  • Some of Trump’s favorite TV hosts, including Fox’s Sean Hannity, and friends including Rudy Giuliani, have also been touting the malaria drug for the coronavirus. Trump has made no secret who he sides with.
  • “What do you have to lose? Take it,” the president said in a White House briefing on Saturday. “I really think they should take it. But it’s their choice. And it’s their doctor’s choice or the doctors in the hospital. But hydroxychloroquine. Try it, if you’d like.”

[Axios]

Pence: ‘I don’t think there’s confusion’ after clarifications to Trump’s coronavirus address

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday dismissed suggestions that there was confusion surrounding President Donald Trump’s address to the nation about coronavirus despite the administration having to later make clarifications about travel restrictions.

“I don’t think there’s confusion,” Pence, who is leading the administration’s response to the crisis, told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on “New Day” Thursday. But he was unable to provide figures on how many Americans have been tested for the virus, which has been a key question as the crisis has spread throughout the country and disrupted everyday life.

Speaking to the nation Wednesday night, Trump announced that “all travel from Europe to the United States” would be banned for 30 days beginning Friday, with exceptions for the United Kingdom. After Trump’s remarks, the administration clarified that the travel restriction did not apply to Americans or US permanent residents, nor did it apply to all of Europe but to nations in the Schengen zone.

Trump was also forced to clarify he was not blocking goods from Europe, despite saying in his address that his ban would “apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo” across the Atlantic.

On CNN Thursday, Pence elaborated on the travel restrictions, saying that Americans coming home will be funneled through 13 different airports, where they will be screened for the novel coronavirus. Americans and legal residents returning to the US will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days, Pence said.

“We’ve recognized, our health experts tracking global data, that the epicenter of the coronavirus has shifted from China and South Korea to Europe,” the vice president said.

Pence also defended the administration’s handling of testing for the virus. The availability of test kits to health care providers has been one of the most scrutinized aspects of the federal government’s response to the crisis, leading to frustrations from state and local officials, and there has been confusion among Trump administration officials over the number of testing kits that have been mailed out.

Pence said he didn’t believe the numbers of tests being performed were declining, despite what was listed on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website in recent days.

Asked how many tests have been done, Pence replied, “Well, I would leave that to the experts.”

As of Monday, public health labs in all 50 states and Washington, DC, are able to test for novel coronavirus, according to the CDC. But the vice president said Thursday it’s “going to take a few more days” to make commercial testing for COVID-19 widely and readily available for the general public.

“The overall recommendation to Americans is to use common sense, practice good hygiene, and keep a special eye on seniors with chronic underlying health conditions,” Pence said.

Speaking to CNN’s John Berman on “New Day” on Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also was unable to say how many Americans have been tested.

As of Thursday morning, there have been 38 deaths and over 1,200 cases of coronavirus in the United States, according to CNN’s tally.

[CNN]

Trump campaign chief is funneling pay to Eric Trump’s wife, Don Jr.’s girlfriend

President Donald Trump’s campaign manager is quietly channeling money to Eric Trump’s wife, Lara Trump, and Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, The New York Times reported Monday.

The payments are hidden from public view because they’re made through campaign manager Paul Parscale’s private company, Parscale Strategy, based in San Antonio, sources told the Times. Typically, such payments would be part of public filings required by the Federal Election Commission so that donors can find out how their contributions are being used — in this case, to pay members of the president’s family.

The family benefits are linked to a network of politically connected private companies — operating with the support and help of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner — that have charged roughly $75 million since 2017 to the Trump reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee and other Republican clients, according to the Times. 

Guilfoyle last year angrily confronted Parscale about late checks owed to her, two witnesses told the Times. He reportedly promised that the situation would be rectified by his wife, Candice Parscale, who often handles his company accounts.

One of Lara Trump’s most notorious contributions to her father-in-law’s campaign early this year was to mock rival Joe Biden’s stutter, which he has grappled with since he was a child.

She was initially hired as a senior consultant in early 2017 by another Parscale company, digital vender Giles-Parscale, also based in San Antonio, The Associated Press reported. Lara Trump was to serve as a liaison between the company and Donald Trump’s campaign, headquartered in Manhattan’s Trump Tower, which is owned by the president’s Trump Organization. Parscale was named Trump’s reelection campaign manager the following year. 

The Trump campaign announced in January that Guilfoyle, a former Fox News personality who stated dating Trump Jr. two years ago, would lead the joint fundraising drive between the campaign and the RNC.

Guilfoyle left Fox News in 2018 following a human resources investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior, including sexual misconduct, HuffPost reported at the time. An attorney for Guilfoyle denied all accusations as “unequivocally baseless.”

HuffPost could not immediately reach Parscale for comment.

Parscale declined to comment to the Times “in detail” on the article, the paper reported. He has, however, said in the past that private companies provide greater flexibility in a campaign, given campaign finance law requirements, noted the Times.  

[AOL]

Jared Kushner Cashes in on Investment Thanks to Tax Breaks He and Ivanka Trump Lobbied to Pass

Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner last month sold his stake in a company that invested in Opportunity Zones, a designation created under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This means Kushner will benefit from tax breaks that he and his wife Ivanka Trump both lobbied to pass as part of the 2017 tax overhaul.

According to the Associated Press, the Office of Government Ethics on Monday released a public filing showing that Kushner had requested and received permission to defer capital gains on the sale of his stake in Cadre, a digital platform that allows investors to buy stakes in commercial properties.

Kushner, who is also a senior advisor to the president, founded Cadre in 2014 with his brother Joshua Kushner and current CEO and Goldman Sachs alum Ryan Williams.

While the exact amount Cadre invested in Opportunity  Zones is not known, Cadre had expressed plans to invest heavily in the 8,760 designated Qualified Opportunity Zones.

The financial disclosure report Kushner filed with federal ethics officials last year estimated that his stake in Cadre was worth between $25 and $50 million. His shares in Cadre were previously valued at around $5 million, according to financial disclosures from three years ago.

The sale of Kushner’s stake in Cadre came amid increased scrutiny from potential investors of the conflicts of interest associated with his involvement in the real estate venture. Bloomberg reported last year that Saudi-backed SoftBank declined to invest in the company after Kushner refused to divest from the firm.

“I would be lying if I said the political angle wasn’t frustrating or concerning,” Williams told Forbes last year. “There are people who won’t work with us, and we get that.”

A Cadre spokesperson told The Real Deal last month that the company planned to scale back investing in Opportunity Zones.

[Law and Crime]

Mike Pence’s press secretary snaps at reporter for asking coronavirus question

Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller snapped at a White House correspondent on Wednesday following a press briefing dealing with the White House’s coronavirus task force.  

The reporter, Brian Karem, asked Mr Pence about whether the White House has any guidance for uninsured individuals to get testing. Mr Pence was nearing the end of his press conference when Mr Karem asked him about coronavirus testing for the uninsured.  

“Can you please supply some guidance to the uninsured who want to get tested?” Mr Karen asked. 

Mr Pence blew past the question and wrapped up his press conference. He suggested the risk to the broader American population “remains low.” 

“As we continue to take these steps, as Americans continue to take common-sense practices to protect their own health, the health of their family, we’ll work to keep it [low],” he said. 

As Mr Pence finished and moved to leave the room, Mr Karem again yelled out his question, asking if there was any guidance for the uninsured to get testing. 

He was ignored, so he tried again. 

“Gentlemen, ladies, can the uninsured get tested?” Mr Karem asked. 

Ms Miller snapped a response at Mr Karem. 

“Screaming for the camera isn’t going to get you anywhere” she said. 

Mr Karem pushed again. 

“Well, how about answering the question? We would like an answer to that question,” he said. “It’s a valid question, could you answer it?”

At that point Ms Miller moves to exit the room, responding “We’ll get you an answer” as she departs. 

It is unclear if the White House has followed up on Mr Karem’s question. 

Though the Centers for Disease Control are not charging patients for testing, individuals can still incur hospital costs from visiting the ER.

[The Independent]

Media

White House chief of staff claims press covering coronavirus to take Trump down

White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Friday downplayed the threat of the coronavirus but acknowledged likely school closures and disruptions to public transportation in the United States as a result of the outbreak.

He also accused the press of peddling a false narrative about the administration “scrambling” to contain the virus, saying he briefed Congress with other top health officials six weeks ago. He accused the media of ignoring the coronavirus until now because publications were too preoccupied with Trump’s impeachment before that, which he called a “hoax.”

“Why didn’t you hear about it?” Mulvaney told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday morning in a discussion with Stephen Moore, an economic expert at the Heritage Foundation. “The press was covering their hoax of the day because they thought it would bring down the president.”

Trump has similarly accused the media of stoking panic.

Mulvaney claimed that the press is only covering the virus now because they believe doing so will “take down the president.”

“Is it real? It absolutely is real,” Mulvaney said. “But you saw the president the other day — the flu is real.”

“Are you going to see some schools shut down? Probably. May you see impacts on public transportation? Sure,” Mulvaney said, adding, “We know how to handle this.”

Mulvaney’s remarks came as the Trump administration’s efforts to combat the virus are coming under increasing scrutiny. He argued that the administration is well-prepared while asserting that the virus is less severe than past illnesses because it has a lower fatality rate, describing it as less deadly than Ebola, SARS and MERS.  

Mulvaney’s appearance at CPAC comes as President Trump has downplayed concerns about the virus, telling reporters at a news conference Wednesday that he didn’t believe the spread of the virus was inevitable.

The virus has been contained in the U.S. thus far, but health officials have said that its spread is likely. State and local officials may order school closures or otherwise limit public gatherings if the virus begins to spread communities.

The U.S. stock market has experienced sharp declines over the past week amid concerns about the virus, which originated in China and has spread quickly in other countries across the globe.

“What I might do to calm the markets is turn the television off for 24 hours,” Mulvaney told the crowd at CPAC Friday, mentioning a note he received from a reporter about what the administration’s plans were to ease concerns.

Trump on Wednesday tapped Vice President Pence to lead the government’s response efforts, and Pence has since tapped a career health official at the State Department, Debbie Birx, to coordinate those efforts.

“Congratulations and thank you to our great Vice President & all of the many professionals doing such a fine job at CDC & all other agencies on the Coronavirus situation,” Trump tweeted late Thursday. “Only a very small number in U.S., & China numbers look to be going down. All countries working well together!” 

[The Hill]

Media

Trump appoints unqualified loyalist Richard Grenell to oversee spy agencies

Donald Trump has appointed the US ambassador to Germany, a combative loyalist, to his administration’s most senior intelligence post, in his continuing effort to wield personal control over the spy agencies, according to multiple US reports.

By making Richard Grenell acting director of national intelligence (DNI), rather than nominating him for the permanent position, Trump has sidestepped the need for Senate confirmation, a loophole the president has increasingly exploited as he has moved to replace career officials with those chosen for their personal loyalty.

The move marks a radical break from past practice. Since the position was established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to coordinate the 17 intelligence agencies, the office of the director of national intelligence has been viewed as non-partisan, and generally occupied by career professionals. The current acting DNI, Joseph Maguire, is a retired vice-admiral and former head of the National Counterterrorism Center.

Grenell does not have a background in intelligence or the armed services, but the White House statement confirming the appointment claimed Grenell had “years of experience” working with the intelligence community in other jobs, as special envoy to Serbia and Kosovo peace talks (a job he was given in October) and while he was spokesman at the US mission to the UN from 2001 to 2008.

“He is committed to a non-political, non-partisan approach as head of the intelligence community, on which our safety and security depend,” the statement said.

Until now Grenell has been best known as a Twitter warrior, lashing out at critics of the Trump administration with a ferocity that captured the president’s attention.

Grenell has also been an outspoken advocate of LGBT rights, and has made the issue part of his brief as ambassador.

According to some reports, he will remain ambassador to Berlin and special envoy for Serbia and Kosovo peace negotiations while overseeing the US intelligence agencies. Neither the state department nor the White House would comment on those reports on Thursday.

The president has been a bitter critic of the intelligence agencies, particularly when their assessments were at odds with his own – about Iran and North Korea, for example. He once derided agency chiefs as “passive and naive”. His denunciations became so acerbic that the agency chiefs have stopped giving public briefings to Congress over national security threats.

“The president has selected an individual without any intelligence experience to serve as the leader of the nation’s intelligence community in an acting capacity,” Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said, noting that Grenell was the second acting director in the post since the resignation of the last Senate-confirmed DNI, Dan Coats, last summer.

Warner said that the acting appointments were an apparent “effort to sidestep the Senate’s constitutional authority to advise and consent on such critical national security positions, and flouting the clear intent of Congress when it established the office of the director of national intelligence in 2004”.

“This should frighten you,” the former National Security Agency lawyer Susan Hennessey said on Twitter. “Not just brazen politicization of intelligence, but also someone who is utterly incompetent in an important security role. The guardrails are gone.”

After Coats’s resignation in July, Trump attempted to replace him with an outspoken Republican partisan, the congressman John Ratcliffe, but Ratcliffe was forced to stand down in the face of bipartisan scepticism over his qualifications in the Senate and revelations that he had exaggerated his experience in his official biography.

[The Guardian]

Trump installs loyalists in top jobs after impeachment purge

President Donald Trump is surrounding himself with loyalists after a week of banishing staffers across the government in a post-impeachment revenge plot.

On Thursday, the White House confirmed that Hope Hicks, one of Trump’s most trusted confidants, will return to the White House to work directly for the president’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, as a senior adviser after nearly two years away. Trump’s “body man” Johnny McEntee is also being promoted to run the office responsible for filling hundreds of top political jobs throughout the federal agencies, according to three senior administration officials, replacing Sean Doocey, who will move over to the State Department.

One senior administration official said the West Wing personnel changes are likely to continue in the coming weeks to prepare for both the 2020 campaign season and a potential second term.

Taken together, the moves have signaled a pattern of reinstating and promoting those closest to Trump after purging staffers Trump viewed as insufficiently loyal or part of the alleged “deep state” plot to get him. The last seven days have seen a makeover of White House and agency offices, driven partly by Trump’s desire for revenge post-impeachment and partly by his wish to staff the West Wing with people with whom he feels comfortable.

The new hires and promotions like Hicks and McEntee also happen to be close with Kushner, who is overseeing the reelection campaign and has his own influential power center within the White House.

“POTUS is surrounding himself with people who believe in him and his policy agenda,” said Jason Miller, a former top communications adviser on the 2016 campaign who applauded Hicks and McEntee’s return to the West Wing.

Trump’s vengeance campaign has claimed people across the government.

At the White House, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a top National Security Council Ukraine staffer, was escorted off the premises as retaliation for damaging testimony during the House impeachment hearings. His twin brother, an NSC lawyer, was also booted from his job. Both have returned to the military, where they worked before being detailed to the White House.

At the State Department, Trump fired Gordon Sondland, the now-former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, after he also took a turn on the witness stand. Elsewhere, Trump pulled the nomination of former U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu for a top position at the Treasury Department because of her role in special counsel Robert Mueller’s case against Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime political confidant who was convicted on charges of lying to Congress.

McEntee’s new position atop the White House personnel office will be critical for staffing up across the government in 2020 and into a potential second Trump term. The office has long been seen as a weak spot within the administration, given the huge number of vacancies across agencies and a lack of vetting of several top officials that led to fallen nominees and embarrassing headlines. Trump even once said he was simply outsourcing his vetting process to the media instead of doing it in-house.

Donors and the business community have also been frustrated by the lack of responsiveness from the personnel office, according to one Republican close to the White House — not to mention the office’s reputation for frat boy antics inside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Over in the West Wing, Hicks will work in her new role under Kushner as a counselor to the president and senior adviser, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham confirmed, calling Hicks “one of the most talented and savvy individuals I have come across.” Hicks departed the White House in March 2018 after working as communications director for Trump. She then moved to Los Angeles to work in a senior communications role at Fox Corporation.

“There is no one more devoted to implementing President Trump’s agenda than Hope Hicks,” Kushner said in a statement. “We are excited to have her back on the team.”

Hicks’ return to the White House gives Trump an ally who’s adept at translating his wishes to the broader staff.

Hicks was always well-liked among the communications and press staff, getting along well with the competing factions from the 2016 campaign and the Republican National Committee. Since leaving the White House, she has also remained close with Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, visiting them at the president’s Bedminster resort. McEntee is also extremely close with the entire Trump family.

Hicks will likely start her new position early next month, though the exact details are still being worked out, according to a senior administration official.

Hicks, Doocey and McEntee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

[Politico]

Pompeo says denying credentials to NPR sends “perfect message about press freedoms”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the State Department’s decision to deny NPR press credentials for his trip to Europe following his confrontation with reporter Mary Louise Kelly, stating in an interview in Kazakhstan Sunday that it sends “a perfect message about press freedoms” to the world.

The backdrop: In an NPR interview in January, Kelly pressed Pompeo about his reluctance to defend former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch after she was the victim of a smear campaign. After the interview ended, Kelly says Pompeo took her into his private living room and berated her, asking if she could even find Ukraine on a map.

  • After Kelly went public about the episode, Pompeo released a statement accusing her of lying to him, claiming the interview was “another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this Administration.”
  • The State Department later denied an NPR reporter press credentials to cover his trip to Europe.

https://twitter.com/RFERL/status/1224028787190484993

What he’s saying: During an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Pompeo denied that he had a confrontational interview with Kelly and said the State Department only grants press credentials when it believes reporters are “telling the truth and being honest,” according to a transcript.

  • “I always bring a big press contingent, but we ask for certain sets of behaviors, and that’s simply telling the truth and being honest. And when they’ll do that, they get to participate, and if they don’t, it’s just not appropriate — frankly, it’s not fair to the rest of the journalists who are participating alongside them,” Pompeo said.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

[Axios]

Pompeo explodes at NPR reporter, asks if she could find Ukraine on a map (She did)

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.”

[The Hill]

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