© 2020 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mike Pompeo Was On Trump's Call To Ukraine's President, AP Reports

NOEL KING, HOST:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on that July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukraine's president. That's according to several reports. That would mean a Cabinet-level official was listening in when the president of the United States pushed a foreign leader to investigate Hunter Biden. AP diplomatic writer Matthew Lee is currently traveling with Secretary Pompeo. He joins me on the line now from Rome. Good morning.

MATTHEW LEE: Good morning.

KING: So Matt, I wonder, can you start by walking me through your reporting? What have you learned about this call and Pompeo's presence?

LEE: Well, what we've learned is that the secretary of state, which - and remember, this is not unusual for the secretary of state or any secretary of state to participate or to listen in on a phone call that any U.S. president has with any other foreign leader. But until yesterday, we did not know that Secretary Pompeo had been on the call listening. And presuming that he is not the whistleblower in question at the center of the whole impeachment inquiry, you know, there are questions as to why he would have allowed or would not have recommended the president to say the things that he did to President Zelenskiy.

KING: OK. So he could have been there providing a bit of oversight or guidance. Why does it matter that he was on the call or not on the call?

LEE: Well, when you have a situation where the president is speaking to a foreign leader, in normal circumstances, the president is very well-prepped by his staff - including the secretary of state, including the National Security Council - on, you know, what the goals and objectives are of the call. So Pompeo being on the call means that if that normal procedure took place, which we know it doesn't always in the Trump administration, but if it did, that there was more involvement than we have previously known, at least by the State Department, in this request to have the Ukrainians look in to Hunter Biden's business dealings.

KING: OK, meaning that we now know or we can conjecture, I suppose, that the State Department - if Mike Pompeo was on that call then the State Department is aware of the pressure that was being applied by President Trump...

LEE: Correct.

KING: ...To Ukraine's president. OK. That makes it significant.

LEE: Prior to this, we had only known about the contacts between the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and the former special envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, who resigned last week. And the impression that we were getting from officials was that the special envoy Mr. Volker was trying to kind of navigate between Rudy Giuliani's personal appeals to the Ukrainians on behalf of President Trump and the broader U.S. policy toward Ukraine. Which, of course, is to push them to investigate all types of corruption and not single out any one specific previous case as - that may or may not have existed. We just don't know.

KING: Would it have mattered to Ukraine's president if Mike Pompeo was on the call, if he knew?

LEE: Potentially. But he might not have known. There's no indication that we have so far that Secretary Pompeo would have spoken in the call. There is no indication that we have so far that Secretary Pompeo was actually in the room, or if he was over at the State Department listening in, or someplace else when it was on the call. So President Zelenskiy may not have been aware. If he was aware, I mean, it just would have given more credence to the president's appeal to him or request to him to investigate the Biden family because he would have known then that it wasn't just the president or the president's lawyer, but it was also the whole administration.

Now, you know, in normal times, the president - it would be understood that the president of the United States was speaking on behalf of the entire nation and on behalf of his entire administration. But prior to learning that Secretary Pompeo was on the call, it wasn't clear if he should have taken that or assumed that.

KING: OK. Some really interesting nuance, and I guess we'll have to see how this plays out. Matthew Lee reports for The Associated Press. He joined me from on the road with Secretary Pompeo. Thank you so much for taking the time.

LEE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.