Oy! NPR Host’s Questions About Amb. Yavonovitch Triggers Pompeo Meltdown

 

Remember when Pompeo chided USA TODAY’s Deirdre Shesgreen during an interview with “No, not O.K., but. Deirdre, Deirdre, Deirdre, Deirdre, Deirdre, Deirdre, Deirdre, Deirdre, Deirdre. Not O.K., but.”?
Or accused PBS’s Judy Woodruff of working for the DNC during an interview (see the 12:01 mark).
Remember the same accusation he leveled against News4’s Nancy Amons on Oct. 11, 2019 in Nashville, TN (see the 6:04 mark) when he did not like the question?
Because, of course, the secretary of state should only be asked questions that he love to answer! No hard questions, questions about the weather, his dog or his next “recruitment” event are presumably okay.
Over the weekend, the 70th secretary of state got into a very public spat with the NPR host who he accused of lying twice. One, supposedly that the questions were limited to Iran. There was no such agreement; Pompeo’s aide Katie Martin was reportedly told by NPR host Mary Louise Kelly (they’ve got the emails!)  “I never agree to take anything off the table.” Two, on NPR host purportedly agreeing to have their post-interview conversation be off the record. Yep, the one where he was accused of shouting at the reporter for about the same length as the interview itself. Since the reporter says she did not agree to the off the record stipulation, it was not off the record. Had Pompeo understood the basic rules of journalism, he would not have expected that the reporter would not publicly talk about their post-interview encounter. Or he could have just behaved per the new professional ethos he unveiled for the State Department in April 2019.
The Department website explains what “off the record” means and says “Ground rules must be agreed upon at the beginning of a conversation or an interview with State Department officials. The discussion should proceed only after you and the officials are clear on exactly how the information can be used or attributed.”
Martin, a deputy assistant secretary at the Bureau of Global Public Affairs has been on the job since May 28, 2019. Her bio page still says “Deputy Assistant Secretary Martin’s biography will be posted soon.” Prior to joining Foggy Bottom, she was with the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
So what caused the meltdown, this time? Not cheese. Apparently Mary Louise Kelly’s questions and follow-up questions on Ukraine but specifically on Ambassador Yovanovitch hit a sore spot:

MLK: Change of subject. Ukraine. Do you owe Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch an apology?

Pompeo: You know, I agreed to come on your show today to talk about Iran. That’s what I intend to do. I know what our Ukraine policy has been now for the three years of this administration. I’m proud of the work we’ve done. This administration delivered the capability for the Ukrainians to defend themselves. President Obama showed up with MREs (meals ready to eat.) We showed up with Javelin missiles. The previous administration did nothing to take down corruption in Ukraine. We’re working hard on that. We’re going to continue to do it.

MLK: I confirmed with your staff [crosstalk] last night that I would talk about Iran and Ukraine.

Pompeo: I just don’t have anything else to say about that this morning.

MLK: I just want to give you another opportunity to answer this, because as you know, people who work for you in your department, people who have resigned from this department under your leadership, saying you should stand up for the diplomats who work here. [crosstalk]

Pompeo: I don’t know who these unnamed sources are you’re referring to. I can tell you this, when I talked to my team here —

MLK: These are not unnamed sources. [crosstalk] This is your senior adviser Michael McKinley, a career foreign service officer with four decades experience, who testified under oath that he resigned in part due to the failure of the State Department to offer support to Foreign Service employees caught up in the impeachment inquiry on Ukraine.

Pompeo: I’m not going to comment on things that Mr. McKinley may have said. I’ll say only this. I have defended every State Department official. We’ve built a great team. The team that works here is doing amazing work around the world.

MLK: Sir, respectfully [crosstalk] where have you defended Marie Yovanovitch?

Pompeo: I’ve defended every single person on this team. I’ve done what’s right for every single person on this team. [crosstalk]

MLK: Can you point me toward your remarks where you have defended Marie Yovanovitch?

Pompeo: I’ve said all I’m going to say today. Thank you. Thanks for the repeated opportunity to do so. I appreciate that.

MLK: One further question on this.

Pompeo: I’m not going to — I appreciate that. I appreciate that you want to continue to talk about this. I agreed to come on your show today to talk about Iran.

MLK: And you appreciate [crosstalk] that the American public wants to know as a shadow foreign policy, as a back channel policy on Ukraine was being developed, did you try to block it?

Pompeo: The Ukraine policy has been run from the Department of State for the entire time that I have been here, and our policy was very clear.

MLK: Marie Yovanovitch [crosstalk] testified under oath that Ukraine policy was hijacked.

Pompeo: I’ve been clear about that. I know exactly what we were doing. I know precisely what the direction that the State Department gave to our officials around the world about how to manage our Ukraine policy.

These are not gotcha questions. Given Pompeo’s lack of public support for Amb. Yovanovitch, these should be expected questions. In fact, he should be asked this question every time he has an interview.  And when he says “I’ve defended every single person on this team” a follow-up question should be, “Do you consider Ambassador Yovanovitch a member of your team? 

So the secretary of state gets very touchy about Ukraine/Yovanovitch topic, hey?