Secretary of State Pompeo's role examined in impeachment inquiry

US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale delivers a statement after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri in Beirut Lebanon

US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale delivers a statement after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri in Beirut Lebanon

A top State Department official arrived Wednesday to testify in the House impeachment probe and is expected to say that the agency was reluctant to defend the former ambassador to Ukraine over fears it would damage efforts to free up military aid to the country.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered a tortured response Thursday to questions about the sworn impeachment testimony of his former senior adviser Michael McKinley, who told investigators last month that he approached Pompeo three times with concerns about a campaign to undermine the USA ambassador to Ukraine.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is trying to shrug off the impeachment inquiry that has ensnared the State Department and raised questions about his leadership. CBS News State Department and foreign affairs reporter Christina Ruffini joins CBSN to explain the latest developments. Yovanovitch was the target of a smear campaign, with Rudy Giuliani and others circulating unfounded conspiracy theories about her in order to get the ambassador removed from her post. In his controversial July 25 call with Ukraine's new president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump called Yovanovitch "bad news" and said she was "going to go through some things". After memorandum was released, McKinley testified, he pushed Pompeo to release a statement supporting Yovanovitch multiple times.

In testimony also released on Monday, Yovanovitch told investigators that the campaign against her, which included an article that was retweeted by Donald Trump Jr., undermined her ability to serve as a "credible" ambassador and she wanted Pompeo to issue a statement defending her.

But then he dug in, saying McKinley said in his opening statement to the House that "he wasn't particularly involved in the Ukraine file, so it's not surprising that when Ambassador Yovanovitch returned to the United States, he didn't raise that issue with me".

"When the transcript was released and, frankly, the information that just poured out every day from the media ... it became clear to me that State Department officials, if not the State Department itself, were being drawn again into the domestic political arena in some way", he said. He brought up the issue with Secretary Pompeo several times, he said, with no response.

The official told McKinley that Pompeo thought the statement would draw undue attention to Yovanovitch and that it would be better to let the matter die down, McKinley recalled.

That isn't what McKinley testified, however, and Pompeo declined to answer other questions on the impeachment inquiry during his press conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

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