Pompeo Breaks Silence on Reported Threats to Former Ukraine Ambassador

January 17, 2020 Updated: January 17, 2020
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that the State Department would look into the alleged surveillance of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch by associates of Rudy Giuliani.

“We will do everything we need to do to evaluate whether there was something that took place there,” he told radio show host Tony Katz, adding that he doubts Giuliani’s associates were tracking Yovanovitch, who testified in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump late last year.

“I suspect that much of what’s been reported will ultimately prove wrong, but our obligation, my obligation as Secretary of State, is to make sure that we evaluate, investigate,” Pompeo remarked. “Any time there is someone who posits that there may have been a risk to one of our officers, we’ll obviously do that.”

In another interview, Pompeo said he hadn’t heard about the alleged spying before this week.

“I’d never heard about this at all,” Pompeo told Hugh Hewitt, a talk radio host. “Until the story broke, I had, to the best of my recollection, had never heard of this at all.”

But he stressed in the Katz interview that his agency will work to ensure that officials, including ambassadors around the world, are safe.

“We do our best to make sure that no harm will come to anyone, whether that was what was going on in our embassy in Baghdad last week or the work that was going on in Kyiv up and through the spring of last year when Ambassador Yovanovitch was there, and in our embassy in Kyiv even today,” he remarked.

The allegations about surveillance attempt emerged on Tuesday when House Democrats released text messages and documents suggesting Lev Parnas, an associate of Giuliani, talked about tracking Yovanovitch last year. The messages suggest he was speaking to Robert Hyde, a congressional candidate in Connecticut, who claimed to have the former ambassador under surveillance.

“She’s talked to three people. Her phone is off. Computer is off,” Hyde wrote in a message. In another message, he said, “They will let me know when she’s on the move.”

The Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs stated Thursday that it would investigate the claims.

“Our goal is to investigate whether there were any violations of Ukrainian and international laws,” the statement said, adding that it will determine if the messages were “just bravado and fake talk in an informal conversation between two U.S. citizens.”

In an interview with CBS News on Jan. 15, Giuliani said he had no knowledge of any alleged efforts to track Yovanovitch. “I have no idea about allegations of him tracking her,” the former New York mayor told the news outlet.

Hyde strongly denied tracking the former ambassador when he was asked by Sinclair’s Eric Bolling this week on whether he “had eyes” on her. “Absolutely not, are you kidding me? I’m a little landscaper from [expletive] Connecticut,” he said.

“That was just colorful, I thought we were playing. I didn’t know he was so serious,” Hyde said, referring to the released text messages.

Democrats in the House had Yovanovitch testify amid the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine in November. She was recalled from her post in Kyiv months before that.