Pompeo says he 'never heard' about any efforts to surveil Yovanovitch

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: More closures possible at US bases in Europe as coronavirus spreads | Pompeo says Afghan 'reduction in violence is working' | Man accused of trying to blow up vehicle at Pentagon Pompeo: Afghanistan 'reduction of violence is working' Pompeo accuses China and Iran of hiding coronavirus outbreak MORE on Friday said he was not aware of any surveillance of Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchHouse panel says key witness isn't cooperating in probe into Yovanovitch surveillance President Trump's assault on checks and balances: Five acts in four weeks Former US ambassador Yovanovitch lands a book deal: report MORE during her time in Kyiv as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, his first public comments on allegations that associates of Rudy Giuliani surveilled the career diplomat as they pushed for her removal.

“I never heard about this at all,” Pompeo said in an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt when asked if he was aware that Yovanovitch was being surveilled.

Pompeo said he was only aware of the suggestion that the ambassador was being followed after the release of text messages describing the effort, released this week by the House Intelligence Committee as part of evidence in the impeachment trial against President TrumpDonald John TrumpWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Democrats duke it out in most negative debate so far MORE.

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“Until the story broke ahead, to the best of my recollection I had never heard of this at all,” Pompeo said, adding that he intends to "evaluate, investigate" whether Yovanovitch was under surveillance.

"We will do everything we need to do to evaluate whether there was something that took place there," he said in a separate interview Friday with radio host Tony Katz.
 
"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," he said. "Any time there is someone who posits that there may have been a risk to one of our officers, we’ll obviously do that."

The text exchanges released this week were between Lev Parnas, an associate of Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, and Robert Hyde, a Trump campaign donor, former Marine and Connecticut congressional candidate.

Hyde suggested in the messages he had a connection inside the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine and access to people willing to take action against the ambassador. Hyde suggested he was following Yovanovitch's movements and her electronic communication.

Pompeo also denied knowing Parnas, a key individual in the investigation surrounding Trump’s impeachment on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Senate Democrats have called for Parnas to testify in Trump's impeachment trial about what he knew of the alleged campaign to pressure Ukraine.

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Pompeo dismissed the impeachment as “noise here in Washington” that “comes up from time to time” in foreign policy discussions.

“It comes up from time to time. We do our best to make sure that everyone is focused on the things that really matter,” the secretary said.

Parnas has said in media interviews that “President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” related to efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWinners and losers from the South Carolina debate Five takeaways from the Democratic debate Sanders most searched, most tweeted about candidate during Democratic debate MORE in an effort to discredit him before the 2020 election.

Parnas has also detailed that he was part of the campaign to remove Yovanovitch from her post as ambassador, saying the plan to remove her was solely motivated to clear obstacles in the way of pressuring Zelensky over announcing investigations.