Democrats eye Pompeo testimony

House Democrats are setting their sights on securing testimony from a key figure in the impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report MORE's dealings with Ukraine: Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats warn State Dept against punishing individuals who testify in impeachment hearings Pompeo condemns 'deplorable' killings of Iraqi protesters MORE.

Democrats have already subpoenaed Pompeo for documents related to his involvement in the Trump administration's pressure campaign targeting Ukrainian leaders. After hearing several hours of testimony Wednesday from former Pompeo adviser Michael McKinley, a growing number of Democrats now say they also want to hear from the secretary of State.


“The secretary has some hard questions to answer,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said as he left the closed-door deposition of McKinley.

Other Democrats echoed that sentiment, saying they want to hear from a figure who has emerged as a key player in the administration’s Ukrainian dealings. Pompeo had listened in on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. During that call, Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, just after the foreign leader mentioned the need for U.S. aid in combating Russian aggression.

McKinley, a diplomat with decades of experience, was serving as U.S. ambassador to Brazil last year when Pompeo called him back to Washington to act as an informal liaison between Pompeo’s office and other career diplomats. He resigned last week, reportedly in protest of Pompeo’s handling of the Ukraine affair, which resulted in the removal of former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and outraged a number of State Department veterans.

But even if Democrats move forward in seeking Pompeo’s testimony, it is unlikely the secretary would appear, in light of the White House counsel’s letter vowing not to cooperate with the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. Some administration officials, however, have provided testimony.

One official familiar with McKinley’s testimony said McKinley was originally pleased with how Pompeo was steering the State Department away from what he described as the catastrophe of former Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonSteve Schmidt: 'Overwhelming chance that Trump will dump Pence' for Haley Nikki Haley: Trump 'truthful' in 'every instance that I dealt with him' Tillerson denies Haley's claims of taking actions to undermine Trump MORE, in which the foreign diplomatic arm faced massive cuts to its leadership. And Republicans emerging from the deposition were focusing on his praise.

Rep. Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsHouse Republicans prepare for public impeachment proceedings with mock hearing Live updates on impeachment: Schiff fires warning at GOP over whistleblower Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE (R-N.C.), a close Trump ally and member of the Oversight and Reform Committee, said McKinley was complimentary of Pompeo during Wednesday’s testimony.

But the official said McKinley’s opinions of the secretary soured after learning about his handling of the Yovanovitch ousting.

“He actually was really happy about the positive changes that Pompeo [brought about]. And then the story breaks and Masha [Yovanovitch] is in the transcript,” the official said.

“He, several times, goes to the very top of the agencies and says we need a statement of support. And all of the executives agree with him generally. And then he hears indirectly that the secretary is saying, ‘we're not going to do that,’ ” the official added, describing this as the “theme” they are hearing about the handling of the Ukraine scandal.

Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuWyden urges FCC to secure 5G networks against cyber threats Democrat hits White House spokeswoman after Trump appointee changes testimony PETA asks DOJ to stop conducting training that harms animals MORE (D-Calif.), another member of the Intelligence panel, suggested McKinley had shared the reasons for his resignation during Wednesday’s deposition, though Lieu declined to provide details.

When asked if McKinley's testimony lent reason to believe the Democrats' investigation would benefit from Pompeo's appearance, Lieu didn't miss a beat.

"Yes," he said.

Lieu, a former Air Force judge advocate general, emphasized that the decision will ultimately rest with the chairmen leading the impeachment investigation. But he also said the absence of a request for Pompeo’s testimony so far is no indication one won’t be coming.

“As a prosecutor, what we would do is we would sort of interview as many witnesses as we can before we ask major players for interviews,” Lieu said. “That's generally what you would do in an investigation."

McKinley is the latest in a growing string of witnesses to appear before the three House committees — Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform — leading the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. All depositions have occurred behind closed doors, leading to sharp criticisms from Republicans calling for greater transparency.

Democrats relayed a different narrative, suggesting McKinley’s testimony fit the mold of the previous witnesses, in that it corroborated allegations that Trump had abused his power in pressing a foreign leader for domestic political favors. Pompeo’s testimony, many Democrats say, would be a valuable piece of getting to the bottom of the affair.

“Of course, I think it would be helpful,” said Rep. Dean PhillipsDean PhillipsDemocrats lead Trump by wide margins in Minnesota Democrats eye Pompeo testimony The Hill's Morning Report - Dems to hit gas on impeachment MORE (D-Minn.), a freshman member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. “It would be helpful to hear from as many people as possible. But that’s only speculative at this point.”