Pompeo’s name has surfaced in testimony a few times already, but never like this. Indeed, his role has been notably understated given that the entire inquiry centers on a foreign-policy matter—he is, after all, the nation’s chief diplomat, and if the president used his public office for personal gain in his dealings with Ukraine, he was squarely on Pompeo’s turf when he did so. Yet as a succession of current and former State Department officials appeared before impeachment investigators, they did so in implicit defiance of Pompeo, who had condemned the entire process as unfair and banned some State officials from participating.
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But the inquiry was set to ensnare Pompeo anyway. One of the first former officials to testify was Michael McKinley, a close counselor to Pompeo who resigned in protest over Pompeo’s treatment of staff. Pompeo, McKinley testified, had failed to publicly defend Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, from attacks on her character—not least by the president himself. “The disparagement of a career diplomat doing her job was unacceptable to me,” McKinley testified, referring to Trump’s remarks to Zelensky that she was “bad news.” Yovanovitch, according to her own testimony, was pulled from her ambassadorship and told by a State Department official in the middle of the night to get on the next plane out of the country.
Pompeo is now suffering an ironic fate as a key architect, during his own time in Congress, of the Benghazi hearings, when he grilled a different secretary of state about her own treatment of the diplomatic workforce. In that case, Pompeo and others were seeking to prove Hillary Clinton’s negligence in the killing of four Americans, including the ambassador to Libya, in an attack on a U.S. complex in Benghazi.* Now Pompeo hasn’t been able to muster so much as a public statement in defense of Foreign Service officers being impugned by the president.
Trump has kept up attacks on Pompeo’s workforce via Twitter. The president has dismissed the career diplomat who replaced Yovanovitch, William Taylor, as a Never Trumper. Moreover, if Pompeo was betting that he could stay on the president’s good side by letting these attacks pass, he appears to have miscalculated: Trump has criticized Pompeo himself for hiring people like Taylor, and said of his secretary of state that “everybody makes mistakes.”
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Still, the criticisms of Pompeo’s role in the drama have generally concerned his treatment of his workforce and his refusal to aid the inquiry, rather than his conduct as it concerned U.S. policy toward Ukraine. Testimony that Sondland, along with Giuliani and Ukraine Special Envoy Kurt Volker, were running a “rogue” foreign policy outside of proper channels somewhat insulated the rest of Pompeo’s State Department. Pompeo runs U.S. foreign policy, and this was something multiple officials testified was actually contrary to the stated policy.