WASHINGTON (CN) – A career diplomat testified behind closed doors Wednesday in the congressional impeachment probe, reportedly telling lawmakers that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brushed off his repeated requests that the department show support for an ousted ambassador.
Citing sources privy to Michael McKinley’s private testimony, multiple media outlets including The New York Times, Washington Post and CNN have reported that McKinley’s resignation last week as senior advisor to Pompeo may have been triggered by the secretary’s reaction.
Not waiting to be subpoenaed, McKinley came willingly to sit for a transcribed interview before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees.
Reporting on the meeting suggests that McKinley told lawmakers he couldn’t understand why Pompeo was silent when he shared his concerns regarding the removal of the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Yovanovitch told lawmakers during her own closed session last week she was unceremoniously pushed out of the department after serving the department faithfully for 30 years — and to many bipartisan accolades — thanks to a cloud of unsubstantiated allegations pedaled by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani as well as various U.S. and Ukrainian officials who allegedly saw her as dangerous to their own personal or financial interests.
McKinley is not directly implicated in the administration’s dealings with Ukraine. Instead, lawmakers say his testimony illuminates the state of morale inside the department as well as what the Trump administration’s internal strategy might look like there.
McKinley did not submit records directly to the committee Wednesday. They remain in the State Department’s possession.
As the interview unfolded Wednesday morning, Republican Representatives Louie Gohmert of Texas and Jim Jordan of Ohio told reporters staking out the hearing they were appalled by the conduct of their Democratic colleagues.
“This is an insane asylum and it’s clear the inmates are running it,” Gohmert said.
Among their complaints — most of which exclusively revolve around procedure and rarely on the content of the impeachment inquiry — Republicans say they are frustrated because Democrats won’t commit to a specific release date of transcripts from interviews and have refused to allow some Republican lawmakers into the room for testimony.
“Schiff says his argument for doing these secret interviews is because in previous investigations, there was a special counsel. Now he views himself as that,” Jordan claimed Wednesday.
Representative Andy Biggs, a Republican who chairs the House Freedom Caucus, told reporters he wanted a resolution to censure House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.
Wednesday morning also featured the unexpected return to Capitol Hill of Kurt Volker, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine. Volker came to review the transcript from his Oct. 3 testimony. The visit prompted Biggs and other Republicans to visit the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, where Volker’s transcript is housed, and demand to see it.
They were unsuccessful however. The transcripts were not ready and it is unclear when they will be.
Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, meets with lawmakers Thursday and, according to the Associated Press, is expected to say that senior White House national security officials never raised concerns with him personally about his activities with Giuliani in Ukraine.
The testimony follows revelations by former White House aide Fiona Hill who said during her deposition this week that Sondland’s activities so disturbed her superior, former national security adviser John Bolton, that Bolton was left incredulous and angry, at one point saying he wanted no part of whatever “drug deal” Sondland and yet another administration official, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, were cooking up.
Sondland’s testimony, which was blocked by the White House last week, is hotly anticipated since he is expected to elaborate on a series of text messages that depict him and other U.S. diplomats, including former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, acting as conduits for Trump while the president pressured Ukraine to investigate his presumptive 2020 opponent Joe Biden, as well as Biden’s son, Hunter, and Burisma Holdings, an energy company that once had Hunter on its board.
Lawmakers will also prod Sondland for information about his interactions with other officials central to the probe including Volker, Mulvaney, Bolton and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.