Mike Pompeo isn’t backing down.
In an exclusive interview with The Post Wednesday, America’s top diplomat forcefully defended his boss’s Ukraine phone call — and sought to turn the Ukrainian tables on Democrats, especially the Obama-Biden administration.
“There is all this breathless discussion about this administration’s Ukraine policy,” he told The Post.
“This is the administration that actually provided defensive weapons systems [to Ukraine]. I could not tell you why the Obama administration chose not to [arm Ukraine]. Was it because of Hunter Biden? I don’t know!”
Where the “previous administration chose to provide blankets,” Pompeo noted, “we chose to push back against Vladimir Putin. We chose to protect the Ukrainian people, to do real work in [eastern Ukraine], to allow the Ukrainian people to provide for their own security.” Not least by supplying Javelin antitank missiles the Obama administration withheld from Kiev to its last day in office.
It’s in that policy context, the secretary of state insisted, that President Trump’s phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart should be understood. “I focus on Ukraine policy,” Pompeo said. “I do that today. I’ve done that my entire time as secretary of state — including during that phone call.”
What Pompeo heard Trump say on the July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “deeply consistent” with the administration’s Ukraine policies — namely, to root out corruption, encourage other Western powers to step up in support of Kiev and ensure the Javelins and other US military aid “got to the right place and were well-used.”
Even the most controversial bit on the call — Trump’s ask from Zelensky to “do us a favor” — was “a matter of policy, yes,” Pompeo said. “I’ve probably had more direct contact with the president than any other person, so I had real clear sense of what the president had in mind. The corruption issues, I had a sense of this. What I heard him say on this phone call was what we put in our policy papers.”
Pompeo denounced what he saw as a ginned-up, secretive process set in motion by House Democrats. “I haven’t had access to this testimony,” he told me. “I have no idea what these individuals have actually said, and when they were asked questions about it, we can’t have State Department lawyers in the room. We’ve been denied that right. We’re unfortunately putting State Department officials at risk by sending them there without counsel from the agencies — this is unheard of, this is unprecedented.”
But he was unfazed by congressional threats to implicate him personally in l’affaire Ukraine: “This is politics. It’s unfortunate. It shouldn’t happen in the national-security space. President Trump would never connect that kind of politics” to foreign policy. “And to come after the secretary of state — we were trying to execute the president’s policy with respect to Ukraine. I’ll leave that noise to others.”
That policy, he noted repeatedly, was and remains far more hawkish than the Obama-Biden administration’s. “I watched the administration react when [the Russians] took the 24 sailors in the Sea of Azov. I watched as they put sanctions in place. I watched as the incident took place in the United Kingdom, where [the Russians] used chemical weapons. I watched as President Trump took decisive action quickly, more punitive action than any other nation, actually. . . . That’s the same policy I’ve seen, the same actions I’ve seen with respect to Ukraine.”
As for how the Washington brouhaha will impact Team Trump’s foreign policy: “No time to worry, gotta work.”
Sohrab Ahmari is The Post’s op-ed editor