On Wednesday, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, deeply implicated Pompeo in the whole saga, testifying that Pompeo fully understood the dimensions of the scheme that Sondland was implementing to pressure Ukraine into carrying out President Trump’s political bidding.
Sondland even testified that Pompeo had direct knowledge of his own view that military aid to Ukraine had been frozen to leverage that country into carrying out the “investigations” Trump wanted.
The reason this is particularly damning in Pompeo’s case is that the man whose official role is to implement the nation’s foreign policies through the State Department as “the president’s chief foreign affairs adviser” was himself actively involved in perverting those policies — by placing them at the disposal of the president’s corrupt personal and political ends.
In so doing, Pompeo appears to have assented to the use of the machinery of the State Department to help Trump solicit foreign interference in a U.S. election — and possibly even knew and approved of the use of taxpayer-funded military aid to a vulnerable ally to extort that political assistance on the president’s behalf.
This point was underscored with great force on Thursday by Fiona Hill, a former top White House adviser on Russia, who bluntly said that the nation’s foreign policy had been subsumed into what she called a “domestic political errand.”
I urge you to watch the whole thing:
At first, Hill notes that she was upset with Sondland as the scheme developed, because Sondland appeared to be going rogue from U.S. policy toward Ukraine. Then she came to realize that in so doing, he was carrying out a very different mission from the government professionals.
Hill testified that Sondland told her that he was doing this with the active participation of Trump and his top Cabinet officials and advisers, including former national security adviser John Bolton and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. As Hill put it:
[Sondland] said to me, “But I’m briefing the president. I’m briefing chief of staff Mulvaney. I’m briefing Secretary Pompeo. And I’ve talked to Ambassador Bolton. Who else do I have to deal with?”
Hill concluded that she realized that Sondland “was being involved in a domestic political errand” that had “diverged” from the nation’s foreign policy. That domestic political errand, of course, was helping Trump extort Ukraine into announcing investigations rewriting the story of Russian 2016 electoral sabotage and smearing likely 2020 rival Joe Biden.
We now know, of course, that this occurred amid strong dissent from Bolton, but at the direct involvement of Mulvaney (who froze the military aid on Trump’s behalf) and Pompeo himself.
Pompeo’s private reaction to all of this, you’ll be startled to hear, is remarkably contemptuous of the most basic values that one usually associates with public service.
The New York Times has a deeply reported look at the extensive damage Pompeo’s role in this scheme has done at the State Department. As the Times summarizes, at a minimum Pompeo “abetted” Trump’s effort to enlist a foreign nation “to help his 2020 campaign as the price for aid in a grinding war involving Russia in eastern Ukraine.”
But I want to highlight this from the Times piece:
Mr. Pompeo has told associates that he believes the impeachment testimonies are partly aimed at forcing him to play a Washington game that would end with him turning on the president to save his own career. And he refuses to participate, Mr. Pompeo has said.
That is just awful. Pompeo has nothing but pure contempt for basic accountability in government and the separation of powers — he’s only able to view these workings as an effort to drive a wedge between him and the president.
The threat to his career he discerns is not the one posed by Trump’s profound corruption and the demands it has made on him, to which he has cheerfully assented. Rather, the real threat is the possibility that aggressive accountability and fact-finding by Congress — which is its institutional role — might make it impossible for him to continue maintaining total fealty to the president.
This is Pompeo’s justification for helping to do all he can to close down that fact-finding, by trying to block witness testimony whenever possible, and refusing to turn over any documents that might further illuminate this whole scheme.