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Pompeo to Probe Ukraine Envoy Threats  01/18 09:31

   Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday broke nearly 72 hours of silence 
over alleged surveillance and threats to the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, 
saying he believed the allegations would prove to be wrong but that he had an 
obligation to evaluate and investigate the matter.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday broke nearly 72 
hours of silence over alleged surveillance and threats to the former U.S. 
ambassador to Ukraine, saying he believed the allegations would prove to be 
wrong but that he had an obligation to evaluate and investigate the matter.

   In interviews with conservative radio hosts, Pompeo said he had no knowledge 
of the allegations until earlier this week when congressional Democrats 
released documents from an associate of President Donald Trump's personal 
attorney suggesting that Marie Yovanovitch was being watched. He also said he 
did not know and had never met Lev Parnas, the associate of Rudy Giuliani who 
made the claims.

   Pompeo, who was traveling in California when the documents were released, 
had been harshly criticized by lawmakers and current and former diplomats for 
not addressing the matter. The documents provided by Parnas suggested there may 
have been a threat to Yovanovitch shortly before she was abruptly recalled last 
spring.

   "We will do everything we need to do to evaluate whether there was something 
that took place there," he said in a radio interview with Tony Katz, an 
Indianapolis-based broadcaster. "I suspect that much of what's been reported 
will ultimately prove wrong, but our obligation, my obligation as secretary of 
state, is to make sure that we evaluate, investigate. Any time there is someone 
who posits that there may have been a risk to one of our officers, we'll 
obviously do that."

   "It is always the case at the Department of State that we do everything we 
can to ensure that our officers, not only our ambassadors but our entire team, 
has the security level that's appropriate," Pompeo said.

   "We do our best to make sure that no harm will come to anyone, whether that 
was what was going on in our embassy in Baghdad last week or the work that was 
going on in Kyiv up and through the spring of last year when Ambassador 
Yovanovitch was there, and in our embassy in Kyiv even today," he said.

   Pompeo made similar but less specific comments to conservative commentator 
Hugh Hewitt. 

   Until he spoke, the State Department had declined repeated requests to offer 
any public defense of Yovanovitch, drawing fire from many.

   House Democrats on Friday evening released a new batch of messages from 
Parnas that added to the questions about the ambassador's security. In them, an 
unidentified individual with a Belgian country code appears to describe 
Yovanovitch's movements. 

   "Nothing has changed she is still not moving checked today again," the 
individual wrote in one message, later adding, "it's confirmed we have a person 
inside." In another message the person wrote, "She had visitors."

   The ouster of Yovanovitch as ambassador is central to the impeachment 
inquiry into Trump, who faces a charge that he abused his presidential power by 
pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, using military 
aid to the country as leverage. Trump says the inquiry is a "hoax."

   At the time, Trump's allies were trying to have Yovanovitch, who was seen as 
a roadblock to a Biden investigation, removed from her post. She was recalled 
in late May ahead of the end of her tour. 

   Yovanovitch returned to Washington after being told in a late-night phone 
call to get on the next plane home for her own safety by the director general 
of the Foreign Service, according to witness testimony in the impeachment 
inquiry. The nature of any possible threat was not specified and remains 
unclear, although the Parnas documents suggest the surveillance was a prelude 
to some kind of action.


(KR)

 
 
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