Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed Wednesday that he was on the July phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that led to an impeachment inquiry.
"I was on the phone call," he told the reporters during a news conference alongside Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio.
"I know precisely what the American policy is with respect to Ukraine," Pompeo added. "It's been remarkably consistent, and we will continue to try to drive those sets of outcomes."
Pompeo's admission comes after The Wall Street Journal reported — and NBC News confirmed — that the secretary of state had been listening in on the July 25 conversation where Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. It is not unusual for the nation's top diplomat to be on a president's call with a foreign leader. However, at the time of the reports, Pompeo had yet to acknowledge his involvement in the call, which, along with a related intelligence community whistleblower complaint, is now at the center of House Democrats' impeachment inquiry.
Pompeo dodged questions about the phone call and the complaint during an interview with ABC's "This Week" on Sept. 22, days before the White House released a summary of the call that showed Trump asking about the Bidens' dealings in Ukraine.
Pompeo had argued against releasing the transcript, saying it would set a bad precedent — never acknowledging he knew exactly what was in the call.
Asked about reports of the substance of the conversation, Pompeo said he wasn't familiar with them and couldn't comment on them.
"So, you just gave me a report about a I.C. whistleblower complaint, none of which I've seen," Pompeo said, before defending the administration's Ukraine policy.
Pompeo was also asked whether he was concerned about anything discussed on the call, which included Trump asking Ukraine's leader to probe Biden and his son Hunter. Pompeo did not directly answer that part of the question, only saying that the discussion focused on boosting the new Ukrainian government and rooting out corruption. He also did not respond to a part of the question about the State Department's inspector general scheduling an "urgent" briefing for congressional staff, set to take to take place on Capitol Hill later Wednesday.
The State Department's Office of Inspector General reached out to a group of congressional committees with what they described as an "urgent request" to brief committee staff about documents related to the State Department and Ukraine, multiple congressional sources told NBC News Tuesday.
The briefing, which is expected to be delivered in a classified setting by the State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, is bipartisan and bicameral, and will include staff from House and Senate Committees, including the Intelligence, Foreign Relations, Oversight and Appropriations Committees. Congress is on recess, so the vast majority of members are not in town.
The State Department and Linick's office did not respond Tuesday to requests for comment. Linick's request to present documents to Congress came on the heels of a letter Pompeo sent Tuesday pushing back against a request from several House committees to interview current and former State Department officials as part of their impeachment inquiry, accusing Democrats of trying to "intimidate" and "bully" them.
“I am concerned with aspects of your request … that can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State, including several career Foreign Service Officers, whom the committee is now targeting,” Pompeo wrote in a letter addressed to House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.
Despite Pompeo's letter, two of the officials — former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch — are set to sit for depositions as part of the House's impeachment inquiry.
Pompeo is in Rome on a six-day European trip, and sandwiched the news conference between a visit to the Sistine Chapel and a tour of the Colosseum. Earlier Wednesday, Pompeo was in Vatican City meeting with Pope Francis and speaking at an event on partnerships with faith-based groups. While in Italy, Pompeo will also be visiting his ancestral home in Abruzzo where he will meet with some local leaders, according to a senior State Department official who briefed reporters last week. Other stops include Greece, North Macedonia and Montenegro.
The recent impeachment push ratcheted up as it became clear the whistleblower complaint centered around Trump's actions toward Ukraine, including asking his Ukrainian counterpart to probe Joe Biden, whose son Hunter worked for Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that was under investigation. Biden, with the backing of the international community, pushed to have the top Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, fired at a time when Hunter sat on the board of that company.
However, earlier this year, Bloomberg News, citing documents and an interview with a former Ukrainian official, reported the Burisma investigation had been dormant for more than a year by the time Biden called for the crackdown on corruption. Former Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko has told news outlets he found no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden and his son. PolitiFact, meanwhile, reported that it found no evidence to "support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son's interests in mind."
Meanwhile, members of the European Union and International Monetary Fund have said Biden was justified in pushing for Shokin's removal as part of a corruption crackdown.
That complaint was made public last week. In it, the whistleblower said White House officials were so concerned about what the president said that July 25 call that they intervened to "lock down" the transcript of the conversation. The whistleblower, whose name and gender have not been released, wrote that they believed Trump was "using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country" in the 2020 election.