Emails obtained by The Washington Post show that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s staff agreed he could be asked about Ukraine in an interview with NPR, despite him later denying this and calling NPR’s reporter a liar.
The emails cited by the Post show that Pompeo’s press aide, Katie Martin, agreed to allow the topic of Ukraine with reporter Mary Louise Kelly with the understanding that it would not be the focus of their conversation.
This agreement followed some back-and-forth between the pair, as initially Martin wanted Ukraine entirely off the table.
“Is that something we can agree to?” Martin asked Kelly, who co-hosts NPR’s news program “All Things Considered.”
Kelly said she would like to largely focus on Iran but that she planned to also ask about Ukraine and any other hot topics that may arise before they met.
“I never agree to take anything off the table,” she told Martin. The emails show Martin agreed with this arrangement.
Kelly, in an email to HuffPost on Monday, said she can confirm the accuracy of the Post’s report, stating reporter “Paul Farhi accurately describes my email exchange with Katie Martin at State.”
In Kelly’s later interview with Pompeo on Friday, the secretary balked when faced with questions about Ukraine, specifically regarding former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Pompeo repeated that he only agreed to come on her program to discuss Iran.
“I confirmed with your staff last night that I would talk about Iran and Ukraine,” Kelly told him.
After the interview, Pompeo branded Kelly a liar in a statement released from his office that accused her of not only reneging on a promise to not discuss Ukraine but of reporting on a later conversation he had with her that he claimed was off the record.
Kelly, in addressing that later conversation in her report, said that a member of Pompeo’s staff asked her not to audio record their conversation but that she was never asked to agree that his words would be off the record.
“She did not say we were off the record, nor would I have agreed,” Kelly has said.
According to Kelly, Pompeo yelled at her while using the “F-word and many others” because she questioned him about Ukraine.
She said Pompeo accused her of not knowing where Ukraine is located and challenged her to point out where the country is on a map, which he ordered his staff to produce. Kelly said she correctly identified Ukraine’s location when instructed. Pompeo has claimed that Kelly, who has a master’s degree in European studies from Cambridge University, was not correct.
“It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine,” Pompeo said in his statement, appearing to refer to his map challenge.
His statement did not deny that he yelled at Kelly or used obscenities.
Pompeo’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.