Sec. of State Mike Pompeo was asked if he was told what Trump and Putin talked about in their private meeting, and the Secretary of State fell apart.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) So I’d like to ask you some questions to get to understand what actually happened. Has the president told you what he and president Putin discussed in their two-hour closed-door meeting in Helsinki?
Sec. Pompeo: The presidents have a prerogative to choose who’s in meetings or not. I’m confident you’ve had private meetings in your life as well.
Menendez: I just asked you a simple question.
Pompeo: I just —
Menendez: You can’t eat up my seven minutes, Mr. Secretary. Did he tell you what happened in those two hours?
Pompeo: The predicate implied some notion there was something improper about having a one-on-one meeting.
Menendez: I didn’t ask you a predicate, I asked you a simple question. Did he tell you what transpired in the meeting?
Pompeo: I’ve had a number of conversations about what transpired in the meeting. I was also present when he and president Putin both gave us a sense of what they discussed in the meeting that followed immediately after. I also had the chance to speak with Sergey Lavrov twice about the Russian view. I think I have a pretty complete understanding of what took place.
Menendez: Did you speak to the translator who was at that meeting?
Pompeo: No, I haven’t.
Menendez: Have you seen any of her notes?
Pompeo: Senator, I have never been — I’ve been in lots of meetings, had lots of note takers and lots of translators. I never relied on the work that they did and it does not need to be done here and won’t be.
Menendez: Did the president discuss relaxing U.S. Sanctions on Russia?
Pompeo: Senator, the U.S. Policy with respect to sanctions remains completely unchanged.
Menendez: So the president did not — you’re telling me — I asked a very specific question.
Pompeo: Yes and I gave you a very specific answer.
Menendez: Did he tell you that he discussed relaxing Russia’s sanctions or not?
Pompeo: The presidents are entitled to have private meetings. I came here today —
Menendez: You told me that you had a conversation with him in which he told you what transpired. I think the nation and all of us who are policymakers deserve to know so that we can fashion policy accordingly.
It was a very simple question. Does Pompeo know what Trump and Putin talked about in their private meeting? The fact that Pompeo couldn’t or wouldn’t answer speaks volumes about what this administration is trying to hide from the American people. Menendez asked the first question of the hearing, and the idea that Pompeo couldn’t or wouldn’t give a simple yes or no answer should set off alarm bells for the American people.
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Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association