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Pompeo says he "never saw" Ukraine aid as tied to political investigations

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that he "never saw" the suspension of military aid to Ukraine as being tied to pressure to open investigations into Democrats, telling George Stephanopoulos that he'll leave it to acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to "explain what it is he said and what he intended."

The exchange:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you agree then with Sen. Murkowski that it would have been inappropriate to withhold the military aid unless this political investigation was pursued? 
POMPEO: George, I'm telling you what I was involved with. I'm telling you what I saw transpiring and how President Trump was working to make the evaluation about whether it was appropriate to provide this assistance.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What I'm asking is would it be appropriate to -- 
POMPEO: George, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals and secondary things based on what someone else has said. You would have never done it when you were the spokesman. 
STEPHANOPOULOS: Except it's not a hypothetical. We saw the chief of staff right there --
POMPEO: George, you just said if this happened. That is by definition a hypothetical.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The chief of staff said it did. 
POMPEO: George, you asked me if this happened. It's a hypothetical.

Why it matters: Pompeo and others in the administration, including officials in the Justice Department, have sought to distance themselves from Mulvaney's comments at a press conference on Thursday. Mulvaney himself appeared on "Fox News Sunday" to walk back his apparent admission that Ukraine's willingness to investigate a conspiracy theory involving a Democratic Party computer server was a factor in the suspension of military aid.

The big picture: Pompeo, who has defied a subpoena from House committees investigating Trump and Ukraine, was asked repeatedly about whether Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was carrying out a shadow foreign policy with his blessing. Pompeo said that it's his policy not to discuss internal deliberations publicly, despite the fact that Giuliani does not work for the administration.

  • Pompeo also refused to answer whether Giuliani was reviewed for potential conflicts of interest, amid revelations that he had business interests in Ukraine at the same time he was pushing officials to open an investigation into Joe Biden.
  • Giuliani is reportedly under criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office in New York that he once ran.

Go deeper: EU ambassador testifies he was "disappointed" with Trump's Ukraine approach