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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

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Putin foe Navalny to be detained for 30 days after returning to Moscow

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Photo: Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days, following his arrest upon returning to Russia on Sunday for the first time since a failed assassination attempt last year.

Why it matters: The detention of Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and the most prominent domestic critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has already set off a chorus of condemnations from leaders in Europe and the U.S.

Biden picks Warren allies to lead SEC, CFPB

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has selected FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra to be the next director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and Obama-era Wall Street regulator Gary Gensler to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Why it matters: Both picks are progressive allies of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and viewed as likely to take aggressive steps to regulate big business.

The perils of organizing underground

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Researchers see one bright spot as far-right extremists turn to private and encrypted online platforms: Friction.

Between the lines: For fringe organizers, those platforms may provide more security than open social networks, but they make it harder to recruit new members.