Email Shows NPR Reporter Barred from Traveling with Pompeo Violated Off-the-Record Agreement

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

An e-mail hidden in a trove of U.S. State Department documents obtained by a so-called watchdog funded by former Obama administration officials shows that National Public Radio (NPR) reporter Michele Keleman likely shared information with colleagues that violated an off-the-record agreement she had with a former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

It appears Keleman may have shared information with NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly provided by Pompeo’s former adviser Mike McKinley off-the-record.

In the presence of Keleman last Friday, Kelly mischaracterized what McKinley said while interviewing the secretary of state.

Keleman also shared the off-the-record information with at least one other colleague and a State employee, the email (page 34) obtained by the Obama-linked American Oversight, along with other Ukraine-linked documents through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), shows.

Furthermore, the information Keleman obtained off-the-record directly contradicted the premise of a question Kelly asked about former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch that ultimately prompted Pompeo to end the interview.

The U.S. State Department has denied Keleman press credentials to travel with Pompeo on an upcoming trip to Europe. NPR has asked State for “clarification” on their decision. Some journalists have also condemned the move.

In an e-mail sent on October 15, 2019, Kelemen asks an unnamed department employee if he or she is willing to:

Chat on background with my colleague David Welna? Contacts below? He’s been asked to do a profile of Mike McKinley and I’m not sure where to steer him. Just FYI — I told him that when I was talking to McKinley OFF record just a few weeks ago, he was defending Pompeo’s handling of Yovanovitch to a certain extent, telling me that Pompeo delayed pulling her back and then made sure she had another option — at Georgetown. But since that was off record, I can’t use it. Though maybe you may have heard similar from him and can confirm? Or maybe he said things differently to you?

She goes on to provide Welna’s contact information, which the State Department redacted from the document. The State employee’s response to the e-mail is not available.

In the presence of Keleman, who knew that Pompeo had defended Yovanovitch, Kelly asked the secretary of state, “Do you owe Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch an apology?”

Furthermore, Kelly completely contradicted the information her colleague Keleman had obtained from Pompeo’s former senior adviser McKinley and violated the off-the-record agreement.

Kelly insisted during the interview:

I just want to give you another opportunity to answer this, because as you know, people who work for you in your department, people who have resigned from this department under your leadership, saying you should stand up for the diplomats who work here.

“I don’t know who these unnamed sources are you’re referring to,” Pompeo replied. “I can tell you this, when I talked to my team here.”

Kelly then interrupted and outed McKinley as a source, saying:

These are not unnamed sources. This is your senior adviser Michael McKinley, a career foreign service officer with four decades experience, who testified under oath that he resigned in part due to the failure of the State Department to offer support to Foreign Service employees caught up in the impeachment inquiry on Ukraine.

Kelly claims that Pompeo berated her after the interview using profane language.

Pompeo issued a statement, calling her a liar and accusing her of violating an off-the-record agreement between them.

In the statement, Pompeo declared:

NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly lied to me, twice. First, last month, in setting up our interview and, then again yesterday, in agreeing to have our post-interview conversation off the record. It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency. This is another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this Administration. It is no wonder that the American people distrust many in the media when they so consistently demonstrate their agenda and their absence of integrity.

Kelly denies ever agreeing to keeping anything off-the-record.

Yovanovitch served as the American ambassador to Ukraine from August 2016 through May 20, 2019. She now serves as a State Department fellow at Georgetown University. Yovanovitch testified that she was removed from her post because President Donald Trump “lost confidence” in her.

Citing an unpublished manuscript of an upcoming book by President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton, the New York Times reported that the former official wrote that Pompeo defended Yovanovitch.


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