“That was very impressive, Mike,” Trump told Pompeo on Tuesday during remarks at the White House unveiling his administration’s Middle East peace proposal.
“That reporter couldn’t have done too good a job on you yesterday,” Trump said, apparently referring to Kelly. “I think you did a good job on her, actually.”
Pompeo has engaged in an escalating confrontation with NPR after an interview on Friday, in which Kelly asked him about Iran and Ukraine. During the interview, Pompeo bristled at Kelly’s questions about Ukraine, as evidenced in his tone and answers.
After the interview, Kelly said she was invited to Pompeo’s private living room, where he shouted and cursed at her.
“‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?'” Pompeo apparently shouted at Kelly after the interview.
“He used the F-word in that sentence and many others,” Kelly said. “He asked if I could find Ukraine on a map. I said yes, and he called out for aides to bring us a map of the world with no writing. I pointed to Ukraine. He put the map away.”
Ukraine is at the center of the impeachment trial now unfolding in the Senate. Pompeo’s role in Trump’s campaign to pressure Ukraine for political favors has drawn intense scrutiny.
Trump has repeatedly attacked the press, even labeling the media “the enemy of the people.” Pompeo has also tangled with reporters in the past, but he has made his fight with NPR unusually bitter and public.
On Monday, the State Department blocked a NPR’s diplomatic correspondent, Michele Kelemen, from taking a scheduled trip with Pompeo in apparent retaliation for the Kelly interview. NPR said Kelemen “was informed that she would not be traveling. She was not given a reason.”
The State Department has not responded to questions about that decision, which critics called petty and beneath the office of secretary of state. Free press advocates said Pompeo’s handling of the situation sends the wrong message about America’s commitment to the First Amendment.
“Pompeo’s blacklisting of the press because he can’t handle tough questions is wrong,” tweeted Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
On Saturday, Pompeo said Kelly had agreed to keep their post-interview conversation off the record and “lied” to him when setting up the interview. He did not dispute that he cursed and shouted at her. But he attacked her professionalism and blasted the media as “unhinged.”
“It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency,” Pompeo said in Saturday’s unusual statement. “This is another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this Administration.”