behind closed doors
January 25, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who's known for being wary of the press, apparently did not enjoy his latest interview.

Pompeo reportedly berated NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly on Friday after she interviewed him about the ousting of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. During Friday's interview, which aired on NPR's Morning Edition, Pompeo said he has "defended every State Department official on his team," but did not provide Kelly with a specific example of how he had defended Yovanovitch. Pompeo complained that he was there to talk about Iran, but Kelly assured him she confirmed with his team that she would ask about Ukraine, as well.

Following the interview, Kelly said she was summoned by a Pompeo aide to a private room where Pompeo "shouted" at her, asking if she thought "Americans care about Ukraine" and challenging her to point to the country on an unmarked map, which the well-traveled, veteran reporter was able to do.

Journalists like CNN's Jake Tapper defended Kelly's line of questioning, while Democratic politicians blasted Pompeo's behavior. The State Department didn't have much to say on the matter, though.

At the end of their encounter, Kelly said Pompeo told her "people will hear about this." They sure did — straight from Kelly. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

December 6, 2019

After Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended NATO receptions at Buckingham Palace and Lancaster House on Monday evening, he returned to his London hotel and quietly slipped downstairs meet with the Hamilton Society, "a conservative group that included a small number of wealthy Republican donors," CNN reported Thursday, citing an invitation to the event and interviews with several attendees. The off-the-books gathering "only serves to heighten speculation that Pompeo may be eyeing a run for the Senate in Kansas next year," CNN says.

Pompeo called reports that he is preparing to contest an opening Senate seat next year "completely false" as recently as this week, and his political ambitions did not come up when he was mingling with the wealthy Republicans on Monday night, one attendee told CNN, "but everyone was talking about them after he departed." The attendees had to leave their cellphones outside the room so there would be no recording of Pompeo's remarks.

President Trump also met with donors during the London summit, only his Tuesday "roundtable with supporters" was listed on his official schedule. The fundraiser, hosted by Trump Victory, was expected to raise $3 million for Trump's re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee, a Trump campaign official told CNN. Peter Weber

June 19, 2019

Hope Hicks, former White House communications director and a member of President Trump's inner circle since the start of his 2016 campaign, is set to testify on Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee in a closed-door hearing.

Democrats on the panel, who are investigating possible obstruction of justice by Trump, seek to question Hicks about five instances of potential obstruction described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, in addition to allegations that Trump directed hush money payments to two women, Politico reports. Although the hearing will not be public, a transcript will reportedly be released within 48 hours. This is the first time a member of Trump's inner circle will be interviewed by a Democratically-controlled panel in their investigations into Trump, CNN notes.

The White House on Tuesday directed Hicks not to answer any questions related to her time in the administration, also saying that specific questions related to her time on the transition team would "likely implicate executive branch confidentiality interests" as well, The Hill reports.

ABC News reports that the committee "would not find it acceptable for Hicks not to answer any questions about her time in the White House," citing a committee aide, and The New York Times reports that Democrats are "prepared to contest such assertions on the spot." Democrats may, however, be able to get some answers from Hicks about her time on the Trump 2016 campaign.

Hicks previously testified before the House and the Senate in 2018 and would not answer questions about her time in the White House.

When asked by CNN's Manu Raju on Tuesday about the White House instructing Hicks not to answer questions about her time in the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) simply responded, "Obstruction of justice." Brendan Morrow

June 11, 2019

Donald Trump Jr. is set to testify again before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed door hearing on Wednesday, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.

It was an arduous process to get Trump Jr. to reappear before the committee after he provided previous testimony back in 2017. While he initially did volunteer to come in on his own, he eventually backed out of the agreement, which led the committee to issue a subpoena. The committee chair, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), would not back down, despite protestations from his own party members, who accused him of aiding Democrats even after Special Counsel Robert Mueller completed his investigation into 2016 Russian election interference and the Trump campaign's conduct surrounding the meddling.

Trump Jr. reportedly agreed to testify for anywhere between two and four hours and will even answer questions about a meeting that took place at Trump Tower in 2016 in which Russian attorney promised to provide negative information on Hillary Clinton, President Trump's election opponent at the time, as well as the Trump Tower Moscow project. The latter subject had appeared to be sticking points when the hearing was initially being discussed. Read more at CNN. Tim O'Donnell

March 6, 2019

Michael Cohen, President Trump's former lawyer and fixer, returns to Capitol Hill on Tuesday for a full day of closed-door testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

Last week, Cohen testified in private before the committee and its Senate counterpart and publicly before the House Oversight Committee. He will reportedly face questions about a possible pardon his lawyer apparently floated with Trump's attorneys, among other topics.

Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said the committee asked Cohen to return discuss additional documents and "shed light on a lot of issues that are very core to our investigation.” The investigation centers on Russian election meddling, possible Trump campaign collusion, and obstruction of justice. Cohen is headed to prison in May for lying about a Trump Tower Moscow deal he was negotiating on Trump's behalf and for violating campaign finance laws by paying off a porn actress so she wouldn't disclose an extramarital affair she says she had with Trump. Peter Weber

February 29, 2016

Presidential candidates are traditionally given the opportunity to make their case before The New York Times' editorial board while seeking the paper's coveted endorsement. Donald Trump stopped in to speak to the paper on Jan. 5 and in the days since, his recording has taken on a "near-mythical" status with the staff, BuzzFeed reports. Not for what was said on record, though — but for a rumored bombshell in the off-the-record part of the talk.

Speculation grew on Saturday when columnist Gail Collins wrote, "The most optimistic analysis of Trump as a presidential candidate is that he just doesn't believe in positions, except the ones you adopt for strategic purposes when you're making a deal. So you obviously can't explain how you're going to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, because it's going to be the first bid in some future monster negotiation session." As Collins was privy to the private and unreleased conversation, BuzzFeed questions if her words are truly speculative:

So what exactly did Trump say about immigration, about deportations, about the wall? Did he abandon a core promise of his campaign in a private conversation with liberal power brokers in New York?

I wasn't able to obtain the recording, or the transcript, and don't know exactly what Trump said. Neither [editor-in-chief Dean] Baquet, Collins, nor various editorial board members I reached would comment on an off-the-record conversation, which the Times essentially said they cannot release without approval from Trump, given the nature of the the off-the-record agreement. [BuzzFeed]

And as Trump has a hard enough time releasing his tax returns, it might mean the off-the-record recording will forever remain a Holy Grail of journalistic intrigue. Jeva Lange

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