Top US diplomat struggles to shrug off impeachment inquiry

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United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leaves the podium after a news conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Leipzig, Germany, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

WASHINGTON, DC – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tries to shrug off the impeachment inquiry that has ensnared the State Department and raised questions about his leadership.

Pompeo portrays the inquiry, which centers on President Donald Trump's attempt to link U.S. military aid to Ukraine to a corruption probe of a political rival, as unworthy of his attention.

"I clearly follow this a lot less than you do," Pompeo told reporters when asked about it the issue Thursday while on a visit to Germany.

But Pompeo may not be able to maintain that show of indifference much longer. Three senior diplomats are scheduled to testify in public before Congress next week, bringing renewed attention to his leadership as America's top diplomat as the U.S. juggles several major foreign policy challenges and he weighs a possible run for the Senate from his home state of Kansas in 2020.

Despite damning accounts of unorthodox, improper or even possibly illegal behavior under the guise of diplomacy, Pompeo has struggled to remain above the fray. He has repeatedly rejected the process as "noise" and belittled those who ask him about it, calling their questions "insane" or "crazy."

Pompeo, testily answering reporters in Germany, said that the bottom line was that nearly $400 million of aid that Ukraine needs to fight Russian-backed forces was cleared for delivery without the investigations that Trump wanted the Eastern European country to conduct into his rivals.

"That's what happened in Washington with respect to Ukraine this year," he said flatly.

The impeachment inquiry centers around an effort led by Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to use American diplomats to press the Ukrainian government into investigating the appointment of former Vice President Joe Biden's son to the board of a gas company and a debunked conspiracy theory that people there interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.