Pompeo confronts simple questions he just can't seem to answer

I'm glad to see Pompeo sit down for interviews with outlets outside the conservative media bubble, but these interviews don't seem to go well for him.
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By Steve Benen

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sat down today with NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, who asked whether he owes former U.S. Ambassador Maria Yovanovitch an apology. Given the latest revelations, and the way in which Pompeo's State Department forced Yovanovitch from her post under scandalous circumstances, the question was more than fair.

The nation's chief diplomat didn't seem to agree, however. He complained about the line of inquiry and complained about the Obama administration for a while, before the host narrowed the focus, asking about the State Department personnel who've resigned because of Pompeo's refusal to stand up for American diplomats. He balked, attributing the concerns to "unnamed sources."

Kelly wasted little time in reminding the Kansas Republican that the sources aren't unnamed at all: his own State Department senior adviser, Michael McKinley, a career Foreign Service officer with four decades experience, testified under oath about the department's failures in this area.

Pompeo said he wouldn't comment on McKinley's assessment, either, though he insisted that he's "defended every State Department official" since taking the reins at the cabinet agency. The NPR host, likely realizing that this claim wasn't true, pressed further on this specific point:

KELLY: Respectfully, where have you defended Marie Yovanovich?

POMPEO: I've defended every single person on this team I've done what's right for every person on this team.

KELLY: Can you point me towards your remarks?

POMPEO: I've said all I'm going to say.

On the one hand, I'm glad to see Pompeo sit down for interviews with outlets outside the conservative media bubble. On the other hand, when the secretary of State does sit down for these interviews, they don't seem to go well.

Pompeo appeared hopelessly lost when WSMV’s Nancy Amon was far better prepared for an interview than he was. Soon after, the cabinet secretary’s interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos was every bit as cringe-worthy. Reflecting on Pompeo’s on-air comments, MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace told viewers, “That was the worst appearance by an executive branch official I’ve ever seen in my career.”

Soon after, the secretary sat down with KMUV in Wichita and threw a minor tantrum when asked to defend State Department employees against Donald Trump's attacks.

Pompeo also spoke with the Wichita Eagle in November, and that interview turned messy, too: when asked about the impact on U.S. credibility when the White House fails to honor its partnership with the Kurds, the secretary replied, "The whole predicate of your question is insane." (It was actually quite sane.)

As we discussed at the time, if Pompeo can’t handle some of these basic questions, why does he keep agreeing to interviews?

MORE: Today's Maddowblog