ROME — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed on Wednesday that he had listened in on President Trump’s telephone conversation with the president of Ukraine — a call that has become the subject of a whistle-blower’s complaint and is at the heart of an impeachment inquiry by House Democrats.
“I was on the phone call,” Mr. Pompeo said at a news conference in Rome — the first time he has addressed the topic publicly since reports surfaced that he had heard the exchange.
He did not elaborate on the conversation and did not answer a question about whether anything in it had raised a red flag for him.
The confirmation came as Mr. Pompeo is engaged in a fight with Democrats in the House of Representatives who have demanded swift access to State Department officials for interviews as part of the impeachment inquiry.
And it came on a day when Congress may receive new information about the Trump administration’s interactions with Ukraine, from the State Department inspector general, Steve A. Linick, who requested to meet committee staff members on Wednesday.
In the July 25 call, Mr. Trump pressed President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate the activities in Ukraine of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter. Critics say that Mr. Trump suggested, if not explicitly, that American aid was contingent on Ukraine’s conducting the investigation and that Mr. Trump risked national security and abused his office for political gain.
Mr. Pompeo on Wednesday described United States policy toward Ukraine as “remarkably consistent,” being focused on addressing “the threat that Russia poses” and attempts at “helping the Ukrainians to get graft out, and corruption outside of their government.”
“Even,” he added, “while all this noise is going on.”
In his request to Mr. Zelensky, Mr. Trump pushed a conspiracy theory that his own staff had repeatedly told him was false — that Ukraine, not Russia, had intervened in the 2016 election and that it had done so on behalf of the Democrats.
In another call, to Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, Mr. Trump asked for help discrediting the Mueller investigation into Russia’s election interference.
On Tuesday, Mr. Pompeo released a letter that excoriated House Democrats for demanding quick depositions of State Department officials involved in policy toward Ukraine, calling it an “act of intimidation” that did not allow his officials sufficient time to respond.
“What we objected to was the demands that were put that deeply violate fundamental principles of separation of powers,” Mr. Pompeo said on Wednesday. “They contacted State Department employees directly, told them not to contact legal counsel at the State Department — at least that’s been reported to us — told them State Department wouldn’t be allowed to be present.”
He said that the department would cooperate with Congress, but that, “we won’t tolerate folks on Capitol Hill bullying and intimidating State Department employees — that’s unacceptable.”
Representative Elijah E. Cummings, the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, accused Mr. Pompeo of obstruction.
“In response, Congress may infer from this obstruction that any withheld documents and testimony would reveal information that corroborates the whistle-blower complaint,” Mr. Cummings said in a statement.
In response to Mr. Pompeo’s letter, he wrote that House Democrats believed Mr. Pompeo had an “obvious conflict of interest” because of his presence on Mr. Trump’s call with Mr. Zelensky and that they would not inform Mr. Pompeo about other witnesses.
“The committee may infer that he is trying to cover up illicit activity and misconduct, including by the president,” the statement read.