Pompeo to visit Ukraine amid impeachment drama

Pompeo to visit Ukraine amid impeachment drama

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoSenate Dems to Pompeo: Comments about NPR reporter 'insulting and contemptuous' Washington Post: Pompeo 'gaslighting' NPR reporter Pompeo lashes out at 'shameful' NPR reporter MORE will travel to Ukraine on Friday, meeting with the Ukrainian president for the first time since Congress voted to impeach President TrumpDonald John TrumpKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Louise Linton, wife of Mnuchin, deletes Instagram post in support of Greta Thunberg MORE on abuse of power for allegedly withholding military aid for that country in exchange for investigations into a domestic political rival.

The secretary will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during which he will reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty amid ongoing fighting in the east of the country against Russian-backed forces, the State Department said in a statement on Monday.

He will also attend a ceremony honoring the estimated 14,000 Ukrainian soldiers who have died in the fighting since 2014, when Russian-supported forces launched an offensive in the territory in the aftermath of a popular revolution in Kyiv. Russia is also occupying the Crimean Peninsula, which it annexed at the same time.

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Pompeo is also expected to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart, Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko and Defense Minister Andriy Zahorodnyuk.

The visit comes following a meeting between Pompeo and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Washington in December, where the secretary said he made clear to his Russian counterpart that Crimea belongs to Ukraine and that the U.S. supports a diplomatic solution to end the fighting in the east of that country.

Pompeo is also visiting Ukraine as Congress prepares to hold a Senate trial over whether Trump should be removed from office for articles of impeachment passed by the House. The articles accuse Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress and involve the delay of nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine that was approved by the House and Senate.

Pompeo refused to comply with a congressional subpoena to testify in the impeachment inquiry over what he knew about the president’s requests to withhold military assistance in exchange for the Ukrainian president announcing investigations into Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDes Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Sanders faces lingering questions about appeal to women voters George Conway: Witness missing from impeachment trial is Trump MORE and his son Hunter Biden for their dealings in Ukraine during the Obama administration.

There are also questions over how much Pompeo sanctioned Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiDemocrats see Mulvaney as smoking gun witness at Trump trial Pompeo lashes out at 'shameful' NPR reporter Trump legal team launches impeachment defense MORE, the president’s personal lawyer, to lead a separate foreign policy track on Ukraine that included pressuring for the removal of U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovich from Kyiv and pushing for the investigations into the Bidens.  

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U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon SondlandGordon SondlandDemocrats see Mulvaney as smoking gun witness at Trump trial Schumer: Trump's team made case for new witnesses 'even stronger' Trump legal team launches impeachment defense MORE testified that “everyone was in the loop,” including Pompeo, over preparations to set up an announcement by Zelensky about launching investigations.

Yet Sondland also testified that Pompeo was frustrated with Giuliani’s role in foreign policy, that he “rolled his eyes” at the mention of the former New York City mayor and that he described him as “something we have to deal with.”

Zelensky, a former comedian and TV actor who was elected president in April, has denied that Trump withheld aid in exchange for investigations. But he said in an interview with Time magazine that accusations by the U.S. that Ukraine is corrupt and the delay in delivery of military assistance is against agreements between the two countries.

“If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us,” the Ukrainian president told the magazine. “I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo.”

Ukraine will be the secretary’s first stop on a five-day trip to Central Asia and the Mediterranean where he will travel to Minsk, Belarus; Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan; Tashkent, Uzbekistan; and Nicosia, Cyprus.

“Excited to travel to Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Cyprus in the new year to meet with counterparts and affirm U.S. priorities across #Europe and South Central Asia,” the secretary wrote on Twitter Monday.