Mike Pompeo arrives in Ukraine under impeachment cloud

Pompeo is slated to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko and Defense Minister Andriy Zahorodnyuk on Friday, with whom he intends to “underscore the United States’ strong support for Ukraine and the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration,” according to the State Department.

However, questions persist over whether those discussions will also include any of the matters that have ensnared Ukraine at the heart of the impeachment trial — namely, President Donald Trump and his allies’ attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, his potential 2020 general election rival. Trump and his allies have repeatedly made unfounded and false claims to allege that the Bidens acted corruptly in Ukraine.

Pompeo is the first administration official to visit the nation since the House of Representatives impeached the US President.

Asked whether he intended to bring up such an investigation, Pompeo did not explicitly rule it out, instead saying, “I don’t want to talk about particular individuals.”

“It’s not worth it. It’s a long list in Ukraine of corrupt individuals and a long history there,” Pompeo told reporters Wednesday en route to London, the stop on his trip that preceded Kiev. “And President Zelensky has told us he’s committed to it. The actions he’s taken so far demonstrate that, and I look forward to having a conversation about that with him as well.”

Pompeo’s arrival in Kiev comes less than a week after he questioned whether Americans care about Ukraine while privately berating an NPR reporter. In speaking with reporters Wednesday, Pompeo said, “Of course the American people care about the people of Ukraine.” Nonetheless, the suggestion that the US does not care about the eastern European nation prompted a lengthy rebuke — in the form of a New York Times opinion piece — from his former top diplomat in Kiev, Bill Taylor.

Taylor departed his post just before Pompeo was originally scheduled to visit Ukraine. That initial visit was postponed due to the situation in Iraq. A senior administration official said last week that the timing of the rescheduled trip had “nothing to do” with impeachment. Taylor was one of several officials tied to the US Embassy in Kiev who served as a witness in the House impeachment inquiry. One of those officials, David Holmes, is still serving there.

Pompeo, asked what his message is to the embassy staff there, told reporters Wednesday that he intends to tell them “how much we love them, appreciate them, appreciate their family members and their sacrifice, and talk about the important work that the United States and Ukraine will continue to do together to fight corruption inside of that country and to ensure that America provides the support that the Ukrainian people need to ensure that they have a free and independent nation.”

Pompeo is visiting Kiev as Ukrainian and State Department officials continue to probe the possible surveillance of Taylor’s predecessor, former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. In his contentious interview with NPR last week, Pompeo failed to point to a time where he defended Yovanovitch, who was removed from her post and has been repeatedly maligned by the President and his allies.

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