As lawmakers prepare to return to Washington and continue impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Ukraine, the country at the crux of the matter.
Pompeo will visit Kiev on January 3 – the first administration official to travel there since the impeachment of Trump by the House.
The top US diplomat will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as well as the foreign minister, defense minister and members of civil society and the business community, the State Department said Monday.
A senior State Department official said that the leaders would discuss issues including security assistance, reform and strengthening the rule of law. However, that official didn’t deny outright that Pompeo could also raise the prospect of the investigations sought by Trump into his political rival Joe Biden, Biden’s son Hunter and the debunked theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.
Numerous witnesses in the impeachment investigation testified that it was their understanding that a White House visit for Zelensky and military aid to Ukraine were conditioned on a public announcement of these investigations. CNN reported last month that Ukrainian officials were discussing ways to improve their country’s standing with Trump, including possibly launching investigations the President had wanted.
Speaking to reporters on a conference call Monday, the senior official said, “I can’t tell you every topic that’s going to come up in those bilateral meetings, but that’s really what we are focused on, that as Ukraine faces its challenges, the United States is with them.”
The official also would not answer questions about the departure of the top-ranking US diplomat in Ukraine. Ambassador Bill Taylor, who has been serving in temporary capacity in Kiev since June, is expected to depart on January 2 – just one day before Pompeo’s visit.
Taylor served as a key witness in the impeachment inquiry, providing damning testimony about alleged quid pro quo with Ukraine. He garnered the ire of the President, who repeatedly accused the career diplomat – without evidence – of being a “Never Trumper.”
Ukraine will be the first stop on Pompeo’s January 3-7 trip. His subsequent stops include Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Cyprus.