Dec 30, 2019

Pompeo to visit Ukraine this week with Senate impeachment trial looming

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will make his first trip to Ukraine this week to "reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” as the country works to end a six-year military conflict with Russian-backed separatists, according to the State Department.

Why it matters: Allegations that President Trump withheld desperately needed military aid to Ukraine to pressure its government to investigate his political rivals have led to his impeachment for abuse of power. The Senate is expected to hold a trial in January.

Between the lines: Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine who testified in the impeachment inquiry about his concerns over Trump's pressure campaign, has been instructed to leave his post in Kiev before his tenure expires, per AP.

  • The Wall Street Journal reports that Taylor is being made to leave his position shortly before Pompeo’s arrival so that the secretary can avoid meeting or being photographed with the ambassador.

The backdrop: Pompeo appointed Taylor as acting ambassador after Marie Yovanovitch was ousted from the post following a smear campaign led by the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and conservative columnist John Solomon.

  • Taylor’s tenure by law could have lasted until mid-January. His sudden departure has prompted complaints from lawmakers who say it could damage relations with Ukraine and send a poor message to career diplomats.

Go deeper: Ukraine, Russian-backed rebels swap prisoners in step toward ending war

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Pompeo postpones Ukraine trip to monitor tensions in Iraq

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo postponed what would have been his first trip to Ukraine less than 24 hours before his scheduled departure amid ongoing tensions in Iraq, a State Department spokesperson said Wednesday.

The big picture: The State Department said the trip — which would have included stops in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Cyprus — was meant to "reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity" while the country seeks an end to a six-year military conflict with Russian-backed separatists. The trip would have also come as President Trump's Senate impeachment trial, centered around an alleged pressure campaign on the Ukrainian government, looms.

Go deeper: Pompeo again declines to defend diplomats embroiled in impeachment

BuzzFeed: Pompeo to meet with Ukraine's Zelensky next week

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Ukraine on Jan. 31 to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, BuzzFeed News reported Wednesday, citing three diplomatic sources with knowledge of Pompeo's schedule.

Why it matters: It's the first time a member of the U.S. cabinet will meet Zelensky since the House voted to impeach President Trump on charges that he sought to pressure his Ukrainian counterpart to announce investigations into his political rivals.

Go deeperArrowJan 22, 2020

Ukraine to investigate possible Yovanovitch surveillance

Photo: Andrew Harrer/AFP via Getty Images

Ukraine's Interior Ministry announced it is launching a criminal investigation into possible illegal surveillance of former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and the hacking of natural gas company Burisma Holdings, NBC News reports.

Why it matters: The decision comes two days after Democrats released documents that appear to show Lev Parnas, an associate of President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, indicating he discussed surveilling Yovanovitch in March 2019.

Go deeperArrowJan 16, 2020