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Trump to meet Ukraine's Zelensky at UN amid impeachment frenzy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President Trump
Photos: Ludovic Marin, Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump is set to meet face to face with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine for the first time today at the UN General Assembly — right as the House is launching an impeachment inquiry around his July phone call with Zelensky.

What to watch: A senior White House official told reporters Trump will congratulate Zelensky on his election win and his “energy and success” so far on anti-corruption reforms. Trump will also raise trade and “his concerns about what he sees as some predatory Chinese economic activity in Ukraine,” the official said.

Zelensky told Voice of America Tuesday that he anticipates a “warm” meeting with Trump, but didn't comment on the call.

  • Zelensky, a 41-year-old political neophyte best known until recently for playing the president on TV, surged to power in May promising to tackle corruption and seek an end to the war still smoldering in Ukraine’s east.
  • He probably didn’t expect to find himself in the middle of a U.S. political scandal involving the sitting president and the favorite to face him next November.
  • Asked Tuesday what Ukraine expects from the U.S., Zelensky answered: “we expect support.”

Worth noting: Senior Ukrainian officials tell the Daily Beast they expect a renewed investigation into Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that had Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, on its board. It would be re-opened alongside several other cases as part of Zelensky’s anti-corruption drive — but not to please Trump or to target Joe Biden.

The backstory: Trump has admitted that in his July call with Zelensky he raised corruption suspicions about Joe Biden's actions in Ukraine, for which there is no evidence.

  • Trump has also confirmed that days before the call, he froze nearly $400 million in military aid intended to help Ukraine counter Russia. But he has denied there was a quid pro quo whereby the aid would be released if Ukraine investigated the Bidens.
  • Anger over the alleged suppression of a whistleblower’s concerns about that call begat a fast-moving scandal that has Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after months of pressure from within her caucus, calling for an impeachment inquiry.
  • Trump says this is all a “witch hunt.” He has promised to release the full transcript of the call with Zelensky today, adding additional drama to the Zelensky meeting.