‘For Ukraine, there is no doubt whatsoever in the state of the relationship…’
(Liberty Headlines) As the Senate seemed likely to acquit President Donald Trump Friday on impeachment charges, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo played clean-up in the country at the center of the inquiry.
Visiting the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, Pompeo denied the main allegations that prompted the investigation that Trump withheld critical military aid and a coveted visit to the White House for the nation’s leader in exchange for a corruption investigation into a political rival.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has himself confirmed that he was unaware of any “quid-pro-quo” conditioning in either of the two objectives, as Democrats have attempted to claim using cherry-picked testimony of bureaucrats whose contact with the president was, at best, limited.
Trump and his defense team said that the president sought further assurances that Ukraine’s newly-elected president intended to act in good faith on his promises to clean up the corruption of the prior Poroshenko administration—which had worked closely with President Barack Obama’s administration on the firing of prosecutor-general Viktor Shokin while he was investigating the corrupt Burisma company.
The military aid was largely released in September—prior to the fiscal-year deadline—and Trump met Zelenskiy in person that month while both were attending the United Nations General Assembly.
Democrats later moved the goalpost, insisting—contrary to what was discussed in a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy—that the meeting needed to be an official state visit to the White House in order to disprove their claims that Trump was abusing his power.
Pompeo, although not expected to announce a White House visit while in Ukraine, roundly dismissed the partisan skulduggery from House Democrats.
“It’s just simply not the case,” he said at a press conference after meeting with the Ukrainian leader. “We will find the right time, we will find the appropriate opportunity” for a visit by Zelenskiy.
Pompeo also sought to distance himself from heated comments he reportedly made to a radio interviewer last weekend in which he questioned whether Americans actually care about Ukraine, expressing skepticism that the left-wing NPR journalist could even find it on a map.
Although the reporter claimed to have disproved him, Pompeo issued a statement saying, “It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine.”
Pompeo’s comments at Friday’s news conference appeared aimed at making amends for the reported comment. He assured Zelenskiy of Washington’s unwavering support. “The United States sees that the Ukrainian struggle for freedom, democracy and prosperity is a valiant one. Our commitment to support it will not waver,” he said.
“The United States understands that Ukraine is an important country. It’s not just the geographic heart of Europe, it’s a bulwark between freedom and authoritarianism in eastern Europe. Its fields feed the European continent and its pipelines keep Europe warm in the winter,” he said.
Zelenskiy, in turn, expressed hope that the U.S. would more actively participate in resolving a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 14,000 people in the past five years. Zelenskiy also said he still wanted to meet Trump in DC as long it would be productive. “I am ready to go tomorrow,” he said.
Ukraine is eager for good relations with Trump as it depends heavily on U.S. support to defend itself from Russian-backed separatists. Unlike the prior Obama administration, the Trump administration has supplied Ukraine with lethal defense equipment, including Javelin anti-tank weapons, to support those efforts.
Zelenskiy said the impeachment had not had a negative effect on U.S.–Ukraine relations and thanked the Trump administration for its financial and military support.
A senior U.S. official in the meeting said Pompeo and Zelenskiy mainly discussed investment and infrastructure and that there was no talk of impeachment or corruption investigations. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the private conversation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Pompeo’s trip is a “hallmark visit that shows the United States has and will remain our key ally in defending territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Zelenskiy said. “For Ukraine, there is no doubt whatsoever in the state of the relationship.”
In addition to Zelenskiy, Pompeo met with Ukraine’s foreign and defense ministers as well as civic leaders, and toured several Ukrainian Orthodox churches.
Pompeo twice postponed earlier planned trips to Ukraine, most recently in early January when developments with Iran forced him to cancel.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press