WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Ukraine next week, making his first trip to the country at the heart of President Donald Trump’s impeachment.
As Trump’s Senate trial on impeachment charges continues, the State Department announced Friday that Pompeo would travel to Kyiv as part of a five-nation tour of Europe and Central Asia. Since November, Pompeo has twice canceled plans to visit Ukraine, most recently just after the New Year when developments with Iran forced him to postpone the trip. Pompeo will also visit Britain, as it finalizes its divorce from the European Union, along with Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
One of the impeachment witnesses, William Taylor, was until Jan. 1 the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Pompeo had appointed Taylor to the post over the summer to take over from Marie Yovanovitch, whose tour was abruptly cut short last May after Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani made unsubstantiated allegations against her. Yovanovitch testified that Trump supporters had mounted a smear campaign against her.
Just before the trip was announced, Giuliani said he would be presenting evidence of corruption involving the Bidens and Ukraine. Such allegations, even if they are unfounded, may distract from Pompeo’s mission in Kyiv, which is to show U.S. support for the country in the face of Russian aggression.
Taylor departed Kyiv just a day before Pompeo was to have arrived on his previously planned trip. The position was temporary and time-limited by law but his tenure could have lasted until mid-January. His departure prompted complaints from lawmakers that his departure was similar to Yovanovitch’s early recall and sent a poor message to the embassy in Kyiv and career diplomats more generally, as well as to Ukrainian authorities.
Pompeo responded testily on Friday when asked about Ukraine and Yovanovitch in an interview with NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly.