The New York Times reported on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to visit President Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine, even as Trump’s senate impeachment trial seems ready to grind to a close without witnesses.
Although Pompeo’s trip might be seen as a reaffirmation of the United State’s commitment to an alliance with Ukraine, it appears Pompeo failed to deliver support in one coveted area.
“While the two officials offered reassurances that relations were strong, Mr. Pompeo did not give Mr. Zelensky one thing he has sought since his election in April: an invitation to meet President Trump at the White House, which would be an important signal to Russia of American support for Ukraine. Mr. Pompeo’s message that Mr. Trump was not ready to receive Mr. Zelensky at the White House was a blow to the Ukrainian president’s national security efforts,” reported Edward Wong.
Ongoing quid pro quo?
Former Special Counsel and law professor, Ryan Goodman reacted on Twitter.
The quid pro quo is ongoing
“Pompeo did not give Mr Zelensky one thing he has sought since last May…Pompeo’s message that Mr Trump was not ready to receive Mr Zelensky at the White House was a blow to the Ukrainian president’s national security efforts” https://t.co/OvV3YULtiS
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) January 31, 2020
On the other hand, Russia’s foreign minister Lavrov has enjoyed two visits to the White House recently. Tellingly, Trump was impeached for pressuring Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden in exchange for a White House meeting, reported Vox as Russia’s top envoy visited in December.
“The optics are jarring. Trump is facing impeachment for leading a scheme to have Ukraine investigate Joe Biden’s family and Democrats in order to get military aid and a presidential White House meeting. Kyiv needed both of those things as it continues to fight off Russian forces that have invaded Ukraine’s east. The money helps with equipment and training, and the White House visit would have sent a strong sign of America’s support for its ally,” reported Alex Ward.
Ward reported that a Ukraine expert at the Atlantic Council told him that watching Lavrov get the invite would be “incredibly frustrating” for Ukraine.
Pompeo’s visit comes on the heels of an awkward exchange with an NPR reporter, Mary Louise Kelly. The veteran national security correspondent asked Pompeo about Ukraine, and he shouted back at her, using the “f-word,” according to her account. She reported that Pompeo told her she was a liar and asked her to find Ukraine on a map, which she did.
“Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?” Pompeo said.
Journalists don’t sit down with senior officials to score political points. We do it in the service of asking tough questions, on behalf of our fellow citizens. And then sharing the answers—or lack thereof—with the world.
— Mary Louise Kelly (@NPRKelly) January 29, 2020
A ‘hornet’s nest of legal ethics issues’
Today, an explosive new Times report uncovered new details from an unpublished manuscript by former national security adviser, John Bolton. The report suggests that Trump attempted to get Bolton to help him pressure Ukraine to get dirt on Biden a full two months before his now-infamous phone call with President Zelensky. The call came just one day after Special Counsel Mueller testified before Congress about Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
“Most people who survive that kind of legal threat would lie low, at least for a while, and try to get back to some level of normalcy. But Trump is a habitual criminal, and his reaction to escaping Mueller’s investigation was to go on yet another crime spree,” wrote James Risen for the Intercept.
Notably, White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, was allegedly present for the meeting with Bolton. Cipollone is leading the president’s impeachment defense and, as such, appears to have a conflict of interest.
Legal experts weighed in on Twitter:
I hadn’t realized until now that the House warned about Cippilone 10 days ago. “You may be a material witness to the charges against President Trump, even though you are also his advocate," the House's seven impeachment managers wrote in a letter to Cipollone…
— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) January 31, 2020
This puts Cipollone’s letter declaring Trump would not cooperate in a whole new light. He wasn’t just trying to cover up Trump’s wrongdoing, but also his own exposure. https://t.co/xcGgfksB7K
— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) January 31, 2020
The NYT story throws Cipollone in a hornet's nest of legal ethics issues.
— David Jolly (@DavidJollyFL) January 31, 2020
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