Bipartisan Group of Senators to Meet with Zelensky in Ukraine

Bipartisan Group of Senators to Meet with Zelensky in Ukraine
The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky at the presidential palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Nov. 27, 2019. (Petras Malukas/AFP via Getty Images)
Isabel van Brugen

A bipartisan group of senators has said they will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Feb. 14.

The announcement comes less than two weeks after the Senate acquitted President Donald Trump on charges he abused his power by asking Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden.

The three lawmakers, Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) released a statement on Wednesday saying that they would meet with Zelensky as the relationship between the United States and Ukraine “is as important now as ever.”

The senators said maintaining a close relationship between the United States and Ukraine is critical.

“The future of Ukraine matters to the United States, and we must make sure Ukraine knows that we view them as a strategic ally,” the trio said. “This is why we’re going to Kyiv as a bipartisan delegation to reinforce our support with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.”

Murphy, Barrasso, and Johnson are members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Johnson is chair of the subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, while Barrasso and Murphy sit on the subcommittee.

The upcoming visit marks an effort to improve relations with Ukraine following the House-led impeachment inquiry into Trump.

Trump Acquitted

Senators on Feb. 5 voted nearly along party lines to acquit the president of the two charges against him: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The senators voted 52-48 on the first article of impeachment and 53-47 on the second article.

The vote capped off four months of proceedings that began with an announcement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sept. 24, 2019. Following a rapid inquiry in the House, Democrats impeached the president in a partisan vote on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

During the Senate trial, Democratic impeachment managers accused Trump of abusing the power of his office by pressuring Zelensky. It was alleged that the president leveraged a hold on $400 million in aid to Ukraine to pressure Zelensky to do his bidding, and that once Congress began investigating the alleged scheme, Trump obstructed the inquiry.

Trump’s attorneys, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, argued that the Democrats failed to prove their case, highlighting the lack of firsthand witnesses who could back up the claims.

Throughout the impeachment inquiry and Senate trial, Trump denounced the proceedings as a partisan “hoax.” The president pointed to the transcript of his July 25, 2019 call with Zelensky as the ultimate evidence of his innocence.

Senators to Show Bipartisan Support

Murphy told Politico that the bipartisan group is hoping to discuss economic support and security aid with Zelensky on Friday.

“One way to make clear that Ukraine is not a political football is for a bipartisan group of senators on opposite sides of the impeachment vote to go see Zelensky and to convey support,” he said.

News of the meeting comes after late last month—amid the impeachment trial—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Zelensky to assure Ukraine that the United States supports the country in its quest for democracy.

“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,” Pompeo said during a joint press conference after his meeting with Zelensky.

“The commitment starts with our strong support for his efforts to strengthen democratic institutions in this country. The final victory for the Revolution of Dignity is within reach. The United States has worked hard to help Ukraine develop a strong rule of law, a healthy investment climate, a reformed defense sector, and energy independence, and we’ll continue to do so.”

Asked if the impeachment had spoiled bilateral ties, Zelensky told reporters: “It seems to me it’s the other way around. We have excellent relations between our countries.”

Ivan Pentchoukov and Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.