Trump’s Ukraine envoy pick says he’ll flag election meddling

Political

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to Ukraine says he will not meet Americans with overtly partisan political agendas if he is confirmed to the post and will report any attempt to interfere in November’s election.

Retired Army Gen. Keith Dayton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that he would look into any requests for meetings and would not accept any if he believed they were intended to influence the upcoming presidential contest or other domestic political issues. He would not, however, flatly commit to refusing a meeting with Trump backer and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

“If they are there for very partisan purposes, of course not,” Dayton said in response to questions from Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

Giuliani was at the forefront of a campaign to remove Marie Yovanovitch as the American envoy. That effort played a key role in Trump’s impeachment for attempting to withhold vital military assistance to Ukraine’s government in exchange for Ukraine investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, a Trump political rival.

Republicans are currently looking into ties that Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and his son Hunter had with Ukraine, including the energy company Burisma, and some have suggested it could become an issue in the presidential campaign. Hunter Biden was on the board of the gas company.

Dayton said he would take seriously any allegations of attempted election interference. “If I have any indication that there is any kind of election interference going on using Ukraine as a lever to do that, I would of course report that,” he said.

Dayton currently heads the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Germany. He would be the first Senate approved ambassador to Ukraine since Yovanovitch’s ouster in February 2019. Both she and her temporary successor, retired Ambassador William Taylor, who left the job in late December, testified before the impeachment inquiry about what they said was a troubling alternate policy track with Ukraine.

Dayton said he supported congressional efforts to increase U.S. assistance to Ukraine as it battles a Russia-backed insurgency in its east with additional military assistance.

He also said he agreed with assessments that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to destabilize Ukraine by supporting separatists in the region.

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