Donald Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Ukraine cautiously promised Wednesday to report any interference in the US election, an issue that triggered the president’s impeachment.
Keith Dayton, a respected retired army lieutenant general, was tapped to be the first US ambassador to Ukraine since Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump abruptly removed in May 2019.
Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Dayton was pressed by the top Democrat, Robert Menendez, on whether he would report any attempts to use Ukraine to sway the US election in November.
“I would of course consult with my State Department colleagues, but that sounds reasonable to me,” Dayton said.
Menendez replied that he was “a little alarmed by your equivocation” and asked him whether Trump was right to hold up security assistance to Ukraine last year.
“I’m not sure what the exact circumstances were on that. I was in Ukraine at the time, and I was not aware that this affected any of our efforts that we dealt with on Ukraine,” said Dayton, who has served as the senior US defense advisor to Ukraine.
He also declined to promise not to meet former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who as Trump’s lawyer was instrumental in efforts in Ukraine.
Trump last year pressed Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and held up $400 million in US security assistance needed by Ukraine to fight Russian-backed separatists.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump, who argued that his actions were in the national interest, but he was acquitted by the Senate.
Dayton promised that he would take a “very serious” effort to help Zelensky root out corruption if confirmed.
“We’ve gone over a year without a US ambassador to Ukraine, and I really do think that a US senior presence will help President Zelensky deal with some of these issues,” he said.