Throughout the entire impeachment saga, the media have lamented that President Trump does not sufficiently support Ukraine in its fight against Russia. To assuage any concerns that the Ukrainians themselves might have about the Administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is heading to the country on Friday, but such a trip led to widespread mockery on Monday's MSNBC Live.
The context of the segment was a Sunday New York Times report summarizing the case for impeachment that stated that Pompeo, along with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and former National Security Advisor John Bolton, tried to convince Trump to release the aid, but he refused.
Host Katy Tur began by asking Eli Stokols of the Los Angeles Times what he makes of the trips optics given that Trump has been impeached. Stokols described it as "peak awkwardness."
KATY TUR: What about just the optics of Mike Pompeo going to Ukraine, even as the president still, Eli, hasn't had a White House meeting with him and as a president has just been impeached by the House. What do you make of the optics?
ELI STOKOLS: This is peak awkwardness, Katy and you saw the secretary come out before the cameras, before the pool at Mar-a-Lago yesterday and make a very, you curt statement and not take any questions on this subject. It is going to be hard to continue to dodge these questions because they're so obvious and they will just continue to hover over anything -- any outreach that Pompeo or the U.S. makes toward Ukraine and there is just a superficiality about a visit, paying a visit to Kyiv.
Like a good partisan, Stokols dismissed the idea that a Ukraine trip by Pompeo really mattered: "Pompeo can go over there, he can make this trip, but everybody knows after three years of this administration that the president is going to do his own thing, and if you don't really have the president's support, visits from, you know, top officials and others doesn't really mean all that much."
Tur repeated that point to Nancy Soderberg, a former Clinton and Gore national-security aide and failed Democrat candidate for Congress, and heard Pompeo is standing on the "wrong side" of history:
TUR: The president said it himself, he's the last and final word. Nancy, expand on that. What do you make of Pompeo going over there?
NANCY SODERBERG: Simply tone deaf. This draws a contrast between a secretary of state going over there, which is normally a very welcome visit, but it is not the Oval Office meeting that they have been long promised. More and more details are coming out about Secretary Pompeo's role in holding up this aid. So one would hope that this is his swan song before he goes to run for the Senate, which might justify it, he just wants to check that box, but otherwise, the irony of him being in Kyiv on the day the Congress comes back January 3rd is just going to send one more question after another. He should not be going and he needs to decide which side of history does he want to be on. Continuing to put forward false facts --
TUR: I think he decided that. I think that's pretty clear where he stands on this, given his -- stopping people from testifying, he's firmly in the president's corner.