Democrats press World Bank chief on meeting with Ukrainian president amid Trump pressure

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Washington, D.C.-, February 26, 2020 | comments

Six House Democrats on Wednesday asked World Bank President David Malpass to explain an August meeting with the Ukrainan president amid President Trump’s decision to withhold defense aid from Ukraine.

The lawmakers voiced concerns that Malpass’s meeting with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Aug. 23 in Kyiv could be seen as a part of Trump’s pressure campaign that resulted in his impeachment.

“Even the perception of impropriety by leaders of the Bank has the potential to undermine its core mission —including its critically important work in Ukraine,” wrote Demorcratic Reps. Denny Heck (Colo.), Jim Himes (Conn.), Ed Perlmutter (Colo.), Juan Vargas (Calif.), Jennifer Wexton (Va.), and Stephen Lynch (Mass.) in a Wednesday letter

All six are members of the House Financial Services Committee; Himes and Heck also hold posts on the House Intelligence Committee, which investigated allegations that Trump and his political associates tried to spur an Ukrainan investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden's son’s business dealings with a Ukraine energy company.

“Given the massive and multifaceted nature of President Trump’s illicit scheme,” they continued, “we worry that the intent of your trip to Kyiv may be misconstrued by those in the international community.”

Malpass, a former Trump campaign adviser and Treasury undersecretary, was confirmed as president of the World Bank in April. The international development financier has devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to revamping Ukraine’s agriculture, infrastructure, and education sectors, damaged by years of corruption and Russian aggression.

Malpass touted Zelensky’s 2019 election win in an Aug. 25 op-ed as a “mandate to deliver on reforms and growth.” He also recounted his trip to Kyiv, and added that his meeting with the new president and Ukrainian leaders “give me optimism that policy changes are under way and will work if Ukraine can seize the moment.”

“The strong mandate from the people provides an opportunity for the authorities to move forward swiftly, and the World Bank is determined to provide support during this critical journey toward a freer, stronger Ukraine,” Malpass wrote.

Malpass added that he and Zelenksy discussed fostering competition within the Ukrainian energy, financial and agricultural industries.  

The Democratic lawmakers praised the World Bank’s commitment to helping Ukraine achieve long-sought economic reforms, but questioned why no new projects in the country were added to the lender’s pipeline after Malpass’s meeting. 

They also expressed concerns that Malpass’s visit occurred during the height of Trump’s alleged increased pressure on Zelensky to announce an investigation into Hunter Biden and his role on the board of Burisma, a  Ukrainian gas company.

“In light of these concerns, we would encourage you to provide more context around your trip to Kyiv six months ago and to share the World Bank’s plans for future engagement in Ukraine,” they wrote.

The lawmakers asked Malpass to disclose when he decided to visit Kyiv, whether he coordinated his trip with non-World Bank officials, the “deliverables” of the meeting, the meeting’s impact on the World Bank’s plans in Ukraine and whether they discussed Hunter Biden, Burisma, or Viktor Shokin, the former Ukrainian prosecutor general who was ousted under international pressure from leaders including former Vice President Biden. 

Content originally published by The Hill on February 26, 2020.
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