Acting Ukraine ambassador Bill Taylor announces resignation

Weeks after testifying in House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, Bill Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, has announced that he will step down from his post in early January, according to the Daily Caller.

Taylor was a key witness for Democrats who testified in both a closed-door deposition and an open hearing to his belief that President Donald Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine for inappropriate purposes — namely, to get Ukraine to investigate allegations of 2016 election interference and corrupt business dealings in the country by Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden.

Taylor heads out

Word of Taylor’s impending departure was first reported by NBC News, which noted that, due to his status as a non-Senate confirmed “acting” ambassador, Taylor’s term in that role was limited by the Federal Vacancies Act. As such, Taylor’s term would have expired by Jan. 8, 2020, but he is expected to step down from the role on Jan. 1 and leave Ukraine by Jan. 2.

Taylor took over the role as ambassador in May after his predecessor, Marie Yovanovitch — who was also a star witness in Dems’ inquiry — was recalled.

According to NBC, Taylor, a Vietnam veteran who has served in the diplomatic service since 1985, previously served as ambassador to Ukraine under former President George W. Bush. He was tapped to replace Yovanovitch by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Switching things up

Diplomatic responsibility for Ukraine will reportedly be handed over to Deputy Chief of Mission Kristina Kvien for the time being. According to ABC News, Kvien is a career Foreign Service officer who arrived in Ukraine in May to serve as Taylor’s principal deputy.

She will assume the role of “charge d’affairs” as the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine until a permanent replacement is nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The White House remains in the midst of the vetting process for that permanent replacement, according to ABC, meaning Kvien could serve in the role for some time. For his part, Pompeo will be making a trip to Ukraine himself in January, shortly after Taylor’s departure, in what will likely be viewed as a show of support for Kvien.

Looking forward

While ABC declined to name a particular candidate, Politico reported that Trump’s most likely pick for the Ukraine ambassador role is retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton, who is currently the director of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. He is said to be personally liked by the president and is reportedly willing to take the job.

Another potential candidate is career Foreign Service officer Phillip Reeker, currently the acting assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs. For his part, Reeker testified in the closed-door portion of the impeachment inquiry, and reportedly stated in an October deposition that there was an “ongoing” search for a new ambassador to Ukraine.

Politico reported that Reeker had initially been chosen to replace Yovanovitch, but for unknown reasons that assignment didn’t pan out and Taylor was named instead.

All of this comes as Ukraine just named its own replacement ambassador to the U.S.: Volodymyr Yelchenko, currently that nation’s ambassador to the United Nations, will succeed Valeriy Chaly in the role. Chaly was recalled by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky for being highly critical of President Trump.

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