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After Sondland Bombshell, Pompeo Heads to Germany

As career diplomats testify in the U.S. impeachment inquiry, the Secretary of State faces looming political fallout.

By Audrey Wilson, an associate editor at Foreign Policy.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks at the Heritage Foundation on Oct. 22 in Washington.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers remarks at the Heritage Foundation on Oct. 22 in Washington. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The U.S. ambassador to the European Union reverses his impeachment inquiry testimony, Britain’s election campaign officially begins, and Trump could put pressure on Mexico to combat cartels.

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Key Impeachment Witness Reverses Testimony While Pompeo Stands by Trump

The U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland—a key witness in the House impeachment inquiry—has changed his previous testimony, acknowledging his role in a quid pro quo offer to grant military aid to Ukraine if it pledged to investigate U.S. President Donald Trump’s political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. Sondland’s admission on Tuesday directly contradicted his earlier statement.

Still, the reversal leaves some unanswered questions: Sondland was careful not to incriminate himself or others, as the Washington Post notes. According to the new account, Sondland wasn’t told that the quid pro quo came from Trump. Nonetheless, the reversal could provide valuable evidence for Democrats as they build their case against the president.

Where is Pompeo? Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is still supporting Trump, even as career diplomats risk their jobs and testify before Congress that the Trump administration sought to use its relations with Ukraine for political gain. Now, those State Department veterans feel betrayed, as FP reports. Today, Pompeo heads to Germany, where he will discuss a European pipeline project and mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

What’s next? Four administration officials are scheduled to appear today, including two who have been subpoenaed. One, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, is not expected to appear and the others have not responded. Former National Security Advisor John Bolton is still scheduled to appear on Thursday, but he has not been subpoenaed.

What We’re Following Today

Boris Johnson begins election campaign. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson launches the campaign for the Dec. 12 election today on a promise to “get Brexit done,” after lawmakers backed the plan for the snap election last week. Today, Johnson will formally dissolve Parliament before a Conservative party rally later in the day. While polls show that the Conservatives lead the opposition Labour party nationally, analysts caution that the outcome is still difficult to predict with party loyalty in decline and the Liberal Democrats and Brexit Party eating into the traditional support bases of both Labour and the Conservatives, as shown by YouGov polls and infographics.

Meanwhile, Johnson has been accused of covering up Russian election interference in the 2016 Brexit referendum, after his government delayed the release of an intelligence report until after the December election.

Trump urges war against Mexican cartels. After an attack by gunmen in Mexico killed nine American citizens on Monday, Trump has offered to cooperate with the Mexican government to root out drug cartels in the country. It is not yet clear who carried out the attack, though a relative said the family involved had previously received “indirect threats.” On Tuesday, Trump spoke with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador by phone and urged him to do more to combat cartel violence. It’s possible the United States could mount a pressure campaign—as it did with migration—to force a security policy change.

Bolivia’s Morales defies opposition protesters. Bolivian opposition figure Luis Fernando Camacho has promised to return to the capital, La Paz, today to demand the resignation of President Evo Morales after being blocked from doing so on Tuesday. Camacho, who has become a leader of the opposition movement, would join thousands of protesters calling for the president to step down after he won the October vote amid allegations of election fraud. Morales has so far defied the protesters, awaiting the results of an election audit later this month.

Keep an Eye On

Trump’s travel restrictions. U.N. delegates from countries with poor relations with the United States—including China, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, and Syria—say they are increasingly subjected to visa denials, airport checks, and other forms of harassment when traveling to the United States. While the tactic isn’t new, experts say the Trump administration is acting on weak legal grounds, FP’s Colum Lynch reports.

A peace deal in Yemen. On Tuesday, Yemen’s government signed a deal with southern separatists to end fighting in and around the strategic port of Aden—a conflict that had threatened to split the Saudi-led coalition against the rebel Houthi movement. Saudi Arabia is hopeful the agreement could lead to broader peace talks in the country’s civil war.

Colombia’s women’s movement. In the Medellín municipal elections last month, a burgeoning women’s political movement, Estamos Listas (“We’re Ready”), helped send a female candidate to the city council. It was a symbolic win for a movement with an explicitly feminist agenda in a country known for cronyism and machismo, Neha Wadekar reports for FP.

Foreign Policy Recommends

Demand for plant-based meat substitutes has surged in the United States over the past few years, especially for meat-free burgers. But in China, fake meat is a sophisticated craft that dates back centuries, as CNN reports this week. Today, more than 300 restaurants in Beijing alone offer fake meat, and Chinese chefs are creating everything from “crabmeat” made with mashed potato and carrot to pork ribs made from lotus root. —C.K. Hickey

2019 Diplomat of the YearForeign Policy will honor NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in an exclusive celebration on Nov. 12, convening over 200 senior leaders from the global diplomatic and defense community. To request an invitation, please fill out this form.

Odds and Ends

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has called for a Russian-language version of Wikipedia that would be “more reliable,” which the Kremlin plans to develop over the next three years. “As for Wikipedia … it’s better to replace it with the new Big Russian encyclopedia in electronic form,” Putin reportedly said at a government meeting.

That’s it for today. 

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson