Three years after Donald Trump tried to extort a “favor” from him, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday visited successor Joe Biden’s White House in his first foreign trip since Russia invaded his country.
Zelenskyy, wearing his now-trademark green jacket and heavy boots, stepped out of a black SUV after passing an honor guard lining the South Lawn driveway just after 2 p.m. He was greeted by President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden before entering the building with them through the South Portico.
He had arrived at Joint Base Andrews about an hour earlier following a flight aboard a U.S. military Boeing 737 in his second visit to the White House since Biden took office in 2021.
Biden escorted Zelenskyy into the Oval Office minutes later, where the two were joined by top administration officials, including Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley.
“I’m delighted you could make the trip,” Biden said, adding that Putin was escalating his attacks on civilians. “We will support Ukraine pursuing a just peace,” he said.
Zelenskyy thanked Biden for his work getting assistance to Ukraine “from the heart of all Ukrainians.” He also presented Biden with a medal.
The onetime comedian has become an admired figure throughout much of the world. He has led a country that was widely expected to succumb quickly to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s onslaught, but which has — with the help of Western Europe and the United States — fought back and is now regaining previously seized territory.
Zelenskyy is appealing to Biden and on Wednesday evening to Congress for more military and humanitarian aid as Putin responds to Ukraine’s successes with repeated missile attacks against civilians and Ukraine’s electrical infrastructure with the approach of winter.
In July 2019, during a phone call with Trump soon after taking office, Zelenskyy’s request for a White House visit and the ability to purchase antitank missiles was met with a demand by Trump for Zelenskyy to announce an investigation into Biden, whom Trump feared would be the strongest candidate against him in 2020.
Such a request for what Trump called “a favor” in exchange for official government assistance, had it been made by a military procurement officer or a State Department official, likely would have ended with prosecution for the crime of extortion and a lengthy prison sentence.
But Trump, many in his administration and his allies in Congress argued that the then-president’s actions were a legitimate policy choice. He was impeached in late 2019 following a House investigation, but every Republican senator, with the exception of Utah’s Mitt Romney, voted not to remove Trump from office.
Trump was impeached a second time following his coup attempt to retain power despite losing the November 2020 election to Biden, but Republican senators, with seven defections this time, chose not to convict him.
He is now facing multiple criminal investigations involving the insurrection, as well as an unrelated Department of Justice probe for removing top secret documents from the White House and storing them at his Mar-a-Lago social club in Palm Beach, Florida.