Facing tumult in Washington, Pompeo heads to Germany

MATTHEW LEE
FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2019, file photo, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the Heritage Foundation's annual President's Club Meeting in Washington. The United States has told the United Nations it has begun the process of pulling out of the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement. Pompeo said Monday that he submitted a formal notice to the United Nations. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is heading overseas to improve relations with Germany as he comes under increasing criticism at home for his role in the events that led to the House impeachment inquiry.

The State Department said Tuesday that Pompeo will meet with German officials to discuss a European pipeline project opposed by the U.S. He will also join festivities to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Pompeo's Germany trip comes at a turbulent time amid the release of transcripts of testimony in the impeachment inquiry that has prominently featured State Department employees.

Several have testified that Pompeo failed to halt a White House effort to improperly press Ukraine for dirt on Trump's rivals and did little or nothing to defend career diplomats from politically motivated attacks by the president and his supporters.

Pompeo will visit five German cities, including one that is home to a U.S. Army base where he served as a tank commander in the 1980s. In Berlin, he is to deliver a speech highlighting the U.S. role in helping eastern and central Europe "throw off the yoke of communism" and the department said.

In talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Pompeo will discuss growing U.S. concerns about economic and strategic threats from Russia, China and Iran. He is expected to reiterate U.S. opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which had been staunchly supported by Germany and Russia, officials said.

The pipeline project got a boost last week, when Danish regulators dropped environmental objections to a portion that would go through its waters. The plan to transport natural gas about 1,200-kilometers (746-miles) through the Baltic Sea from Russia to Europe has come under fire from President Donald Trump's administration and several European countries, who argue it will increase Europe's dependence on Russia for energy.

In advance of next month's NATO leaders' meeting in London, Pompeo is expected to raise U.S. expectations that Germany will deliver on a pledge that all allies made to boost defense spending.