October 01, 2019

Menendez Questions VP Pence and Sec. Perry’s Role in Trump-Ukraine Controversy

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today raised a series of questions to Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry about whether they played any role in pushing President Trump’s personal political agenda in Ukraine, including pressuring Ukrainian President Zelensky to bolster Trump’s 2020 election prospects.

Citing the summary of the President’s call with President Zelensky and the whistleblower complaint, the Senator asked for details regarding the circumstances of Vice President Pence’s cancelled trip to attend President Zelensky’s inauguration, Secretary Perry’s trip in the Vice President’s place, and what the two discussed in meetings with President Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials.

“On September 1, 2019—approximately six weeks after President Trump ordered all U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to be delayed—you met with President Zelensky in Warsaw, Poland. When asked by a reporter on that trip whether you could ‘assure Ukraine that the hold-up of that money has absolutely nothing to do with efforts, including by Rudy Giuliani, to try to dig up dirt on the Biden family,’ you did not answer the question,” wrote Menendez to Vice President Pence. “As the summary of the call with President Zelensky demonstrates, President Trump requested a foreign government help investigate his domestic political opponent. While I hope that he was alone in making such an inappropriate request, your statements regarding your discussions with Ukraine officials raise questions whether you may have helped carry that message.”

In his letter to Secretary Perry, Menendez wrote: “Given your role as the leader of the official United States delegation to the inauguration, and the White House’s recent release of evidence that President Trump requested that Ukraine’s government investigate his domestic political opponent, your insight into the U.S. delegation’s trip is of particular interest to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”

The Senator also requests answers to several foreign policy oversight questions from Vice President Pence and Secretary Perry no later than October 4, 2019.

This is the latest in a series of oversight inquiries Ranking Member Menendez has opened to ensure Congress and the American people get a full accounting of how President Trump and his Administration leveraged security assistance to Ukraine for the President’s personal gain. Menendez has also introduced legislation and called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Full text of the Senator’s letters are available here (Pence), here (Perry) and below:

Dear Vice President Pence:

As Ranking Member of the Senate Committee charged with exercising oversight of the foreign relations of the United States, I write seeking details about your interactions with Ukrainian officials, including President Zelensky. The contents of President Trump’s July 25 call with President Zelensky raises serious questions about the conduct of our foreign policy, including whether U.S. security assistance to Ukraine was used to elicit action aimed at helping the President politically.

Earlier this year, you were reportedly planning to attend President Zelensky’s May 2019 inauguration. According to a whistleblower complaint addressed to congressional intelligence committees, President Trump instructed you to cancel your planned travel to Ukraine.[1] Three days earlier, the President’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, also cancelled his planned trip, saying Zelensky was “surrounded by enemies” of President Trump.”[2]

According to the whistleblower complaint, President Trump did not want to meet with President Zelensky until he saw how Zelensky “chose to act” in office. The complaint also describes how, according to multiple officials, “Ukrainian leadership was led to believe that a meeting or phone call between the President and President Zelensky would depend on whether Zelensky showed willingness to ‘play ball’” on certain issues, including investigating one of President Trump’s political opponents.[3]

On September 1, 2019—approximately six weeks after President Trump ordered all U.S. security assistance to Ukraine to be delayed—you met with President Zelensky in Warsaw, Poland. When asked by a reporter on that trip whether you could “assure Ukraine that the hold-up of that money has absolutely nothing to do with efforts, including by Rudy Giuliani, to try to dig up dirt on the Biden family,” you did not answer the question. You also echoed President Trump’s emphasis on “corruption”—which he has used as a euphemism to refer to efforts to investigate his political rivals.[4]

As the summary of the call with President Zelensky demonstrates, President Trump requested a foreign government help investigate his domestic political opponent. While I hope that he was alone in making such an inappropriate request, your statements regarding your discussions with Ukraine officials raise questions whether you may have helped carry that message. To that end, and to assist the Committee in conducting thorough oversight of U.S. foreign policy, I request that you answer the following:

  1. Why did you cancel your planned trip to Ukraine in May 2019? Did the President instruct you to cancel your trip and, if so, what reason did he give you for doing so?
  2. When did you first become aware of President Trump’s request to President Zelensky to help investigate one of his political opponents or unsubstantiated theories related to Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 U.S. election?
  3. Did President Trump ever ask you to convey to President Zelensky, other Ukrainian officials, or any other individuals, President Trump’s desire for assistance in investigating one of his political opponents or their family members, or unsubstantiated theories related to Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 U.S. election? Did you ever convey such a request?
  4. What did you convey to President Zelensky, specifically, with regard to “corruption” in Ukraine?
  5. When did you first become aware that U.S. security assistance to Ukraine had been delayed? Did you seek to find out why the assistance was delayed or take any steps to address the delay?
  6. Are you aware of any records of communications between the President and foreign leaders that were stored on the National Security Council Intelligence Collaboration Environment (NICE)? If so, please provide a detailed list of such records.

Please respond to the above questions no later than October 4, 2019. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

 

-30-

The Honorable Rick Perry

Secretary of Energy

U.S. Department of Energy

1000 Independence Ave. SW

Washington D.C. 20585

Dear Secretary Perry:

I write to determine the details and circumstances around your interactions with Ukraine President Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials, particularly relating to your trip to President Zelensky’s inauguration in May 2019. Given your role as the leader of the official United States delegation to the inauguration, and the White House’s recent release of evidence that President Trump requested that Ukraine’s government investigate his domestic political opponent, your insight into the U.S. delegation’s trip is of particular interest to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

According to a whistleblower complaint addressed to Congress, Vice President Pence planned to lead the May 2019 delegation to Ukraine, but, after President Trump instructed the Vice President not to, you led the delegation instead.[5] You also attended a dinner with President Zelensky in June 2019.[6] According to the complaint, likely around the time of your trip it was “made clear” to Ukrainian officials that President Trump did not want to meet with President Zelensky until Trump saw how Zelensky “‘chose to act’ in office.”[7] According to the readout of your travels, you met with Ukraine’s President, Prime Minister, and head of parliament.[8]

President Trump’s phone call and the allegations in the whistleblower complaint raise serious questions about the messages that were communicated on behalf of President Trump to the government of Ukraine. To that end, and to assist the Committee in fulfilling its oversight role of U.S. foreign policy, I request that you answer the following:

  1. Who requested that you to lead the delegation to Ukraine in May 2019, when did they make the request, and what reason were you given for the request? 
  2. Were you aware that Vice President Pence had cancelled his plans to travel to President Zelenksy’s inauguration? If so, were you aware of the reason?
  3. Did President Trump ever ask you to convey to President Zelensky, other Ukrainian officials, or any other individuals, President Trump’s desire for assistance in investigating one of his political opponents or their family members, or unsubstantiated theories related to Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 U.S. election? Did you ever convey such a request?
  4. During your May 2019 trip, or during any other interaction with President Zelensky, Ukrainian officials, or any other individuals, did you convey any messages regarding “corruption” in Ukraine? If so, what did you convey?
  5. Are you aware of any records of communications between the President and foreign leaders that were stored on the National Security Council Intelligence Collaboration Environment (NICE)? If so, please provide a detailed list of such records.

Please respond to the above questions no later than October 4, 2019. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

###


[1] Whistleblower Complaint to the Chairmen of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Aug. 12, 2019, Classified Appendix at 1-2.

[2] Andrew Restuccia & Darrel Samuelsohn, “Giuliani cancels Ukraine trip amid political meddling charges,” Politico, May 11, 2019.

[3] Whistleblower Complaint, Classified Appendix at 2.

[4] “Remarks by Vice President Pence at the Commemoration of the 80th Anniversary of the Outbreak of World War II, Warsaw, Poland,” Sept.1, 2019, available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-vice-president-pence-commemoration-80th-anniversary-outbreak-world-war-ii-warsaw-poland/.

[5] Whistleblower Complaint to the Chairmen of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Aug. 12, 2019, Classified Appendix at 1-2.

[6] U.S. Mission to the European Union, USEU Dinner, June 4, 2019. https://www.flickr.com/photos/us2eu/48003307277/in/photostream/.

[7] Id.

[8] Readout of Secretary Perry’s Delegation Visit to the Inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Department of Energy, May 21, 2019, https://www.energy.gov/articles/readout-secretary-perry-s-delegation-visit-inauguration-ukrainian-president-volodymyr.