October 30, 2019

Menendez to Deputy Secretary of State: Is it ever appropriate for the President to use his office to solicit investigations into a domestic political opponent?

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today questioned Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan on his views and role in the Trump-Ukraine scandal. The Senator’s questions came as part of a committee hearing considering Sullivan’s nomination to be Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

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Key excerpts of Senator Menendez’s questions for Secretary Sullivan below:

On President Trump coercing a foreign government to investigate his political rivals:

Do you think it is ever appropriate for the President to use his office to solicit investigations into a domestic political opponent?

Soliciting investigations into a domestic political opponent? I don’t think that would be in accord with our values.

As the Deputy Secretary of State, are you aware of any other efforts by the President or anyone else to encourage, suggest, or request that a foreign government investigate one of the President’s political rivals?

I’m not aware of that Senator.

On the removal of Ambassador Yovanovitch:

You were the one that told Ambassador Yovanovitch that she was being recalled early, correct?
I did.

In your view, was there any basis to recall Ambassador Yovanovitch early?
Yes there was. The President had lost confidence in her.

The President had lost confidence in her. You were told that by the Secretary of State.

I was.

Did you ask why [the President] had lost confidence in her?

Yes, I was told the President had lost confidence in her. Period.

Well, that is not a ‘why’. He had lost confidence in her but didn’t’ explain why.

You asked if I asked. I asked.

You were aware that there were individuals and forces outside of the State Department seeking to smear Ambassador Yovanovitch, or have her removed, correct?

I was.

Did you know Mr. Giuliani was one of those people?

I believed he was, yes.

When this came about, did you ever personally advocate  for the Department to issue a statement of public support on behalf of Ambassador Yovanovitch?

At the time of her removal, I did not.  

On Giuliani running a shadow foreign policy agenda for President Trump:

What did you know about a shadow Ukraine policy being carried out Rudy Giuliani?

My knowledge in the spring and summer of this year about any involvement of Mr. Giuliani was in connection to a campaign against our ambassador in Ukraine.

On misinformation package smearing Ambassador Yovanovitch:

You were given a packet of disinformation attempting to smear Ambassador Yovanovitch… given to you by the Secretary of State’s counselor.

Yes. It was in response to inquiries by the Secretary and others about what our ambassador had done. We got, as I understood, that packet of materials.

Did the counselor tell you how the package came to him?

Either he or the Secretary.. I believe it was he… he had received that packet from someone at the White House.

Did he tell you that he and the Secretary had read the package?

He had read the packet. I don’t know whether… I don’t believe the Secretary had.   

What did you think of [the contents of the package]?

It didn’t provide, to me, a basis for taking action against our ambassador… but I wasn’t aware of all that might going on in the background… and to be cautious, I asked that the packet of materials-- both for purposes of assessing the truth of the matters that were being asserted, their relevance, and the origins of the packet… who was giving it to us to influence us-- be looked into by the Inspector General and the justice Department

Did you know it was Mr. Giuliani who created that package?

I don’t know that. To this day I don’t know that.

No one told you were this package came from?

No.

So it happened by immaculate conception.

Hence my referral of the package.

 

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