September 27, 2019

Menendez to Sec. Pompeo: When Did You Know and What Did You Do about Pres. Trump’s Foreign Interference Effort?

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today demanded Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explain what actions he and the State Department took when they became involved in President Donald Trump’s coercion of a foreign leader to investigate his domestic political opponents.

In a letter requesting the Secretary immediately testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ranking Member Menendez posed a series of critical national security questions that remain unanswered after the release of a declassified whistleblower complaint revealed senior State Department officials were both on the line and briefed after Trump pressured Ukrainian President Zelensky to bolster his 2020 election prospects.

“This should shake anyone who has taken an oath to support and defend our Constitution,” wrote Menendez. “Yet it remains unclear what, if anything, you and the State Department did in response to this unacceptable behavior.”

Menendez also demanded justification for the central role the President’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, has played in pushing Trump’s agenda in Ukraine as well as any engagement by Special Envoy Kurt Volker and Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland.

“In his call with President Zelensky, the President repeatedly encouraged a foreign leader to speak with his private personal attorney. Not a government official, not a diplomat, not a representative of the State Department. His personal attorney,” added Menendez. “As Secretary of State, you are charged with carrying out foreign policy for the United States. Yet it appears that our policy with Ukraine was effectively outsourced to a private individual pursuing the personal vendettas of the President.”

A copy of the Senator’s letter can be found HERE and below: 

September 27, 2019

The Honorable Mike Pompeo
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington D.C. 20520

Secretary Pompeo:

Yesterday’s release of a whistleblower complaint brings to light that the State Department not only knew about President Trump’s July 25, 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky in real time, but that multiple officials were briefed on the call.[1] As we now know, President Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Trump’s domestic political opponents and pursue baseless conspiracy theories. This should shake anyone who has taken an oath to support and defend our Constitution. Yet it remains unclear what, if anything, you and the State Department did in response to this unacceptable behavior.

It is now also clear that the President’s call was not a single isolated event, but part of the President’s months-long effort to elicit promises from a new Ukrainian leader to take action— based on unfounded claims—against one of the President’s political rivals. Ukrainian officials apparently understood that a “condition” to any communications with President Trump was a willingness to discuss the President’s desired lists of topics.[2]

In his call with President Zelensky, the President repeatedly encouraged a foreign leader to speak with his private personal attorney. Not a government official, not a diplomat, not a representative of the State Department. His personal attorney. A private citizen who had, months prior to that call, said that he was “meddling in an investigation”[3] and has asserted that he was asked by the State Department to “facilitate a meeting between the president and Mr. Zelensky.”[4]

As Secretary of State, you are charged with carrying out foreign policy for the United States. Yet it appears that our policy with Ukraine was effectively outsourced to a private individual pursuing the personal vendettas of the President. I call on you to immediately come before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to explain to Congress and the nation how this perversion of U.S. foreign policy—and its undermining of our national security—was allowed to occur for so long. In addition, I request that you respond to the following preliminary questions by October 1:

  1. When did you first learn that Mr. Giuliani was seeking to meet with Ukrainian officials?
  2. Were you aware of Mr. Giuliani’s meetings with Ukrainian officials on or around the dates that they happened?
  3. Are you aware of other meetings between Mr. Giuliani and foreign officials?
  4. Did you instruct anyone in the Department to not provide assistance to Mr. Giuliani regarding his meetings with foreign officials?
  5. Were you aware that Special Envoy Kurt Volker or Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland were engaged with Mr. Giuliani regarding Ukraine? If so, did you direct or approve of their efforts?
  6. Who else from the Department received readouts of, met with, or spoke to Mr. Giuliani about his meetings with foreign officials?
  7. Why was the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine recalled in May 2019? Did you approve that decision?
  8. Are you aware of any attempts to retaliate against the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, particularly in light of unfounded public attacks on her, including by the President? If so, have you taken any steps to prevent that retaliation?
  9. When did you learn of the content of the President’s July 25 call with President Zelenksy?
  10. What action did you take when you learned of the July 25 call?
  11. Do you think it is appropriate for the President to enlist the assistance of a foreign leader to investigate his political opponents?
  12. Are you aware of the President requesting or encouraging similar efforts of any other foreign officials?
  13. Prior to the July 25 call, did you or did the Department communicate to Ukrainian officials that the President wanted to discuss corruption or investigations in Ukraine?
  14. Did you communicate, or are you aware of efforts by U.S. officials to communicate, to Ukrainian officials the topics that the President wanted to discuss with President Zelensky?
  15. Have you received transcripts or summaries of all of the President’s calls with foreign leaders? Are you aware of any records of communications between the President and foreign leaders that have not been stored on the standard White House system for such calls and subsequently distributed to Cabinet-level officials?

I look forward to your immediate answers on these important matters of national security.

Sincerely,

 

 

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[1] Whistleblower Complaint to the Chairmen of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Aug. 12, 2019 at 3, available at https://intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/20190812_-_whistleblower_complaint_unclass.pdf

[2] Patrick Reevell & Lucien Bruggeman, “Ukrainians understood Biden probe was condition for Trump-Zelenskiy talks, says former Ukrainian adviser,” ABC News, Sept. 25, 2019. 

[3] Kenneth P. Vogel, “Rudy Giuliani Plans Ukraine Trip to Push for Inquiries That Could Help Trump,” The New York Times, May 9, 2019.

[4] Rudy Giuliani, Interview with Laura Ingraham, The Ingraham Angle, Fox News, Sept. 25, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPsiSM4H8ZY.

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