Democratic senator presses Pompeo on removal of former US ambassador

Democratic Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDemocrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Trump appointee sparks bipartisan furor for politicizing media agency MORE (N.J.) on Friday pressed Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' MORE over the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine as well as the ouster of a former ambassador to the country earlier this year.

Menendez sent a letter to Pompeo on Friday questioning the State Department official's interactions with Ukraine, including demanding answers about the ouster of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in May.

"Why was the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine recalled in May 2019? Did you approve that decision?" Menendez wrote in the letter, calling for the Trump administration official to explain what he described as a "perversion of U.S. foreign policy." 

Yovanovitch is among several key State Department figures House Democrats have scheduled depositions for next month as part of their impeachment inquiry against Trump.


The Associated Press reported that while Yovanovitch's resignation drew little attention when it happened earlier this year — with the State Department saying she was merely ending her term ahead of a scheduled exit — others in the diplomatic community were "appalled" by her removal.

The ambassador was mentioned in Trump's July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine that was integral to the start of a formal impeachment inquiry this week. Trump told the Ukrainian leader that Yovanovitch was "bad news" and "going to go through some things," according to a memo released by the White House.

Menendez praised the former U.S. diplomat on Twitter on Friday, saying her "service and sacrifice is emblematic of the countless career officials at the @StateDept who dedicate their lives to promoting American ideals and values, human rights, freedom, gender equality, and democracy."

The Democratic senator is requesting that Pompeo testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after a whistleblower complaint alleged several State Department and intelligence officials were briefed on Trump's Ukraine call, which has since become the center of mounting scrutiny surrounding the president's contacts with the country.

Menendez's letter contained more than a dozen questions to answer by Oct. 1 about contacts with Ukraine and the role of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiKrebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Trump campaign loses appeal over Pennsylvania race Krebs: I'm 'most upset' I didn't get to say goodbye to my team MORE, who said the State Department asked him to take a call from Ukraine, in the events.

“As Secretary of State, you are charged with carrying out foreign policy for the United States,” Menendez wrote in the letter. “Yet it appears that our policy with Ukraine was effectively outsourced to a private individual pursuing the personal vendettas of the President.”

He also tweeted, “My message to @SecPompeo: 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.”

The House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released a declassified version of a whistleblower complaint that raises concerns about the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which they discussed former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force MORE and his son, as well as alleged "efforts to restrict access to records related to the call."

The phone call was the catalyst for Democrats to launch a formal impeachment inquiry against the president earlier this week.