Democrats question Pence, Perry on travel to Ukraine

Democrats question Pence, Perry on travel to Ukraine
© Getty Images

Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking member Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezMedia's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle Dem senators say Iran threat to embassies not mentioned in intelligence briefing Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers MORE (D-N.J.) on Tuesday questioned Vice President Pence and Energy Secretary Rick PerryRick PerryTrump: Senate should decide on witnesses; Bolton testimony poses national security risk Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial Parnas pressure grows on Senate GOP MORE regarding their travel to Ukraine as the White House faces scrutiny for its dealings with the country.  

The questions in letters Menendez sent to Pence and Perry centered around Pence’s canceled trip to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's inauguration and Perry’s trip in his place

"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 TrumpDonald John TrumpKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Louise Linton, wife of Mnuchin, deletes Instagram post in support of Greta Thunberg MORE 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," Menendez wrote in his letter to Perry.

ADVERTISEMENT

Menendez asked the Energy secretary about who asked him to lead the delegation and why, as well as whether he was asked to convey "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."

The Democrat asked Pence why his trip was canceled and also questioned him on his travel to the country in September. 

"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 GiulianiRudy GiulianiDemocrats see Mulvaney as smoking gun witness at Trump trial Pompeo lashes out at 'shameful' NPR reporter Trump legal team launches impeachment defense MORE, to try to dig up dirt on the Biden family,’ you did not answer the question,” he wrote to 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,”  he added. 

Menendez requested that the administration officials answer his questions by this Friday. 

The inauguration trip is mentioned in the recently released whistleblower complaint in which Trump is accused of pushing Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenDes Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Sanders faces lingering questions about appeal to women voters George Conway: Witness missing from impeachment trial is Trump MORE for Trump's benefit. The president has denied wrongdoing. 

"On or around 14 May, the President instructed Vice President Pence to cancel his planned travel to Ukraine to attend President Zelenskyy' s inauguration on 20 May," the complaint said, citing U.S. officials. "Secretary of Energy Rick Perry led the delegation instead."

"According to these officials, it was also 'made clear; to them that the President did not want to meet with Mr. Zelenskyy until he saw how Zelenskyy 'chose to act; in office. I do not know how this guidance was communicated, or by whom. I also do not know whether this action was connected with the broader understanding, described in the unclassified letter, that a meeting or phone call between the President and President Zelenskyy would depend on whether Zelenskyy showed willingness to 'play ball,' " it continued.