Democratic senators demand answers on US involvement in foiled Venezuela plot

Democratic senators demand answers on US involvement in foiled Venezuela plot
© Bonnie Cash

Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday called on Trump administration officials to share information about a foiled military operation against the ruling Venezuelan government that involved two American citizens.

Venezuelan authorities over the weekend released photos showing the arrest of two American citizens allegedly involved in an attempted coup against embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro that was launched by military defectors.

One of the Americans, Jordan Goudreau, is a former U.S. Army Green Beret and founder of the private security firm Silvercorp USA.

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In a letter Thursday to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoChinese lawmakers approve law allowing for stricter crackdown on Hong Kong The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US virus deaths exceed 100,000; Pelosi pulls FISA bill Overnight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for Iran nuclear projects | Top Dems says State working on new Saudi arms sale | 34-year-old Army reservist ID'd as third military COVID-19 death MORE, Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrFrustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  Barr asks US attorney to further investigate 'unmasking' in 2016 Trump threatens to veto FISA bill ahead of House vote MORE and acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, the senators demanded information on whether the U.S. provided any assistance to the foiled attack.

“Either the U.S. government was unaware of these planned operations, or was aware and allowed them to proceed. Both possibilities are problematic,” Sens. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphySenators weigh traveling amid coronavirus ahead of Memorial Day Congress eyes changes to small business pandemic aid Top Democrat to introduce bill to limit Trump's ability to fire IGs MORE (D-Conn.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineBipartisan senators introduce bill to make changes to the Paycheck Protection Program Overnight Defense: National Guard chief negative in third coronavirus test | Pentagon IG probing Navy's coronavirus response | Democrats blast use of Russia deterrence funds on border wall Overnight Defense: Navy secretary nominee: Service in 'rough waters' after 'failure of leadership'| Senate fails to override Trump's Iran war powers veto| Top Armed Services Republican expects to address Pentagon border wall funds in defense policy bill MORE (D-Va.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallDHS watchdog to investigate COVID-19 cases in ICE detention facilities Hispanic Caucus makes major ad buy for New Mexico Democratic candidate for House Senate votes to reauthorize intel programs with added legal protections MORE (D-N.M.) wrote.

They demanded information on American policy toward Venezuela, saying support of a military operation is in violation of the VERDAD Act, signed into law in December, that states U.S. policy is to engage diplomatically to advance a negotiated solution to Venezuela’s political, economic and humanitarian crisis.

“Armed raids, even if they are carried out by independent actors, run counter to that policy,” the senators wrote. “Moreover, such incursions harm the prospects for a peaceful democratic transition in Venezuela by insinuating that an armed intervention is a viable option to resolve the crisis, potentially undermining the willingness of hardline opposition actors to negotiate, while simultaneously allowing Maduro to rally support to his side, strengthening his hand.”

Pompeo has echoed statements by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K coronavirus deaths DOJ: George Floyd death investigation a 'top priority' Lifting our voices — and votes MORE and senior administration officials that the U.S. government had no direct involvement in the operation.

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“If we had been involved, it would have gone differently,” Pompeo said Wednesday in a briefing with reporters.

The secretary said he is prepared to release information at an appropriate time about “who bankrolled” the operation.

The U.S. considers Maduro’s leadership as illegitimate and backs the opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Pompeo in March unveiled a “pathway to democracy” for Venezuela for Maduro to step aside in favor of new, general elections.