Political News

Menendez requests information from Trump administration as Ukraine scrutiny heightens

Posted September 24, 2019 9:04 a.m. EDT

— The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday sent letters to three Trump administration officials requesting information about President Donald Trump's July call with Ukraine's President amid escalating scrutiny over the conversation.

The letters from Sen. Bob Menendez -- sent to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Inspector General Steve Linick -- come after the New Jersey Democrat made clear on the House floor Monday that he would seek more information on the call as House Democrats near a "tipping point" on impeachment in the wake of the Trump administration blocking a related whistleblower complaint's release to Congress.

On Friday, CNN reported Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25 call to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, according to a person familiar with the situation. That call was part of the whistleblower complaint submitted to the Intelligence Community Inspector General, another person familiar with the situation told CNN. Trump on Sunday acknowledged that he discussed Biden with Zelensky but has denied doing anything improper.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.

In his letter to Linick, Menendez requests that the Inspector General "immediately open an investigation" into the Trump administration's withholding of foreign military assistance to Ukraine and whether it was tied to the whistleblower complaint.

Menendez calls the withholding a "highly unusual move and without any legitimate explanation."

Menendez's letter to Pompeo seeks information surrounding the State Department regarding the agency's "role in delaying assistance to the Ukraine and facilitating meetings between the President's personal attorney and Ukrainian officials to discuss a potential Ukrainian investigation intended to bolster The President's 2020 election prospects."

The letter requests a series of records surrounding the July call with a requested response by September 30.

Menendez's letter to Mulvaney similarly requests details regarding the role "the Office of Management and Budget, and you personally, played" in blocking security assistance to the Ukraine.

Trump previously branded criticism of the call a "Ukrainian Witch Hunt," while Biden accused the President of abusing his power to "smear" him. White House officials are considering releasing a transcript of Trump's call with the Ukrainian President, multiple sources have told CNN, but some senior administration officials are balking at the idea and the precedent it could send. Trump on Monday remained unclear about the fate of the transcript.

Earlier this month, the chairmen of the House committees on Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight announced an investigation into allegations that Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani had pressured the Ukrainian government to back Trump's reelection campaign. And over the weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sharpened her rhetoric on the White House's refusal to produce the whistleblower complaint.

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