- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2019

A group of Senate Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee are demanding that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recuse himself from handling any matters that involve Ukraine.

A Thursday letter to Mr. Pompeo cited recent testimony from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who told the House impeachment inquiry earlier this week that the secretary was consistently informed about President Trump’s decision to withhold security aide to Ukraine as part of what Mr. Sondland said a quid pro quo deal to spur a damaging investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden.

“These acts leave us with little doubt that you are blocking the Congress and American people from obtaining a full account of the scandal solely because the facts are damaging to your and the President’s personal and political interests,” the lawmakers wrote.

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The group, which includes Sens. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Chris Coons of Delaware, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and Cory Booker of New Jersey, claimed that the only “legitimate” move for Mr. Pompeo would be for him to recuse himself from all matters relating to Ukraine “and to delegate the department’s response to the Trump-Ukraine scandal to a senior career Department official.”

Mr. Pompeo has largely shrugged of the revelations in the House inquiry, telling reporters on a trip to Europe this week he had not paid any attention to Amb. Sondland’s testimony.

The letter was issued just one day after Mr. Trump’s pick to be the No. 2 official at the State Department told the committee that any department employees who testify in the ongoing House impeachment inquiry will not face punishment for cooperating.

Stephen Biegun, the president’s nominee for deputy secretary of state, said the department has made it “clear” that “there will not be disciplinary action by the State Department against any of our employees who are testifying under subpoena in front of the House inquiry commission” and will continue to provide legal and financial resources to those who have been called upon.

According to Mr. Sondland’s testimony, Mr. Pompeo has refused to produce department records relating to the ongoing inquiry, and the department withheld the ambassador’s access to his materials to prepare for the hearing.

“Given your direct involvement in the scandal, you have a profound conflict of interest and you must recuse yourself,” the senators wrote.

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