U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

10/20/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/21/2019 09:03

***ICYMI*** On ABC’s This Week, Menendez Reacts to Sec. Pompeo Interview, Discusses Crisis in Syria and Trump-Ukraine Scandal

October 20, 2019

WASHINGTON - Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, appeared today on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos to discuss pressing international affairs issues including the ongoing crisis in northern Syria and the latest on the Trump-Ukraine scandal.

Ranking Member Menendez also provided his immediate reaction to an interview with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in which the Secretary defended the Trump administration's 120-hour 'ceasefire' following the withdrawal of U.S. support for American-backed Kurdish forces. Secretary Pompeo was also questioned about his failure to defend career professionals in the State Department from politically-motivated targeting, and the White House's admission that the President withheld foreign security aid to Ukraine to bolster his 2020 election prospects.

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The below excerpts have been edited for length and clarity.

On Sec. Pompeo's defense of President Trump's withdrawal of U.S. troops in Syria:

'I think the Secretary lives in a parallel, alternate universe. What the President did is a betrayal of the Kurds who fought and died alongside of us in pursuit of ending the threat of ISIS.'

'That is part of the problem here, all roads lead to Russia with this President. Every time there is an issue or a conflict, it seems that Russia ends up winning.'

On the administration's Syria ceasefire that appears to give Turkey everything it wants:

'There is no guarantees that the administration got with this deal as it relates to the reconfiguration of ISIS and the 10,000 ISIS fighters that the Kurds were detaining. There are no guarantees from Iran that they won't build their land bridge and threaten our ally the state of Israel. There are no guarantees about our interests. In fact, not only will Russia have a greater say in the future of Syria, everybody in the region is also recalibrating and rethinking about what their alliances should be.'

On Congressional response to Turkish offensive in Syria:

'The resolution that I coauthored in the Senate along with Senator Young is the same as the one passed by the House in a 354-60 vote. That resolution condemns the President's actions and calls for a change of course. Secondly, I have also introduced comprehensive legislation with Senator Risch, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to do a series of things: sanction Turkey, sanction Russia, and require the administration to provide a complete counter-ISIS strategy… Our legislation will try to have a comprehensive approach and also seek to provide some humanitarian and other assistance to the Kurds.

'If we send a global message that the U.S. will abandon those who have fought alongside with us, then others in the world, when asked to fight with us or for us, will say, 'why should I do that? When you finish using me, you will leave me to die in the battlefield.''

On Trump-Ukraine scandal:

'The President extorted - or was seeking to extort - President Zelensky of Ukraine. He held back over $400 million dollars that a bipartisan group in Congress voted to give Ukraine to fight Russia...As it is now clear, everything that led up to that call between President Zelensky and President Trump was done to exert undue pressure on Ukraine. This is the worst kind of weaponizing of U.S. foreign assistance.'

On Pompeo's obstruction of Congressional oversight:

'Under the Trump administration, the Secretary of State and the State Department have done everything humanly possible to impede, obstruct and not provide information... all Sec. Pompeo has ever said is 'no' in response to the oversight requests from our committee; all he has ever said is 'no' in response to the pursuit of information as part of the House's inquiry; all he has ever said is 'no, obstruct, delay and refuse to cooperate.' So his newfound desire to cooperate is pretty amazing.'

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