Senate Democrats To Grill Trump Nominee Over Recalled Ukraine Ambassador

While House Democrats continue to chase a Trump impeachment, Senate Democrats will have a rare opportunity on Wednesday to question a key administration official involved in the controversy. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will reportedly tell the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that President Trump recalled US diplomat to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, after she was singled out by Rudy Giuliani and others as having an anti-Trump agenda, according to Bloomberg.

Sullivan - Trump's nominee for US ambassador to Russia, won't dispute Yovanovitch's testimony that "there had been a concerted campaign against me, and that the Department had been under pressure from the president to remove me since the Summer of 2018," adding "He [Sullivan] also said that I had done nothing wrong and that this was not like other situations where he had recalled ambassadors for cause," she told House Democrats earlier this month.

He will be the first high-level State Department official we’ve had since we’re getting news that there was a concerted effort to fire the ambassador of Ukraine led by Rudy Giuliani,” said Senator Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “I’m going to ask him a lot about what the hell’s going on at the State Department.”

Democrats on the panel will almost certainly use Sullivan’s confirmation hearing to pursue the allegations at the heart of the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry -- that Trump held up U.S. aid and a promised White House meeting to extract a pledge from Ukraine’s new president to investigate Democrat Joe Biden and his son Hunter as well as a conspiracy theory that Ukraine and Democrats, not Russia favoring Trump, interfered in the 2016 election. -Bloomberg

Yovanovitch mentioned Sullivan by name, noting that he was the person who told her she was being recalled from her post several months early, despite having been extended through 2020 shortly before.

Senate Democrats are looking forward to the opportunity to question Sullivan.

"He’s No. 2 at the State Department," said Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the committee. "There’s a lot. From Russia to Ukraine to our ambassadors to political retaliation at the State Department, he has a lot of accounting to do."

They'll also get to ask whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempted to rein in efforts by Rudy Giuliani and others to encourage Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden.

The hearing also offers an opportunity for Senate Democrats to question the administration’s overall Russia policy, which critics say has been warped by Trump’s unusual affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Earlier this month, the Democrats on the Senate committee wrote to its Republican chairman, James Risch of Idaho, asking him to convene hearings on the Trump-Ukraine issue.

“The Foreign Relations Committee has an obligation to examine the serious questions raised by these events,” the senators stated in the Oct. 9 letter, which was led by the committee’s ranking Democrat, Robert Menendez of New Jersey. -Politico

Sullivan will also likely face questions about allegations of political retaliation within the State Department against career staffers, according to Politico, citing Senate Democratic aides.