State Politics

Dems call on Foreign Relations Chairman Risch to hold hearings on Trump-Ukraine scandal

Idaho Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, who serves as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, is facing pressure from Democratic committee members to address President Donald Trump’s impeachment scandal involving Ukraine.

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, the ranking member of the committee — along with the nine other Democratic committee members — sent a letter to Risch on Oct. 9. The committee members requested he “promptly convene hearings” on the “serious allegations” that have arisen regarding Trump’s interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“The Foreign Relations Committee has an obligation to examine the serious questions raised by these events,” wrote the members. “As the Committee charged with jurisdiction over U.S. foreign policy, it is incumbent on us to understand fully all the facts, including the circumstances surrounding the delay in U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, the early departure of the U.S. ambassador to Kyiv, the Department of State’s role in these matters, as well as the implications these events may have on U.S-Ukraine relations, and U.S foreign policy more broadly.”

When asked how Risch will respond to the letter, his office on Thursday told the Statesman, “He’s currently reviewing it and will respond to their inquiry directly.”

Risch typically refuses to publicly comment on Trump’s or the White House’s actions.

In other foreign relations news, the White House on Oct. 6 announced that U.S. forces in northeast Syria would pull back to clear the way for an expected Turkish assault on Kurds in the area. For years, Kurdish fighters have fought alongside American forces to defeat ISIS.

When asked by the Statesman on Oct. 7 for comment on Trump’s decision to abruptly draw down U.S. forces in Syria, Risch replied, “My staff and I are speaking with the administration and interested parties to fully understand intentions and potential consequences. We will have a statement in due course.”

Late Wednesday afternoon, Risch issued his statement on Turkey:

“Turkey’s aggressive actions raise serious concerns. Such an action lacks international support and risks a precipitous decline in the U.S.-Turkey relationship, as President Trump has robustly described. Continued Turkish aggression will derail international efforts to maintain pressure against the Islamic State and will undoubtedly result in further humanitarian suffering. The Kurds, who have borne the brunt of the fighting against ISIS, have been instrumental in preventing the terrorist group’s resurgence. All parties should immediately de-escalate and return to border security discussions.”

Idaho Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo on Thursday weighed in on the Turkey/Syria crisis in a social media post:

“The Kurdish forces have been stalwart partners in the ongoing fight against ISIS’s resurgence in the destabilized region. Turkey’s hostile conduct in Syria is unacceptable. President Erdogan’s actions empower enemies of the United States and will lead to detrimental diplomatic, security and economic outcomes. Although the Islamic State has been crippled, Turkey’s continued unilateral military intervention will hinder years of progress and partnerships to eviscerate threats of the Islamic State entirely.”

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Idaho Statesman investigative reporter Cynthia Sewell was named Idaho Press Club reporter of the year in 2017 and 2008. A University of Oregon graduate, she joined the Statesman in 2005. Her family has lived in Idaho since the mid-1800s.