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U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez. Photo by Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe

Republicans block Menendez’s Ukraine bill

Bill sought documents on military aid freeze

By Nikita Biryukov, September 25 2019 4:55 pm

Senate Republicans blocked a bill authored by U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez that would have ordered the State Department’s inspector general to investigate the White House’s freezing of close to $400 million in military aid to Ukraine Wednesday.

“It is time for this Congress to stand up for its Article 1 powers. We need to act quickly to send a message to this White House and to the Kremlin,” said Menendez, who is ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “If there is anything we have learned from President Trump, it is that lawlessness begets lawlessness. It is time for us to remind the American people and the world that the rule of law means something.”

On Wednesday, the White House released a memo showing President Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that, so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great,” Trump told Zelensky, according to the memo. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you ·can look into it.”

The memo is not a transcript and does not reflect a verbatim account of the phone call, though it nonetheless confirms media reports published over the past week that said Trump sought to push a foreign country to investigate a political opponent.

Trump brought up Biden’s son after Zelensky asked about the frozen military aid.

Were it not blocked by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Hirsch (R-Idaho), Menendez bill would have required the state department to release all documents related to the funding freeze and any documents showing whether the department attempted to facilitate a meeting between Zelensky and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is Trump’s personal lawyer.

It’s unlikely the bill would have made it through a Republican-controlled Senate.

“We will not allow the corrupting of our national security assistance. We will not allow our relationship with Ukraine to become a political football,” Menendez said. “And we will not let the foreign policy of the United States be corrupted for campaign purposes.”

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