Politics

Union raises money to help U.S. diplomats pay impeachment legal bills

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The union representing U.S. diplomats said on Monday it has raised tens of thousands of dollars in the last week alone to help defray the legal costs of foreign service officers who have testified in U.S. President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry.

The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) also issued a statement defending U.S. diplomats after Trump criticized several of those who have appeared before Congress and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said nothing specific in their support.

“These patriots go abroad to every corner of the world and serve the interests of the American people,” AFSA President Eric Rubin said in a statement. “They do so with integrity and have no partisan or hidden agenda.”

“We should honor the service of each and every one of them.”

Separately, Rubin said: “We have raised tens of thousands of dollars in the past week alone” in the union’s Legal Defense Fund to help defray lawyers’ bills. He did not provide details.

One person caught up in the inquiry said he had already run up a legal bill of more than $25,000.

Neither the State Department nor the White House responded to requests for comment. A State Department spokesperson has previously said the agency planned to provide legal assistance to employees called to testify but did not give details.

Trump lashed out on Sunday at Jennifer Williams, a U.S. diplomat and foreign policy aide to Vice President Mike Pence who has testified that some of Trump’s comments on a July 25 phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart were “inappropriate.”

The call is at the heart of the Democratic-led House of Representatives’ inquiry into whether Republican Trump misused U.S. foreign policy to undermine former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, a potential opponent in the 2020 election.

Writing on Twitter, Trump accused Williams of being a “Never Trumper” who should “work out a better presidential attack.”

Trump has denied wrongdoing and branded the probe a witch hunt aimed at hurting his re-election chances.

Asked on Monday why he had not spoken in support of his employees, Pompeo said he would talk about U.S. policy toward Ukraine but not about the impeachment inquiry.

Pressed, he said nothing specific: “I always defend State Department employees. It’s the greatest diplomatic corps in the history of the world. Very proud of the team.”

Asked if he shared Trump’s view, expressed on Twitter, that “everywhere (former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine) Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Pompeo replied: “I’ll defer to the White House about particular statements.”

Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Richard Chang and Tom Hogue

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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