Top Democrat Retracts Ukraine Letter, Blames Staff

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) retracted a letter Tuesday urging President Joe Biden to negotiate directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine, with its chairwoman blaming staffers for incorrectly releasing it.

Thirty members of the CPC, including all four members of the “Squad,” submitted the letter out of concern for “the catastrophic possibilities of nuclear escalation and miscalculation,” they wrote. To avoid nuclear war, Biden should directly negotiate with Putin, they argued, even though administration officials have pledged not to involve themselves in peace talks unless the Ukrainians request it, according to The New York Times. The letter sparked immediate outcry from fellow Democrats, and several signatories disavowed the letter, which had been drafted in July.

“The letter was drafted several months ago, but unfortunately was released by staff without vetting. As Chair of the Caucus, I take responsibility for this,” Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal of Washington said in a statement.

“Every war ends with diplomacy, and this one will too after Ukrainian victory. The letter sent yesterday, although restating that basic principle, has been conflated with GOP opposition to support for the Ukrainians’ just defense of their national sovereignty. As such, it is a distraction at this time and we withdraw the letter,” she continued.

Some Republicans have balked at further aid packages to Ukraine. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Punchbowl News that Republicans are “not going to write a blank check to Ukraine” if they take back the lower chamber in the midterms, while 57 GOP representatives and eleven senators voted against a funding package in May.

Republican Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie praised the letter writers for “having the courage to push back against the narrative” while calling for “an honest national discussion about what a peaceful end to the war in Ukraine looks like.(RELATED: ‘Recipe For Disaster’: Rand Paul Defends Blocking Ukraine Military Aid Package, Takes Shot At John McCain)

Signatories Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Mark Takano and Sara Jacobs of California walked back their support for the letter before the retraction, with Jacobs saying she “wouldn’t sign it today.”