Wyden Sounds Alarm on Energy Nominee Vote

Madam President, here’s what everybody needs to know before the vote coming up on the nominee to be Energy Secretary.

First, Rick Perry, who until yesterday was the Energy Secretary, has refused to comply with a subpoena to testify about his involvement in the Trump-Ukraine scheme.

Second, Acting Secretary Dan Brouillette, nominated to replace Perry, has failed to provide substantive answers to key questions about Perry’s dealings with Ukranian state-owned energy company Naftogaz.

Third, since I have been raising questions on this matter, Naftogaz executives have reportedly begun coming forward to cooperate in a federal investigation into the Ukraine scheme.

Mr. Perry has virtually skipped town – leaving his job after insisting for months that he was determined to stay – while the Ukraine scandal is front and center in the House impeachment inquiry.

And here, with the vote on Perry’s replacement just minutes away, the Senate is truly in the dark, lacking answers to important questions. Questions about Perry’s role in a campaign to change the leadership of Naftogaz. Questions about what Perry, his donors and certain crooked associates of Rudy Giuliani stood to gain from those changes. Questions about Perry’s role in the Ukraine scandal, which Trump administration officials have admitted was about withholding critical military aid and a face-to-face meeting until the Ukrainian president agreed to do Donald Trump a political favor.

These are serious issues closely tied to ongoing investigations. This goes way-way-way beyond the well-documented Trump cabinet waste and abuses – private jets, soundproof booths and $30,000 desks. This is about the administration using its full might to pressure a foreign leader into helping Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. We ought to know Rick Perry’s involvement.

Colleagues, what is the rush on confirming his replacement? This isn’t the first week of a new administration. Nothing is going to happen to the power plants or the nukes if the Senate takes the time to demand key answers. Dan Brouillette is already the acting secretary. No American interest suffers if the Senate insists on getting answers that go right to the heart of our oversight responsibilities.

Let’s go back to recall what this is all about. Rick Perry is famously one of the “three amigos,” the group that seized control of our country’s ties with Ukraine under the direction of the president and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Secretary Perry led the American delegation that attended President Zelenskiy’s inauguration in May, after Mike Pence was told to stay home. Pence and Zelenskiy held a private meeting. It’s been reported that Perry pushed President Zelenskiy to fire members of the board of Naftogaz and replace them with Perry’s own political donors. 

At a subsequent meeting with Ukrainian government and energy sector officials, Perry reportedly said the entire board should be replaced. The Associated Press reported that an attendee at the meeting, quote, “said he was floored by the American requests because the person had always viewed the U.S. government ‘as having a higher ethical standard.’”

The changes Perry was seeking lined up with changes sought by a pair of now-indicted gentlemen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, pals of Rudy Giuliani’s. They were also wanted different leadership at Naftogaz.

I’ll read directly from an Associated Press report:

“As Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukrainian officials last spring to investigate one of Donald Trump’s main political rivals, a group of individuals with ties to the president and his personal lawyer were also active in the former Soviet republic. Their aims were profit, not politics. This circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company. Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two people with knowledge of their plans.”

Federal prosecutors are now investigating Rudy Giuliani’s role. At least one Naftogaz official is reportedly cooperating in the investigation.

And some of Rick Perry’s political donors did score a lucrative energy deal in Ukraine after Perry got involved there. Perry admits he was in contact with Giuliani about Ukraine. It was also revealed in impeachment testimony that Perry was seemingly made aware in July of the Trump scheme in Ukraine.

Unlike Fiona Hill, unlike David Holmes, unlike Lt. Colonel Vindman, Rick Perry has refused to testify and share what he knows with the public.

For nearly three weeks I’ve been trying to get answers. At Mr. Brouillette’s nomination hearing on November 14th, I asked him some basic questions. It came down to this: Who did Secretary Perry meet with regarding Ukraine and Naftogaz? He was the head of a powerful department – and he was also one of the self-styled “three amigos.” Who else was in the loop?

Acting Secretary Brouillette only acknowledged that there were meetings. He gave no other information. So I’ve kept asking questions. Who took part in the meetings with Perry on Naftogaz? When and where did those meetings take place? What materials were produced? Who outside the department did Secretary Perry speak with regarding changes and Naftogaz, and what was the substance of those communications?

It’s not like Rick Perry would have paid his own way to Kyiv and freelanced a Three Amigos Ukraine policy in secret. He was the head of the Energy Department. And it looks like he was right at the heart of the Trump corruption schemes in Ukraine.

So colleagues, it is malpractice for the Senate to rush this debate before getting answers from Perry and the administration.

I cannot support moving forward on this nominee. I’m going to vote no, and I urge my colleagues to join me.