An ex-Hill staffer who worked closely with a top progressive Democrat says there’s no chance she didn’t vet the controversial Ukraine letter. ‘She keeps a tight grip on media relations’

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Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington at a press conference on banning lawmakers from trading stocks on April 7, 2022.
Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington on April 7, 2022.

  • A top progressive Democrat withdrew a controversial letter to the White House on Ukraine, blaming a staffer for its release.
  • But an ex-Hill staffer who worked closely with her office said that’s “absurd.”
  • “Everyone who has worked with her office knows that she keeps a tight grip on media relations,” the former Hill staffer said.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal withdrew a controversial letter to President Joe Biden on Ukraine, saying it was drafted months ago and “unfortunately was released by staff without vetting.”

But a former Hill staffer who worked closely with her office called the idea “absurd” that a release left her office without her approval.

“I would be shocked if they hit send on that release without her knowing,” the former staffer wrote, adding he doesn’t know Jayapal’s current communications team. “Everyone who has worked with her office knows that she keeps a tight grip on media relations. She has held up press releases over small edits and delayed letting staff hit send while she reworks language – though delaying a release by three months would be a new record.”

The Monday letter signed by 30 Democrats and led by Jayapal of Washington state called on Biden to pursue negotiations with Russia to end the war in Ukraine. The letter urged Biden to “pair the military and economic support the United States has provided to Ukraine with a proactive diplomatic push, redoubling efforts to seek a realistic framework for a ceasefire.”

After intense criticism, Jayapal withdrew the letter Tuesday and said she accepted responsibility for its release.

A spokesperson for Jayapal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some members of Congress give their communications staff leeway and others “micromanage their press operation and scrutinize every word of a tweet and press release. Rep. Jayapal is the latter,” the former Hill staffer said.

“You can’t blame the staff and then accept responsibility in the next line of your statement,” the former staffer wrote in an email. “That’s not how that works. And I doubt it was released by staff without vetting. That’s just not how she runs her office.”

John Haltiwanger contributed to this story.

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