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Tipsheet

That Public Relations Disaster Caused by Dem Ukraine Letter to Biden Just Got Worse

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Rebecca wrote about this earlier today, but Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is taking heat for throwing her staff under the bus for what the Washington Democrat said was an ill-advised letter to Joe Biden calling for him to negotiate with the Russians to end the war in Ukraine. It was drafted months ago but was released without being vetted. Jayapal attempted to do damage control but made more of a mess, blaming this kerfuffle on a staff error (via NBC News):

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Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, on Tuesday announced the group had retracted a letter that asked President Joe Biden to directly engage with Russia in an effort to end the war in Ukraine.

The retraction of the letter, which was sent Monday, came after the progressives' effort to press the president to take a more aggressive strategy on Ukraine was met with intense pushback from fellow Democrats and some Ukrainians.

In a statement announcing the retraction, Jayapal blamed the letter’s release on a staff error.

“The letter was drafted several months ago, but unfortunately was released by staff without vetting," Jayapal said. "As chair of the caucus, I accept responsibility for this.”

“Because of the timing, our message is being conflated by some as being equivalent to the recent statement by Republican Leader McCarthy threatening an end to aid to Ukraine if Republicans take over,” Jayapal continued, referring to a statement by Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., that if Republicans win back the House majority next month, they're not going to write "a blank check" to the country.

“The proximity of these statements created the unfortunate appearance that Democrats, who have strongly and unanimously supported and voted for every package of military, strategic, and economic assistance to the Ukrainian people, are somehow aligned with Republicans who seek to pull the plug on American support for President Zelensky and the Ukrainian forces,” Jayapal continued.

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To make things messier, it seems Jayapal personally approved the letter, with reports that this oversight could damage her leadership ambitions. With Election Day weeks away, this internal drama is the last thing Democrats want in the news cycle. They’re already seen as an incompetent party incapable of doing anything to resolve the economic recession, the oppressive inflation, and the spike in crime. Not being able to coordinate things regarding a simple letter to the president is a new level of ineptitude. Democratic staffers have come forward anonymously to vent about the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ “amateur hour” move (via Politico):

A source familiar with the situation told POLITICO that Jayapal personally approved the letter’s release on Monday. Spokespeople for the Progressive Caucus and Jayapal’s personal office, asked for comment, referred back to the group’s statement without denying Jayapal’s direct involvement.

 […]

The original release date for the letter was August 1, a congressional aide said, adding that it was never made clear why there was a delay. Its text was circulating on the Hill during August’s weeks-long legislative recess.

“Once you sign on to a letter, it’s up to the original drafters and unfortunately not all of them will keep folks updated,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the Progressive Caucus whip and a signatory of the pro-Russia-diplomacy letter, tweeted Tuesday. “That’s why some of us don’t sign on to letters without direct insight into when or how it will be released.”

Other signatories and congressional aides blamed the Progressive Caucus’ office for releasing it as questions swirl over whether Republicans would continue funding Ukraine’s defense if they win the House majority in two weeks, as is expected.

“Amateur hour on part of the CPC not to have anticipated that,” said one lawmaker who signed on and, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

A Hill staffer put it even more bluntly: “It’s just a disaster. The CPC just needs to clean house.”

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Now, most of the members of the CPC are safe since they represent deep blue districts, and I doubt this will move the needle in the 2022 elections. The economic issues are king, but this will create an internal matter for Democrats on the Hill. Yet, this fiasco over a letter, North Carolina Democratic field staffers threatening to strike over their contract dispute, and the Democrats’ overall lethargic response regarding inflation are why voters seem poised to wash them away in a red tsunami.

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