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‘A D.C. Screwup’: Signatures of Wisconsin Democrats on Ukraine letter released and retracted just before election

Madison-area Congressman Mark Pocan said the letter never should have been made public.

From left, Democratic Reps. Mark Pocan of Madison and Gwen Moore of Milwaukee, both signed the letter.

By Christina Lieffring and Peter Cameron, THE BADGER PROJECT

The signatures of two Wisconsin congressional representatives were on the letter that was released last week — then quickly withdrawn — that appeared to criticize the Biden Administration’s policy on the war in Ukraine.

Democratic Reps. Mark Pocan from Madison and Gwen Moore from Milwaukee joined 28 prominent House left-wingers in signing the letter when it was drafted in the summer.

But, on Twitter last week, Pocan called the release and quick retraction by the office of Rep. Pramila Jayapal “a DC screwup.”  Pocan is a Congressional Progressive Caucus leader and had served with Jayapal as co-chair of the left-wing group of U.S. House representatives before stepping down. Jayapal now is the group’s sole chair.

The letter was intended to urge President Joe Biden to stay his course, “keeping diplomacy on the table,” and was a response to American “warhawks” who were arguing for an escalation, Pocan said in his statement on Twitter. A Washington Post article that suggested the letter was a criticism of the Biden Administration was incorrect, Pocan said.

“Bad timing for a 3-month-old letter,” Pocan tweeted. “It never should have been sent in the first place. Our support for Ukraine is as consistent with (the president) as ever.”

Moore’s office did not provide a comment when contacted by The Badger Project.

The letter, released on Oct. 24, stated that to “avoid a prolonged conflict” in Ukraine, the Biden Administration must “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.”

In a follow-up statement announcing she was withdrawing the letter, Jayapal said it was “released by staff without vetting.”

“As chair of the caucus, I accept responsibility for this,” she said.

Coming just two weeks before the midterm election, the public unveiling of the letter surprised and angered many of its signatories, Pocan said.

“Those who signed on were not consulted on its release,” he noted on Twitter.

Left-wing representatives Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley were among the others who signed.

Some reporting has claimed Jayapal personally approved the letter’s release last week, despite her saying it was a mistake. The episode may endanger her expected run for leadership in the greater Democratic caucus, other reporting has suggested.

The Badger Project is a nonpartisan, citizen-supported journalism nonprofit in Wisconsin.

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