U.S. Energy chief says departure has ‘absolutely nothing’ to do with Ukraine

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry speaks during a news conference after the Partnership for Transatlantic Energy Cooperation conference in Vilnius, Lithuania October 7, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

(Reuters) – U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Friday the controversy over the Trump administration’s handling of Ukraine had nothing to do with his resignation, adding he did not know whether he would cooperate with House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

Perry’s departure was announced by U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday. He has found himself engulfed in Congress’ impeachment investigation into whether the Republican president improperly withheld nearly $400 million in military aid for Ukraine in exchange for Kiev investigating his Democratic political rivals.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with Ukraine,” Perry said of his planned departure in a Fox News interview, adding that he was looking to return to Texas for “the next adventure in life.”

Last week, the three Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives committees leading the impeachment probe issued a subpoena for Perry to turn over documents by Friday regarding any role he played in Trump’s alleged bid to pressure Ukraine.

Asked if he would meet House Democrats’ deadline, Perry deferred to his legal team.

“Our general counsel is taking a look at that right now and when they send their answer at the end of the day, whatever their decision will be, I’ll follow that,” Perry said.

The impeachment probe centers on Trump’s alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a July 25 call to investigate his unsubstantiated allegation that former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, improperly tried to aid his son Hunter’s business interests in Ukraine.

Trump also asked Zelenskiy for “a favor” to look into a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 U.S. election involving a Democratic National Committee computer server and the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe and Susan Heavey; Editing by Alex Richardson and Pravin Char

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