Democrats say U.S. withdrawal from Open Skies Treaty may be illegal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senior Senate Democrats accused President Donald Trump's government of violating the law on Monday last month when it announced its intention to withdraw the United States from the Open Skies Treaty.
In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mike Esper, the Democrats said the government had not given Congress the legally required 120-day notice prior to the start of the withdrawal process.
The United States announced on May 22 that it would withdraw from the Open Skies agreement with 35 nations that would allow unarmed surveillance flights over member countries. It was the Trump administration's latest move to pull the country out of a large global treaty. [L1N2D311W]
The government said Russia had repeatedly violated the terms of the pact.
The government's letter to Democratic Senate chairman Chuck Schumer and Senators Bob Menendez, Mark Warner and Jack Reed, top Democrats on External Relations, Intelligence and Armed Forces Committees, called on the government to end withdrawal efforts immediately.
It also suggested that Trump's decision may have been politically motivated, since it took place less than five months before his re-election in November.
"The beginning of the United States' withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty without compliance with U.S. law or constitutional practice is an obvious political move to tie a future government," the letter said.
Officials from the White House, the Department of Defense and the State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(This story corrects the addition of Menendez, committees, in paragraph 5.)

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Dan Grebler)

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