Editor's Brief

We’re All Kurt Volker

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: Former State Department special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker makes a opening statement before testifying with former National Security Council Senior Director for European and Russian Af... WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 19: Former State Department special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker makes a opening statement before testifying with former National Security Council Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs Tim Morrison to the House Intelligence Committee in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. The committee heard testimony during the third day of open hearings in the impeachment inquiry against U.S. President Donald Trump, whom House Democrats say held back U.S. military aid for Ukraine while demanding it investigate his political rivals and the unfounded conspiracy theory that Ukrainians, not Russians, were behind the 2016 computer hacking of the Democratic National Committee. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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November 19, 2019 8:41 p.m.

The “we” in the title is admittedly doing a lot of work, as they say. “We” applies to some of us more than others. Indeed, I should say I found much of Amb. Volker’s testimony far short of credible. But if we take his claims at face value he found himself, to use his words, trying to “thread the needle.” He could see that the requests from Rudy Giuliani (and the President) were at least problematic, specifically the focus on the company Burisma and what he now says he should have understood was targeting the Bidens. But if he could interpret these demands in such a way that they seemed facially legitimate (just a general restatement of the need to root out corruption in Ukraine) then he could provide what they were asking for in good conscience and advance the policy aims he genuinely seems to have believed in.

Burisma did have a reputation of corruption and even though he thought the claims about the 2016 election were baseless, what harm would there really be in looking into them? In other words, by adopting a kind of willful blindness to what was actually happening he could try to address Giuliani and Co’s demands with a clean conscience.

This is a microcosm of what the whole country is facing, and especially those involved in running the federal government and its national security functions.

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