READ: Four Key Takeaways From Volker’s Testimony

Former US special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker (Photo credit: SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
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November 5, 2019 2:07 p.m.
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Former Special Envoy for the Ukraine crisis Kurt Volker outlined in detail for impeachment investigators how Rudy Giuliani pressured the Ukrainian government to help President Trump politically, his newly released testimony shows.

The House released the 360-page document containing Volker’s testimony on Tuesday.

Volker was a key figure in the backchannel between Washington and Kyiv as Giuliani pressured Ukraine to manufacture political dirt useful for Trump’s reelection prospects.

Here are key takeaways from his testimony before Congress, where he provided inside detail on the campaign to turn Ukraine into an opposition research factory.

Giuliani was the access point to Trump

Volker told congressional investigators that Trump referenced Giuliani in a May 2019 meeting as the source of information that Ukraine “tried to take me down” in the 2016 election.

He added that Giuliani was responsible for the “information flow reaching the President,” and defended his interactions with the former New York City mayor as being part of an effort to make that “more positive than it had been.”

House investigators pressed Volker multiple times on whether Trump had ever asked Ukraine to investigate the gas company on whose board Hunter Biden sat.

But each time, Volker demurred, saying he didn’t know. He did tell the House that “Giuliani did” demand investigations that would have helped Trump.

Volker didn’t believe the theories

The former special envoy told House investigators that the information appeared to have come, via Giuliani, from Ukraine’s then-general prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko.

“My opinion of Prosecutor General Lutsenko was that he was acting in a self-serving manner, frankly making things up, in order to appear important to the United States, because he wanted to save his job,” Volker added.

He went on to further debunk theories put forth by Giuliani and spread by The Hill columnist John Solomon, specifically that Joe Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to fire a prosecutor named Viktor Shokin who was supposedly investigating his son, Hunter Biden.

“[Biden] was representing U.S. policy at the time,” Volker said. “It was…a general assumption among the European Union, France, Germany, American diplomats, U.K., that Shokin was not doing his job as a prosecutor general.”

Volker helped draft a statement for the Ukrainian government on investigations

The longtime ambassador also provided details on an August 2019 episode in which the Ukrainian government nearly issued a statement on “investigations.”

One draft of that statement, as revealed in texts between the two of them, was meant to read as follows:

Special attention should be paid to the problem of interference in the political processes of the United States, especially with the alleged involvement of some Ukrainian politicians. I want to declare that this is unacceptable. We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, which in turn will prevent the recurrence of this problem in the future.

Volker told House investigators that he waved Yermak off of saying anything that “would look like it would play into our domestic politics, and this could.”

“So just don’t do it,” Volker recalled saying.

Volker said exactly what he wanted to say

At multiple points in the transcript, Volker parried direct questioning about Trump’s involvement or knowledge of the scheme.

The staff attorney for House Democrats asked Volker at one point whether he believed that Giuliani was “conveying messages that President Trump wanted conveyed to the Ukrainians.”

Volker replied that he did not think so, and that he believed “that [Giuliani] was doing his own communication about what he believed and was interested in.”

The House attorney replied: “But you said he was working for President Trump?”

“He is President Trump’s personal attorney,” Volker replied.

At another point, Volker was asked about his recollection of the infamous July 25 phone call between Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Volker said that had had been briefed on it by multiple sources, but that the takeaway was the same: “the message was congratulations from the President to President Zelensky; President Zelensky reiterating that he is committed to fighting corruption and reform in the Ukraine; and President Trump reiterating an invitation for President Zelensky to visit him at the White House. That was it.”

It’s possible that that’s all Volker was told. But the language around being “committed to fighting corruption” mimics the same talking points that the backchannel itself used when discussing how to press Kyiv for “investigations.”

A similar trend emerges later on, when House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) asked about Burisma and Giuliani.

“Rudy Giuliani doesn’t have an interest in other companies for the sake of other companies in Ukraine, right? He was interested in Burisma because he thought it reflected ill on the Bidens and would be helpful to his client,” Schiff said, before asking Volker: “Am I right?”

To which Volker replied: “I can’t speak to that. I can only testify to what I know.”

Read the testimony here:

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