The United States’ former envoy to Ukraine told congressional investigators neither country’s officials were concerned about anything in the July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky until a campaign of leaks alleging abuse of power began surfacing in late August. Far from the media-fed narrative of officials being physically shaken by the call, Kurt Volker told lawmakers no one had expressed any concern to him about it, or about later allegations that requests for Ukraine’s help in corruption investigations was improper.
While Volker was tasked with managing the relationship between the Trump administration and the new government in Ukraine, he only heard that the Biden family had been mentioned in the phone call when anti-Trump bureaucrats began leaking classified details of the phone conversation to media outlets in late August.
Volker testified October 3 for nearly 10 hours behind closed doors after resigning his unpaid post as the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine. Democratic lawmakers leaked portions of his testimony and text messages to paint a misleading narrative that he had confirmed an alleged quid pro quo of military aid for investigation of Ukrainian corruption.
Instead, Volker told lawmakers under oath that he was never asked to do anything wrong by any member of the administration, including President Trump. He further described the relationship with Ukraine as extremely positive and as good as anyone could hope for given the tumult in the region.
The special envoy confirmed that interactions between President Trump’s attorney Rudy Guiliani and the Ukrainian government were made at his behest, in part to improve that relationship and to assuage concerns that the incoming government was as corrupt as previous governments. Volker said he believed that Guiliani had been giving information to Trump that was unduly negative about the current relationship between the two countries and hoped that increased interactions would help Guiliani’s opinion of the new government improve.
While Volker didn’t believe Guiliani should trust the word of former prosecutor general Yuri Lutsenko, whom he viewed as self-serving and prone to deception, he did concede that Ukraine’s 2016 election meddling was “plausible.” He further noted that corruption in the country was a legitimate concern given the country’s recent history, adding that when corruption is so widespread, decisions about who to prosecute are inherently political. (He was referring to Ukraine, not the United States.)
Volker confirmed the massive corruption of Burisma, the energy concern that paid Hunter Biden hundreds of thousands of dollars to sit on its board despite completely lacking experience or expertise in the industry. He said that Burisma had a long-standing reputation as a corrupt company accused of money laundering. Biden resigned in 2019 shortly before his father Joe Biden announced his 2020 presidential candidacy.
Another top U.S. diplomat testified on Tuesday that he was similarly concerned about ongoing corruption with the Ukrainian oil and gas conglomerate.
Volker was somewhat uninformed about Ukraine’s role in helping Hillary Clinton campaign against Trump in 2016. Nellie Ohr, the spouse of a top Department of Justice official, admitted under oath that Serhiy Leshchenko, one of the Ukrainian officials, worked with Fusion GPS, which was secretly funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee to collect dirt that could be used against Trump during the 2016 campaign. Ukrainian courts have determined that Ukrainian government officials worked with Democratic operatives in the United States to release derogatory information about the Trump campaign in a bid to affect election results.
Volker detailed negotiations following the phone call of what would be necessary to assure a White House visit between the two world leaders. Guiliani thought it important that Ukraine’s 2016 election meddling and Burisma specifically be mentioned, while Volker thought a generic commitment to root out corruption, such as the ones previously offered, would be sufficient.
While critics have alleged that the elapse of time before the meeting is unusual, Volker testified it was completely normal and matched his experience in the Bush administration. He reiterated that he was pleased with the progress of the relationship before the anti-Trump leak campaign surrounding the July 25 phone call began in earnest in late August.
Volker was spotted on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, where he was reported to be reviewing a transcript of his testimony.