POLITICS

Here's What Kurt Volker Told Congress About His Role In Trump-Ukraine Negotiations

The former special envoy to Ukraine told House investigators he wasn't aware Trump had pressured Ukraine's president for dirt on Joe Biden.

Kurt Volker, the State Department’s former special envoy to Ukraine, on Thursday became the first witness to testify in the House’s impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

In prepared remarks obtained Friday by BuzzFeed News, Volker told members of Congress that during his tenure with the department he was unaware of the Trump administration’s efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s potential 2020 opponent.

But Volker turned over text messages to Congress that indicate he likely knew more than he acknowledged. The texts exchanges involved Volker, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine. Some of the messages were sent from Volker to Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In one of the messages, Volker texted Yermak just hours before Trump and Zelensky were set to speak. Volker said the White House would work to “nail down the date for [a] visit to Washington” but only on the assumption that “President Z convinces trump he will investigate/‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016.”

Volker’s name also appears several times in the whistleblower complaint from a member of the intelligence community that sparked the impeachment inquiry. It claimed Volker advised Ukrainian leaders on how to “navigate” Trump’s requests.

The complaint focused on a July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky, during which the U.S. president pressured his Ukrainian counterpart to look into unsubstantiated allegations that Biden used his power as vice president during the Obama administration to kill an investigation into a gas company for which his son was a board member.

Volker told investigators on Thursday that he was not “fully in the loop” about Trump’s intentions, that he was in Ukraine at the time of the call and that he was not subsequently shown a transcript of the conversation, according to The New York Times.

Volker abruptly resigned from his State Department post last week without explanation and voluntarily agreed to appear before House investigators as part of their inquiry into whether Trump abused his power to pressure a foreign government for dirt on a political rival.

The next witness in the inquiry is expected to be Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Trump reportedly recalled Yovanovitch after his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani complained she was undermining the administration’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian leaders to investigate the Bidens.

Read Volker’s prepared remarks to members of Congress below:

CONVERSATIONS