Header Ads

Ukraine envoy Volker WALKS BACK his closed door testimony and admits he 'should have seen the connection' between alleged Burisma corruption and Biden probe 'differently' - and that Giuliani's 'conspiracy theories' about ex-VP were 'not credible'

Ambassador Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, tried to walk back significant elements of his prior testimony in a second House impeachment hearing Tuesday – where he also called out 'conspiracy theories' but said he didn't realize in his prior dealings that 'Burisma' stood in for what others knew to be a probe of the Bidens.   
Volker revised elements of his previous closed-door testimony and says he now understands in 'hindsight' other players in the Ukraine affair considered investigating the firm Burisma with a probe related to Trump rival Joe Biden.
As House members in the impeachment inquiry listened, Volker described how he has learned new information from other witnesses and admits if he knew more, he would have 'raised my own objections.'
'I learned many things that I did not know at the time of the events in question,' Volker testified. 
Volker says he 'did not understand' that investigating Burisma meant looking into the Bidens and claims he would have raised questions about President Trump's intentions with Ukraine if he did but still maintains there was no quid pro quo. 'I drew a sharp distinction between the two,' he said.
He sought to reconcile his testimony with other diplomats, writing about his July 19 meeting with Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani – whom others identified as behind an unofficial outside Ukraine policy track. 
His testimony follows Tuesday morning's hearing that saw Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Vice President Mike Pence aide Jennifer Williams deliver damning testimony about Donald Trump's July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine.   

Kurt Volker told lawmakers that he 'did not understand' that others believed an investigation of the Ukrainian firm Burisma 'was tantamount to investigating Vice President Joe Biden'
Kurt Volker told lawmakers that he 'did not understand' that others believed an investigation of the Ukrainian firm Burisma 'was tantamount to investigating Vice President Joe Biden' 

Longtime diplomat Kurt Volker (left) and National Security aide Tim Morrison (right) are testifying Tuesday afternoon in Week Two of the impeachment hearings
Longtime diplomat Kurt Volker (left) and National Security aide Tim Morrison (right) are testifying Tuesday afternoon in Week Two of the impeachment hearings
Volker called Joe Biden an 'honorable man' who he held in the 'highest regard' and said he did not believe charges being raised by Rudy Giuliani against Biden were 'credible'
Volker called Joe Biden an 'honorable man' who he held in the 'highest regard' and said he did not believe charges being raised by Rudy Giuliani against Biden were 'credible'
Volker called Joe Biden an 'honorable man' who he held in the 'highest regard' and said he did not believe charges being raised by Rudy Giuliani against Biden were 'credible'
Kurt Volker gives opening statement at impeachment hearing
Loaded: 0%
Progress: 0%
0:00
Previous
Play
Skip
Mute
Current Time0:00
/
Duration Time4:31
Fullscreen
Need Text
Volker had previously provided testimony that helped the administration, including saying Ukrainians did not know hundreds of millions of U.S. aid was being withheld.
In his first public testimony Tuesday, he responded to information he has since learned from other witnesses – including that he was not aware that ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland spoke by phone with President Trump on July 26, when he was visiting a conflict zone in in Ukraine. 
At no time was he aware or 'knowingly took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden,' Volker said. He said he bristles at the use of the term 'three amigos' as a group that included himself, Sondland, and Energy Sec. Rick Perry.
Volker was not on Trump's infamous July 25 call, but says he 'was not made aware of any reference to Vice President Biden or his son by President Trump' until weeks later, when it came out.
The seasoned diplomat said he saw Burisma and Biden as different. 'In retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections.' 
During questioning, Volker continued to disavow the investigations Trump called for in a July 25 phone call.
'I don't think that raising 2016 elections or Vice President Biden or these things … they're not things that we should be pursuing as part of our national security strategy,' Volker said.
'We should be supporting Ukraine's democracy, reforms, … its defense capabilities. These are a part of what we should be doing.' He said the other matters don't serve 'any national interest.'
Asked about Trump's instruction to top officials to 'talk to Rudy,' Volker responded, 'I took it as just part of the dialogue. 
Volker went on to call Joe Biden an 'honorable man' who he held in the 'highest regard.'
He says he opposed the hold put on nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine. He also 'did not know about strong concerns' former National Security advisor John Bolton raised to members of the NSC staff about a discussion of 'investigations.'
Gordon Sondland, who donated $1million to Trump's inauguration before being named as a diplomat, participated with Volker in a July 10 meeting. But here again, Volker says he didn't know the full story. He said 'I think all of us thought it was inappropriate' when Sondland raised investigations.
Volker said that during that July 10 meeting at the White House with top Ukrainian officials, he Sondland made a 'generic comment about investigations' and that 'all of us thought it was inappropriate.' 
But as the U.S. aide who participated in a meeting with Ukrainians moved to another room, Volker said he 'may have been engaged in a side conversation, or had already left the complex, because I do not recall further discussion regarding investigations or Burisma.'
Volker also used the term 'conspiracy theory' to refer to investigations being sought by Trump and his allies.
'At the one in-person meeting I had with Mayor Giuliani on July 19, Mayor Giuliani raised, and I rejected, the conspiracy theory that Vice President Biden would have been influenced in his duties as vice president by money paid to his son,' Volker said.
But he rejected a term used by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when asked if he engaged in 'bribery' – military aid for investigations. 'I was never involved in anything that I consider to be bribery at all,' he said. 
Democratic staff lawyer Daniel Goldman pressed Volker on his pivot from saying investigations didn’t come up at the key July 10 meeting to saying it only came up at the end.
Volker testified he read recent reports of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony and said to himself: ‘Yes that’s right, that did happen.’
Describing the meeting where Sondland brought up the information, he said: ‘The meeting was essentially over.’
But Rep. Adam Schiff wanted to know why Volker also testified that what Sondland called for was ‘inappropriate,’ since Volker also testified he did not understand at that time that a call to investigate Burisma was really a probe of the Bidens.
‘Why did you think it was inappropriate?’ Schiff asked.
‘It was not the place or the time to bring up that,’ he said, noting it was the first high-level meeting between Ukraine and the U.S. since Zelensky’s election.
During questioning, Volker said he did not believe charges being raised against Joe Biden were 'credible,' and neither were what has been called a 'smear campaign' against former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. He called her an 'Incredibly competent professional.'
'I've known former vice president Biden for a long time. I know how he respects his duties of higher office,' he added.  
A text message to Gordon Sondland from Kurt Volker was displayed during the House Intelligence Committee public hearing
A text message to Gordon Sondland from Kurt Volker was displayed during the House Intelligence Committee public hearing
Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff prepares to hear testimony from Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison during the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence public hearing on the impeachment inquiry
Democratic Chairman Adam Schiff prepares to hear testimony from Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison during the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence public hearing on the impeachment inquiry
Ambassador Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, left, and Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council, are among nine witnesses testifying this week in public before the House Intelligence Committee
Ambassador Kurt Volker, former special envoy to Ukraine, left, and Tim Morrison, a former official at the National Security Council, are among nine witnesses testifying this week in public before the House Intelligence Committee
National security aide Tim Morrison testified about how the transcript of Trump's infamous July 25 call ended up being stored in a special secure server for matters of an very high classification.
'It was a mistake,' Morrison said. He said it was due to 'administrative error.'
Morrison expanded on his statement that the transcript got moved to the very high security system by mistake.
'It was represented to me as a mistake,' he said. He said at one point he looked for the transcript and couldn't find it himself. He said he went to the top national security lawyer, who looked into it.
'His understanding is that it was a kind of administrative error,' he said, referencing an issue that Democrast initially called part of a potential cover-up.
'So to the best of your knowledge there's no malicious intent in moving the transcript,' staff lawyer Steve Castor asked him.
'Correct,' Morrison responded.    
Volker tried to explain to lawmakers how he worked at length with Sondland and Ukrainians for investigations dealing with Burisma without realizing it might be a call to probe President Trump's political rival – and acknowledged other U.S. diplomats did not share his understanding.
'That others did not see the distinction between these things, as I saw it. As I said, there is a history of corruption in Ukraine. There is a history with the company of Burisma, that's been investigated. That is well known. There is a separate allegation about the vice president acting inappropriately. His son was a board member of this company,' Volker testified.
'But those things, I saw, as completely distinct. And what I was trying to do in working with the Ukrainians was to thread a needle to see whether things that they can do that are appropriate and reasonable as part of Ukraine's own policy of fighting corruption that help clarify for our president that they are committed to that very effort. If there's a way to thread that needle, I thought it was worth the effort to try and solve that problem. As it turns out, I now understand that most of the other people didn't see, or didn't consider this distinction. That, to them, it was synonymous,' he said.
Schiff responded: 'Well one of those people who saw it synonymous turns out to be the President of the United States. I take it you didn't know until the call record was released that the president in that call doesn't raise Burisma, he asked for an investigation of the Bidens. Is that right?'
'That is correct,' Volker said.
'I take it since you say that you acknowledge that asking for an investigation of the Bidens would have been unacceptable and objectionable, that had the president asked you to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, you would have told them so,' said Schiff.
'I would have objected to that, yes, sir,' Volker said
Volker previously delivered closed-door testimony that in part helped the Trump administration, saying the Ukrainians 'never communicated a belief [to him] that there was a quid pro quo,' and said he doesn't believe Ukraine knew hundreds of millions of U.S. aid was being withheld.
But his texts and messages have contributed to the body of evidence of a pressure campaign that a series of senior diplomats have testified they considered odious.
'Heard from white house – assuming president Z convinces trump he will investigate / 'get to the bottom of what happened' in 2016 we will nail down date for visit to Washington,' he wrote.
The message seemed to link the effort to get President Volodymyr Zelensky to agree to make a public statement on 'corruption' investigations Trump wanted in exchange for a White House meeting.  
Tuesday morning's hearing saw Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Vice President Mike Pence aide Jennifer Williams deliver damning testimony about Donald Trump's July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine.
Republican Rep. Devin Nunes used Tuesday's televised impeachment hearing to try to get Col. Vindman to reveal the identity of the whistleblower – only to get shot down by the panel chairman and Vindman's lawyer. 
Nunes, a California lawmaker who is the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, put a series of questions to Vindman about what he did after Trump's infamous July 25 call.
'I did not discuss the call with anyone inside or outside the White House,' Vindman said – after saying he considered Trump bringing up the Bidens with a foreign leader 'inappropriate.'
Nunes asked if he discussed the call with anyone outside the White House.
'Not in the White House. Cleared U.S. government officials with appropriate need-to -know,' Vindman replied.
Pressed further, he provided the name of high-level State Department official George Kent.
Then he said the other was 'an individual in the intelligence community.'
'What agency is this individual from?' Nunes asked him – potentially bringing the questioning closer to the identity of the whistle-blower, who the New York Times identified as a CIA officer and whose name has appeared in some press accounts.
'We need to protect the whistleblower,' interjected Schiff.
'I want to make sure that there's no effort to out the whistleblower in these proceedings,' Schiff said. He instructed that this was 'not the purpose' of the hearing. 'I want to advise the witness accordingly,' Schiff said.  

No comments