When former special ambassador to Ukraine Kurt Volker appeared to testify before the House in hearings connected to Donald Trump’s first impeachment, Republicans were thrilled. Volker was part of the “three amigos,” who Trump had sent to Ukraine to force out experienced diplomats and see that Rudy Giuliani got all the assistance he needed in extorting the Ukrainian government into pretending to investigate Joe Biden.
As soon as Volker completed his testimony, it was clearly at odds with that delivered by other witnesses. Volker testified that he never talked about the company Burisma, where Hunter Biden was on the board, in his discussions with Ukrainian officials. He completely omitted any reference to a series of meetings and calls on July 10, 2019, after which then-Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman took his concerns about what was going on to the NSC’s lead counsel. Volkman contradicted the content of text messages he sent on July 19, in which he joined Rudy Giuliani in urging the Ukrainian president to initiate an investigation of Biden. He left out how Burisma and the Bidens factored into a statement Trump wanted from the Ukrainians. And he completely failed to testify about how he had insisted—as text messages showed—that Ukrainian officials had to include both claims that Ukraine had interfered with the U.S. election in 2016, and that Biden had tried to block an investigation into Burisma, if they wanted to “prevent a recurrence” of Trump blocking military aid to the country.
But what really excited the Republicans was the fact that Volker provided them with the Big Talking Point: a claim that there was “no quid pro quo” connecting the request for an investigation into the Bidens and the release of U.S. assistance to Ukraine. In his deposition to the House committee, Volker made it clear: “At no time was I aware of or took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former vice president Biden.”
But text messages at the time also made it clear this wasn’t true. And calls that CNN released this week while looking into the actions of Giuliani make this one thing exceedingly clear: In his sworn testimony to Congress, former ambassador Kurt Volker was lying his ass off.
As The Washington Post reports, it was Volker’s testimony that Republicans leaned on when they claimed that Trump had been exonerated.
“Ambassador Volker … confirmed what the President has repeatedly said: there was no quid pro quo,” tweeted Rep. Jim Jordan.
“Ambassador Volker, you just like took apart their entire case,” said a grateful Rep. Michael Turner during questioning.
In his testimony, Volker didn’t hold back. “At no time was I aware of or knowingly took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former vice president Biden. As you know from the extensive real-time documentation I have provided, Vice President Biden was not a topic of our discussions.”
How could this be the case when Volker repeatedly texted concerning an investigation into Burisma? The pretense that Volker put forward was that he didn’t know. He didn’t know why Trump wanted an investigation into a particular Ukrainian energy firm as part of his deal. He didn’t know why this was so vital that it could be a factor in allowing an ally to be preyed on by Russian forces.
Volker wasn’t the only one. His former “amigos”—Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry—pushed the same line. Apparently Trump and Giuliani had it out for this one gas company. After that, they all pled blissful ignorance.
Yeah, but … Volker was on the call when Giuliani said this to one of the Ukrainian president’s top assistants:
“All we need from the President is to say, I’m going to put an honest prosecutor in charge, he’s gonna investigate and dig up the evidence that presently exists, and is there any other evidence about involvement of the 2016 election, and then the Biden thing has to be run out.”
That was just one of several instances where Giuliani explicitly drew the connection between what was being asked of the Ukrainian president with the Bidens. Volker was on that call. Pretending that he didn’t know what he was asking when he asked about Burisma would mean not just acknowledging an astounding ignorance about the country he was supposed to be assisting—past allegations against Burisma had played a key role in both U.S. and U.K. actions in Ukraine—it would mean he wasn’t actually listening to what Giuliani said during their conversations with Ukrainian officials. In Volker’s testimony he claimed that “In referencing Burisma it was clear he was only talking about whether any Ukrainians had acted inappropriately,” which never made any sense at all. It still doesn’t.
The Post suggests that Volker hewed a very narrow line in his testimony and that he “referred specifically to the idea that Biden wasn’t brought up in the text messages he turned over—rather than at all in any conversations.” But that’s attempting to parse things way, way too finely.
It’s clear that when Volker, Sondland, and others mention Burisma in their text messages, that this is shorthand for announcing an investigation into the role Joe and Hunter Biden played in connection to that company. That’s specifically what Giuliani asks for, again and again.
And in his testimony, Volker goes much further than The Post suggests. Volker’s full statement to the committee, apparently in response to a question by Rep. Adam Schiff, was this:
“At no time was I aware of or took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden. As you will see from the extensive text messages I am providing, which convey a sense of real-time dialogue with several different actors, Vice President Biden was never a topic of discussion.”
It might be possible to twist that statement so that the last mention of Biden is directed toward the text messages. It’s not possible to do so with the first mention. “At no time was I aware of or took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden” is simply a lie. An out and out lie. A lie that was intended to cover Volker’s ass, and which Republicans seized on as justification to exonerate Trump.
It was always clear that Volker was lying when he claimed to not understand the connection between Burisma and Joe Biden. The most recent revelations just underline the extent of that lie.
it may be too late for a do-over of that first impeachment, this time with honest testimony. It’s not too late to charge Kurt Volker for his lies.