When former special envoy Kurt Volker became the first Trump administration official to testify privately in early October, one of his central claims was that he never knew about the extortion of Ukraine to open investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 elections. But Volker quickly acknowledged Tuesday during his opening statement at the public hearing that the “investigations” were actually directly related to the Bidens.
“In hindsight, I now understand that others saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involving the Ukrainian company, ‘Burisma,’ as equivalent to investigating former Vice President Biden,” Volker said, claiming that he never understood mentions of “Burisma” to be a stand-in for the Bidens. “I saw them as very different—the former being appropriate and unremarkable, the latter being unacceptable.”
Volker said he only properly understood the connection in light of the “great deal of additional information” that has surfaced since he first testified. Volker admitted that he knew about the hold on military assistance to Ukraine. “I opposed the hold on U.S. security assistance as soon as I learned about it on July 18, and thought we could turn it around before the Ukrainians ever knew or became alarmed about it.” Volker said that to the best of his knowledge Ukrainian officials did not learn about the security freeze until August 29, when they first asked him about it.
Volker also tried to square his claims of ignorance with his involvement in a July 10 meeting where U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told Ukrainian officials they could get a meeting with Trump only if they agreed to certain investigations. Then-national security adviser John Bolton shut down that meeting because he found the condition so inappropriate. In Volker’s previous testimony, he said there was no discussion whatsoever about investigations. But in his opening statement Tuesday, he said Sondland made only a “generic comment about investigations.”
“I think all of us thought it was inappropriate; the conversation did not continue and the meeting concluded,” Volker said of the meeting. However, he added, “I did not understand that others believed that any investigation of the Ukrainian company, Burisma, which had a history of accusations of corruption, was tantamount to investigating Vice President Biden. I drew a sharp distinction between the two.”
Volker also continued to assert that he personally never pushed for investigations into the Bidens. “At no time was I aware of or knowingly took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden,” Volker said.
Volker also denied any understanding that he had somehow been deputized by Trump to be in charge of Ukraine policy alongside Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the so-called “three amigos” who attended the inauguration of Volodymyr Zelensky.
“I was never aware of any designation by President Trump or anyone else putting Amb. Sondland, or the three of us as a group, in charge of Ukraine policy,” he said, adding that he believed they were all just acting in their “own respective official capacities.”
Finally, Volker summarily dismissed Rudy Giuliani’s push for investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, an “honorable man,” as he put it. “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 testified.