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Ex-Ukraine envoy testified he was "never asked to do anything" he thought was wrong

Texts reveal White House pressure on Ukraine

Washington — The former top envoy to Ukraine told congressional investigators pursuing the impeachment inquiry that he was "never asked to do anything" he thought was wrong, "including by the president," but said he feared the U.S. relationship with Ukraine was "getting sucked into a domestic political debate."

Kurt Volker, the former special representative to Ukraine, returned to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to review testimony he gave the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees in a private session on October 3.

In that testimony, Volker depicted Rudy Giuliani as the driving force behind an effort to get Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden and 2016 election interference, according to sources familiar with the testimony. He also expressed misgivings about Giuliani's influence on the president's view of Ukraine.

Giuliani, President Trump's personal attorney, "was amplifying a negative narrative about Ukraine that was impeding our ability to advance the bilateral relationship the way we wanted," Volker told lawmakers, the sources said. Volker said the president held a "deeply rooted negative view" of the country and its leadership, and bought into Giuliani's characterization of Ukraine as a country rife with corrupt politicians and businessmen.

Former Ukraine Envoy Kurt Volker Returns For More Testimony On Capitol Hill
Former U.S. Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker walks away after attending a closed door meeting for the second time at the Capitol on October 16, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Getty Images

While Volker pressed for a reset of relations with Kiev and an Oval Office meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he also helped Giuliani arrange a meeting with a close aide to Zelensky and had an open line of communication with the former New York mayor. 

"I didn't think it improper to contact Mr. Giuliani much as I would, you know, not think it improper to contact anybody," Volker told the committees. Volker provided text messages of their exchanges to investigators two weeks ago, along with WhatsApp messages between Volker and other top U.S. diplomats. 

Zelensky never got an Oval Office meeting, and joked about it when the two leaders met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September. Volker himself met with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office in May. 

"I was never asked to do anything that I thought was wrong," Volker testified, the sources told CBS News. "Including by the president."

Volker told the committees that longtime State Department officials were "uncomfortable with [Giuliani] being active" in Kiev, and said he made it clear to his Ukrainian counterparts that Giuliani did not represent the U.S. government. He testified he did not have the impression that Giuliani was relaying messages from the president to the Ukrainians. 

"I believed he was doing his own communication about what he believed and was interested in," Volker said, according to sources. Giuliani had given interviews raising questions about Ukraine's role in the 2016 U.S. election and Hunter Biden's business dealings.

Democratic and Republican staff led the majority of the questioning during the October 3 hearing, which lasted roughly nine hours. 

Much of Volker's testimony focused on a proposed statement from the Ukrainian government that was never sent. Volker said Giuliani wanted Zelensky to release a statement specifically mentioning Ukraine's commitment to investigating 2016 election interference and Burisma, a Ukrainian energy firm that appointed Hunter Biden to its board. 

"I wouldn't say I thought it was necessary to have it in there because I thought the target here is not the specific investigations," Volker testified. "The target is getting Ukraine to be seen as credible in changing the country, fighting corruption, introducing reform, and that Zelensky is the real deal."

Volker said he learned on July 18 that emergency U.S. aid to Ukraine had been placed on hold. He did not know why, but figured it would be released in short order because the aid package had support from the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Council. 

Volker believed the Ukrainians did not learn the aid had been delayed until late August when media reports first surfaced. 

Volker communicated with Giuliani on several occasions, including via text message and at a breakfast meeting also attended by Giuliani associate Lev Parnas at The Trump Hotel in Washington on July 19. Parnas and another Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman, were arrested last week on campaign finance charges.

The president's call with Zelensky on July 25 is at the heart of the whistleblower complaint and the Democrats' effort to impeach Mr. Trump. 
 
Volker testified he was troubled by the president's call, sources said, once the White House released a summary in late September and he became aware that Biden's name had been mentioned.

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