Former US Envoy to Ukraine Testifying in Impeachment Inquiry

2019-10-03

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Staff from three U.S. House of Representatives committees at the center of an impeachment inquiry involving President Donald Trump and Ukraine are holding a closed-door deposition Thursday with Kurt Volker, the recently resigned U.S. envoy for Ukraine.

Questions are likely to focus on a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Volker's actions following the call, and the activities of Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in connection with allegations Trump pressured Zelenskiy to investigate former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

Those allegations came in a whistleblower complaint made public last week, which said that according to multiple White House officials, Trump also pressured Zelenskiy to "meet or speak with two people the President named explicitly as his personal envoys on these matters," naming Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr.

Volker resigned the day after the complaint was released.

He helped in trying to arrange meetings between Giuliani and Zelenskiy. The State Department said that in response to a request from a Zelenskiy adviser, Volker had put the aide in contact with Giuliani.

The whistleblower complaint pushed Democrats in the House of Representatives to formally launch their impeachment inquiry. It says the day after the Trump-Zelenskiy call, Volker and the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland met with the Ukrainian president and other political figures.

The whistleblower said that according to readouts of those meetings recounted by U.S. officials, "Ambassadors Volker and Sondland reportedly provided advice to the Ukrainian leadership about how to 'navigate' the demands that the President had made of Mr. Zelenskiy."

The complaint also said the whistleblower heard from U.S. officials "that they were deeply concerned by what they viewed as Giuliani's circumvention of national security decision-making processes to engage with Ukrainian officials and relay messages back and forth" between Ukrainian officials and Trump.

"State Department officials, including Ambassadors Volker and Sondland, had spoken with Mr. Giuliani in an attempt to 'contain the damage' to U.S. national security," the complaint said.

It also referenced meetings Volker and Sondland had with members of the Zelenskiy administration to both discuss policy matters and help the Ukrainians "understand and respond to the differing messages they were receiving from official U.S. channels on the one hand, and from Mr. Giuliani on the other."

Thursday's session is a joint effort among the Democrat-led House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees.

Late Wednesday, the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, Congressman Michael McCaul, said he was alarmed to learn the questioning would be led by Intelligence Committee staff, and that Democrats from the Foreign Affairs Committee will be allowed two staffers in attendance while Republicans would have only one.