Four key impeachment witnesses testify
As Tim Morrison and Kurt Volker recount their concerns about the parallel track of diplomacy in Ukraine meant to surface dirt on the Bidens, it’s worth remembering they are the witnesses Republicans — not Democrats — wanted to hear from in the impeachment inquiry.
It’s notable because their testimony is not entirely flattering to President Trump. So far, they have described their unease at Rudy Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine and their skeptical view of efforts to launch an investigation into Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company.
Morrison also noted that Trump’s reference to Crowdstrike and a Democratic computer server — both based in debunked conspiracy theories — were not part of his official preparatory talking points for the July phone call with Ukraine’s president.
He said he was disappointed after the call:
“I was hoping for a more full-throated support for President Zelensky’s reform agenda,” he said.
Volker, too, has seemed to become a less favorable witness to Trump given the changes made in his account between his closed deposition and his public testimony. He know says he did hear investigations mentioned during a White House meeting between American and Ukrainian officials.
And he said he now links Burisma and the Bidens — which he says is troubling.
“In retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections,” he said.
Tim Morrison, a former National Security Council aide, testified that he wished he would have heard a "full-throated statement of support" from President Trump for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during the July 25 call.
"I was hoping for a more full-throated statement of support from the President concerning President Zelensky's reform agenda given where we were at the time with respect to the overwhelming mandate president Zelensky servant of the party people had received in the Rada election," he said.
Morrison said listened to the call between Trump and Zelensky from the White House Situation Room.
Kurt Volker told lawmakers that he drew a “sharp distinction” between Burisma and Biden, but admits that he was wrong to view them separately.
“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. I saw them as very different. The former being appropriate and unremarkable, the latter being unacceptable,” Volker said in his opening statement. “In retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections.”
Volker said he has learned many things he did not know in the last few weeks. Before the testimony provided by other individuals as part of the impeachment inquiry, Volker did not understand their belief that an investigation into Burisma was “tantamount” to investigating Biden.
With regard to the efforts he was undertaking at the time, Volker believed that encouraging Ukrainians to make a statement on Burisma did not mean Biden.
“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.
Remember: Volker was not on the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky, and says he did not know Biden or his son were mentioned on that call until the rough transcript was made public.
Volker did engage in discussions with Ukrainians about putting out a statement on investigations. Giuliani told Volker and Sondland that the Ukrainians needed to reference 2016 and Burisma in the statement “in order to be convincing.” Volker added those specific references to an initial copy that the Ukrainians put together. But the Ukrainians they did not want to put out a statement on investigations that specifically referenced 2016 and Burisma. At that point, Volker said the idea of a statement was “shelved.”
Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, said the allegations that Joe Biden acted corruptly with Ukraine while he was vice president are a “conspiracy theory.”
President Trump, Giuliani and House Republicans have repeatedly made this claim.
“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. “As I testified previously, I have known Vice President Biden for 24 years. He is an honorable man and I hold him in the highest regard.”
Why this matters: This means Volker is breaking from Trump on at least one key point. Even though Trump appointed Volker to the Ukraine post, Volker doesn’t agree with Trump that Biden is guilty of wrongdoing in Ukraine.
House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff has 45 minutes to ask Tim Morrison and Kurt Volker questions.
He can let the Democrats' lawyer, Daniel Goldman, ask questions instead.
Afterward, ranking member Devin Nunes — and the GOP lawyer, Steve Castor — will get 45 minutes of questioning time.
Following those two rounds, each member on the committee will get five minutes to ask questions.
In his opening statement, former US special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker went through a series of allegations about former Vice President Joe Biden that he said did not appear credible.
He said Rudy Giuliani had mentioned the allegations during a meeting and that Giuliani had "stressed that all he wanted to see was for Ukraine to investigate what happened in the past and apply its own laws."
Volker went on to say that he told Giuliani that he didn't think Biden would have been influenced in any way by financial or personal motives in carrying out his duties as vice president.
"A different issue is whether some individual Ukrainians may have attempted to influence the 2016 election or thought they would buy influence. That is at least plausible given Ukraine's reputation for corruption. But the accusation that vice president Biden acted inappropriately did not seem at all credible to me," Volker said.
Former US special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker said the lawmakers currently governing Ukraine had nothing to do with allegations of 2016 election interference, because "they were making television shows at the time."
Volker mentioned that Rudy Giuliani had said he wanted Ukraine to investigate allegations of interference in the 2016 election.
"Concerning the allegations, I stressed that no one in the new team governing Ukraine had anything to do with anything that may have happened in 2016. They were making television shows at the time," Volker said.
What this is about: Before he was elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky was a comedian, actor and businessman.
Prior to his bid for the presidency, Zelensky was best known for his role in the Ukrainian comedy series, "Servant of the People," where he played a destitute schoolteacher who unexpectedly becomes president of Ukraine after becoming famous for an anti-corruption rant that went viral on social media. In real life, his entertainment empire is estimated to be worth tens of millions.
Kurt Volker, the onetime special US envoy to Ukraine, will testify Tuesday that he heard a fellow US diplomat raise investigations during a July 10 meeting at the White House.
That’s inconsistent with what Volker testified behind closed doors. He answered “no” when questioned whether investigations were raised during that meeting, which included Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the EU, and other American and Ukrainian officials.
It’s one of the areas Volker is changing his earlier account of events that are being investigated by lawmakers in the impeachment inquiry.
In another, Volker said he was out of the loop when he testified that discussions about a statement from the Ukrainians about opening investigations into the Bidens ended in August.
Volker says he was “surprised” to learn there were further discussions after he thought the issue was put to rest.
“Since these events, and since I gave my testimony on October 3, a great deal of additional information and perspectives have come to light,” Volker said. “I have learned many things that I did not know at the time of the events in question.”
Democrats are likely to hone in on the inconsistencies when the questioning begins.
Volker was the first witness to testify in the closed depositions, and subsequent witnesses have provided plenty of additional information that fleshes out — and, at times, contradicts — Volker’s remembrance of events.
Republicans requested Volker’s appearance on Tuesday, and hope he can help their case that Trump did nothing wrong. But the additional information he says he’s learned could make him less attractive to their case.
In his opening statement, former US special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker said that he and others stressed their finding that new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky represented the "best chance" to get the country "out of the mire of corruption" that has plagued the country for decades.
They also urged Trump to invite Zelensky to White House.
"The President was very skeptical. Given Ukraine's history of corruption, that is understandable," Volker said. "He said that Ukraine was a corrupt country, full of terrible people. He said they tried to take me down."
Volker said during that conversation Trump referenced conversations with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
"It was clear to me that despite the positive news and recommendations being conveyed by this official delegation about the new president, President Trump had a deeply rooted negative view on Ukraine rooted in the past," Volker said.