A day after the transcript of testimony from Marie Yovanovitch revealed the ambassador felt threatened by Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and the cast of nefarious characters whose shadow campaign in Ukraine is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, House investigators have released transcripts from the testimony of former special envoy Kurt Volker and EU ambassador Gordon Sondland.
Volker and Sondland were two of the “three amigos” – Rick Perry was the third – tasked with effectively bridging the gap between Giuliani’s clandestine push to pressure Ukraine into opening investigations into Trump’s political foes and official US policy towards Kyiv.
In October, Volker turned over a cache of text messages (see here and here) to lawmakers which contained a series of now infamous exchanges between Sondland and Bill Taylor, whose 15-page opening statement to lawmakers last month was widely seen as the most damaging account of the scandal to date for the White House.
Suffice to say the details from Volker’s testimony are not good for the president.
Volker says he warned Giuliani early on that Yuri Lutsenko – whose story has shifted materially of late – was not a credible source. “Lutsenko is not credible. Don’t listen to what he is saying”, Volker told Rudy. You’ll note that Lutsenko’s allegations (implicit and otherwise) are also at the heart of many a right-wing conspiracy theory. His subordinate Kostiantyn Kulyk is reportedly set to be fired by Volodymyr Zelensky.
Lutsenko featured heavily in Yovanovitch’s testimony. “Basically, it was people in the Ukrainian Government who said that Mr. Lutsenko, the former prosecutor general, was in communication with Mayor Giuliani, and that they had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me”, Yovanovitch testified last month.
After learning that Rudy Giuliani intended to pursue allegations raised by Prosecutor General Lutsenko, Ambassador Volker warned Mr. Giuliani that “Lutsenko is not credible.” (Page 226-227)
A: So I had learned through the media that he was going to go to Ukraine and he was intending to pursue these allegations that Lutsenko had made, and he was going to go investigate these things. And I reached out to him to brief him, a couple of key points. Lutsenko is not credible. Don’t listen to what he is saying.
Q: You told Rudy Giuliani that, that Lutsenko is not credible? A: Yes. Yes, I did.
Below are other key excerpts from Volker’s testimony. Do note that 1) Volker explicitly shoots down the idea that Joe Biden was doing anything other than following stated US policy when he pressed for the removal of Viktor Shokin, and 2) Volker called the allegations against Biden “simply not credible” at a breakfast with Giuliani and Lev Parnas, who is now in jail along with his accomplice Igor Fruman. That breakfast took place at Trump Tower.
When Vice President Joe Biden encouraged Ukraine to fire former Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, he was “executing U.S. policy at the time and what was widely understood internationally to be the right policy.” (Page 330)
Q: And I believe you said that—you testified earlier that there’s no doubt in your mind that Vice President Biden was acting completely on the—I’m paraphrasing, but on the up and up, in terms of his recommendation to get rid of Prosecutor General Shokin. Is that right? A: Correct. He was executing U.S. policy at the time and what was widely understood internationally to be the right policy, right.
On May 23, 2019, Ambassador Volker, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland recommended that President Trump schedule an Oval Office meeting with the newly elected President of Ukraine, but President Trump stated that Ukrainians “tried to take me down” and that they should “talk to Rudy.” (Page 279, 304)
Q: In fact, in your conversation with the President in May, the stated reasons why he had a deeply rooted distrust or dislike of the Ukrainians was because of what he perceived to be their role in the 2016 election and/or the Paul Manaforte [sic] case. Is that right? A: That was mentioned, but it was a long—longer statement that “they are all corrupt, they are all terrible people,” and, you know, “I don’t want to spend any time with that.” That was—it was a broader statement. And he also said, “and they tried to take me down.” … ]
A: So, you know, we strongly encouraged him to engage with this new President because he’s committed to fighting all of those things that President Trump was complaining about.
Q: And how did the President react? A: He just didn’t believe it. He was skeptical. And he also said, that’s not what I hear. I hear, you know, he’s got some terrible people around him. And he referenced that he hears from Mr. Giuliani as part of that.
The negative narrative that Mr. Giuliani was furthering about Ukraine was “a problem” that impeded U.S. officials’ “ability to build the relationship” with Ukraine. (Page 138)
Q: And, Ambassador Volker, just to be clear, in your opening statement, you referred to a problem that you had to deal with. A: Yes. This was the problem.
Q: Rudy Giuliani was the problem? A: The negative narrative about Ukraine which Mr. Giuliani was furthering was the problem. It was, in my view, it was impeding our ability to build the relationship the way we should be doing, in my—as I understood it.
On July 18, 2019, Ambassador Volker became aware that the Office of Management and Budget had placed an “unusual” hold on security assistance to Ukraine, but he was unable to obtain an explanation for the hold. (Page 79-80, 121)
Q: And the same with the issue of the aid, the foreign assistance. You know, in your experience, foreign assistance sometimes gets locked up. There’s issues to work through. Then it’s released. Is what happened here unusual? A: You are correct. I agree with you in saying that assistance gets held up for a variety of reasons at various times. That is true. In this case, here you had an instance where everyone that I spoke with in the policy side of the administration—you know, Pentagon, military, civilian, State Department, National Security Council—they all thought this is really important to provide this assistance. And so, in that circumstance, for there to be a hold placed struck me as unusual. I didn’t know the reason. No reason was ever given as to why that was. It came from OMB, so I immediately thought about budgetary issues, that, for whatever reason, there’s a hold placed. There was one report about a hold placed on all assistance because of a concern about end-of-year spending not being done efficiently. And I just didn’t believe that this hold would ever be sustained because the policy community in the administration was determined to see it go forward.
On July 19, 2019, during a breakfast meeting at Trump Hotel with Mr. Giuliani and Lev Parnas, Ambassador Volker warned that allegations against Vice President Biden were “simply not credible” based on his personal knowledge. (Page 202-203, 228-231)
One of the things that I said in that breakfast that I had with Mr. Giuliani, the only time Vice President Biden was ever discussed with me, and he was repeating—he wasn’t making an accusation and he wasn’t seeking an investigation—but he was repeating all of the things that were in the media that we talked about earlier about, you know, firing the prosecutor general and his son being on the company and all that. And I said to Rudy in that breakfast the first time we sat down to talk that it is simply not credible to me that Joe Biden would be influenced in his duties as Vice President by money or things for his son or anything like that. I’ve known him a long time, he’s a person of integrity, and that’s not credible. On the other hand, whether Ukrainians may have sought to influence our elections or sought to buy influence, that’s entirely plausible. …
A: July 19th is when I had breakfast with Rudy, and Lev Parnas attended that breakfast.
Q: Who is Lev Parnas? What’s his relationship to Giuliani? A: I don’t know what their relationship is. They appear to be friends. I assumed that Giuliani brought him along to the meeting because he’s Ukrainian-American and, therefore, knows a lot about Ukraine.
Q: Do you know if Lev Parnas was doing anything to help Giuliani get introduced to Ukrainian officials? A: I don’t know.
Q: Do you know anything else about Lev Parnas? Had you had any interactions with him prior to that breakfast meeting? A: Never met him before or since.
Q: Where did you have breakfast? A: At the Trump Hotel.
Full document here