The former special U.S. envoy for Ukraine said he has shifted his outlook on the saga as he faced impeachment investigators again.
Kurt Volker is in a bind.
The former special U.S. envoy for Ukraine was the first impeachment witness to testify behind closed doors and assured lawmakers he saw no indication that President Donald Trump had conditioned a White House meeting and military assistance for Ukraine on a promise from the country’s president to investigate Trump’s political rivals.
But after a cascade of witnesses told lawmakers a far more troubling version of events — that Trump indeed seemed to be orchestrating a quid pro quo for the White House meeting and perhaps for military aid — Volker says he has a new perspective.
“I have learned many things that I did not know at the time of the events in question,” Volker told the House Intelligence Committee in his prepared remarks on Tuesday.
Volker insists he was forthright and honest in his first deposition based on his understanding at the time, but Democrats — and perhaps some Republicans — are likely to zero in on his inconsistencies.
Volker is the first witness called by Republicans to testify publicly, appearing alongside former Trump National Security Council adviser Tim Morrison. But Volker, unlike nearly everyone else in the Ukraine saga, had a role in virtually every facet of the unfolding scandal.
He was a crucial point of contact for Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, as Giuliani leaned on Ukrainians to launch investigations of former vice president Joe Biden and of debunked allegations that Ukraine — not Russia — hacked a Democratic Party server in 2016.
Volker was also in the loop on July 18, when word spread throughout the Trump administration that the president had placed a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine with virtually no explanation.
And Volker was in the room for crucial White House briefings with Ukrainian officials and another U.S. ambassador — Gordon Sondland — who later directly told top Ukrainians that military aid would likely hinge on the opening of Trump’s favored investigations.
But Volker now says he was in the dark for many of the crucial moments that would have pointed toward a more nefarious purpose of the Ukraine maneuverings. He said that when he helped facilitate contact between Giuliani and a senior Ukrainian official, he was not aware that anyone considered a “linkage” between U.S. military aid and the investigations Trump sought.
“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 it the Ukrainians ever knew or became alarmed about it,” Volker testified on Tuesday. “I did not know the reason for the hold, but I viewed it as a U.S. policy problem that we needed to fix internally, and I was confident we would do so.”
Volker also said he was unaware that then-National Security Adviser John Bolton had “strong concerns” about the appropriateness of the investigations.
In perhaps one of the most glaring updates to his earlier testimony, Volker said that during a July 10 meeting at the White House with top Ukrainian officials, he now recalled that Sondland made a “generic comment about investigations” and that “all of us thought it was inappropriate.”
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