Editor’s Note: Transcripts of testimonies given in the impeachment investigation are now being made public. Do they provide evidence or proof of wrongdoing by the president or are they nothing more than the opinions and perceptions of certain individuals? Liberty Nation presents a series of articles that analyze the transcripts for evidence – incriminating or exculpatory.
The first part of Kurt Volker’s closed-door testimony on Capitol Hill concerned President Donald Trump’s attitude toward Ukraine and alleged efforts – on the part of the president and his counsel, Rudy Giuliani – to have the Ukrainians investigate the matter of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Despite a complete lack of expertise in either the country of Ukraine or in the energy sector, Hunter Biden somehow landed a lucrative directorship with a Ukrainian energy company while his father was Barack Obama’s V.P. and the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine. In itself, that turn of events is eminently deserving of investigation, so it seems that there was nothing improper about Trump or Giuliani approaching the Ukrainians with the suggestion that they undertake such a probe. In fact, the U.S. Justice Department should already have investigated that matter, as the appearance of influence-peddling is too obvious to ignore.
When Biden Sr. demanded that the Ukrainians fire their prosecutor general after he opened an investigation into Burisma, the energy company in question, the whiff of corruption became far too pungent to dismiss.
Biden and his allies have insisted that demanding the Ukrainian prosecutor be fired was in line with U.S. policy and with the wishes of many European countries, who regarded the man, Viktor Shokin, as having failed – for self-serving reasons – to investigate corruption.
During his testimony, though, Volker made a statement about Ukraine that blows a wide hole in Biden’s version of events: Speaking about the pervasive issue of Ukrainian corruption, the former envoy explained:
“A slogan that I have used a lot or in explaining this to people is that in a situation where everybody is guilty of something, the choice of whom to prosecute is a political decision. And that’s the way anti-corruption was played out in Ukraine for decades, that it wasn’t about just fighting corruption; it was about who are my enemies and who are my friends and back and forth.”
In reality, corruption is so widespread in Ukraine that demanding the firing of the prosecutor, Shokin, was clearly motivated by something other than fighting corruption: If Shokin was corrupt, then his predecessor was likely as corrupt as he, as was his successor. Could it be, rather, that Biden was playing by the same rules described by Volker? Everyone is guilty but this man, Shokin, is my enemy so I will go after him.
In marked contrast to how the Democrats treat President Trump, however, Joe Biden and his son deserve the presumption of innocence. That is not to say, though, that the circumstances behind Hunter’s appointment to Burisma’s board and his father’s subsequent strong-arming of the Ukrainian government and meddling in Ukrainian domestic affairs were not worthy of examination.
Volker testified that Trump “demonstrated that he had a very deeply rooted negative view of Ukraine based on past corruption.” During an Oval Office meeting, Volker and others tried to persuade the president that the new Ukrainian government was different and urged Trump to meet with the new president, Zelensky. Though Trump seemed reluctant, he agreed to have a meeting arranged.
After some weeks, the meeting had still not been set up and, during his hearing, Volker was asked if the meeting had been delayed until the Ukrainians opened an investigation into the Bidens. Volker’s answer was, unequivocally, no.
One major point that Trump’s opponents have pushed is the idea of the Ukrainian government – under pressure from the U.S. president – publicly announcing its intent to investigate corruption, with emphasis on the Bidens. Volker stated that this was not the case, however. In fact, the Ukrainians contacted him, Volker, with a proposal to make such a public announcement in the hopes of winning Trump’s trust and, by extension, an invitation to the White House for President Zelensky: Such a visit would have been enormously beneficial to the new Ukrainian president
While there is no evidence of pressure being put on Ukraine to publicly announce an anti-corruption drive, all of the U.S. officials dealing with Ukraine were keen to see it happen precisely because they saw it as an important step in convincing Trump that the Ukrainians were serious about rooting out the corruption that had long plagued their country.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who heads the House Intelligence Committee, spent much of his time trying to coerce Volker into connecting certain dots. Schiff led the witness with questions that were designed to establish connections between the delivery of military assistance to Ukraine and Trump’s desire that the Ukrainians investigate their former government’s involvement in the 2016 U.S. election and that they also investigate the Bidens.
Volker was careful to avoid connecting those dots. While he agreed with the chairman that such a connection could be perceived or suspected, he provided no evidence that these issues were directly connected. He declined to offer any personal or even second-hand knowledge that such a connection existed.
Schiff became agitated when Volker pointed out that the Ukrainian government was not aware that U.S. aid was being held up. Obviously, if the aid was being withheld to pressure the Ukrainian government to commit to certain actions, the Ukrainians would have been made aware of that.
“Ambassador,” Schiff said when he realized Volker was stating something that did not support the narrative he was trying to create, “you’re making this much more complicated than it needs to be.” It was as if the chairman was telling the former envoy: “Please just say what I want to hear and stop stating facts that complicate my allegation against the president.”
Volker went on to point out that, by the time the Ukrainians finally learned that military assistance had been delayed, they had already had a meeting with then-National Security Advisor John Bolton, which was, for them, a prestigious and important step in U.S.-Ukraine relations. Had the Trump administration sought to strong-arm the Ukrainians into doing anything, they likely would not have sent Bolton over there at that time.
“I think the Ukrainians felt like things are going in the right direction,” Volker told Schiff, “and they had not done anything on – they had not done anything on an investigation, they had not done anything on a statement [about investigations], and things were ramping up in terms of their engagement with the administration. So I think they were actually feeling pretty good by then.”
This was not at all what Schiff had wanted to hear so, at that point, his frustration got the better of him and he directly insulted Volker: “Ambassador, I find it remarkable as a career diplomat that you have difficulty acknowledging that when Ukraine learned that their aid had been suspended for unknown reasons, that this wouldn’t add additional urgency to a request by the President of the United States. I find that remarkable.”
Schiff’s conduct, in these hearings, is one of an inquisitor and a bully. Berating witnesses because they are not agreeing with his own partisan assumptions proves that Schiff has no interest in the facts but is focussed only on creating his own version of the truth and intimidating witnesses into making statements which jibe with that false truth.
If any more evidence were needed that the impeachment investigation is a politically-motivated kangaroo court, Schiff provides it every time he opens his mouth. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) made a fatal mistake when she virtually handed over to Schiff the directing of this investigation. Like House Judiciary Chairman, Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Schiff is entirely incapable of even pretending to be either fair or professional. History will not be kind to any of those who drove this process forward. Their more immediate punishment, though, will likely be five more years of Trump.
Read more from Graham J Noble