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 transcript of Kurt Volker’s closed-door testimony on Capitol Hill runs to 360 pages. In it, the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine provided clarity – at least from his perspective – on a number of issues related to President Donald Trump’s allegedly improper overtures to the Ukrainian government. But much of the hearing was redundant: Democrats spent a large part of it leading Volker in circles, desperate to have him make a definitive statement in support of the notion that the president had broken the law or improperly used the power of his office for personal gain.
Over and over, Trump’s political enemies on the joint committee – first Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) and later Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) – attempted to establish, with Volker’s agreement, that the U.S. president was imposing certain conditions upon the Ukrainian president. Supposedly those conditions were meant to coerce the latter into ordering an investigation into Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 election and also Joe Biden and his son.
The temporary hold on military assistance to Ukraine was a central theme of the hearing, but, try as they might, Democrats questioning Volker were unable to make the former State Department official acknowledge a connection between that delay and a commitment by Ukraine to investigate 2016 or the Bidens.
The attempt to lead the witness was painfully transparent. At one point, Volker was asked about text messages between himself and other senior U.S. diplomats – European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland and the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Ukraine, Bill Taylor. Quoting a message Taylor wrote to Sondland, Volker read: “Are we now saying that security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on investigations?”
Volker was then asked what he had discussed with Taylor or Sondland, regarding this quid pro quo arrangement. “Well,” Volker responded, “you asked what conversations did I have about that quid pro quo, et cetera. None, because I didn’t know that there was a quid pro quo.” Frustrated, Daniel Noble, the Democrat counsel asking the questions, shot back: “Ambassador, with all due respect, Bill Taylor, your fellow diplomat here, is saying that there is a linkage between those two things.”
“No,” Volker responded, referring to what Taylor had actually said, “he’s asking.” This was a classic case of leading the witness and attempting to make Volker agree with something that was clearly not true. The former envoy did not take the bait, however. Throughout the hearing, there were other numerous examples of Democrats attempting to bully, coerce, or trick Volker into making statements or giving answers that would directly incriminate Trump.
The question about the aid being held up – absent documentary proof one way or the other – is a matter of pure speculation: Was the delay in releasing assistance to Ukraine a bureaucratic or budgetary issue? Was it deliberately delayed? If so, why? Has the release of foreign aid been put on hold at other times? Were conditions put on the release of foreign aid?
Volker was adamant that the temporary hold on assistance to Ukraine had no connection to Trump’s desire to see the Ukrainian government open an investigation. Even if the two things were connected, has any crime or abuse of power been committed? The answer to that last question, clearly, is no – unless it can be proven that the president was acting in his own self-interest, rather than simply wanting Ukraine to get to the bottom of certain questionable activities.
Asked if he could recall other examples of assistance being deliberately held up, Volker responded that he had come across many examples “for any number of reasons where there is a hold on assistance or a condition placed on assistance because they want a particular policy outcome.”
In fact, Volker refused, throughout the hearing, to support any connection between U.S. actions toward Ukraine and President Trump’s alleged demands for investigations into 2016 or the Biden-Ukraine connections. He maintained, rather, that U.S. policy was robust in its backing of Ukraine – specifically with regard to that country’s war with Russia – and that Trump was highly suspicious of Ukrainian corruption and wanted that country’s government to commit to doing something about it.
The Volker hearing raised questions about Rudy Giuliani’s conduct, though: Had the former New York mayor falsely portrayed his dealings with Ukraine as being at the direction of the State Department? Volker strongly implied that the answer was yes. That being said, the former envoy affirmed that the Ukrainians had requested that he put them in contact with Giuliani (this was months before the Trump-Zelensky phone call). Moreover, as the president’s personal attorney, Giuliani had every reasonable right to have sought out any and all exculpatory evidence with regard to his client’s actions and attitudes toward the Ukrainian government as well as to uncover the truth behind a two-year investigation of his client.
Given what Trump was put through both before and since the 2016 election – and given that Ukrainian officials appear to have played some originating role in the phony Russia collusion story, there should be little wonder that the president and his personal attorney would want to know the who, what, where, and when of it all.
Therein lies the very heart of the impeachment matter: The president’s opponents are essentially claiming that, by wanting to know the extent to which Ukraine played a role in the Russia conspiracy hoax, Trump is committing a crime or abusing the power of his office. Democrats adopted the same attitude toward Hillary Clinton’s missing emails: To them, the crime was not that Clinton mishandled classified information or obstructed justice by not turning over thousands of emails. The crime was that someone may have stolen her emails and that Trump – among others – wanted to know what was in them. To borrow from an old idiom, Democrats are always more interested in shooting the messenger than heeding the message.
Read more from Graham J Noble.