House Committees’ Deposition: U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker

[NB: Check the byline, thanks!]

If yesterday’s blizzard of disinformation tweets is any kind of measure, the GOP is worried about today’s interview of the former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Committee on Oversight and Reform. You may recall he resigned from his role as a diplomat last Friday.

In a letter sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on September 27, it looked as if the biggest questions for State personnel would arise from what it was Giuliani was doing in and about Ukraine.

… The Department has also acknowledged that Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker played a direct role in arranging meetings between Rudy Giuliani, wo has no official role in the U.S. government, and representatives of President Zelensky.5 In addition, the whistleblower complaint indicate that “multiple U.S. Officials” were “deeply concerned by what they viewed as Mr. Giuliani’s circumvention of national security decisionmaking processes to engage with Ukrainian officials and relay messages back and forth between Kyiv and the President”6 These officials reported that “State Department officials” had spoken with Mr. Giuliani “in an attempt to ‘contain the damage’ to U.S. national security,” as well as to the new Ukrainian administration to help it “understand and respond to “Mr. Giuliani’s backchanneling.7

Whew. When you put it that way one can well understand the frustration of former member of parliament and presidential adviser Serhiy Leschenko when he wrote in a recent op-ed,

… Giuliani and his associates are trying to drag our newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, into a conflict between two foreign political parties, drastically limiting Ukraine’s room for maneuver in respect to the United States, perhaps its most important international partner. …

Today’s deposition is part of what the letter from the committees to Pompeo called “part of the impeachment inquiry.” It’ll be valuable as part of the investigative process determining culpability and to what degree on the part of participants who may have been manipulating U.S. foreign policy for the benefit of Trump’s re-election campaign.

But it will also be valuable for our relationship with Ukraine. They need to see the U.S. living up to its promise as a democracy while identifying where our relationship with Ukraine was hijacked.

The questions may be fairly simple:

— what was the understanding of Volker or other State Department personnel about the nature of Rudy Giuliani’s relationship to the U.S. government?
— did Volker every hear of Giuliani having meetings with Ukrainians prior to the July 25 call? What did the meetings entail and was each meeting debriefed with State?
— did Rudy Giuliani ask Volker or other State Department personnel for assistance in contacting Zelensky or other Ukraine officials?
— did Volker or the State Department ever ask Giuliani to contact Zelensky or other Ukraine officials?
— if anyone from State Department did ask, who was it and under what context did they make this request?
— were Volker and/org other State Department personnel asked by Giuliani or others to disparage former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch or in any way hamper her diplomatic work?
— did Volker and/or other State Department personnel ever see or hear Ukraine officials encouraged to disparage former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch or in any way hamper her diplomatic work?
— what did Volker know about the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky, ex. attendees at the White House, or participating remotely like from Ukraine?
— did subsequent meetings between Volker and Ukraine officials imply a quid pro quo agreement, aid for a deliverable?
— did the diplomatic office in Ukraine have its own transcript, complete or partial, or a memorandum of telephone conversation for the July 25 call?

I’m sure there’s more to be asked but these are pretty important questions. What about you? What would ask and how if you were in charge of this interview?

There’s a strong chance Pompeo, the Department of Justice, or the White House may interfere and prevent Volker’s deposition. We’ll see.

Timing of the deposition isn’t clear; I haven’t been able to find it anywhere. The deposition doesn’t appear to be open, either, as I see nothing on the calendars I’ve checked. If you find information please share it in comments.

40 replies
      • Rayne says:

        Yeah, NPR is so uneven, though in the story you’ve shared one knows going in it’s not going to be good — I mean, a GOP rep from Indiana? Nope. Especially when the entire GOP is fundamentally compromised by NRA money, of which so much has been dark money from Russia since 2012.

        I was trapped in the car this morning so I listened to the one I linked and I was rather surprised by it. Probably better for not giving air time to any member of Congress.

        • Xboxershorts says:

          I have no proof, no way to affirm or deny, just a gut feeling….

          That the GOP is compromised by much more than money.

          I have long wondered what ever became of the RNC data that was hacked so long ago.

          If there’s real damning stuff in that data it would be a good way to guarantee GOP/RNC cooperation.

            • BobCon says:

              I think most of these guys aren’t being pressured to act this way. They’re naturally toadies, Graham included.

              MW floated the theory that Russia’s “kompromat” over Trump was simply the ways that he had freely worked with them. He was in too deep to back out.

              I think that describes most of the GOP with Trump. Once they joined, they had nowhere else to go, and most of the ones who joined are either true believers or nihilists who would happily put kids in cages themselves if it meant getting their ticket punched.

              • Rayne says:

                We’ll agree to disagree about Graham. His 180-degree flip was so marked that there had to be more than pure toadyism. One golf game with the mangled tangerine hellbeast and Graham was suddenly in Trump’s choir? That’s not toadyism.

  1. CapeCodFisher says:

    I have a question slightly related to this post. Who gave all these world leaders permission to chat in SECRET? Shouldn’t we all hear what they’re saying? It’s not the leader’s world after all, it’s OURS… reveal what is being discussed… I’m sick of this crap…. It’s really such a fundamental issue. Why is the future of this earth being discussed in secrecy?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The longstanding norm is that those discussions are not disclosed to the public.

      What is outside the norm is that Trump is not engaged in governance or in improving American relations with its friends and foes. He is engaged in self-promotion and protecting his backside. It’s all he thinks it important to do.

  2. Tom says:

    Timing of Volker’s deposition — NPR news just said he’s appearing “this hour” 9:00 am EDST.

  3. tjallen says:

    There should be some effort to identify all of the players. Rudy has used assistants Joseph diGenova and wife Victoria Toensing to make some of these Ukraine contacts; the pair have a long history in Republican and conspiracy circles.
    Buzzfeed mentioned two Soviet-born Americans, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, as liasons between Ukraine and Rudy; I don’t know much about these two.
    There must be more.

    • tjallen says:

      Unsavory details about Parnas and Fruman, and their work with Rudy on Ukraine, can be found at the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) website, here (spaces added to link):
      https ://www. occrp. org/en/investigations/meet-the-florida-duo-helping-giuliani-dig-dirt-for-trump-in-ukraine

    • SelfAbsorbed says:

      Firtash, a Ukrainian fighting extradition in Austria, just hired Joe & Victoria as attorneys. It’s rather suspicious, I mean the only “lawyering” they do is on Fox. Personally, I think they are a back channel for info from Ukraine (read Russian propaganda from Putin’s party in Ukraine) that can be protected w/“attorney client privilege”. Even though that doesn’t apply to crimes, courts are loathe to pierce the veil (I’m not a lawyer, so please correct me if I’m wrong) and it complicates matters, which equals time. If you think about it from Trump’s POV, he needs made up info before Nov. 2020, if Joe and Victoria are charged w/anything or subpoenaed for records it wouldn’t be until after a lengthy investigation, & they could probably put off discovery until after the election with bullshit attorney client privilege claims and appeals. That’s just my prediction/theory.

  4. SteveR says:

    I’d be very interested in knowing when Giuliani learned when aid to Ukraine was being held up. Given their apparent interactions, there’s a decent chance Volker knows the answer.

  5. Jenny says:

    Thanks Rayne.
    Why did you accept this job? Were you instructed to work with Giuliani?
    Have you seen the movie The Goodfellas? If so, how does this administration compare?
    At least Volker resigned and is testifying. Former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch testimony next week will be more questing for answers.

    To lighten up – humor from Stephen Colbert – LOL
    As The Walls Close In, Donald Trump Is Clearly Losing It

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Thanks, Jenny! It doesn’t get better than that :-) Here’s my paltry contribution:

      Here’s a thought experiment you might enjoy. Put on your Putineer caps and imagine, if you can, how many people Moscow Mitch will be singing this song to. And what will be the lineup? Let’s see if we can get the ranking right. Hmm. There’s Putin, Deripaska, Trump, Pence, Barr, Pompeo…..

      Kiss and Say Goodbye – The Manhattans

  6. Rugger9 says:

    A couple of things come to mind. The idea of of tarring everyone which is intended to drive home the point expressed by Benjamin Franklin: We need to hang together, because otherwise we shall certainly hang separately. However, the GOP from MMMcT and Pence on down was perfectly willing to go along with the idea so this is really an observation of the state of affairs. Look for the drumbeat of President Pelosi in a socialist utopia to be the GOP fundraising scare campaign.

    The other point I’d like to make was that much-ballyhooed State Department IG visit to the Congress yesterday turned out to be more like an Alex Jones podcast, even (apparently) to the use of Trump Hotel folders to hold the dreck. Ukraine envoy Volker’s there today to sing and I expect that to be (ahem) interesting. We shall see.

  7. klynn says:

    Just a short timeline aside on Volker…

    Sept 22 – Trump mentions call and the Biden reference

    Sept 25 – Call notes released.

    Sept 25 – Cindy McCaine said, “Not the party that my husband and I belonged to…”

    September 27 – Volker resigns & ASU paper gets the scoop – which is important to note.

    Cindy McCaine used a strong verb tense when she stated “belonged” — oh gosh I wonder what she said to Volker!

    • Jenny says:

      Good point considering Kurt Volker is executive director of the Arizona-based McCain Institute. The question is “Will he stay or go?” Perhaps his testimony will determine one way or the other.

      • bmaz says:

        He is certainly staying as of now.

        And KLynn, I would think more about the President of ASU and his office than Cindy.

    • Mooser says:

      Ukraine got squeezed between Putin and Trump. Shaken down. Don’t see how that can be good news for the John McCain Institute.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Lindsey is like water: he needs a vessel to give him shape. McCain’s gone, so now it’s Trump.

  8. Robert Britton says:

    I know I’ve said this before, but this is the thing I struggle with today: The lack of ethical and moral fortitude in our government (workers, appointees…all who engage in any role directly).

    How is it that in < 2 years, Trump has some how been able to turnover ANYONE with any morals or ethics with accountability to Oaths of Office as well as to laws of our Republic?

    Someone yesterday on NPR, made the point that I'm making: Just b/c Pompeo was an Ivy School Grad (Harvard Law) and West Point Grad, doesn't mean that he has the moral and ethical fortitude to be worthy of his role as a WH department admin.

    Is there NO ONE left in our government with moral fiber, honor, and character who will faithfully uphold their oath and the laws of this Land? It is stunning to me how there seems to be such a minority of people who do have those qualities, along with the COURAGE to uphold their oaths and the law.

    Lastly, I find it interesting that Schiff/Pelosi are yet again trying to threaten the administration with subpoenas. Please! They have already demonstrated how weak the democratic establishment in Congress is. How do they think this threat will be taken seriously when all prior subpoenas have been ignored by even the lowliest of admin punks like Mnuchin, Corey Lewandkowski, and others? They let the lowliest of little punks thumb their nose and look what it has wrought? Complete diminishing of Congress and their influence to be a balance to the executive branch. (Note: I do not fully excuse the GOP in Congress (and elsewhere). That is a significant part of the systemic disease of where we are today.)

    Even if Schiff/Pelosi/Schumer/Nadler/et al some how dig deep and step up, using "inherent contempt (which they should have done MONTHS ago) and take the gloves off and start fighting, it's too late. (I never understood the idea that "when they go low, we go high" means we don't have to FIGHT HARD for our country. There's difference between fighting immorally and unethically and being weak.)

    As Seth Abramson ("Proof of Conspiracy" author) has stated numerous times recently, when you fail to uphold the law, you basically make the law (and our republic) meaningless.

    What an wretched, decaying, sesspool of a country we have today. I've never been so disgusted. This is not the country I served in the U.S. Navy to "protect and defend." Our Country…the President, and his staff, extorted, pressured, and bribed a foreign leader. And worse. And Still no one really rises to the fight?

    A poll statistic showed that 4% of Eurpoeans surveyed said they don't trust the U.S. anymore. Heck, I don't trust the U.S. anymore!

    We are finally at the moment. I don't think Schiff, Pelosi, Schumer, Nadler, et al, have the wherewith-all to rise to the challenge. They've failed for months.

    I keep seeing the scene with Gandalf and Pippin in the Return of the King:

    Pippin: I don't want to be in a battle. But waiting on the edge of one I can't escape is even worse. Is there any hope, Gandalf? For Frodo and Sam?

    Gandalf: There never was much hope. Just a fool's hope. [pauses and looks out at Mordor] Our enemy is ready, his full strength gathered. Not only orcs, but men as well. Legions of Haradrim from the south, mercenaries from the coast, all shall answer Mordor's call. This will be the end of Gondor as we know it…

    I fear for my country more than ever before. I believe this is the end of the United States and we can't seem to find anyone with the courage to rise up and FIGHT.

    I believe the next few days and weeks will really tell.

    But as Aragorn said in speaking to Elrond regarding hope, "I keep none for myself."

        • OldTulsaDude says:

          RB’s post above brought it to mind. What we are facing today is leadership and support of the same moral hierarchy standards found in Austria and Germany of the 1930s.

    • Rayne says:

      One big reason employees both public and private struggle with whistleblowing is precarity. Our entire system is built to preserve a near-monopsony in which power belongs almost absolutely to the employer.

      What does an employee do if they are pregnant or their spouse is pregnant and they need the health care their employer offers? What about diabetics who can’t afford insulin with out their employer-provided health care insurance? It’s difficult for them to walk away after filing a complaint.

      And the complaint system can be obstructive and punitive to the point of being useless. Like mandatory arbitration, or resistance to unionization including downsizing, office relocation, cuts to staffing and wages.

      Only those who have absolutely nothing to lose or a highly-secure Plan B will stick their necks out. We have to fix this, of course.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        A good objective for the next Democratic president: prohibit mandatory arbitration in consumer and employment contracts.

      • Vicks says:

        I think heroes are undervalued and our safety net system is f’ed up.
        Your point makes it clear that the two are related and that really puts things in perspective.
        What kind of “great economy” could be knocked over by a feather like raising the minimum wage?
        “The lack of ethical and moral fortitude (Robert Britton @ 11:50) is not just in government but anywhere there is a large gap in power or wealth.
        To gain power you have to take or withhold it from someone, gaining wealth can also be at the expense of another’s well being.

    • bmaz says:

      Seth Abramson is one of the biggest and noisiest goofballs on the face of the planet. Nobody should give a shit what he says.

  9. Nehoa says:

    Additional question to Volker: what do you know, or did you hear about why the funds to Ukraine were ultimately released? Was it external pressure, or did Ukraine agree to what Trump asked for?

  10. klynn says:

    Inspired by one of EW’s twitter feeds:

    Bob Bardo tweeted this reply to EW,

    “But Marcy, Republicans really do care about conflicts of interests now.”

    Think about that. Think how that idea could be used to make the dems investigation points paired with all Trump has stated and acted on the record.

Comments are closed.