Congress

GOP laments Schiff’s handling of Ukraine probe, Volker testimony

Schiff: Trump actions ‘ought to be condemned by every member’

Kurt Volker, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, arrives at the Capitol Visitor Center to be deposed by House committees as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans on Thursday said that testimony from the State Department’s former envoy to Ukraine, sought by House Democrats with regards to their impeachment inquiry, won’t advance the drive to impeach President Donald Trump.

Emerging from the day-long deposition, New York Republican Lee Zeldin said that former U.S. Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker’s private Thursday testimony, “blows a hole in the argument” presented by Democrats that  Trump asked the president of Ukraine for a quid pro quo.

Volker on Thursday spent hours testifying with congressional investigators who are seeking to discover if he played any role in Trump’s efforts to obtain from Ukrainian officials information on Hunter Biden, the son of 2020 presidential hopeful Joseph R. Biden Jr.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff briefly addressed reporters during the testimony, charging that Trump encouraging a foreign nation to investigate his political rival was a “fundamental breach of the president’s oath of office.”

“It endangers our elections, it endangers our national security, it ought to be condemned by every member of this body, Democrats and Republicans alike,” Schiff said.

While Volker testified, Ohio Republican Michael R. Turner, an Intelligence Committee member, released a statement saying  he does “not believe that Volker’s testimony advanced Schiff’s impeachment agenda.”

Zeldin urged the relevant congressional committees to make public a transcript of Volker’s deposition, along with text messages Volker sent to Ukrainian officials, which have become a source of intrigue in the fledgling impeachment push.

 

About two-and-a-half hours into Volker’s deposition, Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican and founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, emerged and told reporters that Schiff wanted to limit certain members from questioning Volker and that the California Democrat had barred State Department lawyers from participating in the closed briefing.

“If this is how Mr. Schiff is going to conduct these types of interviews in the future,” Jordan said, “that’s a concern.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has drawn the ire of congressional Democrats this week for rejecting a subpoena and rebuffing congressional requests to question five current and former State Department officials to testify in the impeachment inquiry.

In defending his actions, Trump has taken aim at Schiff, calling him names and urging that he resign and be investigated himself, potentially for treason.

Jordan praised Volker, calling him “impressive.” Turner called Volker “an incredible diplomat,” in his statement.

Volker resigned from his position as special envoy less than a week ago after his name appeared in a whistleblower complaint alleging that Volker was coordinating with Ukrainian officials on how to handle requests from Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. That whistleblower report is central in justifying House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

Turner said he doesn’t believe Volker would have done anything untoward during his State Department service.

“It is my strong belief that Volker would not have been involved in nor permitted anything inappropriate, let alone illegal, in his service to our country,” Turner said. “Today he continued his legacy of integrity under questioning from Schiff’s staff.”

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