Kurt Volker's testimony shatters Trump's justification for urging Ukraine to investigate the Bidens

Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty ImagesKurt Volker.
  • The former US special representative to Ukraine in testimony to House lawmakers shattered President Donald Trump’s central line of attack against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
  • Trump has alleged that Joe Biden, as vice president, urged Ukraine to fire a prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was investigating a Ukrainian natural-gas company Hunter Biden worked for. But the newly released testimony makes clear that Shokin was not investigating Burisma or even corruption cases generally.
  • Volker testified that Joe Biden was executing US policy in pushing for Shokin to be ousted, adding that many countries wanted the prosecutor gone because he was not doing his job and not pursuing corruption cases.
  • Though Volker’s testimony did not offer new information, it’s significant because it comes under oath from a former Trump administration appointee.
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Kurt Volker, the former US special representative to Ukraine, directly undermined the central premise behind President Donald Trump’s attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Trump has justified urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens by suggesting the former vice president, while still in office, pressured the Ukrainian government to fire a prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, to the benefit of Hunter Biden.

The president has alleged Joe Biden wanted Shokin out because he was investigating Hunter Biden in relation to his work for a Ukrainian natural-gas company, Burisma Holdings. But the newly released testimony makes clear that Shokin was not investigating Burisma or even corruption cases generally.

Volker, who was appointed to his unpaid position in the first year of Trump’s presidency, shattered this baseless allegation in his testimony to House lawmakers. The transcript of testimony was released on Tuesday by the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry.

The released transcript showed that Volker told House lawmakers that Joe Biden’s efforts to see Shokin ousted represented the former vice president “executing US policy at the time and what was widely understood internationally to be the right policy.”

Volker said it was a general assumption of the European Union, France, the UK, Germany, and American diplomats “that Shokin was not doing his job as prosecutor general,” adding that Shokin “was not pursuing corruption cases” when Joe Biden called for him to be fired.

Though Volker’s testimony did not offer new information, it’s significant because it comes under oath from a former Trump administration appointee and serves to discredit Trump’s primary reasoning for asking Zelensky to open an inquiry into the Bidens.

This request from Trump to Zelensky, which could constitute an abuse of power, is largely what prompted the whistleblower complaint from a US intelligence official that ultimately spiraled into an impeachment inquiry.

Hunter Biden began serving on the board of Burisma in April 2014. At the time, Joe Biden was the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine, a country facing a war in its east with Russian-backed separatists. Though some ethics watchdogs were critical of Hunter Biden’s decision to work for Burisma, raising concerns it could present a conflict of interest, there’s no evidence of wrongdoing or illegal activity on the part of either Biden.

Shokin was ousted in March 2016. Trump has repeatedly suggested Joe Biden pushed for Shokin to be fired in order to end corruption investigations into Burisma as Hunter Biden worked there. But, as Volker testified, Joe Biden was actually part of a broad effort involving multiple countries to see Shokin ousted because he wasn’t doing enough to fight corruption.

Contrary to Trump’s assertions, there were also no active investigations into Burisma at the time Shokin was pushed out.

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