For fark’s sake. This is the guy who was working with Gordon Sondland to get the Ukrainians to reopen the investigation into Burisma. He and Tim Morrison are testifying this afternoon at the request of Republicans because their earlier depositions proved useful in part to Trump’s defense. Morrison testified a few weeks ago that he listened in on the president’s July 25 call with Zelensky and found nothing illegal about it, nor did he necessarily see anything improper in a quid pro quo with Ukraine. Volker, meanwhile, testified that “at no time was I aware of or took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden,” which supports the possibility that Trump really was interested in uncovering corruption involving Burisma, not in a political hit aimed at Grandpa Joe.
But that testimony was always sticky. Trump mentioned the Bidens by name in his phone call with Zelensky in July, a fact which Volker claims he was unaware of. And it seemed *highly* unlikely that Volker somehow missed the Joe Biden angle in Trump’s interest in Burisma given that Rudy Giuliani was chattering about it in the pages of the New York Times as far back as May.
So here comes Volker before the House today, presumably to help Trump out by repeating his point that Biden was never part of the attempt to pressure Ukraine on Burisma. But news started circulating last night that he’d say something different than expected — that he was out of the loop at certain key moments and somehow never figured out that the investigation Trump was after very much had to do with alleged corruption by Joe Biden, not just Hunter. And that theory, as far as Volker was concerned, was outlandish — and unacceptable.
Which is what he ended up saying in his opening statement this afternoon:
Kurt Volker, former envoy to Ukraine, amends private deposition testimony from last month, now saying he didn’t know at the time that military aid to Ukraine had been linked to Ukraine launching investigations that would have been politically advantageous.https://t.co/X1W0O8r6lW pic.twitter.com/sMdR96Mqnv
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 19, 2019
Worse, he recalled a conversation with Giuliani in mid-July in which Rudy accused Joe Biden of abusing his office by pressuring Ukraine not to investigate Hunter Biden’s company. Volker says he shut that down because he knows Joe Biden to be … an honorable man:
Kurt Volker: “On July 19, Mayor Giuliani raised, and I rejected, the conspiracy theory that VP Biden would have been influenced in his duties as VP by money paid to his son … I have known Biden for 24 years. He is an honorable man and I hold him in the highest regard.” pic.twitter.com/4ZoBMQxoGp
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 19, 2019
This guy is a Republican witness?
Adam Schiff naturally seized the opportunity to steer Volker back to this subject once questioning began, as having a “good witness for Trump” attesting to Joe Biden’s personal integrity in this setting was obviously a minor coup:
Rep. Adam Schiff: "Why was it that you found the allegations against Joe Biden … not to be believed?"
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) November 19, 2019
I wouldn’t blame Trump or any supporter for suspecting that Volker’s now in pure CYA mode, telling Schiff and the Democrats what they want to hear in order to take heat off himself. It’s ludicrous, after all, for Volker to have failed to recognize that Joe Biden was the ultimate target of the Burisma investigation after Giuliani flatly made that connection to him in their July talk. Did Volker think Giuliani was alone in that belief, that the president didn’t share Rudy’s suspicions about Biden despite the fact that he had deputized Rudy to direct Sondland and Volker?
In other words, is Volker setting Giuliani up to be a fall guy here?
Well, doesn’t matter. Volker doesn’t matter. Only one person matters — the wild card:
"Multiple GOP sources say they are most worried about what Gordon Sondland will do tomorrow — and whether he will turn on the President," @mkraju reports. The fear "is that he could undercut the last GOP defense…" https://t.co/FGZ8dZ62em
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) November 19, 2019
A question to chew on while we wait for tomorrow’s Gordon Sondland testimony: If Trump simply wanted to see Ukraine fight corruption, not to get them to cough up dirt about Biden, why didn’t he mention corruption to them in his first call with Zelensky in late April? Reportedly his staff encouraged him to do so. Trump ignored them.