Kurt Volker, the former Ukraine envoy who resigned at the end of the last month, has stepped down from another post, this time as executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership, amid the impeachment saga.
Volker, who was the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, said he was resigning from the Washington-based think tank because the recent media focus on his role in the impeachment inquiry was “becoming a distraction from the accomplishments and continued growth of the institute.”
“I am stepping down as executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership. I know the Institute is well equipped with a first rate team of staff and trustees to continue its progress in the future,” Volker said in a statement on Oct. 7.
In the same statement, Cindy McCain, the institute’s chair of the Board of Trustees, expressed her appreciation to Volker for his “dedication to my husband and the entire McCain family.”
McCain added that Nick Rasmussen would serve as the acting executive director until they find a permanent replacement.
His resignation at the institute comes days after Volker appeared before the House Intelligence Committee during a closed meeting. During his testimony, he told lawmakers that he wasn’t aware of and had no role in urging Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
“[At] no time was I aware of or took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden,” Volker told the lawmakers, according to a copy of his prepared remarks obtained by The Hill’s John Solomon.
Volker supported his testimony with text messages in which Biden’s name never came up. He also told lawmakers that he wasn’t on the July 25 call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and didn’t know that Biden was mentioned in that call until after the White House released the transcript of the conversation on Sept. 25, according to the prepared remarks.
The House Democrats released a copy of the text messages to the public on Oct. 3 (pdf).
Volker’s testimony also contradicted a hearsay claim in the anonymous whistleblower’s complaint, which suggested that Volker and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, engaged with Ukrainian officials to help them handle Trump’s request to investigate Biden.
The whistleblower complaint is at the center of an impeachment inquiry that alleged Trump had used his office to ask Zelensky to obtain “dirt” on a political rival, Biden. The transcript, released by the White House, revealed that Trump had asked Zelensky to look into Crowdstrike, a technology firm that was hired by the Democratic National Committee, and look into Biden’s dealings with Ukraine while he was vice president. In 2018, Biden bragged that he pressured then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in 2016 to remove a prosecutor in charge of a probe of Ukrainian gas company Burisma, where Biden’s son was a board member. Biden has denied any wrongdoing.
Volker’s testimony also puts in context a selection of his text messages such as in one message, where the former envoy appears to suggest that a meeting between Trump and Zelensky was dependent on Zelensky promising to help with “an investigation.”
Volker told lawmakers that the investigation in question was the one concerning Ukraine’s alleged interference in the 2016 election to undermine Trump. The U.S. president’s view of Ukraine was soured by the allegations, and Volker worked to convince Trump that Ukraine’s new administration is set on rooting out corruption. Volker communicated with the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to help buttress Trump’s trust in the incoming administration in Kyiv.
Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.