Volker: ‘I Was Never Involved in Anything That I Considered Bribery at All—or Extortion’

By Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
November 20, 2019 Updated: November 20, 2019

Former Ukraine Envoy Kurt Volker told lawmakers on Nov. 19 before the House Intelligence Committee that he believes there was no bribery, extortion, or quid pro quo in the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine.

Volker, one of the four witnesses to testify in the impeachment inquiry hearings on Tuesday, offered testimony that served to underscore issues in the Democrats’ case to investigate the president for impeachment.

The impeachment inquiry, launched by the House Democrats, is looking into whether the president had leveraged his office and withheld U.S. aid to Ukraine to obtain investigations into a political opponent, 2020 candidate Joe Biden. Democrat lawmakers initially alleged that President Donald Trump’s conduct amounted to a quid pro quo. Still, in the last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) began accusing Trump of “bribery” for withholding aid from Ukraine.

The Ukrainian president and prime minister have both said they didn’t perceive a link between the hold on aid and Trump’s request for investigations. The White House lifted the hold on the aid on Sept. 11.

During the public hearing on Tuesday, Volker told multiple lawmakers and the Republican counsel that he did not think Trump’s conduct with Ukraine amounted to bribery or quid pro quo.

“In no way, shape or form in either readout from the United States or Ukraine did you receive any indication whatsoever, or anything, that resembled a quid pro quo, is that correct?” Republican counsel Stephen Castor asked during the hearing.

“That’s correct,” Volker replied.

Castor then went on to ask the former Ukraine envoy the same question but with the allegation of bribery and extortion instead of quid pro quo. Volker replied, “I was never involved in anything that I would consider to be bribery at all … or extortion.”

In another set of questioning by Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio.), Volker was asked whether Trump had ever said to him that “he was not going to allow aid from the U.S. to go to Ukraine unless there were investigations into Burisma, the Bidens, or the 2016 election.”

“No, he did not,” Volker said.

Turner then asked, “Did the Ukrainians ever tell you that they understood that they would not get a meeting with the president of the United States, a phone call with the president of the United States, military aid, or foreign aid from the United States unless they undertook investigations of Burisma, the Bidens, or the 2016 election?”

“No, they did not,” Volker said.

Similarly, Former National Security Council aide Tim Morrison, a top Russia advisor in the White House, also testified that there was no bribery related to the withholding of aid to Ukraine.

“Did anyone ever ask you to bribe or extort anyone at any time during your time in the White House?” the committee’s ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) asked.

Morrison said, “No, sir.”

Volker also replied “no” when asked the same question from Nunes.

Following the hearing, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham released a statement saying that the Democrat’s central allegation in the inquiry had been “completely debunked.”

“Specifically, Ambassador Volker confirmed under oath that he had no indication whatsoever of anything that resembled a quid-pro-quo, corroborating his previous deposition testimony that ‘there was no linkage like that,'” she said.

“With the Democrats’ poll-tested ‘quid-pro-quo’ and ‘bribery’ narratives in shambles, the American public should not be forced to endure this charade for one more second,’” she added.

In October, Volker had already testified behind a closed-door hearing 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 and Morrison’s hearing was held on the third day of public hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry into Trump. None of the witnesses who have testified in the impeachment inquiry identified any alleged criminal acts in Trump’s call with Zelensky, a transcript (pdf) of which was released by the White House on Sept. 25.

Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.

Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.