Kurt Volker Takes Questions As First Witness In The House Impeachment Inquiry

Oct 3, 2019
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The first witness in the House impeachment inquiry took questions behind closed doors today. Former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker met with some members of the House intelligence, oversight and foreign affairs committees. You may recall Volker resigned last week in the midst of the investigation about the president's request that the Ukrainian government look into Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

NPR political reporter Tim Mak joins us from Capitol Hill. Hi there, Tim.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey there.

KELLY: What is it lawmakers were hoping to learn today from Volker?

MAK: So lawmakers are interested in what Volker knows about the interactions, especially what he might have said or heard from Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer. Remember that Volker was mentioned in that now-famous whistleblower complaint sent to the intelligence community inspector general. The complaint said that Volker was trying to help the incoming Ukrainian administration navigate Trump's demands for an investigation.

The complaint also said that Volker had spoken to Giuliani in an attempt to, quote, "contain the damage of Giuliani's own outreach to the Ukrainian government." So lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been trickling in and out of the deposition all day. They have generally been quiet about the content of the deposition.

Congressman Jim Jordan - he's the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee - he said that Volker's testimony has thus far not been aligned with the Democratic version of events.

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JIM JORDAN: First of all, Ambassador Volker - unbelievably knowledgeable about what was going on in Ukraine, just a true professional in our diplomatic corps. But not one thing he has said comports with any of the Democrats' impeachment narrative, not one thing.

MAK: But Jordan declined to say how it failed to align. Numerous Republicans have said today that they want the transcript of the deposition released as soon as possible.

KELLY: All right. What about Democrats, have they been any more forthcoming about how the testimony today may or may not have aligned with the narrative as we all understand it so far?

MAK: So they've been pretty tight-lipped, too. I mean, the chairman of the Intelligence committee, Democrat Adam Schiff, also declined to say what Volker had told the committees. He stepped outside of the area in the Capitol where classified material is discussed, and he really just made comments about the president's remarks earlier today asking Ukraine and China to look into the Bidens. Schiff that that the president had really only learned one major lesson from the two-year Mueller investigation.

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ADAM SCHIFF: He feels he can do anything with impunity. The president of the United States encouraging a foreign nation to interfere again to help his campaign by investigating a rival is a fundamental breach of the president's oath of office.

MAK: But like I said, he's been quiet about what he might have learned specifically from Volker today.

KELLY: All right. And what is coming next? There's another witness lined up to testify tomorrow. Is that right?

MAK: Yeah. It's been really fast, this process, especially when you compare it to the two-year-long Mueller investigation. It has only been one week since the whistleblower complaint has been released to the public. And Volker's deposition was just the first of many interviews House Democrats want to have in coming days. You can tell they have a sense of urgency about it.

Tomorrow they'll be meeting again with Michael Atkinson. He is the intelligence community inspector general who had judged that he found the whistleblower complaint credible. Democrats and Republicans will want to know who he talked to and what he heard in order to make that determination.

KELLY: That is NPR political reporter Tim Mak talking to us from Capitol Hill.

Thank you, Tim.

MAK: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.