Volker pressed on why he repeatedly scheduled meetings at Trump hotel

Kurt Volker, the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, was pressed by an investigator for House Democrats on why he repeatedly scheduled meetings at President Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C., with other figures now at the center of the impeachment investigation, a transcript of Volker’s deposition released Tuesday shows.

The former Trump administration official was asked early last month about meetings at the president’s hotel in downtown D.C., including a July 19 breakfast with Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer who was leading efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to open investigations sought by Trump.

{mosads}While the impeachment inquiry is focused on whether Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine to pressure its government to open investigations into his political opponents, the transcript of the Oct. 3 deposition shows Democrats’ interest in also probing ties to his personal businesses.

Democrats have long claimed that Trump has violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause by profiting from officials spending money at his properties, and some have suggested Trump’s alleged violations could be another article of impeachment.

Text messages released Tuesday show that Volker sought to set up a meeting with Giuliani in mid-July to “update you on my conversations about Ukraine.” On July 18, Volker asked, “Can I buy you breakfast tomorrow?” before suggesting the Trump hotel as the location. Giuliani agreed to meet there the following morning. 

Lev Parnas, Giuliani’s business associate who was indicted on campaign finance violations last month, also attended the meeting, according to Volker.

During Volker’s deposition, Daniel Noble, senior counsel for House Intelligence Committee Democrats, asked about his knowledge of Parnas and his involvement in introducing Giuliani to Ukrainian officials.

Volker said he hadn’t met Parnas before or since that meeting and didn’t know much about him. Noble later asked why the meeting was held at Trump’s hotel.

“Because I was guessing that’s where Rudy was going to be staying, so that would be the easiest thing to do,” Volker replied.

But that wasn’t the only meeting Volker set up at the Trump hotel, according to text messages provided by Volker that House Democrats released on Tuesday.

On July 8, the then-U.S. envoy also agreed to meet Andriy Yermak, a top adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, at the hotel blocks from the White House.

In the texts that Volker provided to congressional investigators, Yermak on July 8 suggested meeting after his plane landed in Washington. “I will stay in Trump International Hotel,” Yermak added. 

The two agreed to meet for coffee two days later at the hotel.

The investigator for House Democrats asked Volker if he knew why Yermak stayed at the Trump hotel. Volker said he didn’t know.

The investigator then asked, “Did you ever have any conversations with the Ukrainians about currying favor with President Trump by staying at their property?”

“I did not, no,” Volker replied.

After his July 19 meeting with Giuliani, Volker moved to connect him with Yermak.

During the meeting at the Trump hotel with Giuliani, Volker said he warned that the allegations floated by Trump’s allies against former Vice President Joe Biden — that he tried to push back against an investigation into a Ukrainian energy company where his son served on the board — were “simply not credible.”

“I said to Rudy in that breakfast the first time we sat down to talk that it is simply not credible to me that Joe Biden would be influenced in his duties as Vice President by money or things for his son or anything like that. I’ve known him a long time, he’s a person of integrity, and that’s not credible,” Volker testified.

Thirteen witnesses have testified behind closed doors to date as part of the impeachment inquiry, including Volker. Democrats released the first batch of closed-door witness transcripts this week as they move into the public stage of the investigation, with open hearings as soon as this month.

Tags Donald Trump Joe Biden Kurt Volker Rudy Giuliani Ukraine

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