House panels grill Trump’s former Ukraine special envoy

WASHINGTON 

Three House panels questioned former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker on Thursday amid an impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump.

Volker, who resigned last Friday, was requested to appear before the committees last week after being among those named in a whistleblower complaint that has set off the lawmakers’ investigation.

The session was held behind closed doors in the basement of the Capitol as lawmakers from the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees continued their investigation.

Trump acknowledged asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, during a July 25 telephone call that has become the foundation for the House’s impeachment investigation.

The elder Biden is the leading Democratic candidate heading into next year’s presidential elections, making him a clear political rival to Trump.

Soliciting the assistance of a foreign leader to undermine Biden has raised questions of election interference.

The whistleblower complaint says Volker met July 26, the day after Trump’s call with Zelensky, with the Ukrainian president “and a variety of Ukrainian political figures” in Kiev.

“Based on multiple readouts of these meetings recounted to me by various U.S. officials, Ambassadors Volker and Sondland reportedly provided advice to the Ukrainian leadership about how to ‘navigate’ the demands that the President had made of Mr. Zelenskyy,” the whistleblower, who has remained anonymous, wrote using his preferred spelling for the Ukrainian leader.

He was additionally referring to Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing, maintaining his call with Zelensky was “perfect” while seeking to undermine the whistleblower whose complaint brought the phone call and other related matters to the public’s attention.

As the impeachment investigation widens, however, Trump has gone further, saying Thursday that China too should probe the Bidens.

He denied asking Chinese President Xi Jinping to carry out the probe into Biden and his son but told reporters before leaving the White House for Florida that “it’s certainly something we can start thinking about.”

“China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine,” Trump said, referring to his other unsubstantiated claims of corruption against the Bidens in Ukraine.
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