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Once an obscure diplomat, Volker at center of Trump inquiry

by Ace Damon
Once an obscure diplomat, Volker at center of Trump inquiry

WASHINGTON (AP) – Kurt Volker was little known outside foreign policy circles as a US Special Envoy to Ukraine until last week when the denunciation of complainants against President Donald Trump reshaped the once obscure diplomat as a central figure. in the impeachment inquiry.

Volker is due to testify on Thursday in particular to congressional investigators who want to ask about any role he may have played in Trump's efforts to pressure Ukrainian authorities for damaging information about former Vice President Joe Biden's son.

Volker resigned on Friday after being asked to testify to Congress on the complaint, which describes how Trump in a phone call on July 25 repeatedly provoked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for an investigation by Biden and his son, while his government delayed release of military aid to help Ukraine fights against Russian-backed separatists. The complaint says Volker met in Kiev with Zelenskiy and other Ukrainian political figures the day after the call and he provided advice on how to "navigate" Trump's demands.

"I think he was doing his best," said retired US diplomat Daniel Fried, who described his former colleague's actions as trying to advise Ukrainians on "how to deal with President Trump in difficult circumstances."

Volker's role, along with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's confirmation that he was also on Trump's call on July 25, deeply involves the State Department in the impeachment inquiry that is now shadowing the White House.

The State Department said Volker confirmed that it had put a Zelenskiy consultant in contact with Rudy Giuliani at the request of the Ukrainian consultant, and Giuliani said he was in frequent contact with Volker.

Separately, the Associated Press reported Wednesday that Volker met last year with a senior official of the same Ukrainian energy company who paid Biden's son Hunter to serve on his board. The meeting took place even when Giuliani pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate the company and Bidens' involvement with it.

Pompeo accused congressional investigators of trying to "intimidate" and "intimidate" State Department officials with subpoenas for documents and testimonials, suggesting that he would try to prevent them from providing information. But the committee was able to schedule the statement with Volker and also next week with Marie Yovanovitch, who was US ambassador to Ukraine until she was removed from office last spring.

The spotlight is an unlikely place for Volker, who was brought to the Trump government by Trump's first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, to serve as envoy to Ukraine. He volunteered and retained his job as head of the John McCain Institute of International Leadership at Arizona State University.

Although his name was not known before last week to most Americans, Volker had a long diplomatic career, often working behind the scenes. He was deputy deputy chief secretary for European and Eurasian affairs before becoming US ambassador to NATO in 2008.

In his latest role as envoy to Ukraine, he openly spoke of US support for Ukrainian sovereignty. Last year, he criticized the expansion of Russian naval operations and Russia's resistance to the full deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping mission in eastern Ukraine to monitor the fight against Russian-backed separatists.

Pompeo himself mentioned Volker during an appearance in Rome on Wednesday, when he confirmed his participation in the call, saying he was focused on "eliminating the threat Russia poses" in Ukraine and helping the country build its economy.

Fried described Volker as a "dedicated public and professional worker, a problem solver."

"In all the years I've worked with him, we've never had a party conversation," Fried said. "He is an absolute pro."

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