Former U.S. diplomat says he warned Giuliani about peddling Biden conspiracy theory

The former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine testified Thursday that he warned President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani that the information he was being provided from Ukrainian sources accusing former Vice President Joe Biden of corruption was not trustworthy, according to the Washington Post.

Kurt Volker, who resigned from his position at the State Department last week, said in a closed-door session with members of Congress that he attempted to warn Giuliani about the trustworthiness of information he received about Biden’s motivation for seeking the firing of Ukraine’s former prosecutor general Viktor Shokin, two people familiar with his testimony told the newspaper.

Giuliani and Trump have sought to portray Biden as corrupt for demanding Shokin’s ouster while his son Hunter sat on the board of a Ukrainian company that Shokin had been investigating.

Shokin’s investigation had been closed by 2016 when Biden, as vice president, made the demand on the Ukrainian government. The European Union and the International Monetary Fund shared the Obama administration’s view of Shokin as corrupt.

Trump faces an impeachment inquiry over a July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which, partly based on information passed to him by Giuliani, he asked the foreign leader to investigate Biden.

Volker presented text message conversations among U.S. government officials that seemed to back the view by some Democrats that Trump was pushing for Zelensky’s cooperation in exchange for releasing military aid that had been appropriated by Congress but sequestered.

Kurt Volker, a former special envoy to Ukraine, arrives for a closed-door interview with House investigators, Oct. 3, 2019. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

“I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, said in an exchange obtained by ABC News, prompting a reply from U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.

“Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions,” Sondland texted in response. “The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign.

“I suggest we stop the back and forth by text,” Sondland added.

The Wall Street Journal also reported Thursday that Trump ordered the removal of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch after Giuliani complained that she was hindering efforts to launch an investigation of Biden. Yovanovitch is scheduled to appear before the House Intelligence Committee on Oct. 11.

Asked about the recall of Yovanovitch on Thursday, Trump responded: “I don’t know if I recalled her or somebody recalled her but I heard very, very bad things about her for a long period of time. Not good.”

Earlier Thursday, Trump himself had publicly repeated his call for Ukraine to investigate Biden, adding China to the countries whose help he is actively seeking in what Giuliani has boasted is an effort to discredit a likely opponent of Trump’s reelection bid.

“They should investigate the Bidens because how does a company that’s newly formed and all these companies, and by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine,” Trump told reporters Thursday. “So I would say with President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend they start an investigation into the Bidens, because nobody has any doubt that they weren’t crooked.”

Ellen Weintraub, chair of the Federal Election Committee, issued a statement Thursday noting that soliciting assistance in a federal election from noncitizens, let alone foreign governments, is against the law.

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