8. The President 's Scheme Was Exposed
President Trump lifted the hold on U.S. military assistance to Ukraine on September 11 after it became clear to the White House and President Trump that his scheme was exposed.
As news of the President 's hold on military assistance to Ukraine became public on August 28, Congress, the press, and the public increased their scrutiny of President Trump 's actions regarding Ukraine, which risked exposing President Trump 's scheme. By this date, the White House had learned that the Inspector General of the ( ICIG), Michael Atkinson, had determined that a whistleblower complaint related to the same Ukraine matters was" credible'' and an" urgent concern,'' and, pursuant to the applicable statute, recommended to the Acting Director of National ( DNI), Joseph Maguire, that the complaint should be transmitted to Congress.
In early September, bipartisan Members of both houses of Congress-- publicly, and privately-- expressed concerns to the White House about the hold on military assistance. On September 9, after months of internal discussion due to growing concern about the activity of President Trump 's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, regarding Ukraine, the Chairs of the Permanent Select Committee on , the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Committee on Oversight and Reform announced a joint investigation into efforts by President Trump and Mr. Giuliani," to improperly pressure the Ukrainian government to assist the President 's bid for reelection,'' including by withholding Congressionally-appropriated military assistance.
Later that same day, the ICIG notified Chairman Schiff and Ranking Member Nunes that, despite uniform past practice and a statutory requirement that credible," urgent concern'' complaints be provided to the intelligence committees, the Acting DNI was nevertheless withholding the whistleblower complaint from Congress. The Acting DNI later testified that his office initially withheld the complaint on the advice of the White House, with guidance from the Department of Justice.
Two days later, on September 11, the President lifted the hold on the military assistance to Ukraine. Numerous witnesses testified that they were never aware of any official reason for why the hold was either implemented or lifted.
Notwithstanding this ongoing inquiry, President Trump has continued to urge Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Biden. For example, when asked by a journalist on October 3 what he hoped Ukraine 's President would do about the Bidens in response to the July 25 call, President Trump responded:" Well, I would think that, if they were honest about it, they 'd start a major investigation into the Bidens. It 's a very simple answer.'' President Trump reiterated his affinity for the former Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Yuriy Lutsenko, whom numerous witnesses described as inept and corrupt:" And they got rid of a prosecutor who was a very tough prosecutor. They got rid of him. Now they 're trying to make it the opposite way.''
Public Scrutiny of President Trump 's Hold on Military Assistance for Ukraine
After news of the President 's freeze on U.S. military assistance to Ukraine became public on August 28, both houses of Congress increased their ongoing scrutiny of President Trump 's decision. On September 3, a bipartisan group of Senators, including Senator Rob Portman and Senator Ron Johnson, sent a letter to Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney expressing" deep concerns'' that the" Administration is considering not obligating the Ukraine Security Initiative funds for 2019.'' The Senators ' letter urged that the" vital'' funds be obligated" immediately.'' On September 5, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee sent a letter to Mr. Mulvaney and Acting Director of the OMB Russell Vought expressing" deep concern'' about the continuing hold on security assistance funding for Ukraine.
On September 5, the Washington Post editorial board reported concerns that President Trump was withholding military assistance for Ukraine and a White House meeting in order to force President Zelensky to announce investigations of Mr. Biden and purported Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. The Post editorial board wrote:
[ W] e 're reliably told that the president has a second and more venal agenda: He is attempting to force Mr. Zelensky to intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by launching an investigation of the leading Democratic candidate, Joe Biden. Mr. Trump is not just soliciting Ukraine 's help with his presidential campaign; he is using U.S. military aid the country desperately needs in an attempt to extort it.
The White House claims Mr. Trump suspended Ukraine 's military aid in order for it[ sic] be reviewed. But, as CNN reported, the Pentagon has already completed the study and recommended that the hold be lifted. Yet Mr. Trump has not yet acted. If his recalcitrance has a rationale, other than seeking to compel a foreign government to aid his reelection, the president has yet to reveal it.
On the same day that the Washington Post published its editorial, Senators Christopher Murphy and Ron Johnson visited Kyiv, and met with President Zelensky. They were accompanied by Ambassador Bill Taylor and Counselor for Political Affairs David Holmes of U.S. Embassy Kyiv. President Zelensky 's" first question to the Senators was about the withheld security assistance.'' Ambassador Taylor testified that both Senators" stressed that bipartisan support for Ukraine in Washington was Ukraine 's most important strategic asset and that President Zelensky should not jeopardize that bipartisan support by getting drawn into U.S. domestic politics.'' As Senator Johnson and Senator Murphy later recounted, the Senators sought to reassure President Zelensky that there was bipartisan support in Congress for providing Ukraine with military assistance for Ukraine and that they would continue to urge President Trump to lift the hold-- as Senator Johnson had already tried, unsuccessfully, before traveling to Ukraine.
Three Committees Announced Joint Investigation of President 's Scheme On September 9, the Chairs of the House Committee, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Committee on Oversight and Reform publicly announced a joint investigation of the scheme by President Trump and Mr. Giuliani" to improperly pressure the Ukrainian government to assist the President 's bid for reelection.'' The Committees had been planning and coordinating this investigation since early summer, after growing public scrutiny of Mr. Giuliani 's activities in Ukraine and questions about Ambassador Yovanovitch 's abrupt removal following a public smear campaign targeting her. In a letter sent to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone the same day, the three Chairs stated that President Trump and Mr. Giuliani" appear to have acted outside legitimate law enforcement and diplomatic channels to coerce the Ukrainian government into pursuing two politically-motivated investigations under the guise of anti-corruption activity''-- investigations into purported Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election and Vice President Biden and his son. With respect to the hold on Ukraine military assistance, the Chairs observed that"[ i] f the President is trying to pressure Ukraine into choosing between defending itself from Russian aggression without U.S. assistance or leveraging its judicial system to serve the ends of the Trump campaign, this would represent a staggering abuse of power, a boon to Moscow, and a betrayal of the public trust.'' The Chairs requested that the White House preserve all relevant records and produce them by September 16, including the transcript of the July 25 call between President Trump and President Zelensky. On the same day, the Chairs of the three Committees sent a similar letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seeking the preservation and production of all relevant records at the Department of State by September 16.980 To date, and as explained more fully in Section II, Secretary Pompeo has not produced a single document sought by the Committees pursuant to a lawful subpoena. NSC Senior Director for Russia and Europe Timothy Morrison recalled seeing a copy of the letter that was sent by the three Chairs to the White House. He also recalled that the three Committees ' Ukraine investigation was discussed at meeting of senior-level NSC staff soon after it was publicly announced. The NSC 's legislative affairs staff issued a notice of the investigation to NSC staff members, although it is unclear exactly when. NSC Director for Ukraine Alexander Vindman recalled discussions among NSC staff members, including Mr. Morrison 's deputy, John Erath, that the investigation" might have the effect of releasing the hold'' on Ukraine military assistance because it would be" potentially politically challenging'' for the Administration to" justify that hold'' to the Congress.
Inspector General Notified Committee that the Administration Was Withholding Whistleblower Complaint Later that same day, September 9, Inspector General Atkinson sent a letter to Chairman Schiff and Ranking Member Nunes notifying them that an whistleblower had filed a complaint with the ICIG on August 12. Pursuant to a statute governing whistleblower disclosures, the Inspector General-- after a condensed, preliminary review-- had determined that the complaint constituted an" urgent concern'' and that its allegations appeared to be" credible.'' The Inspector General 's September 9 letter did not disclose the substance or topic of the whistleblower complaint. Contrary to uniform past practice and the clear requirements of the whistleblower statute, Acting DNI Maguire withheld the whistleblower complaint based on advice from the White House. Acting DNI Maguire also relied upon an unprecedented intervention by the Department of Justice into whistleblower matters to overturn the ICIG 's determination based on a preliminary investigation. The White House had been aware of the whistleblower complaint weeks prior to the ICIG 's letter of September 9. Acting DNI Maguire testified that, after receiving the whistleblower complaint from the Inspector General on August 26, his office contacted the White House Counsel 's Office for guidance. Consistent with Acting DNI Maguire 's testimony, the New York Times reported that in late August, Mr. Cipollone and National Security Council Legal Advisor John Eisenberg personally briefed President Trump about the complaint 's existence-- and explained to the President that they believed the complaint could be withheld on executive privilege grounds. The report alleged that Mr. Cipollone and Mr. Eisenberg" told Mr. Trump they planned to ask the Justice Department 's Office of Legal Counsel to determine whether they had to disclose the complaint to lawmakers.'' On September 10, Chairman Schiff wrote to Acting DNI Maguire to express his concern about the Acting DNI 's" unprecedented departure from past practice'' in withholding the whistleblower complaint from the Congressional intelligence committees notwithstanding his" express obligations under the law'' and the Inspector General 's determination. Chairman Schiff observed that the" failure to transmit to the Committee an urgent and credible whistleblower complaint, as required by law, raises the prospect that an urgent matter of a serious nature is being purposefully concealed from the Committee.'' Also on September 10, Ambassador John Bolton resigned from his position as National Security Advisor. Ambassador Bolton 's deputy, Dr. Charles Kupperman, became the Acting National Security Advisor. The Committee was unable to determine if Ambassador Bolton 's departure related to the matters under investigation because neither he nor Dr. Kupperman agreed to appear for testimony as part of this inquiry. On September 13, the Office of the Director of National ( ODNI) General Counsel informed the Committee that DOJ had overruled the ICIG 's determination, and that the ODNI could not transmit the complaint to the Committee at its discretion because it involved" potentially privileged communications by persons outside the ''-- presumably presidential communications. In response, Chairman Schiff issued a subpoena to the Acting DNI on September 13 and announced to the public that ODNI was withholding a" credible'' whistleblower complaint of" urgent concern.'' Following intense pressure from the public and Congress, on September 25, the White House released the complaint to the intelligence committees and the July 25 call record to the public.
President Trump Lifted the Hold on Military Assistance for Ukraine On September 11-- two days after the three Committees launched their investigation into President Trump 's scheme, and one day after Chairman Schiff requested that Acting DNI Maguire produce a copy of the whistleblower complaint-- President Trump lifted the hold on military assistance for Ukraine. On the evening of September 11, prior to lifting the hold, President Trump met with Vice President Mike Pence, Mr. Mulvaney, and Senator Portman to discuss the hold. Around 8:00 p.m. on September 11, the Chief of Staff 's office informed Dr. Kupperman that the hold had been lifted. Just like there was no official explanation for why the hold on Ukraine security assistance was implemented, numerous witnesses testified that they were not provided with a reason for why the hold was lifted on September 11. For example, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper testified that President Trump 's lifting of the hold" really came quite out of the blue... It was quite abrupt.'' Jennifer Williams, Special Advisor to the Vice President for Europe and Russia, testified that from the time when she first learned about the hold on July 3 until it was lifted on September 11, she never came to understand why President Trump ordered the hold. OMB Deputy Associate Director of National Security Programs Mark Sandy, who was the senior career official overseeing the administration of some of the Ukraine military assistance, only learned of a possible rationale for the hold in early September-- after the Acting DNI had informed the White House about the whistleblower complaint. Mr. Sandy testified that he could not recall another instance" where a significant amount of assistance was being held up'' and he" did n't have a rationale for as long as I did n't have a rationale in this case.'' However, in" early September,'' approximately two months after President Trump had implemented the hold, and several weeks after the White House learned of the whistleblower complaint, Mr. Sandy received an email from OMB Associate Director of National Security Programs Michael Duffey. For the first time, it" attributed the hold to the President 's concern about other countries not contributing more to Ukraine'' and requested" information on what additional countries were contributing to Ukraine.'' Mr. Sandy testified that he was not aware of any other countries committing to provide more financial assistance to Ukraine prior to the lifting of the hold on September 11. According to Lt. Col. Vindman, none of the" facts on the ground'' changed before the President lifted the hold.
After the Hold was Lifted, Congress was Forced to Pass a Law to Ensure All of the Military Aid Could Be Distributed to Ukraine The lengthy delay created by the hold on Ukraine military assistance prevented the Department of Defense from spending all of the Congressionally-appropriated funds by the end of the fiscal year, which meant that the funds would expire on September 30 because unused funds do not roll over to the next fiscal year. This confirmed the fears expressed by Ms. Cooper, Mr. Sandy, and others related to the illegal impoundment of Congressionally-mandated funding-- concerns that were discussed in some depth within the relevant agencies in late July and throughout August. Prior to the release of the funds, DOD 's internal analysis raised concerns that up to$ 100 million of military assistance could go unspent as a result of the hold imposed by the President. Ultimately, approximately$ 35 million of Ukraine military assistance-- 14 % of the total funds-- remained unspent by the end of fiscal year 2019. Typically, DOD averages between 2 and 5 percent unspent funds for similar programs, substantially less than the 14 percent left unspent in this case. In order to ensure that Ukraine did not permanently lose$ 35 million of the critical military assistance frozen by the White House, Congress passed a provision on September 27-- three days before funds were set to expire-- to ensure that the remaining$ 35 million in 2019 military assistance to Ukraine could be spent. Ms. Cooper testified that such an act of Congress was unusual-- indeed, she had never heard of funding being extended in this manner. As of November 2019, Pentagon officials confirmed that the$ 35 million in security assistance originally held by the President and extended by Congress had still yet to be disbursed. When asked for an explanation, the Pentagon only confirmed that the funds had not yet been spent but declined to say why.
Pressure to Announce Investigations Continued After the Hold was Lifted Before President Trump lifted the hold on security assistance, Ukrainian officials had relented to the American pressure campaign to announce the investigations and had scheduled President Zelensky to appear on CNN. Even after President Trump lifted the hold on September 11, President Zelensky did not immediately cancel his planned CNN interview. On September 12, Ambassador Taylor personally informed President Zelensky and the Ukrainian foreign minister that President Trump 's hold on military assistance had been lifted. Ambassador Taylor remained concerned, however, that" there was some indication that there might still be a plan for the CNN interview in New York'' during which President Zelensky would announce the investigations that President Trump wanted Ukraine to pursue. Ambassador Taylor testified that he" wanted to be sure that that did n't happen, so I addressed it with Zelensky 's staff.'' On September 13, a staff member at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv texted Mr. Holmes to relay a message that" Sondland said the Zelensky interview is supposed to be today or Monday, and they plan to announce that a certain investigation that was` on hold' will progress.'' The Embassy Kyiv staffer stated that he" did not know if this was decided or if Sondland was advocating for it. Apparently he 's been discussing this with Yermak.'' On September 13, during a meeting in President Zelensky 's office, Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak" looked uncomfortable'' when Ambassador Taylor sought to confirm that there were no plans for President Zelensky to announce the investigations during a CNN interview. Although President Zelensky 's National Security Advisor Oleksandr Danyliuk indicated that there were no plans for President Zelensky to do the CNN interview, Ambassador Taylor was still concerned after he and Mr. Holmes saw Mr. Yermak following the meeting. According to Ambassador Taylor, Mr. Yermak 's" body language was such that it looked to me like he was still thinking they were going to make that statement.'' Mr. Holmes also recalled that when he and Ambassador Taylor ran into Mr. Yermak following the meeting, Ambassador Taylor" stressed the importance of staying out of U.S. politics and said he hoped no interview was planned,'' but" Mr. Yermak shrugged in resignation and did not answer, as if to indicate he had no choice.''
That same day, September 13, President Zelensky reportedly met with CNN 's Fareed Zakaria, who was in Kyiv to moderate the Yalta European Strategy Conference. During the meeting with Mr. Zakaria, President Zelensky did not cancel his planned CNN interview. Conflicting advice prompted the Ukrainian foreign minister to observe in a meeting with Ambassador Volker, Ambassador Taylor, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent," You guys are sending us different messages in different channels.'' For example, at a September 14 meeting in Kyiv attended by Ambassador Volker, Mr. Yermak, and the Ukrainian foreign minister, Ambassador Volker stated that when the two Presidents finally meet," it 's important that President Zelensky give the messages that we discussed before,'' apparently referring to President Zelensky 's" willingness to open investigations in the two areas of interest to the President and that had been pushed previously by Rudy Giuliani.'' Ambassador Taylor, however, replied:" Do n't do that.'' On September 18 or 19, President Zelensky cancelled his scheduled interview with CNN. Although President Zelensky did not publicly announce the investigations that President Trump wanted, he remains under pressure from President Trump, particularly because he requires diplomatic, financial, and military backing from the United States, the most powerful supporter of Ukraine. That pressure continues to this day. As Mr. Holmes testified:
[ A] lthough the hold on the security assistance may have been lifted, there were still things they wanted that[ the Ukrainians] were n't getting, including a meeting with the President in the Oval Office. Whether the hold-- the security assistance hold continued or not, Ukrainians understood that that 's something the President wanted, and they still wanted important things from the President.
And I think that continues to this day. I think they 're being very careful. They still need us now going forward. In fact, right now, President Zelensky is trying to arrange a summit meeting with President Putin in the coming weeks, his first face to face meeting with him to try to advance the peace process. He needs our support. He needs President Putin to understand that America supports Zelensky at the highest levels. So this does n't end with the lifting of the security assistance hold. Ukraine still needs us, and as I said, still fighting this war this very day.
Vice President Pence Spoke to President Zelensky On September 18, approximately one week before President Trump was scheduled to meet with President Zelensky at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Vice President Pence spoke with President Zelensky by telephone. According to Ms. Williams, during the call, Vice President Pence" reiterat[ ed] the release of the funds'' and" ask[ ed] a bit more about... how Zelensky 's efforts were going.'' On November 26, Ms. Williams submitted a classified addendum to her hearing testimony on November 19 related to this telephone call. According to Ms. Williams ' counsel, the Office of the Vice President informed Ms. Williams ' counsel that certain portions of the September 18 call, including the additional information in Ms. Williams ' addendum, are classified. The Committee has requested that the Office of the Vice President conduct a declassification review so that the Committee may this additional information regarding the substance of the September 18 call publicly. On October 9, Vice President Pence told reporters," I 'd have no objection'' to the White House releasing the transcript of his calls with President Zelensky and said that" we 're discussing that with White House counsel as we speak.'' In a November 7 interview with Fox Business, Vice President Pence reiterated," I have no objection at all'' to releasing records of his calls.
President Trump and Rudy Giuliani, Undeterred, Continued to Solicit Foreign Interference in Our Elections On September 19, Rudy Giuliani was interviewed by Chris Cuomo on CNN. During the interview, Mr. Giuliani confirmed that he had urged Ukraine to investigate" the allegations that there was interference in the election of 2016, by the Ukrainians, for the benefit of Hillary Clinton[.]'' When asked specifically if he had asked Ukraine to look into Vice President Biden, Mr. Giuliani replied immediately," of course I did.'' Seconds later, Mr. Giuliani attempted to clarify his admission, insisting that he had not asked Ukraine to investigate Vice President Biden but instead" to look into the allegations that related to my client[ President Trump], which tangentially involved Joe Biden in a massive bribery scheme.'' Mr. Giuliani insisted that his conduct was appropriate, telling Mr. Cuomo later in the interview that" it is perfectly appropriate for a President to say to a leader of a foreign country, investigate this massive bribe... that was paid by a former Vice President.'' President Trump also has continued to publicly urge President Zelensky to launch an investigation of Vice President Biden and alleged 2016 election interference by Ukraine. On September 23, in a public press availability, President Trump stated:
I put no pressure on them whatsoever. I could have. I think it would probably, possibly, have been okay if I did. But I did n't. I did n't put any pressure on them whatsoever. You know why? Because they want to do the right thing. On September 24, in public upon arriving at the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly, President Trump stated:" What Joe Biden did for his son, that 's something they should be looking at.'' On September 25-- in a joint public press availability with President Zelensky-- President Trump stated that" I want him to do whatever he can'' in reference to the investigation of the Biden family. He added," Now, when Biden 's son walks away with millions of dollars from Ukraine, and he knows nothing, and they 're paying him millions of dollars, that 's corruption.'' President Trump added," He[ President Zelensky] was elected-- I think, number one-- on the basis of stopping corruption, which unfortunately has plagued Ukraine. And if he could do that, he 's doing, really, the whole world a big favor. I know-- and I think he 's going to be successful.'' On September 30, during his at the swearing-in ceremony of Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, President Trump stated:
Now, the new President of Ukraine ran on the basis of no corruption. That 's how he got elected. And I believe that he really means it. But there was a lot of corruption having to do with the 2016 election against us. And we want to get to the bottom of it, and it 's very important that we do. On October 2, in a public press availability, President Trump discussed the July 25 call with President Zelensky and stated that" the conversation was perfect; it could n't have been nicer.'' He added:
The only thing that matters is the transcript of the actual conversation that I had with the President of Ukraine. It was perfect. We 're looking at congratulations. We 're looking at doing things together. And what are we looking at? We 're looking at corruption. And, in, I believe, 1999, there was a corruption act or a corruption bill passed between both-- and signed-- between both countries, where I have a duty to report corruption. And let me tell you something: Biden 's son is corrupt, and Biden is corrupt. On October 3, in before he departed on Marine One, President Trump expressed his" hope'' that Ukraine would investigate Mr. Biden and his son. Specifically, President Trump stated that he had hoped-- after his July 25 conversation-- that Ukraine would" start a major investigation into the Bidens.'' The President also stated that" 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-- with Ukraine.'' He addressed the corrupt prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, who had recently been removed by Parliament:" And they got rid of a prosecutor who was a very tough prosecutor. They got rid of him. Now they 're trying to make it the opposite way. The next day, on October 4, in before he departed on Marine One, the President again said:
When you look at what Biden and his son did, and when you look at other people-- what they 've done. And I believe there was tremendous corruption with Biden, but I think there was beyond-- I mean, beyond corruption-- having to do with the 2016 campaign, and what these lowlifes did to so many people, to hurt so many people in the Trump campaign-- which was successful, despite all of the fighting us. I mean, despite all of the unfairness. President Trump reiterated his willingness to solicit foreign assistance related to his personal interests:" Here 's what 's okay: If we feel there 's corruption, like I feel there was in the 2016 campaign-- there was tremendous corruption against me-- if we feel there 's corruption, we have a right to go to a foreign country.'' President Trump added that asking President Xi of China to investigate the Bidens" is certainly something we can start thinking about.'' Consistent with the President 's after this inquiry began, Ambassador Volker understood that references to fighting" corruption'' in Ukraine, when used by President Trump and Mr. Giuliani, in fact referred to the two investigations into" Burisma''-- and former Vice President Biden-- and the 2016 election interference that President Trump sought to benefit his reelection efforts.
The President 's Scheme Undermined U.S. Anti-Corruption Efforts in Ukraine Rather than combatting corruption in Ukraine, President Trump 's ongoing efforts to urge Ukraine to pursue an investigation into former Vice President Biden undermine longstanding U.S. anti-corruption policy, which encourages countries to refrain from using the criminal justice system to investigate political opponents. When it became clear that President Trump was pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival, career public servants charged with implementing U.S. foreign policy in a non-partisan manner, such as Lt. Col. Vindman and Ambassador Taylor, communicated to President Zelensky and his advisors that Ukraine should avoid getting embroiled in U.S. domestic politics. Mr. Kent, an anti-corruption and rule of law expert, explained that U.S. anti-corruption efforts prioritize" building institutional capacity so that the Ukrainian Government has the ability to go after corruption and effectively investigate, prosecute, and judge alleged criminal activities using appropriate institutional mechanisms, that is, to create and follow the rule of law.
Mr. Holmes concurred:
[ O] ur longstanding policy is to encourage them[ Ukraine] to establish and build rule of law institutions, that are capable and that are independent and that can actually pursue credible allegations. That 's our policy. We 've been doing that for quite some time with some success. So focusing on[ particular] cases, including cases where there is an interest of the President, it 's just not part of what we 've done. It 's hard to explain why we would do that. Mr. Kent emphasized that when foreign government officials" hear diplomats on the ground saying one thing, and they hear other U.S. leaders saying something else,'' it raises concerns about the United States ' credibility on anti-corruption efforts. Ambassador Taylor agreed, stating that"[ o] ur credibility is based on a respect for the United States'' and" if we damage that respect, then it hurts our credibility and makes it more difficult for us to do our jobs.'' Mr. Kent, like many other witnesses, explained that urging Ukraine to engage in" selective politically associated investigations or prosecutions'' undermined the rule of law more generally:
As a general principle, I do not believe the United States should ask other countries to engage in selective politically associated investigations or prosecutions against opponents of those in power because such selective actions undermine the rule of law, regardless of the country. Mr. Kent agreed that pressuring Ukraine to conduct political investigations is not a part of U.S. foreign policy to promote the rule of law in Ukraine and around the world. Mr. Kent concluded that the President 's request for investigations" went against U.S. policy'' and" would 've undermined the rule of law and our longstanding policy goals in Ukraine, as in other countries, in the post-Soviet space.'' These conflicting messages came to a head at a September 14 meeting between American and Ukrainian officials in Kyiv. During that meeting, Ambassador Volker advised Mr. Yermak about the" potential problems'' with investigations that the Zelensky administration was contemplating into former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Mr. Yermak retorted," what, you mean like asking us to investigate Clinton and Biden? Ambassador Volker did not respond.