U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry had no knowledge that President Donald Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and Burisma, the Ukrainian company that hired Bidens son Hunter, according to an interview set to air on Fox News this weekend.
“Not once, not once was the name Burisma [or] the Bidens mentioned to me,” Perry told Fox News. “Not by the president, not by Rudy Giuliani, and not by [U.S. Ambassador to the European Union] Gordon Sondland. And if theres anyone who says anything different, then theyre surmising. And thats not a wise thing to do.”
Starting May 23, Perry, Sondland, and then-U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker worked with Giuliani, Trumps personal attorney, to allay the presidents concerns about corruption in Ukraine.
“Weve been talking about corruption [and] wed been talking about unbundling of natural gas. Weve been talking about that both with [Former Ukraine President Petro] Poroshenko before [Volodymyr] Zelensky ever got into office,” Perry said. “We had these same conversations … You must make sure that there is not corruption going on in your government if you expect Americans to come in to invest here and help your country get away from that Russian influence of their [natural] gas.”
Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump allege that Trump sought to boost his 2020 reelection campaign by forcing Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. The Democrats also say that Trump withheld security aid from Ukraine to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch the investigation.
To date, the evidence of a connection between the hold on aid and the request for investigations consists of hearsay and presumptions. Perrys statement is particularly important because he was one of the four people accused of carrying out the alleged scheme. Sondland testified on Nov. 21 that he presumed that a connection between the hold on aid and the investigations existed and that no one had told him that a link existed. Notably, some of the other witnesses in the impeachment inquiry have provided hearsay evidence based on Sondlands presumption.
Career State Department officials who have testified in the impeachment inquiry have described the work by Perry, Sondland, and Volker as an “irregular channel” that eventually ran counter to the “interagency consensus” on Ukraine. Sondland took issue with that term during his testimony, telling lawmakers that senior Cabinet officials were all “in the loop” about the trios progress.
Perry, Sondland, and Volker traveled to Ukraine to attend Zelenskys inauguration on May 20. They traveled back to Washington and briefed Trump on their trip on May 23. During the briefing, Trump expressed concerns about corruption in Ukraine. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who was present during the briefing, denounced bureaucrats who took issue with Trumps foreign policy in a letter (pdf) to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)
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