US special envoy to Ukraine resigns amid impeachment inquiry

Kurt Volker is at the center of a whistleblower complaint that prompted the inquiry against the president

Kurt Volker

Kurt Volker, US Special Envoy for Ukraine who got caught in the middle of the pressure campaign by President Trump and his lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to find damaging information about Democrats, abruptly resigned his post on Friday.

Volker, who told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday that he was stepping down, offered no public explanation, but a person informed about his decision told media that he concluded that it was impossible to be effective in his assignment given the developments of recent days.

His departure was the first resignation since revelations about Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine’s president to investigate former Vice President and current Democrats front-runner for the presidential election in 2020 Joseph R. Biden Jr., as well as his son Hunter and other members of the party. The disclosures have triggered a full-blown House impeachment inquiry, and three House committees announced they have sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notifying him that multiple officials under his charge, including Volker, are subject to depositions before Congress. According to the letter the special envoy "played a direct role in arranging meetings between Rudy Giuliani, who has no official role in the US government, and representatives of President Zelensky." Volker's deposition was then scheduled for 3 October, although it was not clear if he would participate.

This came after the unidentified intelligence official, who filed the whistle-blower complaint that brought the president’s actions to lights, said that the day after Trump's July call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Volker traveled to the Ukrainian capital to meet with the leader. The complaint centers on that phone call, in which Trump implores Zelenskiy to look into the Bidens and says the Trump White House sought to put a record of the call on "lock down."

The complaint also alleges that Volker went to Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, to help guide Ukraine officials on how to handle Trump’s demands to look into Hunter Biden's nearly five years as a member of the board that manages Ukraine's Burisma, a natural gas producer.

Volker has not responded to requests for comment from media. The State Department is also not yet commenting.

Volker, a former ambassador to NATO, has served in top European affairs roles in the White House, the State Department and for the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. He, however, had an unusual arrangement that placed him as a key Trump administration's representative in Ukraine, especially after Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was reportedly recalled in May. Even as a top diplomatic official, Volker continued to work at a Washington lobbying firm that represented Ukraine for almost two years after he began his part-time duties as special envoy.

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