WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told Senators Wednesday that he “was not aware” of any effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son in exchange for military aid.
He also said he is unaware of any scheme to push other foreign governments to investigate President Donald Trump’s political rivals.
The No. 2 official at the U.S. State Department took questions about the ongoing impeachment inquiry during his confirmation hearing to serve as the American ambassador to Russia held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) asked Sullivan,
Were you aware at any time, until, of course, the stuff was broken in the press, but before that time, did anyone ever come to you, or were you ever aware of that sort of connection, that quid pro quo that’s being alleged? Was that something that you were a part of?
“I was not Senator. … I was not aware … not until the recent developments and disclosures from the whistleblower’s complaints,” Sullivan declared.
House impeachment investigators are trying to determine if President Trump leveraged Ukraine security assistance in exchange for a probe into corruption allegations against the Bidens during a July 25 call.
A “whistleblower” complaint accusing Trump of making a quid pro quo offer during the call in which the president threatened to withhold aid to Ukraine until the Eastern European country investigates the Bidens is at the center of the impeachment inquiry.
“I was aware that there was a hold on security assistance to Ukraine, I wasn’t aware of the reason,” Sullivan told Senators.
He added, however, that he believed using aid as leverage to pressure a foreign investigation of a political rival “would be inconsistent with our values.”
“Asking a foreign government to investigate a domestic political rival as opposed to a larger anti-corruption campaign which we have been engaged in, encouraging the Ukrainians for years, those are two different things,” Sullivan explained.
Sullivan stressed that neither he nor U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had issued orders to condition the aid to Ukraine on any investigation.
The comments by Sullivan that he did not know there was an effort to push Ukraine to investigate the Bidens echoed the testimony given by some impeachment probe witnesses former U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker.
Sullivan’s comments, however, directly contradicted impeachment inquiry testimony by Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council (NSC), and Acting Ukraine Amb. Bill Taylor.
Taylor and Vindman claim a quid pro quo took place.