Chris Murphy offers House investigators own account of Ukraine visit
In his letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and House Oversight Committee Acting Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Murphy said he did not intend to contradict Johnson’s account of the trip, but rather offer additional context.
Murphy (D-Conn.) told Schiff and Maloney that he wanted to travel to Ukraine with Johnson after the administration neglected to send a bipartisan delegation to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s inauguration and after learning of Rudy Giuliani’s ongoing efforts to convince the Ukrainian government to investigate the Biden family.
“Given the partisan nature of the delegation, and my continued concerns regarding Giluiani’s pressure campaign, I began to believe that it would be important for me to travel back to Ukraine to express to the new government the dangers of acceding to Giuliani’s requests and getting Ukraine dragged into American domestic politics,” Murphy wrote.
During his trip to Ukraine in September, Murphy recalled raising concerns to William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, about the effect Giuliani’s work in Ukraine was having on U.S.-Ukraine policy. Taylor told Murphy, “it’s a problem,” according to the Connecticut Democrat. Taylor also informed Murphy that the Trump administration was holding up Pentagon and State Department aid.
When Murphy and Johnson met with Zelensky, Murphy recalled asking the Ukrainian president about pressure to investigate Trump’s political rivals and advised the Ukrainian president to only work with the United States through official channels. Zelensky suggested he had no desire to interfere in the U.S. election.
Johnson, in his letter, said Zelensky never said that he or any Ukrainian felt pressure to provide the United States with anything in return for aid. But Murphy had a different interpretation of Zelensky’s response.
“I interpreted Zelensky’s answer to my question as a concession of the premise of my question — that he was receiving improper overtures from Giuliani to interfere in the 2020 election,” Murphy wrote. “He did not contradict the facts I laid out in my question … to me, this was confirmation that Zelensky was indeed feeling the pressure I described.”
Murphy added that in retrospect, given the recent revelations, it was clear that Zelensky wanted a meeting with Trump to send a message to the Russians about Ukraine’s close relationship to the United States. In addition, Johnson further confirmed that Trump was concerned about corruption. But, Murphy said, “It’s clear that in other conversations through the Giuliani back channel ‘corruption’ had become synonymous with two specific investigations that would personally benefit the president.”
Murphy also defended the State Department officials in Ukraine and said there was no evidence to back up Johnson’s characterization that officials like Vindman wanted to “sabotage” Trump’s foreign policy agenda.
In concluding the letter, Murphy wrote the administration’s withholding of aid weakened Zelensky and hurt Ukraine’s defense against Russia.
“President Trump preyed on a vulnerable foreign nation, dependent on the U.S. for its very survival, and used taxpayer money as leverage to get that nation to work for the personal political benefit of the president,” Murphy wrote. “This cannot be allowed in a democracy.”