Volker steps down as head of McCain Institute, citing Ukraine controversy

Kurt Volker, the Trump administration’s former special envoy to Ukraine, on Monday announced his resignation as leader of the McCain Institute for International Leadership amid the furor over his role in efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Biden family.

In a statement, Volker said he felt “the recent media focus on my work as U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations risks becoming a distraction from the accomplishments and continued growth of the Institute, and therefore I am stepping down as Executive Director.” 

Volker spent the last seven years working for the institute, which is a Washington-based think tank that functions in coordination with Arizona State University.

Cindy McCain, the widow of the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), thanked Volker for his work at the institute and “his dedication to my husband and the entire McCain family.” She said former National Counterterrorism Center Director Nick Rasmussen will take over as the acting executive director.

The New York Times reported last week that Volker was expected to step down as he emerged as a central figure in the Ukraine scandal that triggered a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

Trump urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on a July 25 call to “look into” Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son and to get in touch with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr on the matter.

Text messages released by House Democrats last week showed that Volker had indicated to one of Zelensky’s aides that a visit to the White House was contingent on Ukraine carrying out the investigations Trump sought related to the Bidens and the 2016 election.

In a deposition with House lawmakers, Volker sought to distance himself from the efforts to investigate Biden. He defended the former vice president’s character and blamed Giuliani for convincing Trump that the unsubstantiated corruption allegations against the Bidens were worth pursuing.

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