tv U.S. Ambassador to Russia Confirmation Hearing CSPAN October 30, 2019 10:55am-12:00pm EDT
i thought we saw a little shift in the russia position a few months ago when they agreed to the prisoner exchange, to sailorsthe kurds strait who they'd illegally attacked and seized. but there hasn't been the follow through we were hoping for. i would expect that the u.s. ambassador to russia would be involved in particular in engaging with the russian government, in coordination with colleagues at the department of state and nfc on this extremely important issue. >> againing, my time has expired. we'll continue that dialogue but you'll have the opportunity play a central role in this because of your experience at the n.s.c. and the state department and the white house and the network you've develop and the respect you have here on the hill. i hope you'll use that aggressively to be able to resolve some of these issues particularly with regard to the eastern board over ukraine.
thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator shaheen. >> thank you, secretary, for your willingness to take on this challenging position at this difficult time. in your opening statement, you talk about the need for principal engagement with russia that requires sustained diplomacy and resolution opposition to russia where it undermines the interests of the united states, the interests and values of the united states and our allies and partners. do you believe that this is the philosophy with which the president approaches our policy toward russia? >> he's nominated me to be his ambassador, senator. i believe that is the -- i would be fulfilling the president's desires with respect to russia if i pursued that policy that i vlade out. >> as you prepare to take on this engagement, can you explain whether or not you were briefed on president trump's two-hour private meeting with president
putin in july of 2018? >> whether i was briefed after the meeting? >> yes. or any time between then and now as you prepare to take on -- >> i meant not before the meeting but after the meeting, the results of the meeting. yeah. i've been briefed by the secretary of state and national security advisor to the president and the three -- two principal items i was charged with coming out of that meet wrg he two dialogues they now lead on counterterrorism and our strategic security talks with the russians. there was a third request from president putin concerning a business-to-business dialogue implemented, to be it would involve substantial involvement by the united states government. those are what i was briefed on coming out of the meeting with president putin last year.
>> did you see notes from that meeting or those were verbal notes? >> i didn't see a verbatim memorandum reciting what exactly was the back and forth between the two presidents in the meeting. i hesitate to say it was only orally, there may be notes that describe what i described. i didn't see a memo that summarized the results of the conversation between the two residents. i was briefed on that >> a large number of isis fighters are guarded by the f.d.s. many more remain at large.
russian terrorism analysts say they've exported terrorism problems to syria. do you agree with that assessment? and given russia's increasingly prominent role in northeast syria following our withdrawal are you aware of any of united states efforts to push russia to address the global isis problem and to take back its own isis fighters who have immigrated to syria? >> yes, in fact, that's a major topic of our discussion in the counterterrorism dialogue. we've had two meetings at the -- at the deputy minister, deputy secretary level and a number of other meetings at lower levels nvolving f.b.i., cray, etc. the russian government with respect to the foreign terrorist fighters in northeast syria has agreed with us that countries who have their
citizens who were detained, who left their homeland, went to northeast syria or elsewhere, but are now detained in northeast syria, that they should be taking those citizens back to their home countries to be prosecuted. >> has russia actually done that? mr. sullivan: they have in fairly large numbers. we have the opposite concern, frankly, senator, which is our concern about how people are going to be treated when they get sent back to russia. from my perspective with the russians they want their people back an putting pressure on other countries, particularly european countries, to take theirs. my concern is what happens to those people, particularly family members of those fighters, who get sent back to russia. cy which is one of the limitations on our counterterrorism dialogue. there are limits in what we can -- we can work with them because of their behavior. >> were you aware that rudy
giuliani had opened a second channel of diplomacy, if you want to call it that, second channel of effort in ukraine? mr. sullivan: as i said in response to questions from senator menendez, i was aware at mr. giuliani was involved in ukraine issues. my knowledge particularly in april, may, june time frame, even into july, was focused on s campaign, basically, against our ambassador to ukraine. senator shaheen: is that the normal way the state department does business? to open a second channel? mr. sullivan: i will say there are examples going back through istory of presidents using people outside of u.s. -- u.s.
citizens outside of the government in whom they repose trust to convey messages and represent them abroad. so it's not, in my experience, unprecedented. i don't know whether i could say more than that. it's also the president's prerogative, even within the u.s. government, if they are, for example, sending secretary perry to ukraine to discuss energy issues, for example, even though he's going on a foreign mission to a foreign country, he's not the secretary of state, that is something the presidents typically do. senator sha lean: -- senator shaheen: i think we normally assume everybody is pursuing the same policies when we have different channels of communication to a country. thank you.
it mr. sullivan: may i respond? thank you, mr. chairman. that's a problem when there are multiple parties involved and it's a challenge, i think for any secretary of state, to maintain control over u.s. foreign policy in any government when there are -- even within the u.s. government if there are other cabinet secretaries. i know from my experience in the bush 43 administration great disagreements between the department of defense and the department of state on what were essentially foreign policy issues. it's a challenge for the secretary of state to maintain control over that policy in any dministration. senator risch: senator young. senator young: secretary sullivan, hello. welcome to the committee and congratulations on your nomination. i found you to be accessible and highly competent and you have comforted yourself with great integrity thus far in
public life. i'm disposed to support your confirmation. i have a question about -- series of questions related to arms control which you have identified in your testimony as an area of shared concern, shared interest between the united states and russia. i do think it's important as many challenges, as many disagreements as we have, if we can find some areas of commonality i don't think hat's a bad thing. earlier you affirmed that you believe it's in the best interest of the united states to pursue an extension of new start. you further indicated, i think, that russian strategy is, indeed, to comply with new start but all the while to build other weapons systems. also develop lower yield nuclear weapons. in conjunction with pursuing a
new start extension, are there particular updates or conditions that you believe are necessary to ensure new start is as potent and enforceable as possible? mr. sullivan: yes. what i'd say is my -- what i think our position, the united states' position should be would not to be to announce the of new start of new start toda it expires on february 5, 2021, but to engage immediately with the russians on not just the terms of an extension, but these other weapons systems that i discussed with senator romney and i think you and i talked about when we met earlier. senator young: what role would you play as ambassador in those conversations in ensuring we land in the right spot? mr. sullivan: my expectation is if i am the chief of mission in moscow that i would be
consulted and be a conduit to the russian government in both directions. but my expectation is if we were to proceed with substantial arms control negotiations, that that would be a major undertaking requiring a large bandwidth from -- of resources from the u.s. government across the interagency from the joint staff, d.o.d., n.s.c., the intelligence community. my expectation is that as ambassador i would not be as directly involved as those negotiations proceeded. senator young: let me move to the plumbing. one of the most important roles of an ambassador is to make sure that the trains run on time, that personnel have what they need, our very competent diplomatic personnel and so forth. you are going to need full
embassy staffing and a functioning network of consulates throughout the country to be able to -- most effectively carry out your mission. in april of 2018 as you and i discussed in my office russia expelled 60 of our diplomats and closed our consulate in st. petersburg. what actions will you take, mr. secretary, to get our embassy staffing numbers back to where they need and reopen that st. petersburg consulate so that it can serve american citizens who are visiting abroad. mr. sullivan: we have an ongoing discussion with the russian foreign ministry on these issues. it's gotten to the point where we were -- our staffing revel was cut to 455 u.s. direct hires. in fact, because the disputes we have with russia extends beyond just the initial
expulsion of 60, but their refusal to give visas for us to be able to backfill we are substantially below 400 people at this point in our mission. i think the problem is even greater than you described it. it's very acute. that's become clear to me over my 2 1/2 years as our mission has sha runge, we lost the consulate -- shrunk, we lost the consulate in st. petersburg. the price is we closed the russian consulate in san francisco. we don't have plans to allow them to reopen that consulate which was used for other than diplomatic purposes. not having a consulate in st. pete yoursburg, for purposes -- st. petersburg, for purposes of providing service, we have so many americans who visit from cruiseships. it's essentially we have one and we are handicapped to work out of moscow.
senator young: to the extent we can be helpful, we want to. i am going to commit for the record a series of questions, very quickly, publicly say them and my -- i would appreciate it if you could respond to them later. simple yes or no answers. i think it's really important that we sort of protect the prerogatives of this committee and of this article 1 branch. here they are. have you adhered to applicable laws in governing conflicts of interest? if you assumed any duties or any action that is would appear to presume the outcome of this confirmation process? do you agree if confirmed to appear and to testify before this committee when requested by the chairman and ranking member? do you agree to provide documents and electronic communication in a timely manner when requested by this committee, it's subcommittees or other appropriate committees of congress and to the requester? you ensure you and your staff complies with deadlines
established by this committee for the production of reports, records, and other documents including responding timely to hearing questions for the record. will you cooperate in providing witnesses and briefers in response to congressional requests? finally, will those briefers be protected from reprisal for their briefings? i don't anticipate any challenges, but i'll submit this for the record. if senator risch: senator king. >> senator king, thank you so much for your strong -- senator king: thank you so much for your strong service. mr. sullivan: i have. senator king: i would like to introduce it into the record. the memorandum states it's not a ver bay tisch transcript in the presence of several ellipse sees. have you read a full transcript of that conversation? mr. sullivan: the only version of that memorandum that i saw, senator, was one that i got via
public media. senator kaine: have you asked to read any fuller version other than the one you read? mr. sullivan: i have not. senator kaine: do you know whether any member of the state department was invited to participate in that call? mr. sullivan: i believe the secretary has said he did. i don't know if others -- my expectation is not. i don't know that. senator kaine: president trump initiated the discussion about former ambassador marie yovanovitch, saying the former ambassador of the united states, the woman, was bad news. do you believe this dedicated career foreign service officer was bad news? mr. sullivan: as i said earlier, senator, as an ambassadoro vapo vitch in her written statement to the house impeachment inquiry i told her that i had no reason to believe at the time she had done anything to be -- senator kaine: do you know what the president meant by the statement she's bad news? mr. sullivan: i don't know. senator kaine: he later said, she's going to go through some things. do you know what the president meant? mr. sullivan: i don't.
senator kaine: she testified before the house you told her she was relieved of her post because she lost the president's confidence but that she had done nothing wrong and that she had been the subject of a concerted campaign against her s that accurate? in terms of what you told her? mr. sullivan: yes. senator kaine: i was intrigued who was mentioned on the diplomatic call and who wasn't. it mentions rudy giuliani six times. attorney general barr five times. ambassador yovanovitch three tifmentse vice president biden two times. vice president biden's son one time. and robert mueller one time. the transcript does not mention secretary pompeo, ambassador taylor, or anyone at the state department other the disparaging comments about marie yovanovitch. the president repeatedly urges president zelensky to work with rudy giuliani and attorney general barr. does it surprise you on a diplomatic call the president would encourage ukraine to communicate with giuliani and a.g. barr but not taylor or the state department? mr. sullivan: i think in the
context of though references were any corruption efforts which have been long-standing going back to the prior administration. it doesn't -- senator kaine: doesn't the state department work on those things? mr. sullivan: absolutely. senator kaine: president zelensky raises the issue of defense cooperation and purchasing javelin missiles. we know the president was thwarting the command of congress by withholding support of the ukraine. of the thwarting of the military aid to ukraine. mr. sullivan: i was aware that there was a hold on security assistance to ukraine. not the reason. senator kaine: in response to the request for military support during the phone call, president trump does not encourage president zelensky to reach out to the secretary of defense, the u come commander, or ambassador taylor. he encourages ukraine to communicate with rudy giuliani and attorney general barr. does it surprise you the
president would work to communicate with giuliani or o barr but not the department of defense or ambassador? mr. sullivan: my understanding was in reading that transcript the president's focus was on any corruption efforts which is why he would have referred to the attorney general. senator kaine: president zelensky was asking about defense aid and president trump was engaging in that conversation but not encouraging communication with the department of defense. president zelensky raised the issue of trade with the united states and talked specifically about cooperation on energy related issues. we now know that the white house directed trade representative lighthizer in august to shelf all trade discussions with ukraine. in response to the discussion about trade and energy, president trump does not encourage president zelensky to reach out to secretary ross, secretary perry, trade representative lighthizer, or ambassador taylor. he just encourages the president to communicate with attorney general barr and rudy giuliani, does that surprise
you on the matter of trade and energy? mr. sullivan: i have the same answer. that i believe the president's overriding focus -- senator kaine: for the record we all know that ghoulon yea and attorney general barr are not responsible for commerce, trade, defense, or diplomacy. are there other countries where the president is directly encouraging the head of state to work with rudy giuliani and attorney general barr rather than the state department, the defense department, the commerce department, the energy department, the trade representative, or our own u.s. ambassador? mr. sullivan: i am not aware of any other country with respect to mr. giuliani. senator kaine: one other question. mr. sullivan: i just want to say. with respect to attorney general barr, i don't know but it wouldn't surprise me if given the role of the justice department it may be. but i am not aware of any other instance with respect to mr. giuliani. senator kaine: lastly, the president's calendar says he
heeled phone conversation with putin six days after the call with president zelensky. do you know whether the president told president putin the u.s. was withholding military aid from ukraine? stopping trade discussion was ukraine? or that the u.s. was about to cut $800 million in nato related military construction projects in europe during that call? mr. sullivan: i do not believe that that was mentioned in the call. senator kaine: you have seen a transcript? mr. sullivan: i have not. but i have not been told that that was -- senator kaine: you are unaware. sloy my recollection is that there was a massive wildfire -- senator kaine: the summary of the call was wildfires. mr. sullivan: that's what i am aware of. senator risch: senator rubio. senator rubio: thank you for being here today and service to our country which i think is across four cabinet departments, three administrations, last two years
as the deputy, and all six weeks as the acting secretary of state. now you are going to russia. as i told you yesterday i don't know what you're going to do to top that. that's a great record of service to our country. because you are the nominee to such an important post, i think we just want to cut to the chase. we all understand the theory and the argument made that the president of the united states was engaged in an effort to leverage u.s. foreign aid to a country in exchange for that country helping him go after the -- a political opponent. that is the allegation. that's what the house is looking into. bottom line, were you aware at any time until the stuff was in the press, did anyone ever come to you, were you aware of that sort of connection, that quid pro quo that's being alleged? was that something you were a part of? just for the record i think that's important. mr. sullivan: i was not. senator rubio: you were not
aware. mr. sullivan: not. senator rubio: you never heard anyone tell you they'll get the money if they investigate the political opponent? mr. sullivan: not in the recent developments and disclosures from the whistleblowers. senator rubio: first time. just another matter because of your record. i think you can you qub as i am deeply concerned that we would remove an ambassador from a post as a result of what now appears to be at least somewhat foreign directed effort, concerted effort to spread misinformation about that u.s. ambassador. i would imagine it's wrong. it's bad for morale. it would encourage add -- adversaries to do the same. to be clear aim not justifying it or saying it's right. there is nothing illegal about an ambassador being removed from their post. neither you if you are confirmed or any other ambassador serving this country is entitled to serve in that role until there is cause. ambassador are reassigned and can be all the time. we may not agree with t we may
think it's unfair and unwise. but you and anybody else serving in a post overseas could be reassigned or ask to be reassigned at any moment. mr. sullivan: for any or no reason the president's authority as i understand t he may decide he doesn't like my testimony today and doesn't want me to go to russia. the president can decide when he loses confidence in his ambassador or nominee that that person is not going to continue as ambassador. what he can't do is he can't decide that if it's a career employee, that that person is removed from the foreign service. that is not what happened with respect to yovanovitch. senator rubio: ambassador yovanovitch was not -- no effort to remove her from the foreign service. mr. sullivan: in fact, the opposite. one of the -- one part of my conversation with the ambassador was her desire -- my hope and her desire to continue to serve in the foreign service and what her assignment would
be. senator rubio: last topic in the two minutes left. it's an interesting thing that's developing here between russia and china. we go back 40, 50 years russia was the senior partner in that relationship when they weren't in conflict. china was still evolving. now the roles have been reversed. we see china growing in geopolitical influence. their economy continues to grow. russia, on the other hand, is in decline, demographically, economically, to some respects militarily in comparison to the chinese. i think it's now fair to say that russia is the junior partner in that relationship between china and russia. i'm curious about your views about how -- what's our role in managing how that plays out, for example, in central asia where russia --ure rashian economic union is no match for china's offers with its initiative? you have a country that's in decline relative to china. they may feel threaten by this if they don't already. what's our role in that?
how do we manage that? what's our role in central asia as these two countries have that tug of war? mr. sullivan: as we discussed yesterday, senator, those five countries are extremely important geopolitically. their location. for any number of reasons. our counterterrorism mission, for example. resolving the conflict in afghanistan on terms favorable to the united states. i believe there is competition between russia and china in that area. we want to be involved. i met with the five foreign ministers from those countries, this would have been last year before the u.n. security council session on afghanistan. were they participated. i met with them to discuss our interests. their interests and some of those countries, at least, being closer to the united states as they feel squeezed between russia and china. it's geostrategicically important as you noted and we o have a role to play.
senator risch: thank you, senator markey. senator markey: thank you, mr. chairman. mr. secretary, gordon sonland came before this committee as are you today so we could consider his nomination to be the u.s. ambassador to the european union. which no longer includes the ukraine. cording to statements by multiple government official, including lieutenant colonel alexander vindman, a purple heart recipient and ukraine expert assigned to the national security council, as well as other o -- someone was involved in efforts to get ukrainian effort to investigate president trump's rival rather than you pursue the interests of the united states. he's determined to quote, ukraineon leaders deliver, quote, a specific
investigations to secure a meeting between president zelensky and president trump. in response to senator menendez you stated that it would not be in accord with our values for a president to solicit a foreign investigation into a political rival. have you ever heard of any other president ever asking a foreign government to investigate an american citizen? mr. sullivan: i can't think of one off the top of my head, senator. as i said in response to senator kaine's questions, the president and the united states government has been focused on any scruppings efforts, extensively, in ukraine. senator markey: in your opinion, like to hear it, having president trump ask ukraine to investigate a u.s. citizen, his political rival, would be unprecedented in american history and certainly the american presidency? mr. sullivan: i'm not -- i don't consider myself competent
to answer -- senator markey: to your knowledge? mr. sullivan: i am not aware of that. which is not to say it hasn't happened. senator markey: as ambassador to russia, would you ever put any individual's political interest ahead of the foreign policy and national security interests of this country, even the political interests of the president of the united states? even if requested by the president of the united states? mr. sullivan: i would only implement the president's foreign policy in the national security interests of the united states. senator markey: you would never compromise america if political interests of the president ran contrary -- mr. sullivan: my oath would be as my current oath is in my present position to the united states and our constitution. senator markey: i have received information before john bolton resigned president trump may have made a decision to exit the open skies treaty which permits signatories to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights er the entire territories of
-- to collect data on military forces and nuclear weapons activities. we then share this information with our o allies and all signatories to the treaty. do you believe withdrawing from the open skies treaty is in the interest of the united states? mr. sullivan: to my knowledge the united states has not withdrawn from the open skies treaty. in fact, the united states this month is chairing the open skies consultative commission. the 1500th open skies treaty flight. senator markey: do you believe withdrawing from the open skies treaty is in the best interest of the united states? mr. sullivan: there would need to be substantial evidence to support the national security interests for withdrawal from that treaty. and there would need to be consultations with this committee, with congress, and in particular with our nato allies and the other countries that are members of the treaty before -- as we did when we drew from the i.n.f. treaty. senator markey: if you made decision to withdraw yourself?
mr. sullivan: i have not. senator markey: for the record, secretary of state shultz, secretary of defense bill perry, sam nunn all strongly support continued u.s. participation. has the white house consulted the state department about potential withdrawal from the open skies? mr. sullivan: i have been consulted because i heard those same rumors. senator markey: you have been? mr. sullivan: i inquired whether we had withdrawn from the treaty and assured we have not. senatory markey: you have been involved in the discussions given your leading role? mr. sullivan: i have and i consulted with our ambassadors to nato anti-o.s.c.e. and heard their views and conveyed their views about their view that we should continue to be members of the treaty. and ambassador of of the osce is the chair, as i said this month, of the consult at thisive commission. senator markey: you consulted with allies who benefit tremendously from this agreement? what is their view? mr. sullivan: we have not.
senator markey: have you conducted with wong kong? mr. sullivan: in connection with nigh minomination, no. senator markey: is the united states and russia still in compliance with the treaty? mr. sullivan: the united states is in compliance. the united states' view is the russians have not been in compliance in certain respects, . cluding over flinets we and the russians and all the signatories of the treaty continue to be members. as i said twice before, we are chairing the commission that oversees the treaty this month ambassador gillmor. senator markey: do you think this transparency which the treaty creates is in our national interests and we should resolve the ambiguities? mr. sullivan: it has been in our interest and to the extent that it's not, we need to be transparent about why as we were when we withdrew from the i.n.f. treaty.
senator markey: i think it's in our best national security interest we remain in the open skies treaty. it's helped us a lot and our allies have benefited. thank you. senator barrasso: congratulation, good to visit with you again. i know you have had a lengthy discussion about russia's new strategic nuclear weapons. go back a bit to the new start treaty which i always believe was a one-sided agreement. voted against t have major concerns about it. to me it was more about reducing the united states' strategic nuclear forces but not russian's forces because that treaty required the united states and russia to reduce our deployed nuclear warheads to numbers that russia was already below those numbers. one-sided, unfair, and that we made significant reductions to get below the limit. in future arms control negotiation was russia, are you committed with ensuring the united states isn't entering into a one-sided arms control agreement where we are a party
required to make more reductions when russia is not? mr. sullivan: absolutely, senator. the united states should only enter any treaty, particularly an arms control treaty, that is in the national interest and security interest of the united states. senator barrasso: russia continues to use economic i.n.s. trupets and propaganda to achieve its objectives and exert influence in europe. we see this traveling in europe, visit it with our nato allies they try to influence and exert control over countries through a variety of means. military intimidation, energy dependence. cyber attacks, trade. would you speak to what i see as putin's ultimate objective? mr. sullivan: particularly with respect to europe, fracturing europe, particularly eastern europe from western europe. i spent a lot of time traveling in eastern europe anti-balkans, which is a laboratory for russian hybrid warfare, whether
it's cyber disinformation, intimidation, etc. it's more significant in ukraine where there is actually violence being done on a daily basis. not only but it's not well-known there are assassinations in ukraine that are carried out. it is a hot war there have been 13,000 people that have been killed in ukraine. over the last five years. that's not just hybrid warfare, that's real. senator barrasso: what are the most effective tools and leverage points we could use to change russian behavior? mr. sullivan: we have talked about some of those today, senator. sanctions, and economic sanctions. and also we have worked hard with our allies and partners, particularly in eastern europe, to harden them and their infrastructure against intrusions, forward deployment of u.s. assets, by that i mean
cyber, as well as i think that's very important for us to support because they are under stress every day, particularly under cyber threats, from russia. senator barrasso: one of the things we used was the issue of europe's reliance on russian energy and effort to addict europe to their energy sources. europe is trying to work on a number of initiatives to counter this influence. the european union members have identified the risks associated with it, although germany is oving ahead with the pipeline. we look at some things that people are trying to do to avoid this dependence. lithuania created that floating l.n.g. terminal. efforts to increase interconnections, reverse flow capacities of european pipelines. you can see what they are trying to do running up and down in montenegro and croatia.
despite these efforts it does seem clear that more needs to be done, especially in light of russia's efforts to build nord stream ii. as we look at their steps, our allies, partners can take to promote energy security, what efforts need tonight top priorities? mr. sullivan: the top priority we have had has been opposition to nord stream ii. to address your particular question, it reminds me of my conversation with senator markey about ukrainian dependence on russian gas. you refer to it as an addiction. and senator markey used the same term. it is. it's creation of dependency to control. and now having made ukraine dependent, building that secretary -- completing that second pipeline is going to provide a huge lever. among the issues that we can use with the ukrainians is increasing energy efficiency. other sources of energy whether
it's l.n.g. or stopping nord stream ii so gas will continue to flow through ukraine. senator risch: senator murphy. senator murphy: thank you very much, mr. chairman. good see you again. ambassador sullivan, thank you for your service to the country. you have been asked a version of this question in a couple different ways. let me ask it specific to the events that we now know took place over the course of the summer and fall. we have learned now with some certainty as you have testified that employees of the state department, people under your supervision, specifically kurt volker, bill taylor were pressing the ukrainian government to open specific investigations into topics connected to the biden family. and alternative theories about who interfered in the 2016 elections. knowing what you know now about what was happening and those specific requests that were
being made, do you think the actions of those individuals were proper? mr. sullivan: what they were doing back then was it plor? -- proper? i don't -- i have to think about that. i don't think that -- as i testified previously the concept of investigating a political rival as opposed to encouraging anti-corruption reform, which is a legitimate and consist tept with our values, that that would be inconsistent with our values. senator murphy: in this case they were specifically requesting investigations connected to a political rival of the president of the united states. so your testimony is that those requests were improper. mr. sullivan: to the extent that they were made. i'm going to have to assume that what i read -- i'm not present at the depositions, but what has been reported in the press as a general matter in
response to one of the first questions from senator menendez that investigation of a political -- asking a foreign government to investigate a domestic political rival as opposed to -- as part -- larger anti-corruption campaign which we have been engaged in encouraging the ukrainians for years, those are two different things. senator murphy: do you have any reason to believe that the reports in the press and testimony of ambassador taylor are wrong? mr. sullivan: i don't. i also don't know that they are accurate. i don't know -- i will accept for purposes hypothetically if they are i'll answer the question. i just don't know personally. senator murphy: these as i mentioned were individuals acting under the auspicious of the state department and so i think it's important for the committee to understand where their authority came from. we talked a little about this in our private meeting. did you order volcker, sondland, and taylor to coordinate with rudy giuliani
in pressing the ukrainians for these investigation noose it the original -- investigations into the origin of the 2016 interfirntse? mr. sullivan:dy not. senator murphy: did secretary pompeo? mr. sullivan: not to my knowledge. senator murphy: did john bolton order these individuals to coordinate with rudy giuliani in pressing for these investigations? mr. sullivan: i don't have basis to answer. i don't believe so. i don't know that he d i have no reason to think he did. i don't have a factual basis to provide a definitive answer. senator murphy: clearly if these are people under your supervision, you didn't ask them to undertake these activities. i would imminimum wagin you would want to get to the bottom -- i would imagine you would want to get to the bottom of that. what is your understanding where the intruckses were coming from if it wasn't you or the secretary of state? mr. sullivan: they are getting their instructions, ambassador
taylor is getting instructions from the secretary, from me, and from our undersecretary -- senator murphy: you testified neither you nor the secretary asked them to request these specific investigations. where did those instructions come from? mr. sullivan: i don't know. senator murphy: have you made any attempt to find out? mr. sullivan: since i learned of it in september i have not. senator murphy: that's curious if people are operating outside of your specific instructions. i think it's curious would you not try to find out. let me ask a few more quick questions. is it currently the policy of the united states that ukraine must conduct investigations into crowd strike? mr. sullivan: no. senator murphy: why not? this was the policy over the summer, why not now? mr. sullivan: i had accepted as a hypothetical that was our policy. i don't know that. it is not ourpolicy. our policy has been to encourage any corruption reform generally in ukraine. that's something i have worked on for over two years.
but never with resmect to a particular -- respect to a particular investigation or company or individual. senator murphy: is rudy giuliani currently carrying out any diplomatic business on behalf of the united states? mr. sullivan: not to my knowledge. senator murphy: i have a great deal of respect for the work you have done. you have toiled under difficult circumstances and i'm pleased that you are willing to take on this difficult assignment. your testimony as to your lack of interest in asking questions about why people under your control were being given direction that did not come om you or the secretary, and your lack of attempts to devil into what the policy actually was during this period of time, you are accepting hypotheticals but you don't seem to have an opinion as to whether it was the policy of the united states, which by the testimony that the house has received it clearly was, to encourage these investigations, i do think is concerning. i appreciate the service you have given the country.
appreciate your testimony today. it senator risch: mr. sullivan, i think my friends on the other side in your discussion have kind of sharpened the question that this -- the jury in the senate will have to answer. that is having to do with the corruption in the ukraine. you would agree with me this corruption in ukraine has been going on since they left the soviet union and has been of great concern to virtually every administration, republican, democrat over that period of time. would you agree? mr. sullivan: absolutely. the fact it's been so long-standing and ingrained is what makes it so difficult to change. senator risch: would you also agree with me, every time we discuss this, when i sigh we, all of us, talk about the ukraine, it's almost impossible to talk about conditions. without talking about the corruption in the country. over the many administrations they have had in the ukraine since they got out from under the soviet union, is that a fair statement? mr. sullivan: it affects the
entire society. senator risch: having said that, the gas company has been right at the heart of that corruption in the ukraine, has it not? mr. sullivan: gas is so central to the ukrainian economy that of course. senator risch: now we have a situation where people have taken this transcript and argued that the president was having them investigate a political rival regarding corruption that took place in ukraine. i think you said and everyone has today sade and agrees if it was strictly a political rival to be investigated that that would be wrong. what happens if the -- if the political rival is somehow involved in the corruption in the ukraine? that becomes a lot dicier question, when a president has to look the other way if a political rival is involved? going to be a question we are all going to deal with at some time in the not-too-distant future, i think.
in any event. thank you for that. senator coons. senator coons: thank you, mr. chairman. ranking member menendez for holding today's hearing. mr. deputy secretary for your distinguished service over many different positions across several administrations. i greatly appreciate your recognition both in your public testimony and in our private meeting the critical work that important service and civil service officers do every day. and their determination, their dedication to forwarding foreign policy goals in the national interest of our country aside from politics. nowhere are those goals and interests more important than in our work in russia. russia as you agree attacked and undermined our elections in 2016 and continues its influence campaign efforts to meddle in democratic processes, not just in the united states, not just in the united states and europe is an article in "the new york times" today about how russia has launched influence campaigns across africa in a new playbook that
features outsourcing and franchising their influence campaign. we all need a comprehensive and sustained strategy to blunt that. it is my hope you will get the chance to carry out your commitments to push back forcefully on this activity by russia. let me just follow up on a question that you got asked before. senator kaine asked you, this is in the contesks ukraine and corruption that's been at the center of so many questions today, senator kaine asked you why president trump kept referring ukrainian president zelensky to discuss all issues with rudy giuliani and attorney general barr. you said president trump was focused on anti-corruption. if anti-corruption in ukraine is such a priority for the president and this administration, i'm struck as an appropriator that my understanding of this record in the subcommittee that fund the international narcotics control and law enforcement budget that in 2019 the administration
requested a cut in funding to $13 million, congress rejected that and restored funding to $30 million. in 2020 the administration again sought to cut that funding to $13 million. congress i think is likely to once again restore it to $30 million. if this is a great priority combating corruption in ukraine for the administration, why does the president's budget not reflect that in any of the three budgets he's submitted? mr. sullivan: i think, senator, the prime obstacle to anyanti-corruption reform in ukraine is not technical -- to anti-corruption reform in ukraine is not technical by the united states but the will of the ukraineon government to reign in ukraineon ole lig arcs and reform their system -- oligarches and reform their system. we saw this over two years. and the will was simply not there. i think that's the biggest
obstacle to anti-corruption reform. can we use that extra moppy and do an even better job on behalf of the united states? absolutely. will we be wasting that money if there isn't anti-corruption, a will to engage in anti-corruption reform by ukrainian leadership, i'm afraid that's also true. senator coons: i think that fund something critical for the national anti-corruption bureau and special anti-corruption prosecutors office and restoring some semblance of rule of law in a country where corruption is. let me move to another issue. human rights. i'm the co-chair of the human rights caucus in the senate. hundreds of political prisoners in russia. the number has increased five old in the last four years. if confirmed, what will you do to draw attention to russia's political prisoners and push for their release? mr. sullivan: i point out that
i believe the rate at which the russia government is incarcerating political prisoners is increasing not decreasing. shining a light and being transparent about what actually is going on and being public about it is the first step. it's urging the russian government to abide by its own laws and treat its people right. senator coons: the senator unanimously passed earlier this year senate resolution 81 which i supported and helped draft. it condemns president putin for targeting political opponents and working to cover up some of their actions, in particular the assassination of opposition leader boris member off. that resolution from the senate urges government officials to raise the case of nemsov's assassination. if confirmed, are you committed to raising this issue woo senior russian officials? mr. sullivan: yes, i am. senator coons: russian authorities continue to target the lgbtq community despite condemnation from governments around the world.
will you commit to discussing raising and pressing lgbtq rights with your russian counterparts? mr. sullivan: enthusiastically. senator coons: thank you. i appreciate your appearing today as a number of my colleagues have testified or have mentioned in their comments. we need a forceful presence in moscow and i appreciate that we have had this opportunity to talk today and look forward to working with you. thank you. senator risch: senator menendez. senator menendez: thank you. you know, mr. secretary, i get struck by you as an honorable man. but i also get struck as someone who in the role that you have had has played the rome of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. i'm going to give you a chance to prove me wrong. ambassador sondland is our -- ambassador to the e.u., is that correct? mr. sullivan: that's correct. senator menendez: ukraine not part of the occupy. is that correct? mr. sullivan: that's correct.
senator menendez: did you know what he was up to as relates to ukraine? mr. sullivan: i was aware he had been tasked with the president with working with the other colleagues involved in ukraine policy. senator menendez: when you responded to senator shaheen and some extent senator kaine about rudy giuliani and sometimes private citizens have a role. are you not suggesting what mr. giuliani did in this case was kosher or ok or correct, is it? mr. sullivan: i didn't offer a judgment what he did was kosher or correct. i'm not sure exactly what he was up to in toto with respect to ecraun. senator menendez: you are the number one person at the state department. you have no idea what he was doing as relates to ukraine although you knew he was doing something. mr. sullivan: i wouldn't say it would be accurate to say i knew nothing. i was particularly aware of the campaign against our ambassador in kiev.
senator menendez: outside of that. mr. sullivan: i was not aware of what he was doing or purpose. senator menendez: would you say that putin and russia there is corruption? would you say in putin and russia there is corruption? mr. sullivan: absolutely. senator menendez: the same thing about hungary? mr. sullivan: corruption is endemic. senator menendez: these two people are the two people talking to the president about corruption in ukraine. you also seem to suggest, and your very able attorney, you also seem to suggest a couch that the reason that these conversations were taking place, monty was being held, was about corruption in ukraine. is that a fair statement? mr. sullivan: i didn't know it at the time. i'm characterize -- my characterization of what the president was saying now was that it was about anti-corruption reform. if you -- senator menendez: you are characterizing his statements. your own view. why was money being held?
mr. sullivan: as i think i said to some members of the committee, if you had asked me in july -- was aware money was being withheld. we had a number of requests -- senator menendez: did you ask why money was being withheld? mr. sullivan: i did not. but i was aware that we had requests of the ukrainian government, not just anti-corruption reform, but energy lee form and economic reform -- reform and economic reform all of which was born -- senator menendez: none of that conversation has come forth. it's all about corruption, right? mr. sullivan: that july 25 call, yes. senator menendez: the department of defense, in coordination with the discriminate certified in -- with the secretary of state ertified in -- prior to this cull. indecrease corruption and increase accountability and could ensure accountability for u.s. military equipment.
as a matter of fact. that certification by the department of defense in cooperation with the secretary of state, person immediately above you, not only took place then but it took place prior to 2018 n july of -- 13 of nd may 23 of 2019. if d.o.d. and state had already certified that ukraine had made progress on corruption, what was left to review? mr. sullivan: for purposes of our assistance that was being provided to ukraine, that that assistance wouldn't be diverted for corrupt purposes. in fact, i recall a conversation with secretary mattis back in 2018 about those issues. senator menendez: what did you do to dislodge the money? mr. sullivan: to dislodge the money? i did not take -- personally take any action. senator menendez: did you call
o.m.b.? mr. sullivan: no. i had conversations about o.m.b. my perspective was that there were a number of programs that were being -- funding was being held for, including the northern tryningle countries. my focus -- triangle contrifments my focus at the time in august and september was on the funding for the northern triangle countries. i was leaving it to our ambassador, tamm bass door taylor, volcker -- vorker and so forth. i testified before the house appropriations subcommittee on northern triangle -- senator menendez: i am focused on the position you were nominated. mr. sullivan: that was the day i was told, i was handed a note that informed me among other things that ukrainian assistance, i believe it was september 11, had been -- the hold had been lifted. senator menendez: i ask unanimous consent to introduce into the record the lert of under secretary of defense correct drekted to you as chairman of the committee.
senator risch: that will be entered. senator menendez: mr. secretary, a couple of other final questions here. isn't it true that russia illegally occupies crimea continues to conduct attacks in eastern ukraine? mr. sullivan: absolutely. senator menendez: more than 13,000 ukrainian troops and civilians have been killed in the conflict since 2014. mr. sullivan: i believe- senator isn't it true that russia assaulted our elections in 2016 using cyber attacks? mr. sullivan: indeed. senator menendez: isn't it true russia illegally occupied part of georgia's territory? mr. sullivan: yes. senator menendez: russia's bombing campaign in syria also involved bombing indents? didn't the coming -- russian bombing in syria campaign also involve bombing innocent? mr. sullivan: i believe so. senator menendez: now, we have
established that the kremlin behavor continues to pose a national security threat to the united states. congress sought to address that to the countering america's adversary through sanctions act that passed 98-2 and president signed into law. does it help or hinder u.s. national security when president trump characterizes russia's interference as a hoax? mr. sullivan: the united states government hasn't accepted that it's a hoax. the united states government's position led by president trump is, we are dedicated to stopping it. we acknowledge it occurs. is ongoing and doing all we can to stop it. senator menendez: does it help or hinder national security when president jokes about election interference with president putin? mr. sullivan: as i said we are -- i'm devoting a huge amount of my time as deputy secretary to countering russian election interference. that's at the direction of the president. senator menendez: does it help or hinder when the president redirects millions of dollars from the european deterrent initiative that is to help us
in a deterrence to russia to pay for a border wall? mr. sullivan: that was the president's judgment and a national security priority. senator menendez: here's the problem. you are going to go to russia. and you are going to have -- are you going to be saying one set of things based upon your testimony here today and private conversations you had with members that we have the president who in his public statements is totally aligned differently than what you are going to be saying. do you understand the incredible difficult job that you are going to have as a result of that? mr. sullivan: what i would say, senator, is, you cited the president's statements. i cite the president's actions. you mentioned the nerve agent that was used, we expelled 60 -- the president expelled 60 o undeclare russian intelligence officers in response. we have imposed sanctions on
probably 350 russian individuals and organizations, including for election interference. i think the president's actions speak very loudly in this. the secretary pompeo has said that this administration, this president is firmly committing to confronting russia in all these areas that -- senator menendez: erwhelmingly those sanctions have been forced by the hand of congress, particularly in the legislation after having sanctions in iran and other o places including russia in a way that provided very little discretion because, in a bipartisan basis, there is concern. finally, let me just ask you this. because i'm trying to find a way forward on your nomination. the department that you helped run has tried to block individuals from testifying before congress, something that i find appalling, because congress, article 1 of the
constitution, not 2 or 3, article 1, ultimately provides as a check and balance on any administration. this or anyone in the future. forcing them to either choose between defying congress or their superiors. this department has sent them letters that appear aimed at scaring them out of appearing before congress. is this the type of support and protection you think that our public servants deserve? mr. sullivan: i would say that the actions that the department has undertaken led by the secretary has been on the advice of counsel not only state department counsel but white house counsel as well and direction from the white house. senator menendez: why is the department working to prevent employees from testifying before congress? mr. sullivan: well, as has been laid out in an extensive letter from the counsel to the president, the rationale is laid out there. senator menendez: i understand the house is directing its request to you, is that correct?
mr. sullivan: they have, yes. senator menendez: i'd like to enter the letter from the house to mr. sullivan into the record, mr. chairman. have you responded to them? mr. sullivan: i don't believe so. 7 -- the letter was addressed to me, but -- the letter has been addressed -- i personally have not. the letter has been addressed to me in the misunderstanding that the connect sect has recused himself. senator menendez: the secretary has not. even though these requests are coming to you you are turning them over. mr. sullivan: correct. i didn't ask they be sent to me. they have decided that. senator menendez: i ask a request to enter a series of a ers into the record by correspondentance between the state department and members -- myself and letters from myself to the state department all which have gone unanswered.
senator risch: those will be entered. senator cruz. senator cruz: thank you, mr. chairman. let me start by observing as we constituent in these august chambers from the storied committee above which the ghost of henry cab bot lodge no doubt looks down -- cab ott lodge, no doubt, looks down, i feel compelled to that the distinguished senator from virginia is choosing to mock me for his nationals beating my astros last night in game six back in houston. i will only say that there is a virtue to patience. >> this confirmation hearing continues online at c-span.org. we are going to take you live next to the floor of the u.s. house as they gavel in for legislative work. three public land bills on the agenda today. they'll break at noon for a classified briefing. live