The net appears to be closing around Trump’s energy secretary Rick Perry whose spokeswoman admitted on Sunday he did encourage the president to speak to Zelensky in the first place, but only on energy and economic issues.
“Secretary Perry absolutely supported and encouraged the president to speak to the new president of Ukraine to discuss matters related to their energy security and economic development,” Perry’s Energy Department spokeswoman, Shaylyn Hynes, said in an email.
Perry, the former governor of Texas and up to now a lower-profile but active member of Trump’s Cabinet, has made repeated trips to Ukraine and met often with Ukranian officials, including Zelenskiy. Perry and his agency say his involvement with Ukraine was part of US policy, predating the Trump administration, to increase US natural gas, coal and other supplies to Eastern Europe to lessen Russia’s control of the region’s energy market.
“He continues to believe that there is significant need for improved regional energy security,” Hynes said. Perry was heading to Lithuania again on Sunday night and would meet with nearly two dozen European energy officials, including those from Ukraine, she said.
Hynes did not immediately answer questions on Sunday about whether Perry had discussed the Trump administration’s push for help investigating Trump’s Democratic rivals in his meetings with Ukraine.
But Perry told an evangelical Christian news outlet, CBN News, in an interview aired on Friday that he had never heard anyone in the administration bring up Biden or Biden’s son, who served on a board of a Ukraine natural gas business, in dealings with Ukrainian officials.
“Not once, as God as my witness, not once was a Biden name – not the former vice president, not his son – ever mentioned,” Perry told the outlet. “Corruption was talked about in the country but it was always a relatively vague term of, you know, the oligarchs and this and that and what have you.”
House lawmakers in the impeachment probe are presently seeking information from vice president Mike Pence and secretary of state Mike Pompeo on the administration’s approach to Ukraine.