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How Rick Perry Became a Key Figure in Trump's Admiration Probe: NPR



Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced last week that he would step down by the end of the year. Perry called on President Trump to have a July telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, who is at the root of the impeachment investigation.

Jacqueline Martin / AP


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Jacquelyn Martin / AP

Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced last week that he would step down by the end of the year. Perry called on President Trump to hold a July telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, who is at the root of the impeachment investigation.

Jacqueline Martin / AP

Among the key figures involved in the impeachment investigation against President Trump is Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who announced last week that he would resign later this year.

Perry led the US delegation to Ukraine when President-elect Vladimir Zelensky was inaugurated in May. And it was Perry who called on Trump to make that now-infamous July phone call to Zelensky, the phone call that underlies the investigation.

In this conversation, Trump asked Ukrainians to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, his potential rival in the 2020 presidential campaign. .

So how did Perry, who just a few years ago tried to make his way through Dancing With the Stars, became a major figure in the impeachment probe?

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Perry's roots go back to tiny Paint Creek, Texas, in rural Haskell County.

"They used to call it 'the cunning of Haskell,'" says Scott Bradak, who edited Texas' Texas political newsletter and covered Perry for many years. "He grew up not only poor in dirt, but not far from

The son of tenant farmers, Perry will become chief politician, expert in relations.

After winning a seat in the Texas House of Representatives, Perry went on to be elected State Commissioner of Agriculture and Lieutenant. took over Texas in the middle of the second George W. Bush's term as governor when Bush won the presidency, then Perry was elected governor three times, serving for 14 years, making him the longest-serving governor in Texas history.

"Perry was someone who would always figure out a way to get what he wanted."

At first it might seem absurd that what Perry wants is to join the Trump administration.

After all, in 2015, during his second presidential term, Perry burned Trump in a speech by calling his Republican opponent's candidacy a "cancer of conservatism" and a "barking carnival act." Trump, warned Perry, is "a toxic mixture of demagogy and mean-spirited nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to death if it is prosecuted."

But apparently everything was forgiven after the 2016 election, when Trump elected Perry to head the Department of Energy.

"Well, you know, feelings are constantly changing for people," says Deirdre Delissi, who was chief of staff to then-governor Perry. She works on four of his campaigns and remains a confidant. "He was asked to serve his country and as he did so many times, he agreed to serve his country and he did a wonderful job."

Many note the irony that Perry is taking control of a federal department that he had promised to remove himself when running for president – a promise that led to Perry's notorious moment during the presidential debate, when he couldn't remember which department he promised to ax.

"I would quit with Education – Perry said stopping." Uh, uh … Trade. And … let's see … I can't. The third. I'm sorry. Well, now! "

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As energy secretary, Perry has flown a lot of radar so far, avoiding scandal.

He focused heavily on opening up global oil and gas markets in the US. At a press conference this month in He described his dealings in Lithuania this way: "I am a governor of Texas, a former governor and I know how to sell things. And my job is to sell, first, an American product. "

It's Perry's trademark," Braddock said in the quorum report. "He's always been really good at selling Texas," he says. "The governor's slogan." Perry was "Texas is open for business." And I think he wanted to bring it nationally and internationally – that we're open for business. "

Specifically: the liquefied natural gas business, or – as the Perry Energy Department summarized it -" gas for freedom. "It is a growing US export and Ukraine is a potentially huge market.

Historically, Ukraine is highly dependent So, the thinking goes: if the US could replace Russian gas with US gas, it would be a big gain for US companies and US foreign policy, Ukraine being a critical counterweight to Russian influence in the region. [19659008] But the country was also known for corruption, especially In the energy sector, this has hampered Western investment, and for years the US administrations have been pushing Ukraine to eliminate corruption.

In this context, Perry traveled to the Ukrainian capital Kiev in May, leading the US delegation to take office. President Zelensky

According to the complaint, Vice President Pence was to head that delegation, but Trump instructed Pence to cancel his trip and Perry went in his place.

Also with Perry were Gordon Sundland, the ambassador to Europe Union and Kurt Volker, then US Special Representative for Ukraine. The trio called themselves the "three amigos."

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky (left) and US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry share a joke during a meeting in Kiev, Ukraine last May.

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Nikola Lazarenko / AP

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky (left) and US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry share a joke during a meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, last year.

Nikola Lazarenko / AP

Within days of leaving Kiev, these "three amigos" are back in the Oval Office, meeting with the President. They told Trump that Zelensky was a reformer and they wanted the president to call him.

Perry was asked about this meeting during his visit to Lithuania this month.

"Absolutely," he said. "I have repeatedly asked the President, 'Mr. President, we think this is in the United States,' and in the best interests of Ukraine you and the President of Ukraine should talk and discuss the opportunities that are there." So, absolutely Yes. "

But Trump didn't have it. Here's how Perry described what happened next, in an interview with The Journal, produced by Gimlet Media and The Wall Street Journal .

"[The] – Well, it's nice to me that these guys have straightened out their behavior. So, what does "straightening their course" mean? And the president said, "Visit with Rudy." "

This will be Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer who has been on a crusade for months, claiming that Ukraine confronted Democrats in the 2016 elections.

As Perry Wall Street Journal reporter Tim Puco, he did what Trump told him to do. He called Julian.

"I called and we never had a conversation before," Perry said. "I called the mayor. Julian and I said, "Okay, tell me what's going on here. We're trying to get these people to meet so we can move forward with good economic development – to sell them gas. And the president is just not interested in talking! "And remembering the conversation, [Giuliani] he said," Look. The president is really concerned that there are people in Ukraine who tried to beat him on his presidential election. He thinks they are corrupt. " "

While Perry was making the phone call, Giuliani insisted that Ukraine, not Russia, was interfering in the 2016 elections and that this had hurt Trump.

This is a conspiracy theory that was debunked. [19659008] One thing that was not mentioned, says Perry The Wall Street Journal, is the name Biden. "

" Never, "Perry said emphatically, as he hit the table in an interview." Not in one conversation. Not from the president. Not from Gordon Sundland. Not from Kurt Walker. Not from any of Zelensky's team, have I heard the name Biden. Never. Not once. "

Gordon Sundland, US ambassador to the European Union (right), travels to Kiev with Energy Secretary Rick Perry in May. Above, they attend a high-level forum for small modular reactors at the EU headquarters in Brussels. on Monday.

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Gordon Sundland, US ambassador to the European Union (right), travels to Kiev with Energy Secretary Rick Perry in May. Above, they attend a high-level forum for small-scale modular reactors at the EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday.

Virginia Mayo / AP

Remember that this is the basis of the impeachment investigation.

Democrats want to know if Trump tried to force a foreign power to interfere in the 2020 election.

In fact, Trump told the Ukrainians: "Unless you agree to dig up my opponent Joe Biden's filth and his son Hunter, who sits on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, will not receive your invitation to the White House, and we will hold your military aid hostage? "

Perry has repeatedly said that he did not know about such a pure pro-quo. But the Democrats in Congress are not convinced.

" First, can we see your emails and your texts so we can understand is that what you just said is true? "says Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., who sits on the House Intelligence Committee that heads the impeachment investigation."

"That's the main issue," he says And of course, since Rick Perry was very much at the center of communication with the Ukrainians and probably with the president, all our questions will be addressed. to the extent that he observed that US policy was set aside in favor of the president's personal political agenda. "

Democrats from the House called for a series of documents and communications from Perry about the affair in Ukraine.

A call from the Intelligence Committee of the Perry House refused to comply with that call. House Democrats have called on the energy secretary as part of their impeachment inquiry into President Trump's deal with Ukraine.

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John Elswick / AP

Summons from the Perry Home Intelligence Committee. House Democrats have called on the Secretary of Energy as part of their impeachment inquiry into President Trump's deal with Ukraine.

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Speaking to the White House on Wednesday, Perry called the impeachment investigation a "charade."

"I will not participate," Perry told reporters. "The White House advised us not to participate. My chief counsel told me not to participate in what they consider to be an unprecedented effort to try to use an investigation in an illegal manner."

There is another wrinkle about all this, and it has to do with the state-controlled oil and gas company Behemoth, Naftogaz, which is widely regarded as a playground for corruption-ridden Ukrainian oligarchs.

The company seems to intend to challenge this reputation: In Naftogaz Corporate video, the words "transparency" and "new rules [to] dealing with corruption" shine on the English screen.

We already know that two Republican donors, who are Giuliani's business associates, were trying to install a new management at Naftogaz as they tried to extract lucrative gas contracts, fulfilling their path.

Their names? Lev Parnassus and Igor Fruman. They were arrested and pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations.