Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Monday he “absolutely” encouraged President Donald Trump to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in July to discuss energy issues, but not to pressure authorities there to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, and said he was not resigning.
Speaking in Vilnius, Lithuania, at an energy conference that included officials from Ukraine, Perry said he told Trump to call Zelenskiy.
“I asked the president multiple times, ‘Mr. President, we think it is in the United States’ and in Ukraine’s best interest that you and the president of Ukraine have conversations, that you discuss the options that are there,’” Perry said, adding that he is not stepping down. “I’m here, I’m serving,” he said.
Several news organizations reported last week that Perry planned to resign by the end of November.
House Democrats are focusing on Perry and others in their impeachment inquiry of Trump, who, according to a whistleblower complaint sent to Congress, urged Zelenskiy to investigate Biden over political corruption in exchange for U.S. military assistance.
Democratic heads of three House committees demanded Vice President Mike Pence turn over records related to DOE, Perry and a series of meetings Perry has held with Ukrainian officials.
Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked Perry in a letter sent Oct. 1, about the trip he led to Ukraine on May 20, when he attended Zelenskiy’s inauguration.
The Associated Press reported Monday that Perry attempted to replace board members of Naftogaz, a Ukrainian state-run natural gas firm. Addressing reporters in Lithuania Monday, Perry said any effort to replace the company’s managers was “totally dreamed up.”
“We gave recommendations at the request of the Ukrainian government and will continue to,” Perry told reporters.
A transcript summary of the July 25 call between both presidents shows Zelenskiy said both countries could work together on energy issues. “I believe we can be very successful and cooperating on energy independence with the United States,” he is quoted as saying.
At DOE, Perry has worked to advance the administration’s “energy dominance” agenda, including by promoting the export of fossil fuels such as natural gas.
Perry has met repeatedly with officials of Naftogaz, including once in Washington in 2017 and in May in Ukraine. Neither meeting appears to have been publicly reported.
Perry met Andriy Kobolyev, the chief executive of Naftogaz, in his conference room at DOE headquarters April 19, 2017. Their meeting lasted from 11:15 until 11:45 a.m, Perry’s calendar shows.
Then on May 20, Perry, leading the U.S. delegation to Zelenskiy’s inauguration, met with Kobolyev and other Naftogaz officials in Ukraine. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and former U.S. Special Envoy Kurt Volker attended the meeting, too.
Volker is a subject of interest in the impeachment investigation. He testified Thursday before three House committees — Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight and Government Reform.
House investigators’ letter to Pence demands information about the delegation’s trip to the inauguration in Kiev, but it is unclear if that request covers the Naftogaz meeting with Perry, Johnson and Volker, as well as Zelenskiy and Kobolyev.
Perry is scheduled to be in Latvia Tuesday and Iceland Thursday for separate energy conferences.