- The US House Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs Committees released text messages between Bill Taylor, Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Ukraine; Kurt Volker, the former US special envoy to Ukraine; and Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union.
- The text messages were obtained by lawmakers from Volker as part of the House impeachment inquiry into Trump announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week.
- The content of the messages range from Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, military aid to Ukraine, and, investigations, among other topics.
- “Are we now saying that security assistance and [White House] meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Taylor wrote to Sondland in a September 1, exchange.
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The US House Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs Committees released a trove of text messages between top US diplomats’ revealing their internal turmoil regarding Ukraine, on Thursday night.
The content of the messages range from Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, military aid to Ukraine, and, investigations, among other topics. The messages are between Bill Taylor, Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Ukraine; Kurt Volker, the former US special envoy to Ukraine; Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, and aids to the Ukrainian president.
The text messages were obtained by lawmakers from Volker as part of an impeachment inquiry into Trump, which was announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week. Volker, who resigned from the State Department on Friday of last week, appeared on Capitol Hill on Thursday for closed-door hearings; his name was mentioned in a bombshell whistleblower complaint that was made public last Thursday.
At the heart of the complaint is a July 25 phone call Trump had with Zelensky, during which he repeatedly pressed Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Biden is a 2020 Democratic frontrunner and one of Trump’s chief political rivals.
The complaint alleged that Trump used the power of his office to “solicit interference from a foreign country” in the 2020 US election.
Ukraine’s ‘shaken’ faith in the United States
In an exchange on September 9, Taylor wrote to Sondland saying that Trump halting military aid to Ukraine has “shaken their faith in us,” which he said was his “nightmare scenario.” Taylor later added that he thought that Trump’s decision to “withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign” is “crazy,” a message that ABC News previously reported.
Sondland replied to Taylor, stating that “the president has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind.”
“The president is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign,” Sondland wrote.
Taylor wrote that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is “sensitive” about how is country is portrayed.
In an exchange that took place on July 21, Taylor texted Sondland saying that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is “sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely an instrument in Washington domestic, reelection politics.”
Sondland replied: “Absolutely, but we need to get the conversation started and the relationship built, irrespective of the pretext. I am worried about the alternative.”
Ukraine, a fledgling democracy notorious for corruption, elected Zelensky a comedian-turned-politician whose campaign touted him as an anti-corruption candidate. The country is also reliant on US military aid in its fight with Russian-backed militants.
Earlier this year, Congress approved a nearly $US400 million military aid package for Ukraine. Trump had ordered his administration to withhold a nearly $US400 million military-aid package to Ukraine days before the phone call with Zelensky.
While the White House’s notes on the call showed that Trump did not directly mention offering aid in exchange for Zelensky’s assistance in investigating the Bidens, they confirmed that Trump brought up how the US does “a lot for Ukraine” right before asking Zelensky to do him a “favour” by investigating Biden and discrediting the former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
According to the texts, Zelensky’s visit to the White House is dependent on the Ukrainian government getting “to the bottom of what happened.”
In an exchange between Volker and Zelensky’s aid, Andriy Yermak, at the end of July, Volker wrote that they will “nail down [a] date for visit to Washington” for the Ukrainian president, pending his agreement to investigate alleged corruption on the part of Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of a prominent Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.
“Heard from White House – assuming President Z convinces trump (sic) he will investigate/’get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington,” Volker wrote.
The same sentiment was echoed after Trump cancelled a planned visit to Warsaw, Poland, on August 30, where he was set to meet with Zelensky. Taylor “sought clarification” on the conditions for the Ukrainian president to visit the White House the next day.
“Are we now saying that security assistance and [White House] meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Taylor wrote to Sondland in a September 1, exchange.
Volker and Sondland discussed drafting a statement for Zelensky, which would have committed Ukraine to conducting an investigation for Trump.
In a text message on August 13, Volker texted the following to Sondland, which appears to be in relation to the draft statement:
“Special attention should be paid to the problem of interference in the political processes of the United States especially with the alleged involvement of some Ukrainian politicians. I want to declare that this is unacceptable. We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, including those involving Burisma and the 2016 US elections, which in turn will prevent the recurrence of this problem in the future.”
The New York Times reported on the aforementioned discussion earlier Thursday, saying that Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer and a central figure in the Ukraine controversy, was aware of the statement, as was a Zelensky aid.
Read the full text exchanges here:
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