Text messages provided by the former special envoy to Ukraine show administration officials indicating that a meeting between the Ukrainian leader and President Trump was contingent on investigations requested by the U.S.
The text messages show that top U.S. diplomats worked to carry out Trump’s desire for the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and the business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden.
Biden as vice president had pushed for Ukraine to oust its then-prosecutor general for failing to properly investigate corruption. The prosecutor general had at one point looked into Burisma, the energy company where Hunter Biden served on the board. There is no evidence either Biden engaged in wrongdoing.
The text exchanges involve Volker, top Ukrainian embassy official William Taylor, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, and Andrey Yermak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Volker served as the Ukraine envoy until he resigned last week.
Here are seven exchanges provided by Volker that stand out the most.
Volker says it’s ‘most important’ for Zelensky to say he’ll help investigation
In a July 19 text to Giuliani, Volker thanked him for a breakfast meeting that morning and moved to connect him with Yermak. Volker suggested they all schedule a call together the following Monday.
During an exchange between Volker, Sondland and Taylor later that day, Volker wrote that he had breakfast with Giuliani that morning and was “teeing up call w Yermak Monday. Must have helped.”
“Most impt is for Zelensky to say that he will help investigation – and address any specific personnel issues – if there are any,” Volker added.
Taylor says Ukraine concerned about becoming ‘instrument’ in domestic American politics
On July 21, Taylor warned that “Zelensky is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely as 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.”
Volker advises Yermak on the morning of Trump’s call with Zelensky
After the July 22 call with Giuliani and Yermak, Volker informed his fellow diplomats that Giulani was “advocating” for a call between Trump and Zelensky. He added that Giuliani and Yermak planned to meet in Madrid “in a couple of weeks.”
On the morning of July 25, Volker offered advice to Yermak ahead of the Trump-Zelensky call later that day.
“Heard from White House – assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington,” Volker wrote.
Volker seeks Giuliani’s guidance in pursuing statement for Zelensky to commit to investigation
On Aug. 9, Volker and Sondland discussed setting up a White House meeting after the Ukrainian president issued a statement announcing an investigation.
“I think [Trump] really wants the deliverable,” Sondland wrote. “To avoid misunderstandings, might be helpful to ask Andrey for a draft statement (embargoed) so that we can see exactly what they propose to cover.”
That same day, Volker sought guidance from Giuliani about the proposed statement from the Ukrainians.
“Hi Mr Mayor! Had a good chat with Yermak last night. He was pleased with your phone call. Mentioned Z making a statement. Can we all get on the phone to make sure I advise Z correctly as to what he should be saying? Want to make sure we get this done right.”
“Yes you can call now going to Fundraiser at 12:30,” Giuliani replied.
But on Aug. 10, Yermak insisted on confirmation of a date for a White House visit before committing to a statement announcing an investigation.
“I think it’s possible to make this declaration and mention all these things. Which we discussed yesterday. But it will be logic[al] to do after we receive a confirmation of date. We inform about date of visit and about our expectations and our guarantees for future visit,” Yermak wrote.
“I agree with your approach. Let’s iron our statement and use that to get date and then PreZ can go forward with it?” Volker replied.
“Excellent,” Yermak said. “Once we have a date, will call for a press briefing, announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of US-UKRAINE relationship, including among other things Burisma and election meddling in investigations.”
‘The clear message’ to highlight investigation into Burisma and 2016 elections
Volker wrote in an Aug. 13 message that “special attention should be paid to the problem of interference in the political processes in 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 U.S. elections, which in turn will prevent the recurrence of this problem in the future.”
“Perfect. Lets send to Andrey after our call,” Sondland responded.
On Aug. 17, Sondland asked, “Do we still want Ze to give us an unequivocal draft with 2016 and Boresma?”
“That’s the clear message so far…” Volker replied.
Taylor threatens to quit in discussions about Ukraine aid
On Sept. 1, Taylor asked Sondland about the prerequisites for a White House visit.
“Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Taylor asked.
“Call me,” Sondland replied.
On Sep. 8, Sondland informed Volker and Taylor about “multiple convos with Ze, Potus” and suggested they discuss.
“The nightmare is they give the interview and don’t get the security assistance. The Russians love it. (And I quit.),” Taylor wrote.
Taylor says ‘it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign’
In an exchange on Sept. 9, Taylor warned that “the message to the Ukrainians (and Russians) we send with the decision on security assistance is key. With the hold, we have already shaken their faith in us. Thus my nightmare scenario.”
“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor added.
Sondland replied nearly five hours later that he believed Taylor was “incorrect about President Trump’s intentions.”
“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. I suggest we stop the back and forth by text,” Sondland said.