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Former Zelensky Aide Says Trump Admin. Request for Investigations ‘Rattled’ Ukrainian President

Ukrainian former Finance Minister Oleksandr Danylyuk speaks during an interview with Reuters in Kiev, Ukraine June 8, 2018. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

Ukraine’s former national security council chairman said that he left the Volodymyr Zelensky administration after becoming  “uncomfortable” with American efforts to coerce the opening of politically advantageous investigations.

Oleksandr Danylyuk, speaking with The Daily Beast in his first on-the-record interview since President Trump’s impeachment began, directly contradicted December comments made by Andriy Yermak, a top Zelensky aide, who said “we never had that feeling” that a holdup in U.S. military aide was tied to the requested investigations.

Danyluk said the request, which was detailed during the House’s impeachment inquiry by ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland, “rattled” Zelensky’s team which had worked through a draft for Ukrainian-American cooperation that “at its core” prioritized national security.

“It was a panic,” the Ukrainian said. “. . . This roadmap should have been the substance.”

The former official also detailed how he met and enjoyed a good relationship with former national security adviser John Bolton.

“I would say it was definitely John who I trusted,” Danylyuk said. “I think John, because we worked together on trying to set up an official framework for a U.S.-Ukraine relationship.”

Danyluk also said he asked Bolton about the aid holdup on September 1 in Warsaw as Vice President Mike Pence was meeting with Zelensky but “never got an answer.”

The Warsaw meeting became a central part of the Trump impeachment inquiry when Sondland said in his revised testimony in November that both a White House meeting and the military aid were contingent on the announcement of an anti-corruption probe into Burisma, the firm that employed Hunter Biden.

“I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak [at the meeting], where I said that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks,” Sondland said at the time.

Yermak, however, then denied the conversation ever took place in an interview.

“Gordon and I were never alone together. We bumped into each other in the hallway next to the escalator, as I was walking out,” he told Time on the Warsaw meeting. “I remember – everything is fine with my memory – we talked about how well the meeting went. That’s all we talked about.”

Yermak added that the Ukrainians “did not have the feeling that this aid was connected to any one specific issue.”

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