White House

House Democrats Release Text Excerpts from Volker Testimony Alleging Trump Pressure on Ukraine

Kurt Volker, then-U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, during an interview with Reuters in Kiev in 2017 (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

The chairs of the House Committees released a document late Thursday night containing text messages that “reflect serious concerns raised by a State Department official about the detrimental effects of withholding crucial military assistance from Ukraine, and the importance of setting up a meeting between President Trump and the Ukrainian president without further delay.” The texts come after a closed-door briefing with former special representative to Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker.

The released texts, which include conversations between Volker, Gordon Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, and Bill Taylor, the chargé d’affaires in Ukraine, imply that State Department officials were working at the behest of the White House to coordinate with Ukraine for the investigations mentioned by Trump in his July phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky.

The morning of the July 25 call, Volker texted Andriy Yermak, a top Ukrainian aid, saying “Heard from the 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.”

The document also reveals that Sondland and Volker, in coordination with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, helped coordinate a statement for Zelensky that would have committed Ukraine to exploring investigations before a visit to the White House.

Yermak texted Volker on August 10 asking for confirmation on a date for Zelensky’s visit with Trump, in order to hold a press briefing in which the Ukrainians would announce the visit and outline their “vision for the reboot of US-UKRAINE relationship, including among other things Burisma and election meddling.” The whistleblower complaint alleging Trump’s deliberate withholding of aid from Ukraine in exchange for an agreement to investigate was filed two days later, on August 12.

On Wednesday, The New York Times reported House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) was made aware of the complaint before it was filed.

After news of the delayed military aid to Ukraine was revealed in late August, Trump cancelled a trip to Warsaw, Poland, where he was scheduled to meet Zelensky. Bill Taylor asked Volker and Sondland for clarification on the situation.

“Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Taylor texted on Sept. 1, before stating on Sept. 9, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

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