Speed Reads

Trump-Ukraine Scandal

Trump's top Ukraine envoys had a very awkward group text about Trump withholding military aid

In a Sept. 9 text exchange between President Trump's three top official envoys to Ukraine, the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, expressed concern about Trump's decision to withhold military aid to Kyiv, according to copies of the text messages obtained by ABC News. "As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign," Taylor wrote to Gordon Sondland, the U.S ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, until recently the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine.

After speaking with Trump, The New York Times reports, Sondland responded to Taylor: "Bill, I believe you are 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, a 62-year-old hotelier and major GOP donor who gave $1 million to Trump's inauguration, has "increasingly worked to establish himself as a central figure in Ukraine policy," the Times reports, an unusual move since Ukraine isn't part of the EU. "Mr. Sondland came to be seen in the administration as more loyal to Mr. Trump than was Mr. Volker," a protégé of the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the Times adds. Taylor, a former ambassador to Ukraine, is a career civil servant who assumed his role after Trump recalled U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in May.

The texts were handed to House impeachment investigators by Volker, who was deposed behind closed doors Thursday. Volker reportedly told House investigators he was never given an explanation for why Trump was withholding military aid to Ukraine. Trump released the aid on Sept. 11, as a whistleblower was warning that Trump had suspended the funds to pressure Ukraine to investigate a leading 2020 Democratic candidate. Volker resigned soon after.