Speed Reads

Trump-Ukraine Scandal

Texts show U.S. diplomats telling Ukraine to investigate Bidens, 2016 election, to secure Trump's support

It's clear President Trump's top government envoys to Ukraine believed Trump was withholding support and military aid from Kyiv until new President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly committed to investigating the Biden family and a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine — not Russia — meddled in the 2016 election, according to text messages released late Thursday by House Democrats. The texts also make clear that Zelensky was aware of these conditions, though Zelensky never released a statement crafted by the three envoys.

The texts were given to House impeachment committees by Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, during a 10-hour deposition on Thursday. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is included in some of the texts, but they're mostly between Volker, U.S. European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland, U.S. charges d'affaires Bill Taylor, and Andrey Yermak, an aide to Zelensky.

The first carrot held out to get Zelensky to investigate the 2016 election and Burisma, a gas company that hired Hunter Biden, was a meeting with Trump that Zelensky deemed vital. Trump had extended then withdrawn an invitation to Zelensky in early summer, Volker reportedly told House investigators.

In August, Volker and Sondland crafted a statement for Zelensky committing Ukraine to pursue those two specific investigations, at the insistence of Giuliani, Volker reportedly told House investigators, but Trump never committed to the meeting and Ukraine dropped the statement. Zelensky is "sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely as an instrument in Washington domestic, reelection politics," Taylor texted Sondland on July 21.

On Aug. 29, Yermak texted Volker a Politico article disclosing that Trump was withholding military aid to Ukraine, adding, "Need to talk to you." On Sept. 1, Taylor texted Sondland:

On Sept. 9, Taylor texted Sondland: "As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign." Sondland, who has been exclusively referring to Trump as "potus," reportedly called Trump before texting back that "President Trump" has "been crystal clear: no quid pro quo's of any kind," ending the exchange with: "I suggest we stop the back and forth by text."