Ukraine's president reportedly knew more than he — and President Trump — are letting on.
After diplomat William Taylor testified Tuesday he was told aid for Ukraine was "dependent" on the country investigating Joe and Hunter Biden, Trump modified his "no quid pro quo" defense to suggest there could be no "quo" if Ukraine didn't know about the aid holdup. But as interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times reveal, senior Ukrainian officials knew about the holdup weeks before White House officials have admitted.
About two months into Volodymyr Zelensky's presidency and days after his infamous July 25 call with Trump, Ukrainian officials reportedly found out the $391 million in aid wouldn't be coming. They were told it wasn't a "bureaucratic glitch" and that they should talk to Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney about it, per the Times. And while the communications surrounding the freeze didn't explicitly tie it to Trump's Biden pressure, they did mention arranging a meeting between Zelensky and the senior aide who'd been "dealing with" Rudy Giuliani, who was backing a Biden probe, the Times continues.
Also fighting against Trump's innocence insistence is a Washington Post report saying Zelensky felt "pressure" from Trump to probe the Bidens even before he was inaugurated. Zelensky met with a group of advisers May 7 and discussed "how to navigate the insistence from Trump" and Giuliani "and how to avoid becoming entangled in the American elections," three people familiar with the meeting say. That happened about two weeks after Trump called to congratulate Zelensky on his victory. The report does counter Zelensky's own words that there was "no pressure" from Trump to investigate the Bidens. Kathryn Krawczyk
In an attempt to distance President Trump from wrongdoing in a call with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, he and allies have tried to claim there was "no quid pro quo" offered in exchange for Zelensky investigating the Biden family. Yet an intelligence community member's whistleblower complaint released Thursday details several instances where phone calls and meetings with, as well as visits to Ukraine by Trump, were at least made to appear off limits until Zelensky did what he was asked.
Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani has long pushed for a probe into Hunter Biden's work with a Ukraine-based company. Because of that, "multiple U.S. officials told me that the Ukrainian leadership was led to believe that a meeting or phone call between the president and President Zelensky" would not happen unless Zelensky "showed willingness to 'play ball'" on the Biden allegations, the whistleblower details in the complaint.
The whistleblower included two more instances that implied a quid pro quo between Trump and Zelensky, though the whistleblower was unsure if they were "connected with" Zelensky's "willingness to 'play ball.'" In one case, U.S. officials allegedly told the whistleblower Trump canceled Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Ukraine for Zelensky's inauguration. "It was also 'made clear'" to Ukraine that Trump wouldn't meet Zelensky until he "saw how Zelensky 'chose to act' in office," the whistleblower says officials told him.
On July 18, the Office of Management and Budget also announced Trump ordered it "earlier that month" to "suspend all U.S. security assistance" to Ukraine. Both OMB and the National Security Council did not know why that order was issued. The order was reiterated throughout "interagency meetings" on July 23 and 26, the whistleblower continued. Trump's phone call with Zelensky happened July 25. Kathryn Krawczyk