Text messages released late Thursday night by House Democrats revealed top US diplomats to Ukraine discussing a quid pro quo at the heart of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump: that aid to the country — in the form of either military funding or the president's support — would be withheld until it did the bidding of the president's personal political interests.
"As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign," Bill Taylor, a top US diplomat to Ukraine, texted to Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, on Sept. 9.
"Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The President has been 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 if you still have concerns," Sondland responded.
The exchanges lay out groundwork for a quid pro quo between Trump and Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and support the heart of a whistleblower's narrative that Trump "abused his office for personal gain."
The unfiltered texts also provide clarity as Trump allies — especially Rudy Giuliani and the pro-Trump media such as Fox News — seek to bog down and confuse the narrative with lies, half-truths, and random facts.
Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate the work Joe Biden's son, Hunter, did for Burisma, a Ukrainian company. He also wanted Ukraine to look into a debunked, false conspiracy theory that it had hacked the Democratic National Committee's emails during the 2016 election, not Russia.
Trump has insisted there was no quid pro quo. This week he's even openly asked China to investigate the Bidens — seemingly as a way to prove, by saying it out loud, that there is nothing wrong with a foreign country interfering with US elections.
On Aug. 10, Andrey Yermak, an adviser to Ukraine's president, was asking Kurt Volker, who recently stepped down as special envoy to Ukraine, "for a date for the White House visit before committing to a statement announcing an investigation explicitly referencing the 2016 election and Burisma," according to the House Democrats' summary.
"Once we have a date, will call for a press briefing, announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of US-Ukrain relationship, including among other things Burisma and election meddling in investigations," Yermak wrote.
"Sounds great!" Volker responded.
And in a Sept. 1 exchange, while trying to work out a White House visit with Ukraine's president, Taylor asked, "are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?"
Sondland replied, "Call me."
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