The Slatest

Trump Officials’ Texts Show Push to Tie “Investigation” to Future of U.S.-Ukraine Relationship

President Trump speaks as he departs the White House in Washington, DC, for Florida on October 3, 2019.
What did you expect? JIM WATSON/Getty Images

Text message exchanges between top American diplomats about President Donald Trump’s intentions in Ukraine released late Thursday showed a coordinated push to tie Ukraine’s willingness to investigate Trump’s political rivals to future contact with the White House. The texts were made public after nearly ten hours of testimony by the State Department’s former special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker. As part of his testimony, Volker cited a number of texts between himself, William Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, and the American ambassador the E.U., Gordon Sondland. Also a part of the text message exchanges was Andriy Yermak, a top aide to the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

The texts show a general understanding that Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, a demand that was presented as a precondition for future ties between the two administrations. The text message exchanges begin on July 19, days before the July 25 call between Trump and the president of Ukraine that was cited in the whistleblower’s complaint.

July 19: Special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker texts with William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the E.U. referencing the desire for their to be an investigation.

A screenshot of text message exchanges released by congress after Kurt Volker's testimony.
Congressional memo screenshot

July 21: Taylor texts Sondland about apparent pushback from the Ukrainian president about the Trump administration’s demand to investigate Trump’s political rival Democrat Joe Biden.

A screenshot of text message exchanges released by congress after Kurt Volker's testimony.
Congressional memo screenshot

July 25: Ahead of Trump’s call with President Zelensky, Volker texts Andriy Yermak, a top aide to the Ukrainian president, implying that a visit to the White House for the Ukrainian president is contingent on satisfying Trump’s demand that Ukraine will “investigate.” Throughout the text messages the investigation appears to combine to strands of inquiry: 1) Hunter Biden’s role on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma and Joe Biden’s role in exerting pressure on the Ukrainian prosecutor looking into Burisma; 2) a conspiracy theory counter-narrative being pushed by the far-right, and subsequently the Trump White House, that it was the Ukrainians, not the Russians, who did the true meddling—and on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

A screenshot of text message exchanges released by congress after Kurt Volker's testimony.
Congressional memo screenshot

Aug. 9: Volker and Sondland discuss drafting a statement committing Ukraine to an investigation in order to placate Trump.

A screenshot of text message exchanges released by congress after Kurt Volker's testimony.
Congressional memo screenshot

Aug. 10: Presidential aide Yermak confims that the announcement of the investigation is tied to a White House visit.

A screenshot of text message exchanges released by congress after Kurt Volker's testimony.
Congressional memo screenshot

Aug. 13: Volker sends Sondland a draft of the statement prepared for the Ukrainian president.

A screenshot of text message exchanges released by congress after Kurt Volker's testimony.
Congressional memo screenshot

Sept. 1: Taylor and Sondland reference the potential tie between the investigation and U.S. military assistance to Ukraine.

A screenshot of text message exchanges released by congress after Kurt Volker's testimony.
Congressional memo screenshot

Sept. 9: Taylor and Sondland appear to be memorializing a phone conversation.

A screenshot of text message exchanges released by congress after Kurt Volker's testimony.
Congressional memo screenshot