‘My nightmare scenario’: Trump meeting offered to Ukraine by US diplomats pushing for Biden investigation, damning texts reveal

‘I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,’ top envoy says

Zamira Rahim
Friday 04 October 2019 09:28
Donald Trump says he wants both Ukraine and China to investigate Joe Biden and his son

White House envoys to Ukraine pushed the country’s president to investigate Joe Biden’s family while also offering a meeting in DC with Donald Trump, according to a series of damning text messages.

The revelation comes after one of the diplomats resigned from his post and spent several hours testifying in front of members of Congress.

Three House of Representatives investigative committees released the messages in which the diplomats outlined the proposal.

Ukraine was also urged to launch an investigation into a conspiracy theory about meddling in the 2016 election.

Kurt Volker, the envoy who has since resigned, sent one text on the morning of a 25 July phone call between Mr Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Heard from White House — Assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / “get to the bottom of what happened” in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington,” he said.

The diplomats also hoped Mr Zelensky would publicly announce an investigation into Burisma, a Ukranian gas company which Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, previously worked for.

Andrey Yermak, an aide to Mr Zelensky, reportedly considered the proposal.

“Phone call went well,” Mr Yermak said, following the call. He then suggested several September dates where the presidents could meet in the White House.

The messages show the Ukrainian advisor hoped to confirm a date before publicly announcing the investigation.

Two weeks after the call Mr Yermak wrote: “Once we have a date we will call for a press briefing, announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of US-Ukraine relationship , including among other things Burisma and election meddling in investigations.”

“Sounds great,” Mr Volker said in reply.

The 54-year-old discussed the proposal with two other envoys, William Taylor, the top diplomat at Washington’s embassy in Ukraine and Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union.

According to The New York Times Kurt Volker and Gordon Sondland drafted a statement for Mr Zelensky, committing Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

Also included in the statement was a pledge to probe allegations that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 election. The allegation is a popular and unsubstantiated conspiracy theory.

As negotiations progressed, Mr Sondland said in a text that Donald Trump “really wants the deliverable.”

The plan began to fall apart after Mr Trump chose to freeze $250m (£202m) in military aid to Ukraine.

The country depends on the funds to maintain defences against Russia.

“Need to talk with you,” Mr Yemak said in a message to Kurt Volker, after the aid was frozen.

The decision to halt access to funds appears to have unnerved Mr Taylor, the most experienced of the diplomats.

“Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Mr Taylor asked, in a text to his two colleagues.

“The nightmare is they give the interview and don’t get the security assistance. The Russians love it. [And I quit],” he added on 8 September.

On 9 September he wrote: “The message to the Ukrainans [and Russians] we send with the decision on security assistance is key.

“With the hold, we have already shaken their faith in us. Thus my nightmare scenario.”

Within a month of the call, Mr Trump had cancelled his meeting with the Ukranian leader, sending diplomats scrambling to find a solution. Mr Taylor continued to express fears over the plan.

“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Mr Taylor said, in a text sent on 9 September.

More than four hours later Mr Sondland replied, claiming the president “has been crystal clear, no quid pro quo’s of any kind.”

He added: “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text.”

Kurt Volker handed the cache of messages to the House of Representatives committees after Democrats announced they were launching formal impeachment proceedings.

Senior Democrats made the decision after a whistleblower raised concerns about Mr Trump’s July call with Volodymyr Zelensky.

They have accused the president of pressuring a foreign government to interfere with US elections by investigating the Bidens.

Joe Biden is one of the Democratic frontrunners for the 2020 election.

Mr Volker testified on Thursday for more than eight hours in front of the Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees.

The chairs of the committees said the text messages were ”still only a subset of the full body of the materials” handed over by the former diplomat.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Kurt Volker resigned from his post shortly after the impeachment probe was launched.

Mr Trump has denied all allegations but on Thursday he openly called on China and Ukraine to launch investigations into Joe Biden.

“[Ukraine] should investigate the Bidens,” he said.

“And by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”

Ellen Weintraub, head of the Federal Election Commission, retweeted on Thursday a post she first wrote in June,

“Let me make something 100 per cent clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a US election. This is not a novel concept.”

The impeachment inquiry continues.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments