Texts show reactions of diplomats to Trump’s demands on Ukraine

World Today

A former U.S. special envoy revealed details about a months-long campaign to pressure Ukraine. The Trump administration urged Kiev to investigate Joe Biden– the U.S. president’s potential Democratic opponent– and his son.

President Donald Trump maintained he’s done nothing wrong as he faced an impeachment inquiry.

CGTN’s White House Correspondent Nathan King reports.

U.S. President Donald Trump said his pressure on Ukraine was about tackling corruption; not about going after his political rival Joe Biden.

But testimony from his former Ukrainian Envoy Kurt Volker told a different story. Volker revealed text messages between himself, Bill Taylor, the acting top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine; Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the EU; and an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

The messages seemed to back claims that a visit to the White House by the Ukrainian president and some $400 million of U.S. military aid may have been held up until the Ukrainian government started investigating.

In one text exchange, Taylor wrote “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigation?” The Ambassador to EU, Sondland, replied “call me,” taking the discussion offline.

The final released messages came on September 9. “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor wrote. Sondland’s reply has a much different and more formal tone than previous texts. “Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind I suggest we stop the back and forth by text,” Sondland texted.

The White House pointed to the last message as proof that Trump did not want anything in return from the Ukrainians and was simply pursuing legitimate U.S. policy goals. Democrats said the message shows diplomats realized this was becoming a potentially damaging issue and that they should stop texting about it.

But what the texts do show was that the issue goes beyond the now infamous demand from President Trump in which he told Ukrainian President Zelensky, “I would like you to do us a favor though” during a July phone call.

The investigations, meanwhile, continued into Trump’s presidential lawyer Rudolph Giuliani and his pressure on Ukrainian officials. Lawmakers are also looking at Vice President Mike Pence’s actions and whether he pressured the new government in Kyiv as well as any role U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr may have played.

Three House committees have subpoenaed the White House for documents. They refused to hand over documents to investigators, so far, and several fellow Republicans were now openly criticizing the president’s call on several countries to investigate his political rival.

Next week, investigators were set to hear from the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was abruptly removed from her post earlier this year. Reports say she pushed back on pressure from the presidents’ men to investigate Biden and she paid with her job.