Text Messages Between US, Ukraine Officials
Former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker released dozens of text messages between top State Department officials handling European and Ukrainian affairs.
By VOA News
Former U.S. Special Envoy for Ukraine
President Trump's personal attorney
U.S. Ambassador to the E.U.
Charge d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine
President Zelenskiy's aide
The House of Representatives impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump uncovered text messages among top officials that detail discussions about convincing Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. The messages date to earlier this year when Congress had authorized millions of dollars in military aid, but it had not yet been delivered. The newly released text messages reveal details about whether the delay in military aid was directly tied to the country’s willingness to investigate one of President Trump’s political opponents. Below are the text messages the House Committee highlighted.
Connecting Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, with Ukraine President Zelenskiy’s adviser: On July 19, Ambassador Kurt Volker texted President Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, to thank him for breakfast and to introduce him to Andrey Yermak, a top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy:
Friday, July 19, 2019
Volker: Mr Mayor- really enjoyed breakfast this morning. As discussed, connecting you here with Andrey Yermak, who is very close to President Zelensky. I suggest we schedule a call together on Monday - maybe 10am or 11 am Washington time? Kurt
Sondland briefs Zelenskiy ahead of call with President Trump: On July 19, 2019, Volker, U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and U.S. Charge d’Affairs for Ukraine William Taylor had the following exchange about the specific goal for the upcoming telephone call between President Trump and the Ukrainian president:
Friday, July 19, 2019
Volker: Can we three do a call tomorrow-say noon WASHINGTON?
Sondland: Looks like Potus call tomorrow. I spike [sic] directly to Zelensky and gave him a full briefing. He's got it.
Volker: Good. Had breakfast with Rudy this morning-teeing up call w Yermak Monday. Must have helped. Most impt is for Zelensky to say that he will help investigation-and address any specific personnel issues-if there are any
Concerns about Ukraine becoming an “instrument” in U.S. politics: On July 21, 2019, Ambassador Taylor flagged President Zelenskiy’s desire for Ukraine not to be used by the Trump administration for its own domestic political purposes:
Sunday, July 21, 2019
Taylor: Gordon, one thing Kurt and I talked about yesterday was Sasha Danyliuk's point that President Zelenskyy is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely as an instrument in Washington domestic, reelection politics.
Sondland: Absolutely, but we need to get the conversation started and the relationship built, irrespective of the pretext. I am worried about the alternative.
Giuliani advocates for Trump-Zelenskiy call: Yermak and Giuliani agreed to speak on the morning of July 22. Later that evening, Ambassador Volker informed Ambassadors Sondland and Taylor that Giuliani was now “advocating” for a phone call between President Trump and President Zelenskiy:
Monday, July 22, 2019
Volker: Orchestrated a great phone call w Rudy and Yermak. They are going to get together when Rudy goes to Madrid in a couple of weeks.
In the meantime Rudy is now advocating for phone call.
I have call into Fiona's replacement and will call Bolton if needed.
Sondland: I talked to Tim Morrison Fiona's replacement. He is pushing but feel free as well.
Volker advises Yermak ahead of Trump-Zelenskiy call: On the morning of July 25, ahead of the planned call between President Trump and President Zelenskiy, Ambassador Volker advised Yermak:
Thursday, July 25, 2019
Volker: Good lunch - thanks. 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. Good luck! See you tomorrow- kurt
Yermak’s informal readout of the Trump-Zelenskiy call: Following President Trump’s July 25 call, Ambassador Volker received the following readout from Ukrainian presidential adviser Yermak and confirmed his intent to meet Giuliani in Madrid:
Thursday, July 25, 2019
Yermak: Phone call went well. President Trump proposed to choose any convenient dates. President Zelenskiy chose 20,21,22 September for the White House Visit. Thank you again for your help! Please remind Mr. Mayor to share the Madrid's dates
Volker: Great-thanks and will do!
State Department officials discuss a White House visit and Ukraine statement: On August 9, Ambassador Volker had the following exchange with Ambassador Sondland about arranging a White House meeting after the Ukrainian president makes a public statement:
Friday, August 9, 2019
Sondland: Morrison ready to get dates as soon as Yermak confirms.
Volker: Excellent!! How did you sway him?:)
Sondland: Not sure i did. I think potus really wants the deliverable
Volker: But does he know that?
Clearly lots of convos going on
Volker: Ok-then that's good it's coming from two separate sources
Sondland: To avoid misundestandings, might be helpful to ask Andrey for a draft statememt ( embargoed) so that we can see exactly what they propose to cover. Even though Ze does a live presser they can still summarize in a brief statement. Thoughts?
State Department officials seek Giuliani’s guidance on Ukraine statement: On August 9, after Giuliani met with Zelenskiy aide Yermak, Ambassador Volker asked to speak with Giuliani about the Ukranian statement:
Friday, August 9, 2019
Volker: Hi Mr Mayor! Had a good chat with Yermak last night. He was pleased with your phone call. Mentioned Z making a statement. Can we all get on the phone to make sure I advise Z correctly as to what he should be saying? Want to make sure we get this done right. Thanks!
Sondland: Good idea Kurt. I am on Pacific time.
Giuliani: Yes can you call now going to Fundraiser at 12:30
Ukrainian aide seeks White House date first: On August 10, Yermak pressed Ambassador Volker for a date for the White House visit before committing to a statement announcing an investigation explicitly referencing the 2016 election and Burisma:
Saturday, August 10, 2019
Yermak: Hi Kurt. Please let me know when you can talk. I think it's possible to make this declaration and mention all these things. Which we discussed yesterday. But it will be logic to do after we receive a confirmation of date. We inform about date of visit and about our expectations and our guarantees for future visit. Let discuss it
Volker: Ok! It's late for you-why don't we talk in my morning, your afternoon tomorrow? Say 10am/5pm?
I agree with your approach. Let's iron out statement and use that to get date and then Prez can go forward with it?
Volker: Great. Gordon is available to join as well
Once we have a date, 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
Volker: Sounds great!
Discussion of Ukrainian statement to include references to 2016 election and Burisma: Following the August 9 outreach to Giuliani, Ambassador Volker and Ambassador Sondland on August 13 had the following exchange regarding the proposed Ukrainian statement:
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Volker: Special attention should be paid to the problem of interference in the political processes of the United States especially with the alleged involvement of some Ukrainian politicians. I want to declare that this is unacceptable. We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, including those involving Bmisma and the 2016 U.S. elections, which in tum will prevent the recurrence of this problem in the future.
Sondland: Perfect. Lets send to Andrey after our call
Confirming desire to reference 2016 election and Burisma: On August 17, Ambassadors Volker and Sondland had the following exchange in which they discussed their message to Ukraine:
Saturday, August 17, 2019
Sondland: Do we still want Ze to give us an unequivocal draft with 2016 and Boresma?
Volker: That's the clear message so far ...
I'm hoping we can put something out there that causes him to respond with that
Sondland: Unless you think otherwise I will return Andreys call tomorrow and suggest they send us a clean draft.
Ukrainian official shares press report of U.S. withholding military assistance: On August 28, President Zelenskiy’s aide, Yermak, texted Ambassador Volker a news story entitled, “Trump Holds Up Ukraine Military Aid Meant to Confront Russia.”
Thursday, August 29, 2019
Yermak: Need to talk with you
Volker: Hi Andrey- absolutely. When is good for you?
President Trump cancels trip to meet President Zelenskiy: On August 30, Ambassador Taylor informed Ambassador Volker that President Trump had canceled his planned visit to Warsaw, Poland, where he was to meet with President Zelenskiy. Ambassadors Volker and Sondland discussed an alternative plan for Vice President Mike Pence to meet with President Zelenskiy on September 1:
Friday, August 30, 2019
Taylor: Trip canceled
Volker: Hope VPOTUS keeps the bilat- and tees up WH visit...
And hope Gordon and Perry still going ...
Sondland: I am going. Pompeo is speaking to Potus today to see if he can go.
On September 1, Ambassador Taylor sought clarification of the requirements for a White House visit:
Sunday, September 1, 2019
Taylor: Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?
Sondland: Call me
State Department officials on security assistance and the Ukraine “interview”: On September 8, Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Sondland and Ambassador Volker had the following exchange:
Sunday, September 8, 2019
Sondland: Guys multiple convos with Ze, Potus. Lets talk
Taylor: Now is fine with me
Volker: Try again-could not hear
Taylor: Gordon and I just spoke. I can brief you if you and Gordon don't connect
The nightmare is they give the interview and don't get the security assistance. The Russians love it. (And I quit.)
State Department officials on withholding security assistance: On September 9, Ambassador Taylor and Ambassador Sondland had the following exchange regarding the withholding of military assistance to Ukraine:
Monday, September 9, 2019
Taylor: The message to the Ukrainians (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.
Counting on you to be right about this interview, Gordon.
Sondland: Bill, I never said I was "right". I said we are where we are and believe we have identified the best pathway forward. Lets hope it works.
Taylor: As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.
Sondland: 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. 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 I recommend you give Lisa Kenna or S a call to discuss them directly. Thanks.
On September 10, the day after these texts were exchanged, Taylor sat down with VOA’s Ukraine Service Chief Myroslava Gongadze in Kyiv.
“There’s a question on … President Trump’s attempt to block military support for Ukraine. Could you confirm any such a request?” she asked.
“There is a review that is taking place right now. The status of that review – it must be nearly done,” Taylor responded. “We’ve heard that the people who are reviewing have made their recommendations to the White House, and so we’re waiting for the conclusion of that review.”
Pete Cobus, Wayne Lee, Megan Duzor and Barry Newhouse contributed to this report.