- Ukraine’s president expressed unease about the country being used as a domestic political “instrument” by the Trump administration, according to text messages between US diplomats released on Thursday by the chairs of three House committees.
- According to the messages, US ambassadors complied with Trump’s demand to place pressure on Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a key domestic rival of the president.
- On Thursday, former US envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker — one of the officials whose messages were released — testified for nine hours before House committees investigating impeaching the president over Ukraine.
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Ukraine’s government expressed concern it was being used as a domestic political “instrument” by the Trump administration, after the president pushed the country to investigate his Democratic political rival Joe Biden, according to texts between US diplomats released by House Democrats.
On Thursday, the House Chairs on Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight and Reform committees released text messages between US diplomats and other officials in which they discussed attempts to shape US foreign policy to comply with Trump’s demand for damaging information on a domestic rival.
The release of the transcripts followed the testimony before the panels of former US envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker.
In one exchange on July 29, Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat to Ukraine, discussed the unease of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in being pushed to investigate Biden.
“Gordon, one thing Kurt and I talked about yesterday was [Ukrainian finance minister] Sasha Danyliuk’s point that President Zelensky is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely as an instrument in Washington domestic, reelection politics,” Taylor wrote to Gordon Sondland, the US Ambassador to the EU.
In the exchange, Sondland, who was a major donor to the Trump campaign ahead of his appointment, brushed aside Taylor’s concerns.
“Absolutely, but we need to get the conversation started and the relationship built, irrespective of the pretext. I am worried about the alternative,” replied Sondland, in an apparent reference to a possible deterioration of relations between the US and Ukraine.
The Ukrainian embassy in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider about the messages.
Sondland is among the US officials named in an August complaint by a whistleblower which has rocked the Trump administration.
In the complaint, the intelligence official alleged that the president and key Trump administration officials attempted to improperly influence Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter.
House Democrats have launched a presidential impeachment inquiry in the wake of the complaint, and the three House panels questioned Volker for a combined nine hours on Thursday as part of the investigation.
During the testimony, Volker reportedly claimed that he had urged Ukraine not to become involved in US domestic politics.
In the messages, US officials also discussed a drafted statement to be delivered by Ukraine’s president announcing a probe into Burisima Holdings, an energy company where Hunter Biden previously worked, as well into groundless allegations Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
The announcement was never delivered, but at least one aide to the Ukrainian president was aware of it, according to the messages.
In the messages Sondland denied there was a quid pro quo arrangment between the Trump administration and Ukraine, after being challenged by Taylor about US military aid to Ukraine being withheld.
“I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor wrote in a September 9 text.
Sondland responded: “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.”
Sondland continues, “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text.”