US diplomats encouraged Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden’s family in return for a visit to Washington, according to text messages.
One of them also called it “crazy” to withhold military aid “for help with a political campaign”.
The messages were released by the House Intelligence Committee after Thursday’s 10-hour interview with one of those involved, Kurt Volker.
Mr Volker quit as US special envoy to Ukraine after Democrats launched an in impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
They claim Mr Trump put pressure on President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to launch an investigation into Joe Biden – his likely rival for the presidency – and his son, Hunter.
Some of the texts were made on the day of a phone call between the two presidents, 25 July, and appear to paint a picture of a quid pro quo being formulated.
In the morning, Mr Volker texted an adviser to Ukrainian president: “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.”
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Image: Kurt Volker recently stepped down as special envoy to Ukraine
After the call, the adviser, Andrey Yermak, messaged back “phone call went well” and suggested dates the presidents could meet in September.
Mr Yermak texted two weeks later to try to set a date for the meeting before they would commit to a statement on the investigation.
“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,” said the message.
“Sounds great!” replied Mr Volker.
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Mr Volker; Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union; and Bill Taylor, charge d’affaires at the US embassy in Ukraine, went on to discuss the statement the Ukrainian president would make about the investigation.
But Mr Sondland said in one text in August: “I think potus really wants the deliverable”.
The Trump administration’s freezing of hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid to Ukraine also caused Mr Taylor serious concern.
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“Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” he wrote to Mr Sondland on 1 September.
And in another message a week later, Mr Taylor said: “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
Mr 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.
“The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign.”
The Biden family have not been shown to have committed any wrongdoing.
Mr Trump and the Ukrainian president have both denied that any untoward pressure was exerted.
The president has denied acting improperly in his dealings with Ukraine’s president, calling the July phone call “perfect”. He has said the Democrats have started the impeachment investigation because “they know they can’t win” in next year’s election.
Mr Trump also suggested this week that China should “start an investigation into the Bidens”.
Source : Sky News