The House Intelligence Committee released Thursday several pages of text messages between Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Kurt Volker, and Ukrainian officials.
The texts show that an official meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was offered on the condition that Zelensky's government agreed to investigate Ukrainian actions during the 2016 election in the U.S. and Burisma Holdings, the natural gas firm that employed Joe Biden's son, Hunter, on its board.
What did the committee say?
In a letter accompanying the texts, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), and House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote that the texts "reflect serious concerns raised by a State Department official about the detrimental effects of withholding critical military assistance from Ukraine, and the importance of setting up a meeting between President Trump and the Ukrainian President without further delay."
What do the texts say?
In one text message from July 25, Volker told Zelensky adviser Andrey Yermak:
Good lunch - thanks. Heard from the 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
Two hours later, Yermak texted back:
Phone call went well. President Trump proposed to choose any convenient dates. President Zelenskiy chose 20, 21, 22 September for White house Visit. Thank you again for the help! Please remind Mr. Mayor [Giuliani] to share the Mardid's[SIC] dates [Giuliani was traveling to Madrid, Spain]
This at least implies that Trump considered a promise on an investigation by Ukraine into 2016 election interference as a prerequisite to giving the Ukrainian president face time.
Other texts showed that, speaking through U.S. and Ukrainian diplomats, Giuliani tried to get Zelensky to add a reference to Burisma and the 2016 election investigation into a planned statement on how the new Ukrainian government would fight corruption.
On Aug. 9, Volker texted U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland:
Special attention should be paid to the problem of interference in the political process of the United States especially with the alleged involvement of some Ukraine politicians. I want to declare that this in unacceptable. We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, including those involving Burisma and the 2016 elections, which in turn will prevent a recurrence of this problem in the future.
According to CNN, the Ukrainians ultimately did not choose to add these references in the speech.
At least one U.S. official involved in these talks believed that there was a quid pro quo going on in which the U.S. would withhold aid from Ukraine if the Ukrainian government failed to investigate the 2016 election and Burisma. In an exchange from Sept. 1, senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor asked Sondland if the U.S. government was "saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?"
On Sept. 9, Taylor repeated his concerns, telling Sondland that he thought it was "crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."
This time, however, 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."