US Ambassador to the EU Gordan Sondland pushed back on the idea that President Donald Trump wanted to establish a quid pro quo arrangement with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, according to text messages released Thursday.
Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine who resigned from the State Department last week, provided the text messages to three House committees during a closed-door deposition.
The text messages show Volker and other ambassadors indicating that Zelensky could not secure a visit to the White House until he agreed to investigate meddling in the 2016 presidential election and Burisma, the oil company that hired Hunter Biden to sit on its board.
“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,” Volker wrote to Zelensky’s adviser less than half an hour before the infamous July 25 call with Trump.
Volker later guided Zelensky’s adviser on how to craft a statement that would appeal to Trump when they announced the visit to the White House.
“We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, including those involving Burisma and the 2016 U.S. elections, which in turn will prevent the recurrence of this problem in the future,” Volker suggested in one text.
At least one ambassador involved in the conversations, US Ambassador to the EU Gordan Sondland, pushed back on the idea that there was any quid pro quo arrangement between Zelensky and Trump. (RELATED: Tucker And Patel: The Truth About Impeachment)
Bill Taylor, the top diplomat to Ukraine, laid out clearly his own issues with Trump withholding military aid from Ukraine, calling it “crazy” that he would do so because he wanted Ukraine to take up his investigations against a political opponent.
“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor asserted.
Sondland replied, declaring that Trump was “crystal clear” about having “no quid pro quo’s.”
“Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s [sic] 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,” Sondland replied.
House dems release pages of Volker texts. In last exchanges, Taylor says, “it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
Sondland (In a marked change of tone from preceding texts) says Taylor is “incorrect” about Trump’s intentions. pic.twitter.com/pc0A4V59BF
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) October 4, 2019
Sondland was reportedly not a supporter of Trump during the 2016 election.
This was due to his “treatment of the Khan family and the fact his constantly evolving positions diverge from their personal beliefs and values on so many levels,” according to the Washington Post, although he later donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee.
Trump pointed to Sondland’s text as vindication while speaking to reporters outside of the White House on Friday, stating, “The text message — the text message that I saw from Ambassador Sondland, who is highly respected, was there’s no quid pro quo.”
“He said that. He said by the way, it almost sounded like, in general. He said, by the way, there’s no quid pro quo. And there isn’t,” the president added. “There is no pro quo, and that is the text message that I saw, and that nullified everything.”
To that end, Republicans suggested that the Democrats released the text messages without the context of Volker’s deposition because it would not have been as harmful for the president.
This unilateral and cherry-picked release by the Democrats is a desperate attempt to further their failing impeachment narrative and skew the story.
This information cannot possibly be understood without Volker’s explanations from today’s testimony. https://t.co/1WFsazEtEa
— Oversight Committee Republicans (@GOPoversight) October 4, 2019
However, the text messages at the very least show confusion among the president’s diplomats as to what kind of message they were supposed to convey to Ukraine.