Texts From Diplomats Show Argument Over Whether Trump Wanted ‘Quid Pro Quo’

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.
October 4, 2019 Updated: October 4, 2019

Newly released text messages from diplomats in the State Department show them arguing over understandings of President Donald Trump’s negotiations with Ukraine.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who has refused to step down from his position after fabricating portions of a Trump phone call transcript and misleading the public about his contact with the person who filed a complaint against Trump, released the messages late Oct. 3.

Schiff and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said in a letter (pdf) to members of their committees and members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that the text messages “reflect serious concerns raised by a State Department official about the detrimental effects of withholding critical military assistance from Ukraine.”

“He also directly expressed concerns that this critical military assistance and the meeting between the two presidents were being withheld in order to place additional pressure on Ukraine to deliver on the President’s demand for Ukraine to launch politically motivated investigations,” the chairmen wrote. They said they released selected texts after some of them were leaked to the media.

Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July to look into Crowdstrike, a technology firm hired by the Democratic National Committee after the committee suffered a security breach, and the actions of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who served on the board of the energy company Burisma from 2014 to 2019.

Trump said he has the right to ask other countries to help probe corruption and said the requests for help, which expanded to include China on Thursday, have nothing to do with the 2020 campaign. Joe Biden is a Democratic presidential contender.

Trump has acknowledged reviewing aid to Ukraine but said it was because of “tremendous corruption” in the country and in part due to the low input into Ukraine from other European countries. The military aid was sent on schedule after the review, a senior administration official told The Epoch Times.

The text messages between diplomats show contention over Trump’s intentions with Ukraine. Some confirmed texts Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani released earlier in the week.

Kurt Volker was the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine. He recently stepped down and spoke with the House Intelligence Committee in a closed meeting on Thursday.

zelensky speaks about phone call
President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hold a meeting in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Besides Volker’s texts to Giuliani arranging meetings between the attorney and Ukrainian officials and asking for input into contact between the countries, the texts show Volker corresponding with Andrey Yermark, a top aide to Zelensky.

Volker and Yermak on Aug. 10 go back and forth on settling on a date for Zelensky to visit the White House. They also discussed announcing probes into corruption, including an investigation into Burisma, the company that paid Hunter Biden for five years.

“I think it’s possible to make this declaration and mention all these things,” Yermak wrote. “But it will be logic [sic] to do after we receive a confirmation of date.”

Volker said he agreed. “Let’s iron out [the] statement and use that to get date and then PreZ [sic] can go forward with it?” he said. Yermak said that was okay.

“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,” Yermak said.

Volker told Ambassador Gordon Sondland several days later that he wanted special attention paid to the interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, including the alleged involvement of some Ukrainian politicians.

Ukrainian officials released bank records for Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort before the election, an action a court there ruled last year amounted to interference in the American presidential election.

The court said the release of the documents “led to interference in the electoral processes of the United States in 2016 and harmed the interests of Ukraine as a state.”

Epoch Times Photo
(House Intelligence Committee)

In another set of text messages, Ambassador Bill Taylor and Sondland disagreed over the negotiations with Ukraine.

“The message to the Ukrainians (and Russians) we send with the decision on security assistance is key,” Taylor wrote on Aug. 9. “With the hold [of military aid], we have already shaken their faith in us. Thus my nightmare scenario.”

Sondland said he never said he was “right” about the situation, adding: “I said we are where we are and I believe we have identified the best pathway forward. Let’s hope it works,” he said.

“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor replied.

“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 told Taylor.

“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.”

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.