4. The President 's Meeting with the Ukrainian President Was Conditioned on An Announcement of Investigations
President Trump demanded the public announcement by President Zelensky of investigations into President Trump 's political rival and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election in exchange for an Oval Office meeting. The President 's representatives made that quid pro quo clear to Ukrainian officials.
After ordering the hold on security assistance to Ukraine against the unanimous advice of the relevant U.S. government agencies, President Trump used his hand-picked representatives to demand that Ukrainian leaders publicly announce investigations into his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and into the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. President Trump, through his agents, made clear that his demand needed to be met before a coveted White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would be scheduled. A face-to-face meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office would have conferred on the new Ukrainian leader much-sought prestige and would have signaled to Russia that Ukraine could continue to count on the support of the President of the United States, which was particularly important as Russia continued to wage war in eastern Ukraine.
To date, the White House meeting for President Zelensky has not occurred. Following the May 23 meeting in the Oval Office, President Trump 's hand-picked representatives-- the so called" Three Amigos''-- worked with the President 's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to pressure Ukrainian leaders to announce publicly investigations that would benefit the President 's reelection campaign. Testimony of multiple witnesses and contemporaneous text messages exchanged between and among President Trump 's representatives confirm that the White House meeting-- and later the release of security assistance for Ukraine-- was conditioned on Ukraine acquiescing to the President 's demands.
In the weeks leading up to the July 25 call between President Trump and President Zelensky, President Trump 's representatives repeatedly relayed the message of conditionality to Ukrainian government officials-- including to President Zelensky himself-- in meetings in Kyiv, Toronto, and Washington, D.C. President Zelensky and his advisors struggled to these demands, recognizing that President Trump 's desire that Ukraine announce these political investigations threatened to render Ukraine a" pawn'' in U.S. domestic reelection politics.
An Oval Office Meeting for President Zelensky Was Important to Ukraine and U.S. National Security
A face-to-face meeting with the President of the United States in the Oval Office was critical to President Zelensky as the newly-elected Ukrainian leader sought U.S. support for his ambitious anti-corruption agenda and to repel Russian aggression. A White House meeting was also important for U.S. national security because it would have served to bolster Ukraine 's negotiating position in peace talks with Russia. It also would have supported Ukraine as a bulwark against further Russian advances in Europe.
Multiple witnesses unanimously attested to the importance of a White House meeting for Ukraine and the United States. For example, David Holmes, the Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, testified that a White House meeting was" critical'' to President Zelensky 's ability to" encourage Russian President Putin to take seriously President Zelensky 's peace efforts.'' Likewise, Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent explained that a White House meeting was" very important'' for Ukrainians to demonstrate the strength of their relationship with" Ukraine 's strongest supporter.'' He also said that it" makes sense'' for the United States to meet with the Ukrainians as they were on" the front lines of Russian malign influence and aggression.''
Dr. Fiona Hill, Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Director of Europe and Russia at the NSC, explained that a White House meeting would supply the new Ukrainian Government with" the legitimacy that it needed, especially vis-à-vis the Russians,''-- and that the Ukrainians viewed a White House meeting as" a recognition of their legitimacy as a sovereign state.'' Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the NSC Director for Ukraine, testified that a White House meeting would provide a" show of support'' from" the most powerful country in the world and Ukraine 's most significant benefactor,'' which would help the Ukrainian President" establish his bona fides'' and" implement his agenda.''
Ambassador Kurt Volker, Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, also recognized that it was" a tremendous symbol of support'' to have President Zelensky visit the White House. He explained that a meeting" enhances[ President Zelensky 's] stature, that he is accepted, that he is seen at the highest level. The imagery you get from being at the White House is the best in the world, in terms of how it enhances someone 's image.''
President Trump" Wanted to Hear from Zelensky'' Before Scheduling Oval Office Meeting
Ambassador William B. Taylor, Jr. arrived in Ukraine as the new Chargé d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv on June 17, 2019. After arriving, Ambassador Taylor worked to secure an Oval Office meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky. This was" an agreed-upon goal'' of policymakers in both Ukraine and the United States.
Ambassador Taylor worked with Ambassador Volker and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland-- two of the Three Amigos-- to try to schedule this meeting. Just days after beginning his new position, Ambassador Taylor learned that President Trump" wanted to hear from Zelensky'' before scheduling the Oval Office meeting, but Ambassador Taylor did not understand what that meant at the time. On June 27, Ambassador Sondland informed Ambassador Taylor that President Zelensky needed to" make clear'' to President Trump that he, President Zelensky, was not" standing in the way of` investigations. ''' Ambassador Taylor relayed this conversation to Mr. Holmes, who testified that he understood" investigations'' in that context to mean the" Burisma-Biden investigations that Mr. Giuliani and his associates had been speaking about'' publicly.
On June 28, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry-- the third of the Three Amigos-- and Ambassadors Sondland, Volker, and Taylor participated in a conference call to prepare for a discussion later that day with President Zelensky. During this preparatory call, Ambassador Volker explained that he planned to be" explicit'' with President Zelensky in an upcoming one-on-one meeting in Toronto, Canada. Specifically, Ambassador Volker intended to inform President Zelensky that President Trump would require Ukraine to address" rule of law, transparency, but also, specifically, cooperation on investigations to get to the bottom of things'' in order to" get the meeting in the White House.''
For the subsequent call with President Zelensky on June 28, Ambassador Sondland sought to limit the number of U.S. government personnel listening in. According to Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Sondland stated that he did not want to include" most of the regular interagency participants'' and that" he wanted to make sure no one was transcribing or monitoring'' the call when President Zelensky was patched in. Ambassador Taylor testified that he considered Ambassador Sondland 's requests to be" odd.'' During that call, President Zelensky and the U.S. officials discussed energy policy and the conflict with Russia in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian president also noted that he looked forward to the White House visit that President Trump had offered in a letter dated May 29.
The exclusion of State Department staff and notetakers from the June 28 call was an early indication to Ambassador Taylor that separate channels of diplomacy related to Ukraine policy-- an official channel and an irregular channel-- were" diverging.'' Ambassador Taylor testified:
This suggested to me that there were the two channels. This suggested to me that the normal channel, where you would have staff on the phone call, was being cut out, and the other channel, of people who were working, again, toward a goal which I supported, which was having a meeting to further U.S.-Ukrainian relations, I supported, but that irregular channel did n't have a respect for or an interest in having the normal staff participate in this call with the head of state.
Given Ambassador Sondland 's efforts to exclude staff on the June 28 call with President Zelensky, Ambassador Taylor asked Ambassadors Sondland and Volker by text message how they planned to handle informing other U.S. officials about the contents of the call. Ambassador Volker responded:" I think we just keep it among ourselves to try to build working relationship and just get the d *** date for the meeting! '' Ambassador Sondland then texted:" Agree with KV. Very close hold.'' Nevertheless, Ambassador Taylor informed Mr. Kent about the call and wrote a memo for the record dated June 30 that summarized the conversation with President Zelensky.
Ambassador Volker Pressed" Investigations'' with President Zelensky in Toronto
On July 2, Ambassador Volker met with President Zelensky and his chief of staff on the sidelines of the Ukraine Reform Conference in Toronto. As he later texted to Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Volker" pulled the two of them aside at the end and explained the Giuliani factor.'' Ambassador Volker clarified that by" the Giuliani factor,'' he meant" a negative narrative about Ukraine'' that was" being amplified by Rudy Giuliani'' and was unfavorably impacting" Ukraine 's image in the United States and our ability to advance the bilateral relationship.'' Ambassador Volker later informed Ukraine 's incoming Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vadym Prystaiko, about his pull-aside with President Zelensky in Toronto via text message:" I talked to him privately about Giuliani and impact on president T[ rump].''
On July 3, the day after his pull-aside with President Zelensky in Toronto, Ambassador Volker sent a message to Ambassador Taylor emphasizing that" The key thing is to tee up a phone call w potus and then get visit nailed down.'' Ambassador Volker told Ambassador Taylor that during the Toronto conference, he counseled the Ukrainian president about how he could" prepare for the phone call with President Trump.'' Specifically, Ambassador Volker told the Ukrainian leader that President Trump" would like to hear about the investigations.'' In his public testimony, Ambassador Volker confirmed that he mentioned" investigations'' to President Zelensky in Toronto, explaining that he was" thinking of Burisma and 2016'' in raising the subject, and that his" assumption'' was that Ukrainian officials also understood his reference to" investigations'' to be" Burisma/2016.''
Ambassador Volker 's efforts to prepare President Zelensky for his phone call with President Trump appear to have borne fruit. As discussed further in Chapter 5, during the July 25 call, President Zelensky expressed his openness to pursuing investigations into President Trump 's political rival, former Vice President Biden, and the conspiracy theory that Ukraine, rather than Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. President Zelensky also specifically referenced" Burisma'' during the call.
Ambassadors Volker and Sondland Worked to Get Mr. Giuliani What He Needed
According to Ambassador Sondland, President Zelensky 's commitment to make a public announcement about investigations into Burisma and the 2016 election was a" prerequisite'' for the White House meeting. In fact, Ambassador Sondland testified that the announcement of the investigations-- and not the investigations themselves-- was the price President Trump sought in exchange for a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Zelensky:
Q: But he had to get those two investigations if that official act was going to take place, correct?
A: He had to announce the investigations. He did n't actually have to do them, as I understood it.
Q: Okay. President Zelensky had to announce the two investigations the President wanted, make a public announcement, correct?
Ambassadors Sondland and Volker understood that they needed to work with Mr. Giuliani, who was publicly pressing for the announcement of investigations that would benefit President Trump politically. As discussed in Chapter 2, Ambassador Sondland testified that the key to overcoming President Trump 's skepticism about Ukraine was satisfying the President 's personal attorney. Sondland said," Nonetheless, based on the President 's direction, we were faced with a choice: We could abandon the efforts to schedule the White House phone call and a White House visit'' or" do as President Trump had directed and` talk with Rudy ''' because" it was the only constructive path open to us.''
Ambassador Volker discussed his intention to contact Mr. Giuliani with Mr. Kent. Ambassador Volker explained that he intended to reach out to Mr. Giuliani because it was clear that the former mayor" had influence'' with President Trump" in terms of the way the President thought of Ukraine.'' Ukrainian officials also understood the importance of working through Mr. Giuliani, something that was underscored by his successful effort to smear and remove Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch from Kyiv in late April.
In response to Ambassador Volker 's stated intention to reach out to Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Kent raised concerns about Mr. Giuliani 's" track record,'' including" asking for a visa for a corrupt former prosecutor,'' attacking Ambassador Yovanovitch, and" that the new President needs to investigate Biden and the 2016 campaign.'' Mr. Kent also warned Ambassador Volker that" asking another country to investigate a prosecution for political reasons undermines our advocacy of the rule of law.''
On July 10, Ambassador Taylor met with Ukrainian officials in Kyiv, before their Ukrainian colleagues were scheduled to meet with National Security Advisor John Bolton at the White House later that day. At the meeting in Kyiv, the Ukrainian officials expressed that they were" very concerned'' because they had heard from former Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, who had learned from Mr. Giuliani, that President Trump had decided not to meet with President Zelensky.
Ambassador Taylor texted Ambassador Volker to explain the situation and advised that he had also informed T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, Counselor of the Department of State:
Volker: Good grief. Please tell Vadym to let the official USG representatives speak for the U.S. lutsenko has his own self-Interest here...
Taylor: Exactly what I told them.
Taylor: And I said that RG is a private citizen.
Taylor: I briefed Ulrich this afternoon on this.
Despite his text message to Ambassador Taylor that official U.S. government representatives should be allowed to" speak for the U.S.,'' and notwithstanding Mr. Kent 's warnings about engaging with Mr. Giuliani, Ambassador Volker almost immediately reached out to Mr. Giuliani. Four minutes after sending the text message above, Ambassador Volker texted Mr. Giuliani to request a meeting to" update you on my conversations about Ukraine.'' He told Mr. Giuliani that he believed he had" an opportunity to get you what you need.''
One hour later, around 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time, Ambassador Volker met Ukrainian presidential aide Andriy Yermak for coffee at the Trump Hotel before they traveled down Pennsylvania Avenue to their afternoon meetings at the White House. Over coffee, Mr. Yermak asked Ambassador Volker to connect him to Mr. Giuliani, thus further demonstrating the Ukrainians ' understanding that satisfying Mr. Giuliani 's demands was a key to getting what they wanted from President Trump, namely the Oval Office meeting.
July 10 White House Meetings: Ambassador Sondland Explicitly Communicated the" Prerequisite of Investigations'' to Ukrainians On July 10, during two separate meetings at the White House, Ambassador Sondland informed senior Ukrainian officials that there was a" prerequisite of investigations'' before an Oval Office meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky would be scheduled.
The first meeting took place in Ambassador Bolton 's office. NSC officials, including Ambassador Bolton 's staff responsible for Ukraine-- Dr. Hill and Lt. Col. Vindman-- attended, as did the Three Amigos: Secretary Perry, Ambassador Sondland, and Ambassador Volker. The Ukrainian delegation included Mr. Yermak, a senior aide to President Zelensky, and Oleksandr`` Sasha'`` Danyliuk, the incoming Ukrainian National Security Advisor. The purpose of the meeting was twofold. The Ukrainians were seeking advice and assistance from Ambassador Bolton about how to" revamp'' the Ukrainian National Security Council, and they were also" very anxious to set up a meeting, a first meeting between President Zelensky and our President.''
Near the end of the meeting, the Ukrainian officials raised the scheduling of the Oval Office meeting for President Zelensky. According to Dr. Hill, Ambassador Sondland, who is" a fairly big guy, kind of leaned over'' and then" blurted out: Well, we have an agreement with the[ White House] Chief of Staff for a meeting if these investigations in the energy sector start.'' Dr. Hill described that others in the room looked up from their notes, thinking the was" somewhat odd.'' Ambassador Bolton" immediately stiffened'' and ended the meeting. Dr. Hill recounted that Ambassador Bolton was polite but was" very abrupt. I mean, he looked at the clock as if he had, you know, suddenly another meeting and his time was up, but it was obvious he ended the meeting,'' she added.
Lt. Col. Vindman similarly testified that the meeting in Ambassador Bolton 's office" proceeded well'' until Ukrainian officials raised the meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky. The Ukrainians stated that they considered the Oval Office meeting to be" critically important in order to solidify the support for their most important international partner.'' When Ambassador Sondland mentioned Ukraine" delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the President,'' Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short.
Although Ambassador Volker did not recall any mention of" investigations'' during the July 10 meeting at his deposition, he later testified at his public hearing," As I remember, the meeting[ in Ambassador Bolton 's office] was essentially over when Ambassador Sondland made a general about investigations. I think all of us thought it was inappropriate'' and" not what we should be talking about.''
After Ambassador Bolton ended the meeting in his office, Ambassador Sondland" went out into the office in front of Ambassador Bolton'' and made" unusual'' arrangements for the Ukrainians, Ambassador Volker, Secretary Perry, and others to go to a second meeting in the Ward Room of the White House, located near the secure spaces of the White House Situation Room. As Dr. Hill described it, the purpose of the Ward Room meeting was" to talk to the Ukrainians about next steps'' regarding the Oval Office meeting for President Zelensky. As Dr. Hill was leaving Ambassador Bolton 's office, he pulled her aside and directed her to attend the Ward Room meeting to" find out what they 're talking about and come back'' and report to him. Dr. Hill followed his instruction.
During the Ward Room meeting, which occurred after a brief photo opportunity outside the West Wing, Ambassador Sondland was more explicit in pressing the Ukrainians to undertake the investigations in order to secure an Oval Office meeting for President Zelensky. Lt. Col. Vindman testified that when the group entered the Ward Room, Ambassador Sondland began to" review what the deliverable would be in order to get the meeting,'' and that" to the best of my recollection, he did specifically say` investigation of the Bidens. ''' Lt. Col. Vindman said the request" was explicit. There was no ambiguity'' and that Ambassador Sondland also mentioned" Burisma.''
Dr. Hill entered the Ward Room as the discussion was underway. She testified that" Ambassador Sondland, in front of the Ukrainians, as I came in, was talking about how he had an agreement with Chief of Staff Mulvaney for a meeting with the Ukrainians if they were going to go forward with investigations. And my director for Ukraine[ Lt. Col. Vindman] was looking completely alarmed.'' Dr. Hill recalled that Ambassador Sondland mentioned" Burisma'' in the presence of the Ukrainians, in response to which Mr. Danyliuk also appeared" very alarmed'' and as if he did not know what was happening.
Dr. Hill confronted Ambassador Sondland, informing him that Ambassador Bolton had sent her there to ensure that the U.S. officials did not commit" at this particular juncture'' to a meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky. Ambassador Sondland responded that he and the Ukrainians already had an agreement that the meeting would go forward. At Dr. Hill 's urging, however, Ambassador Sondland excused the Ukrainian officials, who moved into the corridor near the White House Situation Room.
Dr. Hill then told Ambassador Sondland:" Look, I do n't know what 's going on here, but Ambassador Bolton wants to make it very clear that we have to talk about, you know, how are we going to set up this meeting. It has to go through proper procedures.'' Lt. Col. Vindman relayed his own concerns to Ambassador Sondland in the Ward Room. He explained that" the request to investigate the Bidens and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something that the NSC was going to get involved in or push.''
Ambassador Sondland responded that he had had conversations with Mr. Mulvaney and he also mentioned Mr. Giuliani. Lt. Col. Vindman confirmed that Ambassador Sondland described an agreement he had with Mr. Mulvaney about the Oval Office meeting:" I heard him say that this had been coordinated with White House Chief of Staff Mr. Mick Mulvaney... He just said that he had had a conversation with Mr. Mulvaney, and this is what was required in order to get a meeting.'' Dr. Hill then cut the conversation short because she" did n't want to get further into this discussion at all.'' She testified that Ambassador Sondland" was clearly annoyed with this, but then, you know, he moved off. He said he had other meetings.''
Later on July 10, when Ambassador Taylor asked Ambassador Volker how the meetings went with the Ukrainian officials and whether they had resulted in a decision on a presidential call, Ambassador Volker replied:" Not good-- lets talk.''
Following the July 10 White House meetings, Mr. Yermak followed up with Ambassador Volker by text message:" Thank you for meeting and your clear and very logical position. Will be great meet with you before my departure and discuss. I feel that the key for many things is Rudi and I ready to talk with him at any time.''
Concerned Officials Reported Details of This" Drug Deal'' to White House Lawyers
After the Ward Room meeting, Dr. Hill returned to Ambassador Bolton 's office and relayed what she had just witnessed. Ambassador Bolton was" very angry'' and instructed her to report the conversation to John Eisenberg, Deputy Counsel to the President for National Security Affairs and the Legal Advisor to the National Security Council:
And he told me, and this is a direct quote from Ambassador Bolton: You go and tell Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this, and you go and tell him what you 've heard and what I 've said.
Dr. Hill explained that" drug deal'' referred to Ambassador Sondland 's and Mr. Mulvaney 's conditioning of a White House meeting on investigations. By this point, Dr. Hill explained, it was clear that investigations were" code, at least, for Burisma. Because that had been mentioned, you know, in the course of Mr. Giuliani 's appearances on television.'' Numerous U.S. officials, including Ambassadors Sondland, Volker, and Bolton, as well as Lt. Col. Vindman and others, were well aware of Mr. Giuliani 's efforts to push Ukraine to pursue these political investigations.
Following the meeting with Ambassador Bolton, Dr. Hill reported what had occurred to Mr. Eisenberg. She conveyed to Mr. Eisenberg the details of the two meetings, including Ambassador Sondland 's agreement with Mr. Mulvaney to provide the White House meeting if Ukraine agreed to pursue the investigations. The initial conversation between Dr. Hill and Mr. Eisenberg was brief, and they scheduled a longer discussion for the next day.
On July 11, Dr. Hill enlisted another NSC official who attended the July 10 meetings, Senior Director for International Energy and Environment P. Wells Griffith, to attend the longer discussion with Mr. Eisenberg. Dr. Hill and Mr. Griffith went over the events of July 10 and further explained that Ambassador Sondland said that he had been communicating with Mr. Giuliani. Mr. Eisenberg was" very concerned'' and stated that he would follow up. Dr. Hill understood that Mr. Eisenberg later discussed the issue with his" reporting ,'' specifically, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.
Lt. Col. Vindman separately reported his concerns about the July 10 meetings to Mr. Eisenberg. He told Mr. Eisenberg that Ambassador Sondland had asked for investigations into" Bidens and Burisma,'' which he thought was" inappropriate.'' Lt. Col. Vindman also reported that the investigation" Mr. Giuliani was pushing was now being pulled into a, you know, national security dialogue.'' Mr. Eisenberg said that he would look into it and invited Lt. Col. Vindman to return if any further concerns arose. No one from the of the White House Counsel 's Office, however, followed up with Lt. Col. Vindman on this issue.
Dr. Hill and Lt. Col. Vindman discussed their reactions and alarm about the July 10 discussions with each other. They both believed that Ambassador Sondland 's statements were inappropriate and" had nothing to do with national security,'' and that they would not get involved with the scheme. On July 19, they also their concerns about Ambassador Sondland 's during the July 10 meetings with Ambassador Taylor.
Ambassador Sondland Coached President Zelensky on Investigations and Kept Senior White House and State Department Officials" In the Loop''
In mid-July, Dr. Hill was preparing to depart the NSC and transitioning her role to Timothy Morrison, who had been serving in another role at the NSC. On July 13, Ambassador Sondland emailed Mr. Morrison, explaining that the"[ s] ole purpose'' of a presidential call was for President Zelensky to assure President Trump that," Corruption ending, unbundling moving forward and any hampered investigations will be allowed to move forward transparently.'' In exchange, Ambassador Sondland wrote, the" Goal is for Potus to invite him to Oval. Volker, Perry, Bolton and I strongly recommend.'' Later that evening, Mr. Morrison responded," Thank you. Tracking.''
On July 19, a little over a week after the July 10 meetings at the White House, Ambassador Sondland spoke directly to President Zelensky about the upcoming call between the two presidents:" It was a short call. I think I said: It looks like your call is finally on, and I think it 's important that you, you know, give President Trump-- he wanted this-- some kind of a statement about corruption.''
Following his call with President Zelensky, Ambassador Sondland emailed several senior Trump Administration officials, including Mr. Mulvaney, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Secretary Perry, and their staffs. The subject line of the July 19 email read:" I Talked to Zelensky just now.'' Ambassador Sondland wrote:
He is prepared to receive Potus ' call. Will assure him that he intends to run a fully transparent investigation and will" turn over every stone''. He would greatly appreciate a call prior to Sunday so that he can put out some media about a" friendly and productive call''( no details) prior to Ukraine election on Sunday.
Secretary Perry responded that Mr. Mulvaney had confirmed a call would be set up" for tomorrow by NSC,'' and Mr. Mulvaney also responded to confirm that he had asked the NSC to set up the call between the presidents for the following day, July 20.
It was no secret. Everyone was informed via email on July 19th, days before the Presidential call. As I communicated to the team, I told President Zelensky in advance that assurances to run a fully transparent investigation and turn over every stone were necessary in his call with President Trump.
Call records reviewed by the Committees show repeated contact between Ambassador Sondland and the White House around this time. For example, on July 19, at 10:43 a.m. Eastern Time, a number associated with the White House dialed Ambassador Sondland. Four minutes later, at 10:47 a.m., Ambassador Sondland called a White House phone number and connected for approximately seven minutes.
Later in the afternoon of July 19, Ambassador Sondland texted Ambassadors Volker and Taylor:" Looks like Potus call tomorrow. I spike[ sic] directly to Zelensky and gave him a full briefing. He 's got it.'' Ambassador Volker replied:" Good. Had breakfast with Rudy this morning-- teeing up call w Yermak Monday. Must have helped. Most impt is for Zelensky to say that he will help investigation-- and address any specific personnel issues-- if there are any.''
Mr. Giuliani Met with State Department Officials and Ukrainian Government Officials
As Ambassador Volker informed Ambassador Sondland in the above text message, on July 19, Ambassador Volker met Mr. Giuliani and his now-indicted associate Lev Parnas for breakfast at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. Ambassador Volker also texted Mr. Yermak to inform him that he and Mr. Giuliani were meeting that day:" Having our long anticipated breakfast today-- will let you know and try to connect you directly.''
During the breakfast, Mr. Giuliani and Ambassador Volker discussed the discredited allegations against former Vice President Biden relating to Ukraine. Ambassador Volker testified that he pushed back against the allegations during his breakfast with Mr. Giuliani:
One of the things that I said in that breakfast that I had with Mr. Giuliani, the only time Vice President Biden was ever discussed with me, and he was repeating-- he was n't making an accusation and he was n't seeking an investigation-- but he was repeating all of the things that were in the media that we talked about earlier about, you know, firing the prosecutor general and his son being on the company and all that.
And I said to Rudy in that breakfast the first time we sat down to talk that it is simply not credible to me that Joe Biden would be influenced in his duties as Vice President by money or things for his son or anything like that. I 've known him a long time, he 's a person of integrity, and that 's not credible. Ambassador Volker further advised Mr. Giuliani during the breakfast that the thenUkrainian Prosecutor General, Yuriy Lutsenko, was promoting a" self-serving narrative to preserve himself in power.'' Mr. Giuliani agreed with Ambassador Volker and stated that he had come to that conclusion as well.
Following the breakfast, Ambassador Volker connected Mr. Giuliani with Mr. Yermak by text message:
Volker: Mr Mayor-- really enjoyed breakfast this morning. As discussed, connecting you here with Andrey Yermak, who is very close to President Zelensky. I suggest we schedule a call together on Monday-- maybe 10 am or 11 am Washington time? Kurt
Giuliani: Monday 10 to 11
Yermak: Ok, thank you
Volker: I will set up call-- 10 am-- thanks-- Kurt
Yermak: Thumbs up emoji
On the morning of July 22, Mr. Yermak texted Ambassador Volker about the upcoming call with Mr. Giuliani, writing that it was" very good'' that their discussion would take place before the call between President Trump and President Zelensky. Later that day, the three men spoke by phone. Ambassador Volker described the July 22 discussion as merely an" introductory phone call,'' although phone records indicate that the call lasted for approximately 38 minutes.
Ambassador Volker testified that during the call, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Yermak discussed plans for an in-person meeting in Madrid in early August. Afterward, Ambassador Volker texted Mr. Yermak that he thought the call had been" very useful'' and recommended that Mr. Yermak send Mr. Giuliani a text message to schedule a date for the Madrid meeting. Mr. Yermak texted Mr. Giuliani later that day about a plan to" take this relationship to a new level'' and to meet in person as soon as possible.
Later on July 22, Ambassador Volker updated Ambassador Sondland on the" great call'' he"[ o] rchestrated'' between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Yermak, noting that" Rudy is now advocating for phone call,'' an apparent reference to the call between President Trump and President Zelensky that would occur on July 25. Ambassador Volker also recommended that Ambassador Sondland inform Mr. Mulvaney that" Rudy agrees,'' and that he planned to convey the same information to Ambassador Bolton. Ambassador Sondland replied that Mr. Morrison of the White House NSC was also in support of the call. Ambassador Volker also told Ambassador Sondland that Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Yermak would meet in person in Madrid within a couple of weeks.
President Zelensky Feared Becoming" A Pawn'' in U.S. Reelection Campaign
Around this time, senior Ukrainian officials informed U.S. officials that the new Ukrainian president did not want Ukraine to become enmeshed in U.S. domestic reelection politics.
On July 20, Ambassador Taylor spoke with Mr. Danyliuk, the Ukrainian national security advisor, who conveyed that President Zelensky" did not want to be used as a pawn in a U.S. reelection campaign.'' Ambassador Taylor discussed President Zelensky 's concern with Ambassador Volker and, the next day, texted Ambassador Sondland:
Taylor: Gordon, one thing Kurt and I talked about yesterday was Sasha Danyliuk 's point that President Zelenskyy is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely as an instrument in Washington domestic, reelection politics.
Sondland: Absolutely, but we need to get the conversation started and the relationship built, irrespective of the pretext. I am worried about the alternative.
Ambassador Taylor explained that his reference to" Washington domestic reelection politics'' was" a reference to the investigations that Mr. Giuliani wanted to pursue.'' According to Ambassador Taylor, President Zelensky understood what President Trump and Mr. Giuliani meant by" investigations,'' and" he did not want to get involved.'' Specifically, the Ukrainians understood that the" investigations were pursuant to Mr. Giuliani 's request to develop information, to find information about Burisma and the Bidens. This was very well known in public. Mr. Giuliani had made this point clear in several instances in the beginning-- in the springtime.'' Ambassador Taylor also testified that the" whole thrust'' of the activities undertaken by Mr. Giuliani and Ambassador Sondland" was to get these investigations, which Danyliuk and presumably Zelensky were resisting because they did n't want to be seen to be interfering but also to be a pawn.''
Despite the Ukrainian resistance, Ambassador Sondland said he believed that the public announcement of investigations would" fix'' an impasse between the Ukrainian government and President Trump. When asked what he meant by" irrespective of the pretext'' in his July 21 text message to Ambassador Taylor, Ambassador Sondland explained," Well, the pretext being the agreed-upon interview or the agreed-upon press statement. We just need to get by it so that the two can meet, because, again, it was back to once they meet, all of this will be fixed. '''
Witnesses Confirmed the President Conditioned an Oval Office Meeting on Investigations Multiple witnesses testified that the conditioning of an Oval Office meeting on President Zelensky 's announcement of investigations to benefit the President 's reelection campaign came from the very top: President Trump.
Ambassador Sondland testified that he, Secretary Perry, and Ambassador Volker worked with Mr. Giuliani" at the express direction of the President of the United States.'' Ambassador Sondland stated that" Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States, and we knew these investigations were important to the President.'' Ambassador Sondland explained that he" followed the directions of the President'' and that" we followed the President 's orders.''
Ambassador Sondland further testified that President Trump expressed-- both directly and through Mr. Giuliani-- that he wanted" a public statement from President Zelensky committing to the investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election'' as" prerequisites for the White House call and the White House meeting.'' Ambassador Sondland explained:
I know that members of this committee frequently frame these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a quid pro quo? As I testified previously with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.
Ambassador Sondland also testified that knowledge of this quid pro quo was widespread among the President 's advisers:" Everyone was in the loop'' about the President 's expectation that President Zelensky had to announce these specific investigations to secure an Oval Office meeting. As an example, Ambassador Sondland cited an email-- copying Senior Advisor to the White House Chief of Staff Robert Blair, State Department Executive Secretary Lisa Kenna, Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Energy Brian McCormack, Mr. Mulvaney, Secretary Perry, and Secretary Pompeo-- where"[ e] veryone was informed.''
Other U.S. government officials also understood this scheme as a quid pro quo. Ambassador Taylor testified that as early as mid-July, it was" becoming clear'' to him that" the meeting President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian influence in the 2016 elections'' and that" this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani.'' Mr. Holmes similarly understood that by July," it was made clear that some action on a Burisma/Biden investigation was a precondition for an Oval Office visit.'' Dr. Hill testified that this quid pro quo was readily apparent after reading the July 25 call summary, explaining that it revealed that the White House meeting was used as" some kind of asset'' that was" dangled out to the Ukrainian Government'' to secure a political benefit.
Final Preparation for Trump-Zelensky Call: Ambassador Volker Counseled Ukrainians and Ambassador Sondland Prepped President Trump Ambassador Taylor testified that the call between President Trump and President Zelensky that ultimately occurred on July 25 was not confirmed until the last minute:" We were trying to schedule it for about a week in advance, that whole week. As I say, back and forth, yes, no, this time, that time.... it may have been about the day before that it was actually locked down, so about the 24th.'' According to Ambassador Taylor, at least one person had prescient concerns about the call before it occurred:" Ambassador Bolton was not interested in having-- did not want to have the call because he thought it was going to be a disaster. He thought that there could be some talk of investigations or worse on the call.''
Before the call took place on July 25, Ambassador Volker had lunch with Mr. Yermak in Kyiv. Ambassador Volker followed up with a text message to Mr. Yermak approximately 30 minutes before the call, noting that a White House visit was still on the table if, during the call, President Zelensky convinced President Trump that Ukraine would" investigate'' and" get to the bottom of what happened'' in 2016:
Volker: Good lunch-- thanks. 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. Good luck! See you tomorrow- kurt Ambassador Volker later informed Ambassador Sondland that he had relayed this" message'' to Mr. Yermak, which Ambassador Sondland had conveyed to Ambassador Volker earlier that day:
Volker: Hi Gordon- got your message. Had a great lunch w Yermak and then passed your message to him. He will see you tomorrow. Think everything in place
Ambassador Sondland testified that the" message'' that Ambassador Volker conveyed to Mr. Yermak in advance of the July 25 call likely originated from an earlier conversation that Ambassador Sondland had with President Trump:
Q: So is it fair to say that this message is what you received from President Trump on that phone call that morning?
A: Again, if he testified to that, to refresh my own memory, then, yes, likely I would have received that from President Trump.
Q: But the sequence certainly makes sense, right?
A: Yeah, it does.
Q: You talked to President Trump.
Q: You told Kurt Volker to call you. You left a message for Kurt Volker. Kurt Volker sent this text message to Andriy Yermak to prepare President Zelensky and then President Trump had a phone call where President Zelensky spoke very similar to what was in this text message, right?
Q: And you would agree that the message in this-- that is expressed here is that President Zelensky needs to convince Trump that he will do the investigations in order to nail down the date for a visit to Washington, D.C. Is that correct?
A: That 's correct.
Ambassador Sondland testified that he spoke with President Trump before the call with President Zelensky. Mr. Morrison also confirmed that President Trump and Ambassador Sondland spoke before President Trump 's call with President Zelensky. Mr. Morrison stated that Ambassador Sondland emailed him on the morning of the call and listed" three topics that he was working on, the first of which was` I spoke to the President this morning to brief him on the call. ''' According to Mr. Morrison, Ambassador Sondland" believed'' that he helped to facilitate the July 25 call between President Trump and President Zelensky.
On July 26, the day after the call between President Trump and President Zelensky, Ambassador Volker acknowledged his role in prepping President Zelensky for the call with President Trump in a text to Mr. Giuliani:" Hi Mr Mayor-- you may have heard-- the President has[ sic] a great phone call with the Ukrainian President yesterday. Exactly the right messages as we discussed.''