6. The President Wanted Ukraine to Announce the Investigations Publicly
In the weeks following the July 25 call, President Trump 's hand-picked representatives carried out his wishes to condition a coveted White House meeting for the Ukrainian President on the public announcement of investigations beneficial to President Trump. Top U.S. officials, including the Secretary of State and Secretary of Energy, were" in the loop.''
In the weeks following the July 25 call, during which President Trump had pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to" do us a favor though,'' the President 's representatives worked to secure from the Ukrainian President a public announcement about the requested investigations as a condition for the White House meeting.
That meeting would have conferred vital support on a new president who relied on the United States to help defend his nation militarily, diplomatically, and politically against Russian aggression. U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland provided testimony and quoted from documents demonstrating that he kept everyone" in the loop'' about the plan, including the Secretaries of State and Energy.
Ambassadors Sondland and Volker worked closely with Mr. Giuliani, the President 's personal lawyer, to help draft Ukraine 's public statement. They sought to ensure that President Zelensky explicitly used the words" Burisma''-- a reference to allegations about former Vice President Biden and his son-- and" 2016 elections.''
Ukrainian officials were" very uncomfortable'' with the provision of this statement, which they understood to be a requirement and a" deliverable'' demanded by President Trump. The Ukrainian President was elected on a platform of rooting out public corruption, and so he resisted issuing the statement. Instead, President Zelensky 's aides asked whether an official request for legal assistance with investigations had been made through appropriate channels at the U.S. Department of Justice. No such formal request was ever made. Consequently, Ukrainian officials made clear to Ambassador Volker that they did not support issuing a public statement because it could" play into'' U.S. domestic politics. Nevertheless, U.S. efforts to secure a public statement continued.
Giuliani Met with Ukrainian Presidential Aide Andriy Yermak in Madrid and Discussed a White House Meeting
On July 26, the day after the call between President Trump and President Zelensky, Ambassador Volker wrote to Mr. Giuliani to confirm that he would soon be meeting with Andriy Yermak, a Ukrainian presidential aide, to" help'' efforts.
Ambassador Volker texted:" Please send dates when you will be in Madrid. I am seeing Yermak tomorrow morning. He will come to you in Madrid. Thanks for your help! Kurt.''
Mr. Giuliani replied that he would travel to Spain from August 1 to 5, and Ambassador Volker affirmed that he would tell the Ukrainian presidential aide to" visit with you there.'' Ambassador Volker kept himself apprised of plans, texting Mr. Yermak on August 1 to ensure that everything was" on track'' for the meeting in Spain 's capital. He also asked whether Mr. Yermak planned to visit Washington.
On August 2, Mr. Yermak and Mr. Giuliani met in Madrid. Ambassador Volker received a meeting summary from Mr. Yermak the same day:" My meeting with Mr. Mayor was very good.'' Mr. Yermak added:" We asked for White House meeting during week start[ sic] 16 Sept.. Waiting for confirmation. Maybe you know the date? ''
The Madrid meeting set off a" series of discussions'' among Mr. Giuliani, Ambassador Volker, and Ambassador Sondland about the need for President Zelensky to issue a public statement about the investigations into Burisma and the 2016 election conspiracy theory in order to secure a White House meeting with President Trump. Ambassador Volker first spoke to Mr. Giuliani, who said that he thought Ukraine" should issue a statement.'' Ambassador Volker then spoke to Mr. Yermak, who affirmed that the Ukrainian leader was" prepared to make a statement'' that" would reference Burisma and 2016 in a wider context of bilateral relations and rooting out corruption anyway.''
Mr. Giuliani, acting as President Trump 's personal attorney, exerted significant influence in the process. On August 4, Mr. Yermak inquired again about the presidential meeting. Ambassador Volker replied that he would speak with Mr. Giuliani later that day and would call the Ukrainian aide afterward. Ambassador Volker texted the former mayor about the Madrid meeting and asked for a phone call. Mr. Giuliani replied:" It was excellent I can call a little later.''
Phone records obtained by the Committees show a 16 minute call on August 5 between Ambassador Volker and Mr. Giuliani. Ambassador Volker texted Mr. Yermak:" Hi Andrey-- had a good long talk w Rudy-- call anytime-- Kurt.'' During the same period, Ambassador Volker informed Ambassador Sondland that" Giuliani was happy with that meeting,'' and" it looks like things are turning around.''
" Potus Really Wants the Deliverable'' Before Scheduling a White House Visit for President Zelensky
Things had not turned around by August 7. Ambassador Volker texted Mr. Giuliani to recommend that he report to" the boss''-- President Trump-- about his meeting with Mr. Yermak in Madrid. He wrote:
Hi Rudy-- hope you made it back safely. Let 's meet if you are coming to DC. And would be good if you could convey results of your meeting in Madrid to the boss so we can get a firm date for a visit.
The Committees did not find evidence that Mr. Giuliani responded to Ambassador Volker 's text message.
However, call records show that on the next day, on August 8, Mr. Giuliani connected with the White House Situation Room switchboard in the early afternoon, Eastern Time, for 42 second, and then again for one minute, 25 seconds.
The same day, Mr. Giuliani texted several times with number associated with the White House. The Committees were unable to identify the official associated with the phone number. In the mid-afternoon, someone using a telephone number associated with the Office of Management and Budget( OMB) called Mr. Giuliani, and the call lasted for nearly 13 minutes. Mr. Giuliani called the OMB number and the White House Situation Room several more times that evening, but each time connected for only a few seconds or not at all.
Approximately 30 minutes after his text to Mr. Giuliani on August 7, Ambassador Volker received a text message from Mr. Yermak:" Do you have some news about the White House meeting date? '' Ambassador Volker responded that he had asked Mr. Giuliani to" weigh in,'' presumably with the President," following your meeting,'' and that the Ambassador Sondland would be speaking with President Trump on Friday, August 9. Ambassador Volker added:" We are pressing this.'' The next day, on August 8, Mr. Yermak texted Ambassador Volker to report that he had" some news.'' Ambassador Volker replied the he was available to speak at that time.
Later on the evening of August 8, Eastern Time, Mr. Giuliani sent a text message to a phone number associated with the White House. Approximately one hour 15 minutes later, someone using an unidentified number(" -1'') dialed Mr. Giuliani three times in rapid succession. Less than three minutes later, Mr. Giuliani dialed the White House switchboard for the White House Situation Room. When the call did not connect, Mr. Giuliani immediately dialed another general house number for the White House switchboard and connected for 47 seconds. Approximately 16 minutes later, someone using the" -1'' number called Mr. Giuliani and connected for just over four minutes.
Late the next morning Washington time, on August 9, Ambassador Volker texted Mr. Giuliani and Ambassador Sondland:
Hi Mr. Mayor! Had a good chat with Yermak last night. He was pleased with your phone call. Mentioned Z[ President Zelensky] making a statement. Can we all get on the phone to make sure I advise Z[ President Zelensky] correctly as to what he should be saying? Want to make sure we get this done right. Thanks!
It is unclear which" phone call'' Ambassador Volker was referencing.
Text messages and call records obtained by the Committees show that Ambassador Volker and Mr. Giuliani connected by phone twice around noon Eastern Time on August 9 for several minutes each. Following the calls with Mr. Giuliani, Ambassador Volker created a three-way group chat using WhatsApp that included Ambassador Volker, Ambassador Sondland, and Mr. Yermak.
At 2:24 p.m. Eastern Time on August 9, Ambassador Volker texted the group:" Hi Andrey-- we have all consulted here, including with Rudy. Can you do a call later today or tomorrow your afternoon time? '' Ambassador Sondland texted that he had a call scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern Time" for the three of us.[ State Department] Ops will call.''
Call records obtained by the Committees show that on August 9, Ambassador Sondland twice called numbers associated with the White House, once in early afternoon for approximately 18 minutes, and once in late afternoon for two minutes, 25 seconds with a number associated with OMB.
By early evening, minutes after his second call with the OMB-associated number, Ambassador Volker and Ambassador Sondland discussed a breakthrough they had reached in obtaining a date for a White House visit, noting that President Trump really wanted" the deliverable'':
Sondland:[ Tim] Morrison ready to get dates as soon as Yermak confirms.
Volker: Excellent ! ! How did you sway him? :-RRB-
Sondland: Not sure i did. I think potus really wants the deliverable
Volker: But does he know that?
Sondland: Clearly lots of convos going on
Volker: Ok-- then that 's good it 's coming from two separate sources
Ambassador Sondland told the Committees that the" deliverable'' required by President Trump was a press statement from President Zelensky committing to" do the investigations'' pushed by President Trump and Mr. Giuliani.
To ensure progress, immediately after their text exchange, Ambassador Sondland recommended to Ambassador Volker that Mr. Yermak a draft of the press statement to" avoid misunderstandings'' and so they would know" exactly what they propose to cover.'' Ambassador Sondland explained:" Even though Ze[ President Zelensky] does a live presser[ press event] they can still summarize in a brief statement.'' Ambassador Volker agreed.
As they were negotiating the language that would appear in a press statement," there was talk about having a live interview or a live broadcast'' during which President Zelensky would make the agreed-upon statement. Ambassador Sondland suggested reviewing a written summary of the statement because he was" concerned'' that President Zelensky would" say whatever he would say on live television and it still would n't be good enough for Rudy, slash, the President[ Trump].''
" Everyone Was in the Loop'' About Plan for Ukrainians to Deliver a Public Statement about Investigations in Exchange for a White House Visit
As negotiations continued, on August 10, Mr. Yermak texted Ambassador Volker in an attempt to schedule a White House meeting before the Ukrainian president made a public statement in support of investigations into Burisma and the 2016 election. He wrote:
I think it 's possible to make this declaration and mention all these things. Which we discussed yesterday. But it will be logic[ sic] to do after we receive a confirmation of date. We inform about date of visit about our expectations and our guarantees for future visit. Let[ sic] discuss it
Ambassador Volker responded that he agreed, but that first they would have to" iron out[ a] statement and use that to get[ a] date,'' after which point President Zelensky would go forward with making the statement. They agreed to have a call the next day, and to include Ambassador Sondland. Mr. Yermak texted:
Excellent. Once we have a date, will call for a press briefing, announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of the US-UKRAINE relationship, including, among other things, Burisma and election meddling in investigations.
Ambassador Volker forwarded the message to Ambassador Sondland, and they agreed to speak with Mr. Yermak the next day.
Ambassador Sondland testified that" everyone was in the loop'' regarding this plan .780 Also on August 10, Ambassador Sondland informed Ambassador Volker that he briefed T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, Counselor of the Department of State, noting:" I briefed Ulrich. All good.'' Ambassador Sondland testified that he" may have walked[ Mr. Brechbuhl] through where we were.'' When asked if Mr. Brechbuhl briefed Secretary Pompeo, Ambassador Sondland noted that it was Mr. Brechbuhl 's" habit'' to" consult with Secretary Pompeo frequently.''
Secretary of Energy Rick Perry was also made aware of efforts to pressure Ukraine to issue a public statement about political investigations in exchange for a White House meeting. Ambassador Sondland testified:
Mr. Giuliani conveyed to Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker, and others that President Trump wanted a public statement from President Zelensky committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election. Mr. Giuliani expressed those requests directly to the Ukrainians. Mr. Giuliani also expressed those requests directly to us. We all understood that these prerequisites for the White House call and the White House meeting reflected President Trump 's desires and requirements.
On August 11, Ambassador Volker requested a phone call with Ambassador Sondland and Mr. Giuliani, noting that he had heard from Mr. Yermak that the Ukrainians were" writing the statement now and will send to us.'' According to call records obtained by the Committees, Ambassador Volker and Mr. Giuliani connected for 34 seconds.
The same day, Ambassador Sondland updated Mr. Brechbuhl and Lisa Kenna, Executive Secretary of the State Department, about efforts to secure a public statement and a" big presser'' from President Zelensky, which he hoped might" make the boss happy enough to an invitation.'' He addressed the email to Secretary Pompeo:
Mike, Kurt[ Volker] and I negotiated a statement from Zelensky to be delivered for our review in a day or two. The contents will hopefully make the boss happy enough to an invitation. Zelensky plans to have a big presser on the openness subject( including specifics) next week.
Ambassador Sondland made clear in his hearing testimony that by" specifics,'' he meant the" 2016 and the Burisma'' investigations;" the boss'' referred to" President Trump;'' and" the invitation'' referred to" the White House meeting.'' Ms. Kenna replied to Ambassador Sondland that she would" pass to S[ Secretary Pompeo]. Thank you.'' Ambassador Sondland cited the email as evidence that" everyone was in the loop'' on plans to condition a White House meeting on a public statement about political investigations.
President Trump 's Agents Negotiated a Draft Statement about the Investigations
In the evening of the next day, August 12, Mr. Yermak texted Ambassador Volker an initial version of the draft statement, which read:
Special attention should be paid to the problem of interference in the political processes of the United States, especially with the alleged involvement of some Ukrainian politicians. I want to declare that this is unacceptable. We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, which in turn will prevent the recurrence of this problem in the future.
The draft statement did not explicitly mention Burisma or 2016 election interference, as expected.
On August 13, around 10 a.m. Eastern Time, Ambassador Volker texted Mr. Giuliani:" Mr mayor-- trying to set up call in 5 min via state Dept. If now is not convenient, is there a time later today? '' Phone records show that, shortly thereafter, someone using a State Department number called Mr. Giuliani and connected for more than nine minutes. Ambassador Volker told the Committees that, during the call, Mr. Giuliani stated:" If[ the statement] does n't say Burisma and 2016, it 's not credible, because what are they hiding? '' Ambassador Volker asked whether inserting references to" Burisma and 2016'' at the end of the statement would make it" more credible.'' Mr. Giuliani confirmed that it would.
Two minutes after the call ended, Ambassador Volker sent a WhatsApp message to Ambassador Sondland and Mr. Yermak:" Hi Andrey-- we spoke with Rudy. When is good to call you? '' Ambassador Sondland replied that it was," Important. Do you have 5 mins.'' They agreed to a call approximately 10 minutes later. When Ambassador Sondland suggested having his" operator'' in Brussels dial in the group, Ambassador Volker asked if they could" do this one on what 's App? '' Text messages and calls in the WhatsApp cell phone application are encrypted from end-to-end, ensuring that WhatsApp employees and third parties can not listen in or retrieve deleted communications.
Shortly before the call, Ambassador Volker sent a revised draft of the proposed statement to Ambassador Sondland. It had been edited to include reference to Burisma and the 2016 elections:
Special attention should be paid to the problem of interference in the political processes of the United States, especially with the alleged involvement of some Ukrainian politicians. I want to declare that this is 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 US elections, which in turn will prevent the recurrence of this problem in the future.
Ambassador Sondland replied:" Perfect. Lets send to Andrey after our call.''
Following the call, Ambassador Volker texted Ambassador Sondland and Mr. Yermak:" Andrey-- good talking-- following is text with insert at the end for the 2 key items.'' Ambassador Volker then sent to them the revised statement that included the explicit references to" Burisma and 2016 elections.''
A" Quid Pro Quo'' from" the President of the United States''
Ambassador Volker testified that the language reflected what Mr. Giuliani deemed necessary for the statement to be" credible.'' Ambassador Sondland noted the language was" proposed by Giuliani.'' Ambassador Sondland explained that the language was a clear quid pro quo that expressed" the desire of the President of the United States'': Mr. Giuliani 's requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White house visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desire of the President of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the President. Shortly after Ambassador Volker sent the revised statement to Mr. Yermak on August 13, Ambassador Sondland called Mr. Giuliani and connected for nearly four minutes.
Ukrainian Officials and Career State Department Became Increasingly Concerned.
On August 13-- while Ambassador Volker, Ambassador Sondland, and Mr. Yermak were negotiating the draft statement about investigations-- Mr. Yermak asked Ambassador Volker" whether any request had ever been made by the U.S. to investigate election interference in 2016.'' He appeared interested in knowing whether the U.S. Department of Justice had made an official request to Ukraine 's law enforcement agency for legal assistance in such a matter. When Ambassador Volker sent Mr. Giuliani 's approved draft statement to Mr. Yermak, he stated the he would" work on official request.''
Ambassador Volker testified:" When I say official request, I mean law enforcement channels, Department of Justice to law enforcement in Ukraine, please investigate was there any effort to interfere in the U.S. elections.'' Ambassador Volker explained:
He[ Yermak] said, and I think quite appropriately, that if they[ Ukraine] are responding to an official request, that 's one thing. If there 's no official request, that 's different. And I agree with that.
According to Ambassador Volker, he was merely trying to" find out'' if there was ever an official request made by the Department of Justice:" As I found out the answer that we had not, I said, well, let 's just not go there.''
On September 25, within hours of the White House 's public release of the record of the July 25 call between President Trump and President Zelensky, a Justice Department spokesperson issued a statement, apparently confirming that no such formal request had been made:
On September 25, within hours of the White House 's public release of the record of the July 25 call between President Trump and President Zelensky, a Justice Department spokesperson issued a statement, apparently confirming that no such formal request had been made:
Ukraine 's current Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka, who assumed his new position in late August 2019, confirmed the Justice Department 's account. He told the Financial Times in late November 2019 that Attorney General Barr had made no formal request regarding a potential investigation into allegations of wrongdoing by former Vice President Biden. In an apparent reference to President Trump 's demand that Ukraine interfere in U.S. elections, Mr. Ryaboshapka added:" It 's critically important for the west not to pull us into some conflicts between their ruling elites, but to continue to support so that we can cross the point of no return.''
Neither Ambassador Taylor in Ukraine nor Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent in Washington were aware of the efforts by Ambassadors Sondland and Volker, in coordination with Mr. Giuliani, to convince Ukrainian officials to issue a statement in real time. Ambassador Taylor told the Committees that, on August 16, in a text message exchange with Ambassador Volker, he" learned that Mr. Yermak had asked that the United States submit an official request for an investigation into Burisma 's alleged violations of Ukrainian law, if that is what the United States desired.'' Ambassador Taylor noted that" a formal U.S. request to the Ukrainians to conduct an investigation based on violations of their own law'' was" improper'' and advised Ambassador Volker to" stay clear.''
Nevertheless, Ambassador Volker requested Ambassador Taylor 's help with the matter." To find out the legal aspects of the question,'' Ambassador Taylor gave Ambassador Volker the name of an official at the Department of Justice" whom I thought would be the proper point of contact for seeking a U.S. referral for a foreign investigation.''
On August 15, Ambassador Volker texted Ambassador Sondland that Mr. Yermak wanted to" know our status on asking them to investigate.'' Two days later, Ambassador Volker wrote:" Bill[ Taylor] had no info on requesting an investigation-- calling a friend at DOJ.'' Ambassador Volker testified that he was not able to connect with his contact at the Department of Justice.
Mr. Kent testified that on August 15, Catherine Croft, Ambassador Volker 's special assistant, approached him to ask whether there was any precedent for the United States asking Ukraine to conduct investigations on its behalf. Mr. Kent advised Ms. Croft:
[ I] f you 're asking me have we ever gone to the Ukrainians and asked them to investigate or prosecute individuals for political reasons, the answer is, I hope we have n't, and we should n't because that goes against everything that we are trying to promote in postSoviet states for the last 28 years, which is the promotion of the rule of law.
Mr. Kent testified that the day after his conversation with Ms. Croft, he spoke with Ambassador Taylor, who" amplified the same theme'' and told Mr. Kent that" Yermak was very uncomfortable'' with the idea of investigations and suggested that" it should be done officially and put in writing.'' As a result, it became clear to Mr. Kent in mid-August that Ukraine was being pressured to conduct politically-motivated investigations. Mr. Kent told Ambassador Taylor" that 's wrong, and we should n't be doing that as a matter of U.S. policy.''
After speaking to Ms. Croft and Ambassador Taylor, Mr. Kent wrote a memo to file on August 16 documenting his" concerns that there was an effort to initiate politically motivated prosecutions that were injurious to the rule of law, both in Ukraine and U.S.'' Mr. Kent testified:
At the time, I had no knowledge of the specifics of the[ July 25] call record, but based on Bill Taylor 's account of the engagements with Andriy Yermak that were engagements of Yermak with Kurt Volker, at that point it was clear that the investigations that were being suggested were the ones that Rudy Giuliani had been about, meaning Biden, Burisma, and 2016.
On August 17, Mr. Yermak reached out to both Ambassador Sondland and Ambassador Volker .826 Ambassador Sondland texted Ambassador Volker that" Yermak just tapped on me about dates. Havent responded. Any updates? '' Ambassador Volker responded that" I 've got nothing'' and stated that he was contacting the Department of Justice to find out about requesting an investigation.
Ambassador Sondland then asked:" Do we still want Ze[ Zelensky] to give us an unequivocal draft with 2016 and Boresma[ sic]? '' Ambassador Volker replied:" That 's the clear message so far....'' Ambassador Sondland said that he would ask that Mr. Yermak" send us a clean draft,'' to which Ambassador Volker replied that he had spoken to Mr. Yermak and suggested that he and Ambassador Sondland speak the following day, August 18, to discuss" all the latest.''
Ambassador Volker claimed that he" stopped pursuing'' the statement from the Ukrainians around this time because of concerns raised by Mr. Yermak that Yuriy Lutsenko was still the Prosecutor General. Mr. Lutsenko was likely to be replaced by President Zelensky, and because Mr. Lutsenko was alleging the same false claims that President Trump and Mr. Giuliani were demanding of President Zelensky, Ukrainian officials" did not want to mention Burisma or 2016.'' Ambassador Volker testified that he" agreed'' and advised Mr. Yermak that" making those specific refences was not a good idea'' because making those statements might" look like it would play into our domestic politics.''
Mr. Yermak agreed and, according to Ambassador Volker, plans to put out a statement were" shelved.'' Ambassador Volker reasoned that the plan for a public statement did not materialize partly because of" the sense that Rudy was not going to be convinced that it meant anything, and, therefore, convey a positive message to the President if it did n't say Burisma and 2016.'' He added:
I agreed with the Ukrainians they should n't do it, and in fact told them just drop it, wait till you have your own prosecutor general in place. Let 's work on substantive issues like this, security assistance and all. Let 's just do that. So we dropped it.
Ambassador Volker testified that," From that point on, I did n't have any further conversations about this statement.'' Nevertheless, efforts to secure a presidential statement announcing the two investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 U.S. election interference continued well into September.
On August 19, Ambassador Sondland told Ambassador Volker that he" drove the` larger issue' home'' with Mr. Yermak: that this was bigger than just a White House meeting and was about" the relationship per se.'' Ambassador Volker told the Committees that he understood this referred to" the level of trust that the President has with President Zelensky. He has this general negative assumption about everything Ukraine, and that 's the larger issue.'' That negative assumption would prove difficult to overcome as Ukrainian and U.S. officials sought to finally obtain a White House meeting and shake free from the White House hundreds of millions of dollars in Congressionally-approved security assistance for Ukraine.