WASHINGTON (AP) — Top US diplomats encouraged Ukraine’s newly-elected president to conduct an investigation linked to Joe Biden’s family in return for a potentially high-profile visit to Washington to meet with President Donald Trump.
That’s according to a cache of emails released late Thursday by House investigators following a 10-hour interview with one of the diplomats, Kurt Volker, who stepped down as former special envoy to Ukraine amid the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
The pages of text messages convey a distinct campaign among the diplomats, who — apparently against some of their stated better judgment — appeared to be trying to help Ukraine reset its relationship with Trump by pushing his interest in investigating his Democratic rival.
Volker, in a text message on the morning of a planned July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zerenskiy, wrote: “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.”
An adviser to the Ukrainian president appears to go along with the proposal, which entails investigating Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company. Joe Biden’s son Hunter served on the board of the company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv.
“Phone call went well,” wrote Andrey Yermak in a text to Volker later that day after the two presidents spoke. Yermak suggests several dates when Trump and Zerenskiy could meet in September.
But all that planning started to unravel when Zelenskiy’s aide tried to lock in a date for the Trump meeting before putting out the statement on the investigations. Trump put a hold on military assistance to the country, which was depending on the funds as part of its defense of Russia.