- Two top US diplomats in Ukraine drafted a statement in August that would have committed Ukraine to investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and the origins of the Russia investigation, The New York Times reported.
- The statement was drafted with the knowledge of Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, and a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
- The effort came shortly after Trump repeatedly pressured Zelensky during a July phone call to look into the Bidens and help him discredit the Russia probe.
- Revelations about the statement add another layer to questions about whether Trump used his political office for personal gain by soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 election.
- The phone call is at the center of an explosive whistleblower complaint against Trump that in turn sparked a formal impeachment inquiry from the House of Representatives.
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Two top US officials in Ukraine drafted a statement for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in August that would have committed him to conducting investigations for President Donald Trump into his political opponents, The New York Times revealed in a bombshell report Thursday.
The statement was drafted by Kurt Volker, then the US's special envoy to Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, the report said. Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer and a central figure in the Ukraine controversy, was aware of the statement, as was a top aide to Zelensky, The Times reported.
Volker resigned from his position last week after his name was mentioned in an explosive whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump solicited foreign interference in the 2020 election.
Specifically, the complaint said Trump pressured Zelensky during a July phone call to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. Biden is one of the 2020 Democratic frontrunners and Trump's chief political rival.
Trump and his allies denounced the complaint as a political hit job, but most of its details have been corroborated by a memo of the phone call the White House put out last month.
Revelations about the draft statement add yet another layer to questions about whether the president used his official position for personal gain. Things for Trump are further complicated by the fact that the US decided to withhold a nearly $400 million military aid package to Ukraine just days before the July phone call.
While the White House's notes on the call showed that Trump did not directly mention offering aid in exchange for Zelensky's assistance in investigating the Bidens, they confirmed that Trump brought up how the US does "a lot for Ukraine" right before asking Zelensky to do him a "favor, though" by investigating Biden and discrediting the former special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.
Both those issues were at the center of the draft statement by Volker and Sondland, according to The Times. Specifically, it would have committed Ukraine to investigating the company Burisma Holdings, whose board Biden's son sat on until earlier this year.
It also would have called for the Ukrainian government to look into unsubstantiated conspiracy theories suggesting that it was not Russia, but Ukraine that interfered in the 2016 election, and that it did so to help then Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Volker testified to Congress on Thursday as part of the impeachment probe. During the hearing, he revealed that Bill Taylor, the US's chief diplomat in Ukraine, said it was "crazy" for Trump to withhold military aid in exchange for "help with a political campaign," ABC News reported.
Taylor is said to have made the comment in a group text with Volker and Sondland. Sondland reportedly replied that Taylor's claim was "incorrect." He added that Trump had been "crystal clear" there was "no quid pro quo of any kind."
Sondland then said they should end the group text, writing, "I suggest we stop the back and forth by text."
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