Ukraine Envoy’s Texts Show Drama Behind Trump’s Pressure Campaign

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 03: Former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker departs following a closed-door deposition led by the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on October 3, 2019 in Washington, DC. Volker... WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 03: Former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker departs following a closed-door deposition led by the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on October 3, 2019 in Washington, DC. Volker resigned from his position on September 27. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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November 5, 2019 5:55 p.m.
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Lordy, there are texts.

On Tuesday, the impeachment inquiry released the “full production of text messages” provided by Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine and a key player in Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine into providing political dirt.

House Democrats released a few crucial snippets of these text messages last month, but the full record — some 65 pages, including pictures and copies of documents, paints a fuller picture.

Here’s what’s new:

Diplomats on both sides saw Rudy as central

While Rudy Giuliani’s role in pressing various Ukrainian officials for political dirt is well known by now, the text message log makes clear that U.S. and Ukrainian diplomats recognized as much in the moment.

For example, in a July 8 conversation about the future — and now infamous — phone call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Trump, Volker acknowledged the “Rudy factor.”

Various Ukrainian officials, Volker told acting Ukraine ambassador Bill Taylor, had expressed concern that the call would take the place of an actual in-person meeting between the two leaders — the Ukrainians’ ultimate goal. Volker said that Zelensky was “on board” for a call but that Zelensky’s head of presidential administration, Adriy Bohdan, “was skeptical.”

“I pulled the two of them aside at the end and explained the Giuliani factor…” Volker said.

Two days later, an aide to Zelensky, Andrey Yermak, texted Volker: “I feel that the key for many things is Rudi [sic] and I are ready to talk with him at any time.”

Later, on July 22, Yermak told Volker that it was “very good that our conversation with Mr. Mayor will be before” the call between Trump and Zelensky three days later.

Right after the call, Yermak told Volker, “Please remind Mr. Mayor to share the Madrid’s dates.”

Yermak and Giuliani would meet in Madrid two weeks later.

Rudy worked hard to create a narrative that the government asked for his help

According to various officials’ testimonies, Trump diplomats and others working on Ukraine were wary of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s involvement. But Trump made clear in an Oval Office meeting in May that he wanted his lawyer involved.

“He just kept saying: Talk to Rudy. Talk to Rudy,” Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the EU, testified.  And in his July phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, Trump repeatedly said that Zelensky should reach out to Rudy, too.

But when news of Rudy’s attempts to dig up political dirt on Trump’s behalf collided with the revelation that he was also acting as an unofficial emissary of sorts to the Ukrainian government, the former New York Mayor sought to distance himself from the mess.

Giuliani texted Volker on Sept. 22.

“Kurt,” he texted. “Thanks for the support. All I need is for you to tell the truth. You called me about Yermak and I reported back to you and Sondland, eg., a conference call on Aug. 11. Three others before. Really this is not hard just fair to affirm truth.”

He added: “Also secretary seems not to know you put us together. Straighten him out.”

Volker replied that “I certainly will let him know.” But soon, Giuliani pressed for more, asking the envoy to “have Sondland inform Pompeo he can say State connected me with Ukraine official and was aware of it.”

Volker responded by pointing to a month-old public statement from the State Department which repeated Volker’s confirmation that Volker put Giualini in touch with the Ukrainians, at the request of an aide to the Ukrainian president.

“Mr. Giuliani is a private citizen and acts in a personal capacity as a lawyer for President Trump,” the statement added. “He does not speak on behalf of the U.S. Government.”

The incoming Ukraine ambassador dreaded Giuliani’s involvement

Acting Ukraine ambassador Bill Taylor has personally testified to his own wariness of Giuliani’s involvement in Ukraine policy.

But text messages between him and Volker make it clear that he expressed his concerns at the time.

George Kent, another veteran diplomat, “described two snake pits, one in Kyiv and one in Washington,” Taylor texted Volker, after saying he’d been offered the job in Ukraine.

“:) so what’s new?” Volker replied.

“Yes, but he described much more than I knew,” Taylor responded. “Very ugly.”

He added later: “I am still struggling with the decision whether to go. Can anyone hope to succeed with the Giuliani-Biden issue swirling for the next 18 months? Can S offer any reassurances on this issue?”

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