A series of text messages between Trump administration officials were released by several key House committees yesterday. They were obtained from former US special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker.
The messages in question are between Volker, Ukrainian official Andriy Yermak, Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Ukrainian embassy official Bill Taylor, and Rudy Giuliani, who is just Trump’s lawyer.
The text messages discuss the possibility of Ukrainian officials coming to the White House in exchange for investigating interference in the 2016 election and for investigating Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company that Joe Biden’s son Hunter worked for.
House Democrats felt alarmed by the contents of the text messages, stating that they furthered concerns that the Trump administration was using the powers of the office of the president to strongarm a foreign government into investigating a domestic political rival.
On September 9, in the text messages, Bill Taylor expresses concerns over the way the administration is handling the Ukraine situation. Taylor states that the Ukrainians have lost faith in them over the withheld military aid. “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
Taylor added, “With the hold, we have already shaken their faith in us. Thus my nightmare scenario.”
Gordon Sondland then quickly backpedals that statement, texting that Taylor was “incorrect about President Trump’s intentions,” and specifically bringing up the phrase “quid pro quo,” stating that was explicitly not what withholding foreign aid in order to have a rival investigated is.
The text messages are the newest in a long series of setbacks for the embattled president as he fights to control the narrative surrounding the impeachment inquiry. Trump has remained adamant that his phone call with the Ukrainian president was fine, and points to aspects of the released text messages where officials encourage Ukraine to go public with their investigations.
Trump argues that, since he hasn’t tried to hide his attempts to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals, then there’s no evidence of wrongdoing. House Chairmen Adam Schiff, Elijah Cummings, and Eliot Engel are unconvinced, having released a statement condemning Trump’s conduct.
“This is not normal or acceptable. It is unethical, unpatriotic, and wrong. American Presidents should never press foreign powers to target their domestic political rivals,” the Congressmen wrote.
“Engaging in these stunning abuses in broad daylight does not absolve President Trump of his wrongdoings—or his grave offenses against the Constitution,” they concluded.