Two of U.S. President Donald Trump’s top envoys to Ukraine drafted a statement for the country’s new president in August that would have committed Ukraine to pursuing investigations sought by Trump into his political rivals, three people briefed on the effort said.
The drafting of the statement marks new evidence of how Trump’s fixation with Ukraine began driving senior diplomats to bend U.S. foreign policy to the president’s political agenda in the weeks after the July 25 call between the two leaders.
The statement was drafted by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, then the State Department’s envoy to Ukraine, according to the three people who have been briefed on it.
Volker spent Thursday on Capitol Hill being questioned by House investigators as Democrats pursued their impeachment inquiry into Trump’s actions. He disclosed a set of texts in September in which Bill Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, alluded to Trump’s decision earlier in the summer to freeze a military aid package to the country. He told Sondland and Volker: “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
After speaking with Trump, Sondland texted back that there was no quid pro quo, adding, “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text.”
The statement was written with the awareness of a top aide to the Ukrainian president, as well as Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer and the de facto leader of a shadow campaign to push the Ukrainians to press ahead with investigations that could be of political benefit to Trump, according to one of the people briefed on it.
The statement would have committed Ukraine to investigating the energy company Burisma, which had employed Hunter Biden, the younger son of former vice-president Joe Biden. And it would have called for the Ukrainian government to look into what Trump and his allies believe was interference by Ukrainians in the 2016 election in the United States to benefit Hillary Clinton.
It is unclear if the statement was delivered to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president, but no statement was released publicly under his name. Around that time, the Ukrainian officials indicated to the Americans that they wanted to avoid becoming more deeply enmeshed in U.S. politics.