In newly disclosed text messages shared with Congress, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine at the time writes to a group of other American diplomats that “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
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The exchange, provided by former U.S Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker as part of his closed-door deposition before multiple House committees Thursday, shows what appears to be encrypted text messages he exchanged with two other American diplomats in September regarding aid money President Donald Trump ordered to be held back from Ukraine.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Kurt Volker, a former special envoy to Ukraine, arrives for a closed-door interview with House investigators, as House Democrats proceed with the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington, Oct. 3, 2019.
(MORE: Live updates: Trump says Ukraine, China should investigate Bidens as former envoy testifies)
In the exchange, obtained by ABC News, the concerns are expressed by Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine. Gordon Sondland, the United States Ambassador to the European Union, responds to Taylor, saying, “Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign.”
Sondland then suggests to the group take the conversations off line, typing “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text.” It’s unclear if the conversation continues, based on the material obtained by ABC News.
John Rudoff/Sipa USA via AP, FILE
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon D. Sondland spoke to World Oregon today, March 25, 2019, in the organization’s Portland, headquarters.
(MORE: Kurt Volker resigns as US special envoy to Ukraine)
Sondland, a hotelier and Republican megadonor, contributed over $1 million to the president’s inaugural committee before eventually being nominated and confirmed to the top role as the United States representative to the European Union.
Taylor is a career foreign service officer who has served as the top diplomat in Kyiv since May, when Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was recalled by the administration. Yovanovitch had been smeared by President Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani for months as blocking Ukrainian investigations into corruption — an allegation the State Department at the time called an “outright fabrication” that “does not correspond to reality.”
But Trump referred to Yovanovitch as “bad news” in his controversial July 25 call with Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy.
The texts came just days before the White House released the military assistance to Ukraine — almost $400 million from the State Department and Pentagon meant to boost Ukraine as a U.S. partner against Russian aggression.
(MORE: House Dem calls State Dept IG briefing a relaying of Ukraine ‘conspiracy theories’)
Sondland has been the U.S. envoy to the European Union since July 2018. He has assisted Giuliani’s effort to contact Ukrainian officials about an investigation, according to Giuliani, who says he briefed Sondland and Volker after his meetings.
Asked for comment, a spokesman for Sondland told ABC News, “We are referring all inquiries on this topic to the White House.”
Volker resigned last Friday as the special envoy for Ukraine. The State Department has confirmed that Volker put Giuliani in touch with Zelenskiy’s aides at their request.