Text messages between US ambassadors and a Ukrainian government aide show that a meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Donald Trump in Washington was linked to whether Ukraine would investigate what happened in the 2016 US election.
The text messages were released by the multiple US congressional committees. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said that the messages highlight "what is at stake" in the impeachment investigation the US House of Representatives is leading.
The inquiry was spurred by a whistleblower complaint that alleges the US president abused the power of his office by demanding newly elected Ukrainian President Zelensky investigate the son of the US Democratic party frontrunner, Joe Biden.
In a text message to Zelensky aide Andrey Yermak, Trump's former envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker wrote: "Heard from White House—assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate/'get to the bottom of what happened' in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington. Good luck!"
The message came the morning of a now-infamous phone call between Trump and Zelensky on July 25.
Volker was questioned by US lawmakers on Thursday. The ambassador had resigned his position last week after he was named in the whistleblower complaint, NBC reported.
A reconstructed transcript of the phone call between the leaders was released by the White House in which Trump asks Zelensky to look into Biden stopping the prosecution. The line in the transcript is followed by ellipses and his phrase is cut off.
But Zelensky responds to Trump that the new prosecutor will look into the situation, according to the transcript.
The following day, Zelensky's aide texted Volker: "Phone call went well. President Trump proposed to choose any convenient dates. President Zelensky chose 20,21,22 September for the White House Visit. Thanks again for your help!"
Volker's texts also reveal that he had consulted with President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to advise on a Ukrainian statement to make sure they advised the Ukrainians correctly on "what [Zelensky] should be saying".
The statement was discussed during the week of August 10. Messages between Volker and the Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, show that they discussed the wording of the potential statement.
The wording included announcing an intention to investigate "facts and episodes" including the gas company Burisma and the 2016 election. Biden's son previously served on the board of Burisma.
The US ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, later told Ambassador Sondland that "it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign" after it emerged that the US was withholding military aid to Ukraine.
Sondland responded that he believed Taylor was "incorrect about President Trump's intentions".
Both Volker and Sondland were appointed by the Trump administration.