The Ukraine Story (Timeline)
New stuff from the Parnas documents are highlighted in gold.
This timeline has been constructed [almost] entirely from the sworn depositions, sworn public testimony, and documentary evidence. I made a few exceptions, such as public statements made by Trump and Giuliani and dates in the public record. I included news reporting where it illustrated the testimony. (I didn’t use news reporting as evidence.)
For a list of who’s who, click here.
The timeline shows that Trump and Rudy Giuliani conducted a months-long “political errand” in Ukraine for the purposes of advancing their own personal interests, including:
- Manufacturing dirt on Trump’s Democratic rival, Joe Biden;
- Establishing a false counter-narrative that Ukraine interfered in the US presidential election;
- Strengthening a US – Russian alliance: and
- Creating a pretext for claiming that Manafort was wrongfully set up by Ukrainians and was therefore not guilty and shouldn’t be in prison.
Trump committed impeachable acts when he used “multiple levers of government to advance a scheme to undermine our 2020 election for his [Trump’s] personal gain.”
November 25, 2018: When Russia attacked and seized Ukrainian military vessels heading to a Ukrainian port, Christopher Anderson (State Department Foreign Service Officer since 2005) prepared a statement condemning Russia. (Anderson’s Deposition)
The White House blocked the statement from being released. Others in the US government made statements condemning the Russian aggression, but the White House never did. (Anderson’s Deposition)
Nov. 2018-Dec. 2018: Yovanovitch first became aware Giuliani was trying to make contact and communicate with officials in Ukraine. She knew Giuliani had Ukrainian clients, so at first she wasn’t sure why he was interested in Ukrainians. (Yovanovitch’s deposition.)
January 2019: Giuliani asked the State Department to grant a visa so Shokin could visit the U.S. George Kent testified that Shokin was “very unfavorably known to us,” and they don’t grant visas to people with his history of corruption. (Kent’s Deposition)
January 2019: Giuliani met Lutsenko in New York. (Volker’s statement to Congress.)
Early months of 2019: Volker learned that Lutsenko was spreading two lies:
- Ukrainians sought to influence the 2016 election in HRC’s favor by providing dirt on Trump and Manafort to the Clinton campaign, which they did by passing information through Ambassador Yovanovitch.
- The Bidens had corrupt dealings in Ukraine. These lies were circulated widely in American right wing media. (Volker statement to Congress.)
By this time, people in Ukraine knew why Giuliani was meeting with Lutsenko, because Lutsenko was talking freely about it. (Yovanovitch’s deposition.)
Both Volker and Yovanovitch testified that they believed Lutsenko spread these lies to ingratiate himself with Trump so Lutsenko could retain power. (Volker statement to Congress.) (Yovanovitch’s deposition.) Volker said Lutsenko was “frankly making things up, in order to appear important to the United States.” (Volker’s deposition.)
Yovanovitch explained that historically, the prosecutor’s office—a holdover from Soviet days—was a hotbed of corruption; cases were investigated or prosecuted based on how much money changed hands. Lutsenko was supposed to reform the office, but didn’t. She said he wasn’t happy that the embassy kept calling for him to clean up the prosecutor’s office. The goal—what most Ukrainians wanted—was to end corruption and fully transition Ukraine to a rule of law country. (Yovanovitch’s deposition.)
[Yovanovitch openly criticized Lutsenko for not doing enough to stop corruption. See this contemporaneous reporting.]
February 2019: A Ukrainian official, Avakov, told Yovanovitch that she needed to “watch her back” because Giuliani was looking to “hurt” her in the US. (Yovanovitch’s deposition.) Giuliani reached out to Avakov, but Avakov didn’t meet with Giuliani because he thought doing so was “very dangerous.” Yovanovitch explained why such a meeting was dangerous politically:
Notice that Yovanovitch also mentioned the $40 billion that former president Viktor Yanukovych and his cronies absconded with, and that the Ukrainians wantd to look into where and how the money was laundered so they could get it back. (Yovanovitch’s deposition.)
Kurt Volker testified that when Joe Biden encouraged Ukraine to fire former prosecutor Viktor Shokin, he was “executing U.S. policy at the time and what was widely understood internationally to be the right policy.” (Volker deposition.)
When Yovanovitch learned about Parnas and Fruman, she assumed her anti-corruption efforts was hurting their financial interests. (Yovanovitch’s deposition.)
Giuliani sent memos to Pompeo and Devin Nunes (ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee) detailing his discussions with Ukrainian prosecutor regarding Yovanovitch, the Bidens, and claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.
March 5: David Hale, the third top ranking State Dept. official, asked Yovanovich to remain longer in her position. He asked her to stay because “she was doing a very good job.” (David Hale’s Deposition.)
March 20: John Solomon published this piece in the Hill. Lutsenko told Solomon that Yovanovitch gave him a “do not prosecute list during their first meeting.” (This would be extraordinarily corrupt). He also accused the embassy of mishandling 4.4 million in funds.)
March 23: Robert F. Hyde, Republican candidate for Congress and associate of Rudy Guiliani and Lev Parnas, said this about Ambassador Yovanovitch in a private WhatApp conversation (Parnas Docs):
March 24, 2019 (about the time the Hill piece was published) Trump Jr. tweeted that Yovanovitch was a “joker,” which made it hard for her to be a credible ambassador: (Yovanovitch’s deposition.)
Kent testified that “tweets from the president’s family made this a crisis for Yovanovich. Even though the allegations were fabricated, the State Dept. didn’t publicly disavow them. (Kent’s Deposition)
March 26: Here’s the part where Hyde appears to be talking about hiring an assassin to go after Yovanovitch. (Parnas Docs)
The point to emphasize is that Hyde is a candidate for Congress in league with Giuliani and associates in Ukraine who are surveilling the US Ambassador and appear to be talking about hiring someone to harm her. (Parnas Docs)
On March 26: Secretary of State Pompeo had one of several phone calls with Rudy Giuliani (staff members set up the phone calls and confirmed that they took place). One phone call was set up by Madeleine Westerhout, who was White House Director of Oval Office operations. (In other words, Trump directed that this meeting occur.)
March 27: Westerhout complained that she had “been trying and getting nowhere through regular channels” when she tried to connect Giuliani with Pompeo.
(Sondland testified that he wasn’t running a shadow
Yovanovitch learned from a John Solomon article published in The Hill that Lutsenko was talking about (re)opening an investigation into the Bidens. The Burisma case, she explained, was never closed. Even though the allegations were widely known to be unfounded (and the U.S. State Department issued a strong statement that Lutsenko’s allegations were false) the case remained “dormant.” This was part of the corruption of the office. She explained that cases were not closed in the event that the investigation was needed as a political weapon:
Among the allegations Lutsenko was spreading was that Yovanovitch had given Lutsenko a “no prosecution” list of people he shouldn’t touch. Yovanovitch denied this. (Yovanovitch’s deposition.)
Kent testified that he saw the list, and it was a forgery, filled with misspellings. The nature of the misspellings indicated to him that the creator of the list was either Czech or Serbian. Attached to the list was a business card that he had used temporarily in 2015. (Kent’s Deposition)
Kent also testified that Giuliani was conducting a “campaign of slander” against Ambassador Yovanovitch and others. (Kent’s Deposition)
Catherine Croft testified that she had previously received multiple calls from lobbyist Robert Livingston telling her that Ambassador Yovanovich should be fired. He characterized Yovanovitch as an “Obama holdover” and associated her with Soros. Croft passed along the messages to her boss, Fiona Hill and George Kent. (Croft’s Deposition)
Yovanovitch asked the Secretary of State for a statement that she had the backing of the US. The State Department could not issue a statement of support for her from “concern that the rug would be pulled out from underneath the State Department.” Who would pull out the rug? Trump. (Yovanovitch’s deposition.)
March 28: email list includes a list of scheduled calls for Pompeo. One of those is a call scheduled with Giuliani on March 29 and Devin Nunes on April 1.
Kent tried to get the State Department to defend Yovanovich from what were obvious slanders, but the Acting Assistant Secretary Reeker told Kent to “lower” his “profile in Ukraine.” (Kent’s Deposition)
Kent testified that a State Department official reached out to Sean Hannity and suggested that if there was no proof of the allegations, he should stop covering them.” (To the best of Kent’s recollection, the person was lawyer Ulrich Brechbuhl) (Kent’s Deposition)
Ambassador Sondland advised Yovanovich how to respond to the smears. He said she should tweet out a public statement that she supported President Trump. She didn’t because she didn’t think it would be appropriate. (Yovanovitch’s deposition.)
Kent corroborated this. He was copied on relevant emails, so he knows that Sondland advised her to counter the accusations by issuing a statement declaring full support for Trump. (Kent’s Deposition)
Sondland testified that he had no recollection of that conversation. “I honestly don’t recall. I honestly don’t,” he said when specifically asked. (Sondland deposition)
April 5: House Democrats, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Foreign Affairs committee chairman Eliot Engel objected to Yovanovitch’s treatment in Kiev.
April 12: House Democrats, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Foreign Affairs committee chairman Eliot Engel objected to Yovanovitch’s treatment in Kiev.
April 12: A lengthy call list shows multiple phone calls between Giuliani, John Solomon (author of the Mar. 20 Hill article), Lev Parnas (Giuliani’s indicted buddy) Jay Sekulow, another of Trump’s lawyers, The Office of Budget Management, Victoria Tsoensing, a lawyer, and Giuliani’s buddy, who also happens to represent Firtash, Ukrainian oligarch and former Paul Manafort business partner, who’s facing extradition to the US on corruption charges.and “1” who is probably Trump. A White House number (and the mysterious “1”), and–most notably, Rep. Devin Nunes, a member of the House Intelligence Committee tasked with investigating the conspiracy to shakedown Ukraine.
April 21, 2019: Zelenskyy was elected president of Ukraine. Trump called to congratulate. Vindman described the call as warm. (Vindman testimony)
April 24: Giuliani went on Fox and Friends and said, “Keep your eye on Ukraine”
Also in April: Fiona Hill testified that John Bolton said that Giuliani was a hand grenade that is going to blow everybody up. (Hill’s Deposition)
April 25, in an interview with Fox News, Trump called Lutsenko’s claims “big” and “incredible” and said he imagined that the Attorney General “would want to see this.”
Kent knew about Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were “attempting to move into the gas business” in Ukraine. (Kent’s Deposition)
May 6: The State Department announced that Ambassador Yovanovitch would be ending her assignment in Kyiv “as planned.”
Yovanovitch was told she had to return “immediately” on the next plane for her “security.” The concern was a Tweet from Trump would put her in danger:
She was also told that there was no “cause” for her dismissal; the order came from Trump. (Yovanovitch’s deposition.)
For 33 years, Yovanovitch’s performance evaluations had been good, and she was steadily given increased responsibility. (Yovanovitch’s deposition.)
Yovanovitch worried what message this would send about their position on anti-corruption. What message are we sending the world? Ambassadors, she said, shouldn’t be selected based on private interests. (Yovanovitch’s deposition.)
After Yovanovitch returned, she learned that Trump had wanted her out since July 2018. (Yovanovitch’s deposition.)
May 9: The New York Times reported that Giuliani planned to travel to Ukraine to press the Ukrainian government to pursue investigations that would help Trump in his 2020 reelection bid. From the NYT article:
May 10 was the date of this letter Giuliani wrote to Zelensky (Parnas Docs):
May 10: Initially Trump asked Pence to attend Zelenskyy’s inauguration (which was held on May 20). Then, without warning or explanation on May 13, Trump asked Pence not to go. Williams testified that neither Trump nor Pence attending would send concern Ukrainians that they didn’t have full US support. (Williams’ Deposition)
May 11: Giuliani said mentioned some guy cancelling a meeting (Parnas Docs):
May 11: Here we see Giuliani drafting a public statement (Parnas Docs):
May 11: This appears to be the final draft (Parnas Docs):
May 18: Anderson and the others at the Embassy saw this tweet from Giuliani (Anderson’s Deposition):
Anderson and his colleagues at the embassy tried to find ways to “counter” Giuliani’s “negative narrative.” Anderson was afraid that if Giuliani’s narrative took hold, it would undermine the U.S. government’s efforts to resolve the Russia-Ukraine conflict in the Donbas. (Anderson’s Deposition)
Anderson testified that Russia was watching to see whether the US would stick with Ukraine. (Anderson’s Deposition).
Volker testified that after being offered the ambassador position, he weighed whether to take the job. He worried about the “Guiliani thing,” but understood that the “future of the country is in play right now.” (Volker deposition)
Trump told the Three Amigos to work through Giuliani. Sondland testified that Trump “just kept saying: Talk to Rudy, talk to Rudy.” Sondland was “disappointed” but agreed because, in his view, the alternative was to give up hope of good Ukrainian-relations. (Sondland’s deposition.)
From Sondland: “. . . our understanding was that the President directed Mr. Giuliani’s participation. . .” (Sondland’s deposition.)
Trump told Volker, Sondland, and Perry that he had heard from Giuliani that “all” Ukrainians are “corrupt, they are all terrible people.” He also said, “and they tried to take me down” meaning the 2016 election. When the ambassadors tried to talk him out of these views, he indicated that he knew from Giuliani that “he’s got some terrible people around him.” (Volker deposition)
When Kent raised concerns about Giuliani conducting foreign policy, he was told to “lay low.” Kent told House investigators that this was “wrong“. (Kent’s deposition)
After Zelensky’s inauguration, Sondland was able to arrange a White House meeting within 3 days because he “had connections to the White House and was taken more seriously than the State Department bureaucracy.” (Anderson’s Deposition)
May 28: Pompeo asked Bill Taylor to lead the embassy in Ukraine. (Taylor’s deposition.)
May 29: Trump wrote a letter to Zelenskyy inviting him to the White House. (Afterward, when it doesn’t happen, Volker and others were perplexed about why.) (Volker’s deposition.)
Yovanovitch testified that the White House meeting with Zelensky was important because “we are the most important partner for Ukraine,” and because establishing a relationship with the US president was “critical” for Zelensky. (Yovanovitch’s deposition.)
Also in May: Ukraine met the anti-corruption benchmarks set by the Pentagon to make it eligible to receive security assistance. (Cooper’s testimony)
June 13: Trump told ABC’ s Stephanopoulos that “I think I would take it” if a foreign government offered dirt on political opponents.
June 13: Christopher Anderson (State Department Foreign Service Officer) attended a meeting with Bolton. Bolton was in favor of strengthening a US-Ukrainian partnership, but warned that Giuliani was a “key voice with the President on Ukraine” and he’s the person Trump listens to about Ukraine. (Anderson’s Deposition)
June 18: At a meeting attended by Perry and Christopher Anderson, the group discussed how to address Giuliani’s continued call for a corruption investigation. They agreed on the importance of not calling for any specific investigations. (Anderson’s Deposition)
June 19: Trump read a media report and asked the OMB for information about Ukraine’s security aid program. This was provided to him the next day. (Mark Sandy’s Deposition)
June 21: Giuliani tweeted this:
June: Taylor arrived in Kiev to find a “weird combination of encouraging, confusing, and ultimately alarming circumstances.” The encouraging part: The newly elected Zelenskyy supported long-stalled anti-corruption legislation and appointed reformist ministers. The confusing part: There were “two channels of U.S policy making and implementation, one regular [the embassy staff] and one highly irregular [the Three Amigos and Giuliani.]” (Taylor’s deposition)
Taylor saw nothing wrong with working with and through Giuliani–as long as Giuliani was working to advance the the stated aims of US policy. At first, it seemed to Taylor that both channels were advancing US national interests. (Taylor’s deposition)
Sondland disputes this characterization. He says that he was not working an an unofficial channel. He was working at the direction of the United States president and that State Department officials at the highest levels were “in the loop.” (Sondland 11-20 Opening Statement)
Fiona Hill testified that she came to understand that Sondland was on a “political errand” that was at odds with U.S. national security.
June 27: Sondland told Taylor in a phone conversation that Zelenskyy needed to make clear to Trump that he (Zelenskyy) was not standing in the way of “investigations.” (Taylor’s deposition)
July 1-2: In Kiev, at a meeting attended by Christopher Anderson and Volker, Zelenskyy pushed for a date for the White House visit. Volker urged Zelenskyy to schedule a call with Trump to build a relationship and increase the chance of securing a date for the visit. (Anderson’s statement)
July 3, 2019: Volker met with President Zelensky in Toronto, Canada and explained that Guiliani was amplifying “a negative narrative about Ukraine” that was “counteracting” Zelensky’s efforts. ” (Volker’s deposition)
July 3: WhatsApp exchange between Giuliani and his associates. He wants to know where they’re going; they’re going to Austria (where Firtash lives) “trying to get mr. z” (Parnas Docs):
Ukrainians asked to be connected to Giuliani because they understood that information would then “flow” to Trump and they were eager to get across their message that they were different from the past. (Volker’s deposition)
July 10 Meeting in the West Wing
The meeting included Yermak and Danyluk, senior advisors to Zelenskyy, incoming Ukrainian national security secretary, Bolton, Hill, Volker, Sondland, Vindman and others. (Hill’s Deposition)
The purpose was to “build rapport, give Ambassador Bolton an opportunity to make his own assessment of President Zelensky’s team.” (Vindman deposition.)
Secretary Perry was speaking generally about the importance of reforming the energy structures in Ukraine when Sondland blurted out: “Well we have an agreement with the chief of Staff for a meeting if these investigations in the energy sector start.” (Hill’s Deposition)
Bolton immediately stiffened and ended the meeting. Sondland told Volker, Perry, and the Ukrainian officials to go with him to the Ward Room to talk about next steps. (Hill’s Deposition)
Bolton pulled aside Hill and asked her to follow them to learn what they were discussing. (Hill’s Deposition)
Vindman attended the Ward Room meeting. He testified that in this meeting, Sondland told the Ukrainian officials that the “Ukrainians would have to deliver an investigation into the Bidens” to get the Zelenskyy-Trump White House meeting.” Vindman called this the “deliverable.” (Vindman deposition.)
Vindman testified that Sondland also said that this had been coordinated with Mick Mulvaney. “He was talking about the 2016 elections and an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma,” said Vindman. (Vindman deposition.)
Hill walked in as Sondland was saying he had an agreement with Mulvaney for a Trump-Zelenskyy meeting if the Ukrainians “were going forward with the investigations.” She told Sondland that they couldn’t make such commitments at this juncture. Sondland cut her off and repeated that he and Mulvaney had an “agreement.” (Hill’s Deposition)
Vindman testified that Hill entered the room and told Sondland that his statements were inappropriate. (Vindman deposition.)
Hill reported all of this back to Bolton. Bolton told her to report this to NSC counsel, and to John Eisenberg, the top National Security Counsel lawyer. He also said, “You go and tell Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this.”(Hill’s Deposition)
Hill warned Kupperman (Deputy National Security Advisor) that, “Ukraine was going to be played by Giuliani in some way as part of the campaign.” (Hill’s Deposition)
Volker explained “deliverable,” this way: “A statement about Ukraine’s commitment to fighting corruption and investigating things that happened in the past, and that was where we had this question that we discussed earlier about whether it would specifically mention Burisma and 2016 or not. That’s the statement in reference.” (Volker’s deposition)
Also on July 10: Taylor met with Zelenskyy’s officials, Bohdan and Prystaiko in Kyiv. They told Taylor that a phone call between the presidents was unlikely, and they were alarmed and disappointed. (Taylor deposition)
July 15: Tim Morrison replaced Fiona Hill. Previously he had little exposure to Ukraine. He knew nothing about Burisma, Lutsenko, or the circumstances surrounding Yovanovitch’s removal. (Morrison’s deposition).
By mid-July it was becoming clear to Taylor that the meeting President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. . .” and “this was being guided by Mr. Giuliani.” He heard that Sondland had connected investigations with an Oval Office meeting on July 10. (Taylor’s deposition)
Sondland testified as well that there was a link. He pointed to Giuliani saying (Sondland’s 11-20 Opening Statement)
Yermak, Ukrainian official, wanted to know date of the White House meeting, and then they would make the announcement Giuliani wanted. The “irregular channel,” though, insisted that the Ukrainians make the announcement first, then they would get the meeting date. (Taylor deposition)
[Narrator: The Ukrainians were obviously afraid of getting stiffed: They’d make the announcement and then not get the meeting.]
July 18: Catherine Croft attended a sub-Policy Coordination Committee video teleconference in which an Office of Management and Budget (0MB) official stated that Mulvaney (White House Chief of Staff) placed an informal hold on the security assistance to Ukraine. The only reason given was the the order came at the direction of the President. (Croft’s statement.)
Volker testified that on July 18 he became aware of the delay, but “no reason was ever given.” He knew the order came from OBM, so he immediately assumed there were budgetary issues. Avoided talking about it with Ukrainians because he assumed it would come out soon. (Volker’s deposition)
July 18: Mark Sandy returned from a 2-week leave to discover that Trump had ordered a hold placed on Ukraine’s security aid. He knew the order had come from Trump, but nobody had been provided with a justification. (Mark Sandy’s Deposition)
Mark Sandy testified that the hold violated the Impound Control Act [he avoided giving a legal opinion, but it was clear from the testimony, and the law, that the hold violated the Act. He alerted the OMB’s general counsel’s office. Two of his colleagues. including a member of the counsel’s office, resigned over the matter. (Mark Sandy’s Deposition)
Also on July 18, Taylor learned from a staff person at the OMB that a directive to withhold Ukraine’s security assistance came directly from Trump. Nobody, though, would say why aid was withheld. Taylor was astonished. (It put the Ukrainian fighters against Russia in danger.) “In an instant, I realized . . . The irregular policy channel was running contrary to the goals of longstanding US Policy” (support of Ukraine against Russia) (Taylor deposition)
This packet of electronic correspondence between Giuliani, Volker, Sondland and Taylor.
July 19 [7:01:22 PM] Volker to Sondland: . . . Had breakfast with Rudy this morning—teeing up call w Yermak Monday. Must have helped. Most impt is for Zelenskyy to say that he will help investigation—and address any specific personnel issues—if there are any.
July 20: Danyliuk told Taylor that Zelenskyy didn’t want to be used as a pawn in a U.S. reelection campaign. Mr. Danyliuk . . . and I’m sure he briefed President Zelensky. . . understood that opening thee investigations, in particular on Burisma, would have involved Ukraine in the 2020 election campaign. He did not want to do that.” (Taylor’s deposition)
July 21 [1:45:54 AM] Taylor to Sondland: Gordon, one thing Kurt and I talked about yesterday was Sasha Danyliuk’s point that President Zelenskyy is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely as an instrument in Washington domestic, reelection politics.
[7/21/19, 4:45:44 AM] Sondland: Absolutely, but we need to get the conversation started and the relationship built, irrespective of the pretext. I am worried about the alternative.
July 23: During interagency meetings, Office of Management and Budget stated explicitly that the instruction to suspend this assistance came from Mulvaney, who conveyed concerns Trump had about corruption in Ukraine. (Cooper’s testimony)
Also on July 23: Morrison attended a meeting on whether Trump had the legal right to withhold the security aid. He was aware that the DOD, in consultation with the State Department had already certified that Ukraine met the preconditions to release the aid. (Morrison’s deposition).
Williams also attended this meeting. She said that among the topics of discussion was how to get Congress to remedy the hold on the security assistance, what legal recourse was appropriate, and how to get the funds paid by the end of the fiscal year. She made the point that the security assistance goes to the US defense contracting companies, so while it benefits Ukraine, it also benefits US companies. (Williams’ Deposition)
July: Volker testified that the diplomats began trying to set up a phone call because they were distressed that so much time passed since Trump’s offer of a White House meeting. They wanted to persuade Trump to trust Zelenskyy and have the meeting. They used the July 21 parliamentary elections as an excuse for a call. (Volker deposition)
July 25: Laura Cooper testified Ukraine may have learned as early as July that there might be a problem with the military aid Ukraine was counting on. Her staff showed her two emails from State. Both sent on July 25. The first, Cooper said, showed the Ukrainian embassy was “asking about the security assistance.” The second suggested “Hill knows about the [aid freeze] situation.”(Clip of Cooper’s testimony)
July 25, morning, this exchange occurred before the Trump Zelenskyy phone call [8:36:45 AM] Volker to Zelenskyy aide, Yermak: Good lunch – thanks. Heard from WhiteHouse—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! See you tomorrow- kurt
Ukrainian advisor to Zelenskyy, Andriy Yermak, was in on the call, so he heard the references to Joe Biden. (Volker’s deposition)
Vindman, who also sat in on the call in the Situation Room, testified that ahead call, there were fears of “stray voltage” [In other words, fears that Trump would throw in something unexpected.] (Vindman’s deposition.)
Some things Trump said during the call:
Vindland and Williams listened to the call in the Situation Room. Both took notes and filled in a few phrases missing from the call summary released. For example, Zelensky said “Burisma” and not “the company.” (Vindman’s deposition.) (Williams’ Deposition)
July 25, 11:04 AM (less than 2 hours after the call) Michael Duffey (White House Associate National Security Programs) emailed “David/Elaine/Lisa” and told them “in light of the Administration’s plan to review assistance to Ukraine . . please old off any additional DoD obligations of these funds.” He called this a “brief pause”
After the call, both Hill and Vindman reported to John Eisenberg what happened. Vindman made clear that it was “improper” and “wrong” for Trump to press for the investigation of a private citizen. (Vindman’s deposition.)
Morrison also reported the call to Eisenberg. He said he saw nothing illegal or improper but he worried that the call would become politicized. He thought Zelensky seemed obsequious, and the mention of Biden was out of place. He therefore thought limited people should have access to it. (Morrison’s deposition).
William found the references to Biden and Burisma to be “more specific to the president in nature, to his personal political agenda” as opposed to a “broader foreign policy objective of the U.S.” She also made the connection between the Burisma investigation and security aid saying that “I guess for me it shed some light on possible other motivations behind a security assistance hold.” (Williams’ Deposition)
Five hours after the call, at 2:31 P.M. in Ukraine, Cooper’s staff received a phone call asking about security clearance.
On the evening of July 25, a readout was posted on the website of the Ukrainian President that contained the following line (translation from original Russian-language readout):
“Donald Trump expressed his conviction that the new Ukrainian government will be able to quickly improve Ukraine’s image and complete the investigation of corruption cases that have held back cooperation between Ukraine and the United States.”
July 26: Contrary to standard procedure, the embassy received no readout of the July 25 Trump-Zelensky call. (Holmes Opening Statement)
The day after the call, July 26, David Holmes, foreign service officer in Ukraine, attended meetings in Kyiv with Taylor, Volker, and Sondland and various Ukrainian officials. (Holmes Opening Statement)
Holmes was the notetaker. They met with Zelensky, who told them that during the July 25 call Trump had “three times” raised “some sensitive issues” and that he [Zelensky] would have to follow up on those issues when they met “in person.” (Holmes Opening Statement)
At the time, Holmes didn’t know what these were. After the meetings, Volker and Taylor left for a trip to the front lines. Sondland stayed to meet Yermak (Zelensky’s top aide). Holmes was to be the notetaker. (Holmes Opening Statement)
When Holmes arrived at the office where Sondland was meeting Yermak, a staff member refused to allow him to enter the room. Sondland and Yermak insisted that the meeting be “one to one.” Holmes waited with a few others in the anteroom until the meeting ended. (Holmes Opening Statement)
After the meeting, Holmes and two staffers accompanied Sondland to the embassy vehicle. They went to a nearby restaurant for lunch. Among the topics they discussed were marketing strategies for Sondland’s hotel business. (Umm, he’s the ambassador) (Holmes Opening Statement)
During lunch, Sondland said he was going to call Trump to give him an update. Sondland placed the call on his mobile phone. He announced himself several times by saying, “Gordon Sondland holding for the president.” (Holmes Opening Statement)
The phone wasn’t on speaker phone, but Holmes could hear Trump’s voice through the earpiece. Trump’s voice was loud and recognizable. Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume. (Holmes Opening Statement)
Sondland greeted Trump and said he was calling from Kiev. Trump clarified that Sondland was in Kyiv. Sondland said yes, and went on to tell Trump that Zelensky “loves your ass.” Trump asked, “So he’s gonna do the investigation?” (Holmes Opening Statement) Sondland testified that he could have said these things, but he has no exact recall, but doesn’t doubt the account (Sondland’s 11-20 opening statement)
Sondland replied, “He’s gonna do it,” adding that Zelensky will do “anything you ask him to.” Holmes believes his colleagues at the table knew Sondland was talking to Trump. After the call, Holmes asked Sondland for his candid impression of Trump’s views on Ukraine. (Holmes Opening Statement)
Holmes asked if it was true that Trump doesn’t “give a s—t about Ukraine.” Sondland agreed that Trump didn’t give a s—t about Ukraine. Holmes asked why not. Sondland said he only cares about “big stuff.” Holmes pointed out that war with Russia was big stuff. (Holmes Opening Statement)
Sondland replied that he meant “big stuff” that benefits the president, like the “Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing.” (Holmes Opening Statement)
Sondland testified that Giuliani, acting on Trump’s desires and requirements, said that Trump wanted a public statement from Zelensky committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election. Giuliani also communicated this directly to the Ukrainians. (Sondland’s 11-20 opening statement)
When Yovanovitch learned about what Trump said about her in the July 25 Zelenskyy phone call (that “she’s going to go through some things,”) she felt threatened. (Yovanovitch’s deposition.)
Ambassador Michael McKinley, former senior advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, proposed issuing a public statement in support of Yovanovitch in the aftermath of the phone call, but Pompeo decided it was “better not to release a statement at that time.” (McKinley deposition.)
August 7: Volker conveyed to Zelenskyy the message that he needed to “get to the bottom of what happened in 2016 and we will nail down a visit for Washington. Volker testified, though, that he believed they’d push for a White House visit even if Zelenskyy did not make such a promise, but such a promise would help because that was what the president wanted to hear. (Volker deposition)
August 9: Trump told reporters: “I think [Zelenskyy] is going to make a deal with President Putin, and he will be invited to the White House. . . . He’s a very reasonable guy. He wants to see peace in Ukraine, and I think he will be coming very soon, actually.”
Volker also testified that they did a quick draft of a statement for Zelenskyy. Andriy (Ukrainian official) sent Volker a draft. He shared it with Sondland. Rudy then says, “If it doesn’t say Burisma and if it doesn’t say 2016, what does it mean? You know, it’s not credible. You know they’re hiding something.” The Ukrainians (Andriy) “expressed discomfort with that.” They didn’t want to be a “factor or football,” in American politics. Volker testified that he agreed: he didn’t think it was a good idea for the statement to include ‘Burisma’ or ‘2016.’ (Volker’s deposition)
Sondland’s understanding that whatever the Ukrainians were going to promise, it had to be public. (Sondland’s deposition)
August 9, exchange between Volker and Giuliani:
- [8/9/19, 11:27 AM] Kurt Volker: Hi Mr Mayor! Had a good chat with Yermak last night. He was pleased with your phone call. Mentioned Z making a statement. Can we all get on the phone to make sure I advise Z correctly as to what he should be saying? Want to make sure we get this done right. Thanks!
- Gordon Sondland: Good idea Kurt. I am on Pacific time.
- Rudy Giuliani: Yes can you call now going to Fundraiser at 12:30
- [19,5:42:10 PM]Yermak to Volker: Once we have a date, will call for a press briefing, announcing upcoming visit and outlining vision for the reboot of US-UKRAINE relationship, including among other things Burisma and election meddling in investigations.
- [5:42:30 PM] Kurt Volker: Sounds great!
August 13: Volker “inserted . . . “two key items” into the statement for Zelenskyy to make. The two key items were “Burisma” and 2016 elections.” (Volker deposition)
According to Volker, the draft statement died because Rudy insisted that it mention Burisma and 2016 and the Ukrainians didn’t want to do that. He says he advised Ukrainians not to get “sucked in.” (he didn’t know about the contents of the July 25 phone call.) (Volker deposition)
Vindman testified that occasionally he talked to Ukrainian officials at the embassy and they’d ask, “What do we do about this situation?” He responded by saying, “it’s a domestic issue, stay out of U.S. domestic issues. It could fracture your bipartisan support.” (Vindman’s deposition.)
August 15: Bolton instructed Vindman to prepare a decision memo by this date (August 15) for Bolton and others in the administration to present a government-wide interagency argument to the President that he should release the assistance funds to Ukraine as soon as possible. (CNN reporting)
Kent recalls a conversation with Volker in which Volker said about the investigations, “Well, if there’s nothing there, what does it matter?” Kent explained that asking another country to investigate a prosecution for political reasons undermines our advocacy of the rule of law” and it “goes against everything that we are trying to promote in post-Soviet states for the last 28 years.” (Kent’s Deposition)
Aug. 16: Taylor learned that Yermak (advisor to Zelenskyy) asked the US to submit an official request for an investigation into Burisma’s alleged violation of Ukrainian law, if that’s what the US desired. (Taylor’s deposition)
[Narrator: Clever to ask for an official request? Put the blame on Trump, which of course Trump didn’t want. He wanted it to look like the Ukrainians targeted Biden “corruption” on their own.]
Also on August 16: Kent wrote a note to the file saying he had concerns that there was an effort to initiate politically motivated prosecution that were injurious to the rule of law, both Ukraine and the U.S.” Kent’s Deposition)
August 17: Volker learned that the DOJ had never put in an official request for an investigation. (Volker testimony)
By August 20, when the security aid had still not been released, there was panic at the DOJ as people scrambled to get the funds released. It seemed to Laura Cooper that someone would have to persuade the president that in fact Ukraine didn’t pose a corruption risk. (Cooper’s testimony)
She also testified that there are only two legal means for withholding aid after it has been appropriated by Congress: The president can issue a rescission notice to Congress, or the DOJ can initiate a reprogramming action. Neither of these were done. (Cooper’s testimony)
After the president raised concerns about corruption in Ukraine, the agencies and departments did not undertake another review of Ukraine because they believed sufficient progress had been made. This view was unanimous with the exception of the OMB. (Cooper’s testimony)
The public learned that security assistance to Ukraine was withheld from an August 28 Politico article.
Catherine Croft testified that Ukrainians knew the security aid was held up before that date. She was approached by two Ukrainians (about a week apart), but she wasn’t certain of the dates. (Croft’s statement)
August 28, exchange between Yermak and Volker:
- [8/29/19, 2:28:19 AM] Yermak: Need to talk with you
- [8/29/19, 3:06:14 AM] Yermak: https://www.politico.com/story/2019/08/28/trump-ub,aine-military-aid-russia- 1689531
- [The article is entitled, Trump Holds Up Ukraine Military Aid Meant to Confront Russia.]
- [8/29/19, 6:55:04 AM] Volker: Hi Andrey – absolutely. When is good for you?
Volker testified that when the Politico article appeared, it looked as if Ukraine was being singled out and penalized for something. (Volker deposition)
- [8/30/19,12:14:57 AM] Bill Taylor: Trip canceled
- [8/30/19,12:16:02 AM] Kurt Volker: Hope VPOTUS keeps the bilat- and tees up WH visit…
- [8/30/19,12:16:18 AM] Kurt Volker: And hope Gordon and Perry still going…
- [8/30/19, 5:31:14 AM] Gordon Sondland: I am going. Pompeo is speaking to Potus today to see if he can go.
Sept. 1: Zelenskyy met Pence in Warsaw. Also in Warsaw, Sondland told Zelenskyy’s advisor that the security assistance wouldn’t come until the Ukrainians committed to pursuing the Burisma investigation.(Taylor’s deposition)
Williams was present during the Pence-Zelensky meeting. She testified that Zelensky’s first question was about the security aid. Pence replied by asking about anti-corruption reform. Burisma and Biden were not mentioned. Later, Williams testified that “it was only later on through this process that I understand there were other conversations happening outside of what we would consider to be official diplomatic channels.” (Williams’ Deposition)
Morrison, who attended the meeting, described it as cordial. Pence conveyed support for what Zelensky was trying to do, and focussed on “Trump’s concerns” about corruption. No one mentioned the hold on the aid or the Bidens. (Morrison’s deposition).
At the 11-20 impeachment hearing, Sondland dropped the following bombshell: He came to believe that resumption of the security aid as well as the White House meeting would not occur until the Ukrainians committed to the investigations of 2016:
Morrison witnessed a discussion between Sondland and Yermak (Zelensky’s top advisor) and testified that Sondland said, “what could help them move the aid was if the prosecutor general would go to the mike and announce that he was opening the investigation.” Morrison understood that “investigation” meant Bidens and Burisma. (Morrison’s deposition).
Morrison contacted Bolton, Taylor, and the NSC lawyers to inform them about this conversation.
Bolton told Morrison to “stay out of it, brief the lawyers.” Morrison and Bolton were frustrated that Sondland’s direct boss (Pompeo) wasn’t reigning him in.
When Morrison told Taylor, Taylor then understood for the first time that security assistance—not just the meeting—was conditioned on an investigation. (Taylor’s deposition)
Sept. 1: After the conversation with Morrison, Taylor sought clarification from Sondland of the requirements for a White House visit:
- [9/1/19,12:08:57 PM] Bill Taylor: Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?
- [9/1/19,12:42:29 PM] Gordon Sondland: Call me.
Sondland told Congress that he wrote “call me,” not to avoid leaving a record, but because he preferred to talk on the phone. (Sondland’s statement.)
During the phone call that followed, Sondland said, “Trump wants Zelenskyy to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US election.” (Taylor’s deposition)
Sondland also said he made a mistake in telling Ukrainian officials that a White House meeting was dependent on such an announcement. In fact, Sondland now understood, “everything” was dependent on the announcement. Sondland said Trump wanted Zelenskyy in a “public box.” (Taylor’s deposition)
Taylor told Sondland this was wrong and asked him to “push back” against these improper requests. Sondland said he would try. (Taylor’s deposition)
Sondland said by this time he presumed that the aid suspension was linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement. (Sondland’s disposition.)
Sept 5: Taylor and two Senators, Johnson and Murphy, met with Zelenskyy in Kiev. Zelenskyy asked the Senators about the security assistance. Both Senators worried that if Zelenskyy was pulled into domestic politics, he risked losing bipartisan support in the US. (Taylor’s deposition)
Sept. 5: Sen. Murphy had been sounding the alarm about aid to Ukraine for a week or so:
Early September (Mark Sandy could not say precisely when) Trump asked for information about which other nations contributed to Ukraine’s security. This was the first anyone heard this floated as a justification for the hold on the aid. (Mark Sandy’s Deposition)
Sept. 7: Morrison testified that Trump told Sondland “that he was not asking for a quid pro quo” but Trump did insist that Zelensky go to a microphone and say he is opening investigations of Biden and 2016 election interference, and that Zelensky should do this himself.
The testimony was remarkably consistent. This was how Taylor relayed the conversation with Morrison. (Notice also zany use of the term ‘quid pro quo,’ which he introduced himself into the discussion.):
More zany use of ‘quid pro quo’:
Sept. 8: During a phone call between Sondland and Taylor, Sondland said he talked to the Ukrainians and they agreed to do a CNN interview. (Taylor’s deposition)
By early September, President Zelensky was ready to make a public announcement of the two investigations to secure a White House meeting and the military assistance his country desperately needed. He proceeded to book an interview on CNN during which he could make such an announcement, but other events soon intervened. (House Intelligence Committee Report)
Taylor then described a nightmare scenario: Zelensky goes out in public, makes an announcement that he is going to investigate Burisma and Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, which would take heat off himself and get his in big trouble with the citizens of Ukraine, and then the US still didn’t release the security aid. The Russians would love it. They’re paying attention to how much support America will provide Ukraine. The humiliation of Zelensky at the hands of the Americans would give the Russians a freer hand, and he would quit. (Taylor’s deposition)
Sondland (& later Volker) told Taylor on the phone that Trump was a businessman, and before a businessman signs a check, he asks that the person pay up. Taylor said that made no sense. The Ukrainians didn’t owe Trump anything and moreover , and holding up security assistance for domestic gain was “crazy.” (Taylor’s deposition)
- [9/9/19, 12:47:11 AM] Taylor to Sondland: As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.
In Sondland’s statement to Congress, he said he then called the president and asked, “What do you want from Ukraine.” The President responded, “Nothing. There is no quid pro quo.” The President repeated: “no quid pro quo” multiple times. [Note: Trump was the first to mention quid pro quo.] (Sondland’s Deposition)
Just Security pieced together the evidence and concluded that Sondland wasn’t telling the truth (he claimed he couldn’t be certain about the dates because he didn’t have access to his records) and in fact, this call did not take place on September 9, in response to Taylor’s question. It happened on Sept. 7, in response to negotiations happening in Warsaw. This call was so alarming that it sent Morrison and Bolton running to the lawyers. (See the Just Security piece)
Sondland then responded with:
- [9/9/19, 5:19:35 AM] Sondland: 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 Zelenskyy promised during his campaign I suggest we stop the back and forth by text If you still have concerns I recommend you give Lisa Kenna or S a call to discuss them directly. Thanks.
- [9/19/19: 5:25] Sondland: Morrison ready to get dates as soon as Yermak confirms. (Volker deposition)
Volker said, “I believe this referent to Yermak confirming that President Zelenskyy was going to make a statement along the lines we had discussed in that other exchange. . . A statement about Ukraine’s commitment to fighting corruption and investigating things that happened in the past . . they had this question discussed earlier about whether it would specifically mention Burisma and 2016 or not. (Volker deposition)
Volker testified that Giuliani wanted Burisma and investigations into the 2016 elections included. (Volker deposition)
September 9, the Inspector General informed the Intelligence Committee that the Whistleblower’s Complaint had made its way to the White House. (House Intelligence Committee Report)
September 9: The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and Reform announced an investigation into a Trump-Giuliani scheme to pressure Ukraine to help Trump in his re-election bid. (House Intelligence Committee Report)
September 11: The White House informed Senators that it was releasing the Ukraine military assistance it had been withholding.
Sept. 12: Taylor sought to make sure that Zelenskyy would not give such an interview to CNN. (Taylor’s deposition)
September 13: Taylor met with Zelenskyy and one of his officials. There was still no scheduled White House meeting. He had the feeling Zelensky’s official, Yermak, still thought they needed to do the interview, and Taylor was afraid they’d do it. He advised them not to because they might lose bi-partisan support in the US. (Taylor’s testimony)
Also on September 13: The public learned about the existence of the Whistleblower’s Complaint when Schiff issued a subpoena for the compliant.
September 29: Volker resigned because he wanted to be able to offer candid testimony and because he no longer felt he could be effective in his role. (Volker deposition)
October 10: Michael McKinley, senior advisor to secretary of state Mike Pompeo resigned because, after working to keep the United States secure, he could no longer participate in America diplomacy after seeing “emerging information on the engagement of our missions to procure negative political information for domestic purposes. . . ” (McKinley deposition.)
McKinley also testified that in 37 years of foreign service, he had never seen efforts to use the State Department to dig up dirt on a political opponent.” (McKinley deposition.)
Interesting undated tidbits:
A top White House official told Kent that “Sondland lies about conversations that occur in the Oval Office.” (Kent’s Deposition)
Another interesting tidbit: “It was clear to me that Ambassador [Gordon] Sondland had a direct connection with Chief of Staff Mulvaney,” circumventing national security staff. (Kent’s Deposition)
Hill issued a warning to Republicans regarding their “conspiracy theories.” She said:
The story continues here.