Text messages show alarm over Trump’s Ukraine plan

Text messages released by Democrats in Congress reveal how US officials worked to push the Ukrainian president into opening a public inquiry into President Trump’s leading opponent, Joe Biden.

The messages come as Mr Trump faces a formal impeachment inquiry about it.

The exchanges show a senior diplomat saying it would be “crazy” to withhold military aid to Ukraine for Mr Trump’s political gain in the 2020 election.

US law bans soliciting foreign help for electoral purposes.

But Mr Trump denies any wrongdoing and, on Thursday, publicly called on Ukraine and China to investigate Mr Biden and his son Hunter over their political and business dealings, even though he has not offered specific evidence of misconduct.

He accuses his opponents of a “witch hunt”.

Impeachment in the US House of Representatives would lead to a trial in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Senators would have to vote to convict Mr Trump by a two-thirds majority to remove him from office.

The impeachment inquiry stems from a July 25 call in which Mr Trump asked President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his rival.

The wide-ranging text message discussions are connected to allegations by the Democrats that Mr Trump dangled military aid as a way to press Ukraine to dig dirt on Mr Biden.

Sent between July and September, they involve high-ranking officials Kurt Volker, Mr Trump’s Ukraine envoy who resigned a week ago, Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, and a significant donor to Mr Trump and Bill Taylor, a top US diplomat at the US embassy in Ukraine.

On July19, the three diplomats discussed arranging a phone call between Mr Zelensky and Mr Trump.

Mr Volker told the other two he had had breakfast with Mr Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani that morning – and identified the main purpose of the upcoming phone call.

“Most impt [important] is for Zelensky to say that he will help the investigation,” he told the others.

But Bill Taylor, the senior US diplomat in Ukraine, warned that President Zelensky “is sensitive” about Ukraine being seen “as an instrument in Washington domestic, re-election politics”.

Ahead of the call, Mr Volker texted that he had heard from the White House that Mr Zelensky would be offered a formal visit to Washington “assuming President Z convinces Trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened in 2016′”. -BBC

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