Hitting the Fan: Volker’s Text Messages Released

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! ~Rayne]

Around 10:00 p.m. last night, House Democrats released partial transcripts of text messages between former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker and other officials, including:

William B. “Bill” Taylor, Charge d’Affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine;
Gordon Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union;
Andrey Yermak, Aide to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky;
Rudy Giuliani, in his role as Trump’s agent;

and others.

The specific texts released had already been “leaked” out of context, according to the cover letter accompanying the partial transcripts sent to members of the Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs Committees, subsequently shared at the Foreign Affairs Committee’s website.

You can read the letter and transcript at this link.

The transcripts suggest the entire State Department knew about the quid pro quo — the release of delayed military and financial assistance in exchange for investigations intended to aid Trump’s personal political aims including re-election. The quid pro quo also looks obvious:

Only one person recognized this effort as problematic: Bill Taylor, who assumed some of the responsibilities of recalled ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

There’s more than one quid pro quo outlined in the transcripts, not readily acknowledged in the media. Less obvious is the trade-off of an agreement to a scripted statement in exchange for an invitation to visit the White House. Such a visit would be a validation of support for Zelensky’s young presidency and a thumb in the eye to Vladimir Putin, bolstering Zelensky’s image with Ukraine’s public.

Community member harpie pointed to a statement on camera at 8:28 AM on August 9 by Trump which fits in the middle of the negotiations, suggesting Trump was fully aware of the exchange.

TRUMP: I think he’s [Zelensky] going to make a deal with President Putin, and he will be invited to the White House, and we look forward to seeing him. He’s already been invited to the White House and he wants to come. And I think he will. He’s a very reasonable guy. He wants to see peace in Ukraine. And I think he will be coming very soon, actually.

(source: Aaron Rupar)

The transcripts suggest that Zelensky’s aide/adviser Yermak has been identified as ethically flexible — amenable to this quid pro quo and willing to present it to Zelensky. Yermak’s background is in film/TV production, similar to several of Zelensky’s administration. Only a couple of Zelensky’s team appear to be lawyers, one of which has been barred from holding public office (Andriy Bohdan, appointed to equivalent of Chief of Staff). In the text messages Yermak appears to keep Zelensky at arm’s length from the negotiations, but this may be due to the limited amount of texts released; Zelensky may have been wholly involved on a more direct basis.

~ ~ ~

Compounding the pressure on House Dems to act is Trump’s increasingly overt behavior, asking China yesterday on camera to investigate both of his 2020 political rivals, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

China has now issued a statement in response:

Now that we know how this works in Trumplandia, we can interpret the unexpressed portion of this statement: China will not interfere in U.S. domestic affairs and the U.S. should not interfere in China’s domestic affairs — including Hong Kong.

We can only wonder at what else was in the text transcripts not yet disclosed, and how Trump will react if yesterday was just the beginning act of this program.

75 replies
  1. William Bennett says:

    I kinda think the NYT Editorial on the effect of normalizing this kind of operation is worth considering. If these are the new rules—inviting everyone to interfere in our elections—then let’s all play. Cuz if that happens, there’s not much reason to expect that Trump is the one who’s going to benefit.

    But, as they say, don’t hate the player, hate the game. And if those are the new rules, let’s bring in some players who’ve been sitting on the sidelines.

    Europe, get on over here. At latest count, 70 percent of the population in 25 European countries surveyed “lack confidence in Trump to do the right thing regarding world affairs.” Oomph. Not exactly swing voters.

    If the European Union is serious about representing the will of its people, its leaders would put their considerable economic, law enforcement and intelligence resources behind an effort to investigate Mr. Trump for any and all potential wrongdoing connected with his global business empire. After all, the American people deserve to know if their president is a crook.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      As usual these days, the NYT is flat out wrong. Wordplay over whether to object to a player or the game is infantile, not least because nothing about this is a game.

      The correct role for EU members and other foreign states is to abstain from direct involvement in American domestic political squabbles. That’s the correct role for the US regarding their domestic conflicts.

      The correct role for the American president – indeed, the only legal route available to him – is to abstain from asking foreign governments for help in his re-election.

      Reasonable cooperation in legitimate law enforcement investigations is appropriate. But it does not take an entire State Dept. team to arrange cooperation concerning legitimate criminal investigations for which there is already probable cause. It does take one to arrange a political hit job involving extorting cooperation in exchange for taxpayer aid.

      • William Bennett says:

        The correct role for EU members and other foreign states is to abstain from direct involvement in American domestic political squabbles.

        Well yes, of course, but there’s an implicit /s tag around that editorial. Sorry if that wasn’t obvious from the bit I quoted.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          It wasn’t and thanks for the added context.

          The NYT’s blocks browsers in private mode. It prevented readers from reading their recent special edition on threats to viewer privacy. It seems they tossed overboard their sense of irony along with their ombudsperson.

        • alfredlordbleep says:

          Footnoted: opinion piece was by a member of nyt’s editorial board as contrasted with an effusion of the editorial board.

    • Rugger9 says:

      But, I suspect Vlad has a copy and is willing to dangle it to keep Individual-1 in line. On these kinds of things there is never only one copy and even if the Palace thought there was, there is a reason Putin was good enough at his tradecraft to rise to a colonel’s rank in the spy agency. He knows kompromat very, very well.

  2. OldTulsaDude says:

    “Pulp Faction”

    Bill Taylor: Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigation?

    Gordon Sondland: Are you calling me on the cellular phone? I don’t know you. Who is this? Don’t come here, I’m hanging up the phone! Prank caller, prank caller!

      • bmaz says:

        Seriously, where do you come up with this ignorant crap? Provide cites, or stop. You are making yourself look like a dope.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      I realize that Rayne is not a big fan of Morning Joe (or as she calls it, Morning Ho), but there was a good comment on this a.m.

      Taylor was a US Dept of State employee of many years, with a lot of experience in this region.

      Sondland owns a bunch of hotels (sound familiar?) and basically bought his way into his position via Trump campaign donations.

      So here’s hoping that the media makes a LOT more clear, “Which of these people has a career in public service, without too many think-tank, lobbying, etc connections”, as opposed to those more corrupt folks who bought their way onto Team Trump and are completely transactional. This is more evidence that Rick Wilson is correct: #ETTD [Everything Trump Touches Dies].

      • Rayne says:

        I don’t think I’ve ever called Scarborough ‘Morning Ho’ but I am amused by the appellation’s fit.

        Excellent point about the schism between a career diplomat and a political appointee. Grates on me reading Sondland’s texts in which he sounds so dismissive when Taylor knows what is happening isn’t rational or lawful.

        • Americana says:

          The fact what Trump and Co. are doing is illegal is precisely why Sondland was trying to shut down any mention of illegality. Sondland was trying to suppress the creation of any email trails that discussed their actions and identified the illegality. This was like a reverse-Nixon move — if they’re NOT on tape, then it can’t be illegal.

          • Rayne says:

            Are you commenting to hear yourself think? We can see this. It’s what makes everything we can’t see deserve more scrutiny.

            Swear to gods the content published by username Americana is OpenAI’s text generator.

            • Americana says:

              My comment is different from earlofhuntingdon’s in what way? Text generators abound:

              earlofhuntingdon says:
              October 4, 2019 at 12:36 pm
              Gordon Sondland is a poster child for why US presidents should stop appointing mega-millionaire bidnessmen to important diplomatic posts. He’s a hotelier. What he knows about diplomacy is giving rich guests whatever they want, keeping their secrets, and amply charging for it.

              Sondland hopes his language is vague and exculpatory. Instead, it underlines what he wants to hide with a Sharpie and shouts his guilty knowledge.

              • bmaz says:

                You are barking up the wrong tree, and have been for a long while, if not the start.

                Go back and study the First Rule of Holes. And then stop digging; it is not a winning plan here.

                • Americana says:

                  As far as I know from other news sites, moderators do not consider themselves to be writing coaches.

                  I was the first poster on empty wheel to mention several news items and had posts of mine related to same ridiculed because you didn’t agree w/the content. For instance, I posted several times links to video interviews of Sidney Powell that indicated how and why she was pursuing the legal strategy she was pursuing in Flynn’s case. My recollection is that you ridiculed my assessment of Powell’s actions because Flynn had already agreed to a plea deal. As if there was nothing Powell could do legally because the plea deal tied her hands. Yet it was clear from the video interviews I’d posted that indicated what Powell was doing. Months later, someone else posts those same video links…

                  Same thing for your rudeness over my being a search dog handler with live find and cadaver dogs. If you’d bothered to phone an FBI office or your local K9 police officer or researched the matter on line, you would have discovered that civilians like me are the K9 handlers most often called out for lost persons, dead/murdered persons, etc. because police K9s aren’t trained for such. We’ve got three dogs on my team who’ve been called out for FBI cases and been flown to other states for searches for murder victims.

                  • bmaz says:

                    Okay, Americana, thank you for establishing once again that you are a scold troll. First off, this is not “other news sites”. Do not make the mistake of thinking we are.

                    Secondly, your slurping of Sid Powell’s asinine, and arguably malpracticing, arguments on Flynn was shit in your first instance, and remains shit now.

                    Thirdly, search dogs are, at best, potential probable cause for further investigation. That is at best. They do not factually establish squat. Your lionization of your “team” strikes me as bullshit, as does your claim to be a key FBI participant, that is not how they work generally. But, hey, I do not know you, all I have to go by is decades of dealing with dog evidence in courts.

                    Thanks for the input, and thank you for confirming every problem we have had with you, from the start, “Americana”.

  3. SomeGuyInMaine says:

    Individual 1:[waving a gun at bank tellers] Please put all the small bills in the sacks clearly marked ‘Not a bank robbery.’

    Individual 2: This looks like a bank robbery.

    Individual 1: Can’t you read?! It’s clearly not a bank robbery. You know it and I know it.

    Individual 2: When we talked on the phone yesterday you said ‘crime’ and ‘bank robbery.’

    Individual 1: it’s crime when you do it, not when I do it. Besides, I didn’t do anything wrong. It was a perfect bank visit. Perfect. If you can’t see that, I think you hate America.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Gordon Sondland is a poster child for why US presidents should stop appointing mega-millionaire bidnessmen to important diplomatic posts. He’s a hotelier. What he knows about diplomacy is giving rich guests whatever they want, keeping their secrets, and amply charging for it.

    Sondland hopes his language is vague and exculpatory. Instead, it underlines what he wants to hide with a Sharpie and shouts his guilty knowledge.

    • Sandwichman says:

      The five hour gap before that “crystal clear” “not a quid pro quo” response indicates to me that Sondland consulted with someone higher up in the meantime.

  5. joel fisher says:

    Suggesting that there is something to “probe” in the Ukraine is a slap in the face to Hitler Youth Trey Gowdy. Gowdy, Hero of Benghazi, spent years in the GOP/Nazi trenches with his merry band of GOP fascists investigating everything that possibly could have been investigated. If there was something, or more often nothing, to look at Gowdy’s HJC was all over it like ugly on an ape. If Joe Biden had mis-spelled the word “Ukraine” in a 3rd grade spelling bee, Gowdy would have held hearings. And now, to say that this lying piece of shit wasn’t working hard enough at making shit up to investigate is just too much for me. I think someone needs to come to Gowdy’s defense and say he did every evil thing that could possibly have been done and deserves the congratulations of scum everywhere.

    • Frank Probst says:

      The other thing that’s worth pointing out about Taylor is that, while Rayne correctly lists his current title as “Charge d’Affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine”, he’s the ONLY one involved who has actually BEEN the Ambassador to Ukraine (from 2006-2009), and he’s currently functioning as the acting-Ambassador to Ukraine. The MSM are titling all of these guys as “Ambassador” (except Rudy and the Ukrainians), without pointing out that none of them is the Ambassador TO UKRAINE. Volker hasn’t been an Ambassador for about a decade, and he was never Ambassador to Ukraine. Sondland is Ambassador to the EU, so you can see how his official role would include SOME dealings with Ukraine, but Ukraine isn’t in formally a part of the EU, and Sondland has never been Ambassador to any multinational group that includes Ukraine.

  6. sand says:

    The FEC has twice officially clarified that soliciting foreign help while running for public office is a violation of federal election law. https://t.co/K6phZRex8k.

    Trump officially announced his 2020 campaign for the presidency in June. He is officially running for public office.
    https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Donald_Trump_2020_presidential_campaign

    The FEC statement makes clear that solicitation itself violates the law. Have any democratic candidates or concerned citizens filed a complaint with the FEC yet over Thursday’s remarks?

    “Complaints: Potential violations may be brought to the Commission’s attention through the complaint process. This process enables anyone to file a sworn complaint alleging violations and explaining the basis for the allegations.” https://www.fec.gov/legal-resources/enforcement/

    What sanctions might the FEC impose on “Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.?” *

    * proposed d/b/a “Eschaton Enterprises”

    • P J Evans says:

      He filed the papers for re-election fundraising on 21 Jan 2017, so that may be the starting date you want to use.

    • Rayne says:

      They might be able to do that had not a GOP FEC commissioner exited recently, leaving the commission without a quorum.

      Would be nice to see people pummel McConnell for failing to press Trump for a replacement. Instead they let Turtlehead get away with throwing a measly $250M at the election security problem.

  7. JamesJoyce says:

    Communist in China investigating American capitalists living in America at the behest of corporate fascist president who cuts deals with Putin, while strong arming a Ukrainian leader for political stove-piping purposes…

    Glad we have a Town Form of Government and vote at Town Meeting. Everybody knows everybody. The problems only present during votes using private ballot

    That is when dead people vote. Ghosts…

    • Rayne says:

      Communist in China investigating American capitalists living in America at the behest of corporate fascist president who cuts deals with Putin,

      I don’t know where you came up with this. My post says China isn’t doing that.

  8. punaise says:

    Volker-ies are State Dept. figures who choose those who may lie and babble, and those who may leave. The Volker-ies take their chosen to the afterlife hall of the lame, Valhal-a-Lago, ruled over by the dog Odie.

    (thanks Wikipedia!)

  9. Vicks says:

    I own a small biz and most of our vendors just hit us with an across the board (steel) tariff charges of 5-10%. Effective 10/15/19
    This is the second one, the first time they incorporated the tax into (sudden) price increases.
    We will end up eating the charge on almost all of our existing estimates that close after the effective date.
    If I put on a Republican “party” hat, am I supposed to wish that “Communists in China” DO investigate our former vice president as Trump has requested if it will remove these tariffs?
    Of course I’m being sarcastic, but even pretending to put my interests and “the economy” ahead of my country and free elections is sickening.
    Americans voted for Trump because they wanted him to run the country the way he runs his businesses.
    Does the average Trump supporter even know what they are talking about?

    • SomeGuyInMaine says:

      His supporters believe you aren’t paying the tariffs, China is, and they are paying it to the US government. (Trade wars are easy to win. Remember?). No vendor price rises are going to convince them otherwise.

      Might I interest you in a Trump University Economics degree?

      • Vicks says:

        I’m still working on the details* but it’s going to be a line item charge that clearly states “steel tariff” so I will do my part to educate at least a handful of business people.
        Some of our vendors did try to tough it out as the cost of doing business, as I said others incorporated into prices increases that were a bit larger than normal but not enough to fully cover both.

        *I need to figure out the terms of removing it from their order. Vendors say 30 days from the time tariffs are lifted, but we are further down the chain… I have several snarky descriptions but need something usable.

  10. Peterr says:

    In that second screenshot of the transcript above, with the exchange between Taylor and Sondland, there’s a gap of just over 30 minutes between Taylor’s very direct question and Sondland’s very CYA-ing response. I’d really like to know who Sondland talked to during those 30 minutes.

    And I suspect Adam Schiff et al. would really really like to know that as well.

    • Rayne says:

      I was yelling about that gap even as I typed it. If he didn’t talk to Taylor was he simply being a passive-aggressive dick by not responding prompty? Sondland just reeks.

      • Peterr says:

        I strongly suspect he was talking to someone at the White House before he sent that message.

        Sondland: “Uh, here’s what Taylor just said . . . in writing. What do I do to put the toothpaste back in the tube?”

        WH lawyer type: “Let’s start by not putting things in writing. Tell him to call you, and then here’s what to say . . .”

  11. Chetnolian says:

    It’s late here and I might be getting tired but has anyone commented on the fact that when Taylor asked the key question the answer from Sondland was “Call me”, as in “stop putting this down in a text someone might get to read”. Sounds like he knew he was getting into trouble.

    • Americana says:

      The only good thing to come out of Taylor quitting will be his testimony before Congress about why he quit when Sondland told him to stop questioning Trump’s actions and Trump’s team’s actions.

      No matter how hard Trump tries, he simply can’t erase enough of the details of these illegal actions to hide them. The details are hidden in all the different strata of government. It’s like finding bits and pieces of a dinosaur fossil. You find a huge femur email that reveals the overall size of the dinosaur. Then you find bones indicating which way the rest of the dinosaur may be embedded in the rock. You keep digging and digging. And digging.

      If enough whistleblower’s come forward, it’s going to be possible to put this dinosaur together because there are only so many Trump acolytes in the system. Trump’s cover-up is truncated by gaps in his system of flunkies. Thankfully, some of the most glaring gaps are places in the gov’t chain where Trump’s actions are analyzed as to what they are and why he took them.

      • bmaz says:

        Another pile of blog clogging nothing. You, despite months of the proprietors of this blog try their best to nurse you along, are still ill informed, naive, and conclusory based on your ill informed and naive status. And that is only on the most cogent of comments others here see, they do not see the rest where you are, at best, a run on the mouth, overly verbose, troll.

  12. Stacey Lyn says:

    Jimmy Kimmel called this saga “Trump’s Monica Zelensky” the other night. Priceless!

    (And I do NOT mean any disrespect to the real Monica who had one of the best interviews of a public figure I’ve seen with John Oliver not that long ago in which she discusses being this character in our collective little mellow drama.)

  13. Goodgulf says:

    Hey, where’s my Bored of the Rings quote?

    Yesterday I added the comment “The fewmets have hit the windmill” and a search on this page doesn’t find it.


    • bmaz says:

      WTF? Here’s the fuck: You did it under a different name, so you are already sock puppeting this blog before your first comment was approved. That is not allowed. Secondly, I had no idea what in the world “fewmets” are, and your putative comment looked very much like trolling from someone who has never appeared here before. That is not allowed either. So don’t “WTF” me.

      • Goodgulf says:

        fair enough, “What gives?” would have been more appropriate. My bad.

        I did it under a different name because the only reason I could think of for rejecting the original comment was the use of the word “bugger” in the name.

        If you don’t know what “fewmets” are, looking it up is always an option. I also suggest you give “Bored of the Rings” a try, it’s a great read by the Harvard Lampoon.

        And hey, this site does great work, so my bad on implying otherwise

Comments are closed.