Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.
Two of President Donald Trump’s top envoys to Ukraine drafted a statement in August committing that country to open an investigation involving Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, The New York Times reports.
The statement was drawn up by U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, the newspaper reported Thursday.
Volker answered questions in a private session with U.S. House committees Thursday after being named in the whistleblower complaint about Trump’s July telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
During that call, Trump asked Zelenskiy to open a corruption probe into Biden and his son, Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
Trump alleges that as U.S. vice president, Joe Biden pressured Ukrainian prosecutors to halt an earlier investigation into the gas company.
What statement sought
According to The New York Times, the statement would have obligated Ukraine to again investigate the energy company. It would also commit Ukraine to looking into Trump’s allegations that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election to benefit Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
The Times says Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and a top Zelenskiy aide were aware of the statement, but it is unclear whether Zelenskiy ever saw it. It is also unclear who asked the two diplomats to write it.
It is not known if the statement came up during Volker’s session with lawmakers.
But reports say Volker did present committee members with a text in which another U.S. diplomat, Bill Taylor, said last month he believes “It’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
Taylor was referring to Trump’s decision to withhold $400 million in badly needed military aid to Ukraine. The Democrats’ impeachment inquiry will look at whether Trump was holding the money until Ukraine agreed to dig up dirt on the Bidens in order to benefit his re-election.
Volker is also said to have told the lawmakers that he warned the Ukrainians not to get mixed up in U.S. politics.
China not likely to get involved
Trump Thursday called on China to also investigate the Bidens, alleging Hunter Biden persuaded China to invest more than $1 billion in a fund he was starting while Joe Biden was still vice president.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden in either Ukraine or China, and analysts say there is almost no chance Beijing will accede to Trump’s demand for an investigation.
A Chinese official said Beijing has a long-standing policy to never meddle in another country’s internal affairs.
“We trust that the American people are capable of sorting out their own affairs,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last week.
Also Thursday, the Pentagon said it will hand over all documents and communications related to Trump’s postponement of military aid to Ukraine to the general counsel’s office.
“My understanding is this is a fairly standard practice that when there is a significant level of congressional or IG interest in a matter,” a Pentagon spokesman said.
The spokesman said no one in the Pentagon was part of the July Trump-Zelenskiy phone call that set off the whistleblower’s complaint.