A trove of emails obtained by the Wall Street Journal seems to confirm that a large-scale effort to get Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch investigations on Joe and Hunter Biden was put together well-before a July 25 phone conversation between him and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Emails from EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland and sent to high-ranking officials in the Trump administration demonstrate that an effort to get Ukraine to begin investigations that would benefit the president politically, led in large part by a backchannel diplomacy plot by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, were already in full-swing long before that phone call took place.
The emails seem to confirm testimonies of several depositions given by witnesses to the impeachment inquiry over the course of the past several weeks, Axios reported. Prior to the discovery of emails, a large complaint by Trump was that many of the testimonies were from people with “secondhand” knowledge of his words or actions, although some witnesses like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman were direct witnesses with firsthand knowledge of certain events.
With the emails being discovered, the testimonies of those with only secondhand understanding of what happened are strengthened.
In one of the emails pre-dating the July 25 phone conversation, Sondland reveals that Zelensky had been prepped on what Trump would demand of him.
“I talked to Zelensky just now. He is prepared to receive [Trump’s] call. [Zelensky will] assure him that he intends to run a fully transparent investigation and will ‘turn over every stone,'” Sondland wrote.
The emails are important, according to MSNBC host Ari Melber, because the House GOP defense of Trump so far has hinged on the belief that an investigation came about in a natural way with Zelensky, not in a coordinated and pre-planned effort by Trump surrogates.
New: Emails reviewed by @WSJ show that in the lead-up to the Trump-Zelensky call, Sondland kept officials including Mulvaney apprised of the push for investigations. Mulvaney replied that he would schedule the call—which he then didn’t listen in on.https://t.co/LtfXeg2SBe
— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) November 17, 2019
Republicans have suggested “this was just something that was kind of unfolding in front of the president, that Trump wasn’t pushing a planned bribery-conspiracy to get something from Ukraine, but things just popped up” in front of him, Melber said.
“These newly-leaked emails…they offer contemporaneous evidence that these top Trump officials were prepping, and coordinating, and executing the premeditated plan to” push investigations on the Bidens, Melber added.
Sondland is set to testify later this week to House impeachment inquiry investigators.