Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky felt pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to open controversial investigations, even before he took control of his current office after winning election earlier this year.
At least three sources confirmed to the Associated Press on Wednesday that Zelensky held a meeting with his advisers on May 7 to discuss the situation with Trump. That meeting had originally been scheduled to discuss energy policy in Ukraine, but quickly moved into questions of how to respond to requests from Trump, as well as from his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, to investigate Trump’s potential 2020 political foe Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, the Associated Press reported.
That meeting took place almost three weeks before Zelensky was officially sworn into office as Ukraine’s president.
The three sources could not agree on whether Trump, who congratulated Zelensky on April 21 after his election win, put pressure on Zelensky to investigate Biden (as well as the conspiracy-theory based issue of a supposed DNC server existing in the country) during that phone call, or if it came about after the congratulatory call. Still, the new reporting from the AP suggests that Trump, Giuliani, and perhaps others, were pressuring Zelensky to open those inquiries sometime between April 21 and May 7.
The pressure on Zelensky from Trump, as well as the allegations of a quid pro quo tying those investigations to military aid that was suspended by the U.S. to help Ukraine defend its borders against Russian encroachment, are the subject matters of an impeachment inquiry being led by Democrats in the House of Representatives.
AP: Zelensky met with advisers on May 7 to discuss how to navigate investigation requests from Trump and Rudy Giuliani.
NYT: Ukrainian officials were aware by August that Trump was withholding military aid. https://t.co/TUUnHKVgvc
— Zach Basu (@zacharybasu) October 23, 2019
Early in Zelensky’s tenure, the new Ukrainian president did indeed take steps to combat corruption in his nation, according to testimony given this week by acting Ukraine Ambassador Bill Taylor.
“President Zelensky was taking over Ukraine in a hurry. He had appointed reformist ministers and supported long-stalled anti-corruption legislation,” Taylor said.
Zelensky even took steps that didn’t benefit him politically. “With his new parliamentary majority, President Zelensky changed the Ukrainian constitution to remove absolute immunity” for his party’s deputies, “which had been the source of raw corruption for two decades,” Taylor added.
None of those actions, however, seemed to be enough for Trump — the U.S. president reportedly wanted Zelensky “in a public box,” going on the record stating he was opening an investigation into Trump’s political rivals, prior reporting from HillReporter.com detailed.