What we already know about President Trump’s betrayal deals a severe blow to our national security, jeopardizes the integrity of our elections, and corrodes the very foundations of our democracy.
Here’s what you need to know.
TRUMP'S BETRAYAL: WHO'S WHO
Giuliani has carried out Trump’s “shadow foreign policy” in Ukraine, hijacking U.S. foreign policy on behalf of Trump’s personal interests.
Giuliani joined Trump’s team of personal lawyers defending him in the Mueller investigation, and has been “investigating” in Ukraine since last year.
At times on his own and in other instances consulting with U.S. government officials, Giuliani has met with Ukrainians to urge them to dig up “dirt” on the President’s political opponents in an effort to help Trump win the 2020 election. He also pressured Ukraine to investigate a long-debunked conspiracy that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that was responsible for attacks on our elections in 2016 — a falsehood that would benefit Trump and Russia at Ukraine’s expense.
And Giuliani did it all under orders from Trump, who urged the newly-elected President of Ukraine, Zelensky, to “do us a favor” and pursue these investigations by working with Giuliani.
Giuliani has said he went to Ukraine because was trying to undermine the beginnings of the Mueller investigation and protect Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who is currently in prison after being convicted of tax fraud linked to his business dealings in Ukraine.
Manafort was found guilty of conspiring to hide millions of dollars that he had been paid by corrupt Ukrainian politicians aligned with Russia during the Yanukovych presidency.
STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIALS
Yovanovitch is a highly-regarded career diplomat who was abruptly recalled from her post as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine in May. At the time, the State Department said she was ending her term a few months earlier than planned, but during Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky, Trump called her “bad news” and said that she was “going to go through some things.”
Earlier this year, Yovanovitch gave a speech critical of former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko’s limited efforts to fight corruption in Ukraine. In retaliation, Poroshenko’s Prosecutor General, Yuriy Lutsenko, claimed that she had provided him with a list of people he was not allowed to target, though he later recanted this accusation.
Giuliani seized on the story to tout the debunked conspiracy that Yovanovitch had played a role in leaking Manafort’s wrongdoing in Ukraine. He then pushed for her removal, and claimed she was dismissed for “efforts against the President.” In her October 11 testimony to Congress, Yovanovitch said it was her understanding she was targeted by Giuliani.
Taylor, a widely-respected career foreign service officer and former Ambassador to Ukraine during the George W. Bush administration, has been the chargé d’affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine since Yovanovitch was recalled in May.
In text messages provided to Congress, he questioned Volker and Sondland’s position toward Zelensky. After news that the US was withholding military aid to Ukraine broke, Taylor texted: “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?”
A week later, days before the aid was finally released, Taylor wrote, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
A hotel owner who spent $1 million on Trump’s’s inauguration, Sondland was appointed by Trump to serve as his U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.
Although the State Department initially tried to block his testimony, Sondland appeared before Congress on October 17, and said that Giuliani told him Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate both the 2016 election and a natural gas firm tied to Hunter Biden.
Texts with Volker and Taylor show Sondland’s efforts to orchestrate a pressure campaign against Ukraine at Trump’s direction. He additionally told Congress that he called Trump before texting Taylor that there was “no quid pro quo” at work in Ukraine.
As U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine, Volker assisted Giuliani’s efforts to ensure a Ukrainian investigation into Biden.
In text messages provided to Congress by Volker, he told a Ukrainian official that a meeting between Trump and Zelensky was tied to Ukraine’s agreement to investigate the 2016 U.S. election. He later pressured Ukraine to issue a public statement announcing investigations into Hunter Biden and the 2016 election.
The State Department has acknowledged that Volker put Giuliani in touch with Ukrainian officials.
Volker resigned on September 27, and testified to Congress on October 3.
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS
In the July 25 phone call with Zelensky, Trump directed Zelensky to work with Barr to investigate his political opponents.
It was not the first time Trump had asked Barr to do his bidding with a foreign power: reporting has revealed that Barr traveled around the world to push the United Kingdom, Italy and Australia to corroborate Trump’s conspiracy theories.
Even at home, Barr has been all too willing to do Trump’s bidding. On receipt of the whistleblower complaint, Barr refused to recuse himself – even though he was mentioned in the complaint – and rushed to decide that he would not open a criminal investigation related to the call or transmit the complaint to the Federal Elections Commission, as required by law.
After finally confirming — after repeated refusals — that he was among the administration officials who listened in on the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky, Pompeo attempted to prevent State Department officials from testifying in the House impeachment inquiry.
Previously, Pompeo did nothing to prevent Trump’s disparagement of Marie Yovanovitch, who Trump removed without cause from her post as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.
Mulvaney enlisted Sondland, Volker, and Perry to take over U.S. relations with Ukraine on behalf of Trump, directed the withholding of $400 million in vital security assistance to Ukraine, and told Sondland that Zelensky’s coveted White House meeting was dependent on Ukraine pursuing Trump’s politically motivated investigations.
On October 17, Mulvaney confirmed Trump’s quid pro quo on camera, admitting that the administration wanted Ukraine to look into an unsubstantiated right-wing conspiracy theory about the hacked DNC computer server in exchange for assistance and a meeting.
Told that he had just described a quid pro quo, Mulvaney said, “We do that all the time with foreign policy. Get over it.”
Perry was the lead U.S. official present at Zelensky’s inauguration in May. Sondland referred to himself, Volker, and Perry as the “Three Amigos” on Ukraine policy.
Perry resigned after being blamed by Trump for setting up his call with Zelensky. Trump told Republicans on October 5 that Perry wanted him to discuss “something about LNG [liquefied natural gas] plants.” At the time, Perry was attempting to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s gas company, Naftogaz.
Pence was set to attend Zelensky’s inauguration in May, but Trump instructed Perry to lead the delegation instead. Pence eventually did sit down with Zelensky in Poland on September 1.
When asked whether he could assure Ukraine that the delay in military assistance was unrelated to efforts to dig up dirt on the Biden family, he did not answer directly and referred to “great concerns about issues of corruption.”
On September 15, Trump urged reporters to review Pence’s interactions with Zelensky, saying, “I think you should ask for Vice President Pence’s conversation, because he had a couple conversations, too.”
As Trump’s former top Russia advisor, Hill stepped down from her position as Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs on the National Security Council in August, just days after Trump’s call with Zelensky.
On October 14, she testified to Congress that she confronted Sondland about Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine, which were not coordinated with the appropriate officials.
Bolton resigned (or, according to Trump, was fired) from his position as Trump’s third National Security Adviser in September.
Bolton’s aide Fiona Hill told Congress that Bolton was suspicious of why aid to Ukraine was being held up, and angry about Giuliani’s attempts to pressure Ukraine for political help. According to Hill, he referred to the shadow diplomacy being conducted in Ukraine as Giuliani’s “drug deal” and told Hill to notify the National Security Council’s chief lawyer.
As Director of European Affairs at the National Security Council, Vindman—a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army and a Purple Heart recipient—reported to Fiona Hill and listened in on Trump’s call with Zelensky.
On October 29, Vindman testified to Congress that he was told a meeting between Zelensky and Trump depended upon Ukraine launching specific investigations. Vindman twice reported his concerns about this arrangement, which he viewed as harmful to U.S. foreign policy, to a National Security Council lawyer.
Mass protests led to Yanukovych fleeing Ukraine for Russia in 2014. This set the stage for Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, as well as the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine.
Poroshenko is the previous President of Ukraine, succeeded by Zelensky in 2019. As President, Poroshenko slow-rolled anti-corruption efforts, leading the international community to call for the removal of corrupt Prosecutor General Lutsenko.
Poroshenko has said he met with Giuliani as a “friend of Ukraine” to discuss “political support and investment” in 2017. In early 2018, Poroshenko ended Ukraine’s cooperation with the Mueller investigation for fear of retribution from the Trump administration regarding ongoing arms sales.
Zelensky is the newly elected President of Ukraine. Soon after Zelensky’s election, Trump froze nearly $400 million in security assistance that is vital for Ukraine to stand up to Russia’s territorial aggression on its soil.
Then, in the July 25 phone call, Trump pressured Zelensky to interfere in the U.S. presidential election by investigating Trump’s political rival.
Read a summary of Ukraine’s modern history here and a timeline of U.S. aid to Ukraine .
Yermak, a senior aide to Zelensky, contacted Volker to set up a meeting with Giuliani after the lawyer described Ukraine’s incoming administration as being filled with “avowed enemies” of Trump.
Yermak later rejected a proposed statement written by Volker and Sondland that would have had Zelensky pledge to investigate the Bidens and the supposed role Ukraine played in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Shokin was named prosecutor general soon after mass protests toppled the Yanukovych government in 2014. Numerous Western governments—including the U.S.—and anti-corruption groups condemned him for his failure to tackle official corruption. Zelensky’s immediate predecessor, Poroshenko, fired Shokin in 2016.
Shokin is at the heart of the unsubstantiated claim from Trump and Giuliani that when Biden was Vice President, he sought Shokin’s removal to try to halt an investigation of the Ukrainian gas company where Biden’s son, Hunter, served on the board of directors. But Biden was not alone in wanting Shokin out: European diplomats and the U.S. State Department also called for Shokin’s removal. The investigation into Burisma was already dormant by the time Biden pushed for Shokin’s dismissal.
Lutsenko was named Prosecutor General of Ukraine after Shokin was fired.
After meeting with Giuliani in January, Lutsenko said it was clear that Giuliani wanted the Bidens investigated. In March, Lutsenko announced he would reopen the investigation into Hunter Biden’s company.
After Zelensky’s election, Lutsenko pushed to stay in his position but was eventually dismissed. Lutsenko was mentioned by Trump in his call with Zelensky as “a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair.”
Lutsenko has since said in multiple interviews that there is no evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter or Joe Biden.
Trump's Betrayal: 2019 Timeline
Trump’s personal lawyer Giuliani meets with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Lutsenko, who later claims Giuliani repeatedly pressured him to investigate Biden.
March 20, 2019
Trump and his son attack U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
May 14, 2019
After Yovanovitch is recalled by the State Department, Giuliani says she was removed for being “part of the efforts against the President.”
June 21, 2019
Giuliani publicly pushes for Ukrainian investigations into Biden.
July 18, 2019
Trump suspends U.S. aid to Ukraine.
July 19, 2019
July 25, 2019
Trump and Zelensky speak on the phone. Trump asks Zelensky to “do us a favor” and work with U.S. Attorney General Barr to open an investigation into Biden. At least four national security officials raise concerns, and White House officials lock down records of the call.
July 26, 2019
Volker and Sondland travel to Ukraine and advise Zelensky on how to “navigate” Trump’s demands.
August 2, 2019
Giuliani meets with Zelensky advisors, including Yermak, as a “direct follow-up” to the July 25 call.
August 9, 2019
As Trump tells press that he thinks Zelensky “will make a deal with President Putin,” Volker and Sondland consult with Giuliani about what a proposed statement from Ukraine should say.
August 12, 2019
Anonymous whistleblower files a complaint.
September 1, 2019
September 2, 2019
Pence tells Zelensky that U.S. aid to Ukraine is contingent on “issues of corruption.”
September 9, 2019
Taylor texts Sondland again about the idea that the military aid is being withheld in some kind of quid pro quo. “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
September 11, 2019
The Trump administration releases the Ukraine aid it had been withholding over “corruption issues.”
September 13, 2019
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Schiff announces that the White House is withholding the whistleblower complaint from Congress.
September 24, 2019
September 25, 2019
The White House releases a rough transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky, in which Trump pressured Zelensky to work with Giuliani and Barr to interfere in the 2020 election.
September 26, 2019
The full, declassified whistleblower complaint is released, illustrating how Trump and members of his Cabinet participated in a conspiracy to advance Trump’s personal interests over the national interest and attempted to cover it up.
September 27, 2019
More than 300 former national security and foreign policy officials sign a statement supporting the House impeachment inquiry. Volker resigns.
October 1, 2019
Secretary of State Pompeo informs Congress that the State Department will not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.
October 8, 2019
The White House informs Congress it will not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.
October 17, 2019
White House Chief of Staff Mulvaney says Trump held up aid to Ukraine as leverage for a Ukrainian investigation into a right-wing conspiracy theory about the 2016 election.
October 22, 2019
Taylor tells Congress that military aid to Ukraine was withheld for political purposes. Read his statement here.
October 31, 2019
House passes a resolution formalizing the impeachment inquiry.
November 20, 2019
Sondland testifies, “Was there a quid pro quo? The answer is yes.” Read quotes from his testimony here.
December 18, 2019
Following two weeks of Congressional hearings, Trump is impeached for Abuse of Power and Obstruction of Congress. Read the articles of impeachment here.
January 15, 2020
House releases incriminating new documents from Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, and votes to send articles of impeachment to Senate.
January 21, 2020
Senate trial begins.