Text Messages Dive Deeper Into Trump’s Extortion of Ukraine

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The House Intelligence Committee has obtained a series of text messages that went back and forth this summer between the acting ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, and two of Donald Trump’s roving troubleshooters for Ukraine, Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker. These came after Rudy Giuliani had already spent months trying to get the Ukrainians to open an investigation into Hunter and Joe Biden.

The following text was sent just before the now-infamous July 25 phone call between Trump and the new Ukrainian president, but after Trump had put a hold on Ukrainian military assistance and told his aides to lie to Congress about why he did it:

Volker is clearly saying that a visit to the White House is contingent on Ukraine opening an investigation—and convincing Trump that the investigation will really happen. After the phone call, Volker and Gordon Sondland are dispatched to help the Ukrainians “navigate” Trump’s demands. Two weeks later, we get this:

President Trump “really wants” the investigation opened. Does the president of Ukraine know this? “Yep.”

Sondland goes on to suggest that they draft a statement for the president of Ukraine to deliver, thus publicly committing him to an investigation of the Bidens. A week later Sondland asks if they still want an “unequivocal statement” drafted and Volker says yes. A couple of weeks after that Ambassador Taylor asks about the plans for a White House visit:

Note that Taylor is a career diplomat. Sondland is a political appointee and a Trump loyalist. He obviously thinks it’s unwise to discuss this via text message.

Taylor and Sondland have their phone call, but obviously Taylor is still under the impression that military assistance is being directly held hostage to investigating the Bidens:

Sondland the loyalist dutifully says no, no, no; it’s not a quid pro quo. Nevertheless, he continues to think it unwise to discuss the details of what it is via text.

The upshot of all this is that it’s crystal clear to everyone that Trump is truly obsessed with getting Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Both a White House visit and military assistance are being held hostage to this. Volker knows it and Taylor knows it, while Sondland plays the loyalist role of explaining what the pretext is supposed to be: that all Trump wants is a commitment to running a clean government.

Adding all this to the transcript of the July 25 phone call makes it obvious to anyone over the age of five what’s going on. But will it matter? Both the White House and conservative media have already taken the position that, sure, Trump extorted Ukraine to investigate a political opponent, but the Bidens totally deserved it because they’re so corrupt. No way is there anything impeachable about that.

So far, Republicans in Congress remain unmoved, text messages or no. Tick tock.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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