Trump's Ukraine request: 'Investigations, Biden and Clinton'

In testimony released Thursday by House Democrats, a high-ranking State Department official said he understood President Trump’s bottom-line demand of Ukraine was for a statement that included three key words: “investigations, Biden and Clinton.”

“Clinton” was a reference to the conspiracy theory promoted by Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani about foreign efforts to sway the 2016 election.

The official, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, was relaying what he was told by U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. The ambassador said the president “wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to microphone and say ‘investigations, Biden, and Clinton.’”

House Democrats made Kent’s testimony public on Thursday. In the transcript, Kent expanded about the messaging that Trump sought Sondland to convey to Ukrainian officials.

“This was the Gordon Sondland messaging of what the Ukrainians need to say in shorthand, 2016. And in shorthand it was suggested that the Ukrainians needed — Zelensky needed to go to a microphone and basically there needed to be three words in the message, and that was the shorthand.”

Kent was then asked, “Clinton was shorthand for 2016?”

“2016, yes,” Kent answered.

Kent testified that he created memos of the conversations he had witnessed relating to a quid pro quo sought by the White House — the restoration of military aid and better U.S. relations in exchange for an investigation, or the public announcement of an investigation, that Trump believed would help his reelection campaign.

“I wrote a note to the file saying that I had concerns that there was an effort to initiate politically motivated prosecutions that were injurious to the rule of law, both in Ukraine and the U.S.,” Kent told House members.

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In this photo dated Feb. 6, 2019, Ukrainian comedian, Volodymyr Zelenskiy seen during the shooting of a popular TV series, where he plays the president during the filming in Kiev, Ukraine. Zelenskiy played the president and now is running for the same office in upcoming presidential elections on March 31.(AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukrainian actor and candidate in the upcoming presidential election, hosts a comedy show at a concert hall in Brovary, Ukraine, Friday, March 29, 2019. Zelenskiy now surging ahead of both Tymoshenko and Poroshenko in the presidential context according to polls. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian presidential candidate and popular comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy listens to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during their final electoral campaign debate at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, April 19, 2019. Friday is the last official day of election canvassing in Ukraine as all presidential candidates and their campaigns will be barred from campaigning on Saturday, the day before the vote. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy, holds his ballot before voting at a polling station, during the presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, March. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Ukrainian presidential candidate and popular comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy makes the victory sign during the debate with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, April 19, 2019. Friday is the last official day of election canvassing in Ukraine as all presidential candidates and their campaigns will be barred from campaigning on Saturday, the day before the vote. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and his wife Olena Zelenska smile as they greet supporters at his headquarters after the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Ukrainians voted on Sunday in a presidential runoff as the nation's incumbent leader struggles to fend off a strong challenge by a comedian who denounces corruption and plays the role of president in a TV sitcom. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy shows his ballot before casting his ballot at a polling station, during the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Top issues in the election have been corruption, the economy and how to end the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and his wife Olena Zelenska congratulate each other at his headquarters after the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Ukrainians voted on Sunday in a presidential runoff as the nation's incumbent leader struggles to fend off a strong challenge by a comedian who denounces corruption and plays the role of president in a TV sitcom. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
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Kent also described the role that Giuliani played in attempting to secure an investigation in Kiev into Biden and Clinton, which entailed a campaign to oust U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who Giuliani considered an impediment.

Giuliani “had been carrying on a campaign for several months full of lies,” Kent testified, adding that the president’s lawyer’s “assertions and allegations against former Ambassador Yovanovitch were without basis, untrue, period.”

As an example, Kent recounted an assertion that Yovanovitch was connected to liberal philanthropist George Soros, a claim he called “fake news.’

Other lies, according to Kent, stemmed from an untruthful news article published in The Hill and written by John Solomon that was critical of Yovanovitch, which Kent descried as “entirely made up in full cloth." 

While the bulk of Kent’s testimony was damaging to Trump, who faces the prospect of impeachment over his attempts to procure a foreign investigation of his political rivals, Kent also was critical of Joe Biden’s son Hunter, whose business dealings in Ukraine was one of the predicates of the investigation Trump sought.

“I raised my concerns” about Hunter Biden being “on the board of a company owned by somebody that the U.S. Government had spent money trying to get tens of millions of dollars back and that could create the perception of a conflict of interest,” Kent testified.

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