Donald Trump and numerous Republicans insisted on Wednesday that his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not involve a "quid pro quo" -- an exchange of United States aid to Ukraine for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. But that's not how the situation was understood by Zelensky and other top Ukrainian officials, according to the declassified whistleblower complaint that was released to the public online Thursday morning by the House Intelligence Committee.
The officials were "led to believe," the whistleblower wrote, that whether Zelensky would even be allowed to meet with Trump depended on whether he was willing to "play ball on issues that had been publicly aired" by Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Ukraine's then-Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko. Those issues included the claim, now debunked, that Biden intervened in Ukraine to stop an investigation of his son.
On July 26, 2019 -- one day after Trump's call with Zelensky in which he again asked the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden -- U.S. envoy Kurt Volker met with Zelensky and other top officials in his government, the whistleblower report says. At that meeting, Volker told Zelensky how he should "navigate" Trump's demands.
Neither Trump nor Vice President Mike Pence attended Zelensky's inauguration on May 20. Instead, Trump sent a delegation led by Energy Secretary Rick Perry. That delegation "made clear" to the new Ukrainian president that Trump would not meet with him until he saw how Zelensky "chose to act" while in office, wrote the whistleblower.
Giuliani and Lutsenko also claimed that the investigation into collusion between Trump and the Russian government in the 2016 presidential election originated in Ukraine. After a Ukrainian lawmaker exposed massive, secret payments collected by Trump's 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort, Giuliani and Lutsenko alleged that the lawmaker was acting under the direction of billionaire George Soros, although this claim was condemned by the U.S. State Department as "a complete fabrication," according to The Washington Post.
As The Inquisitr reported, Trump became convinced that the conspiracy theory pushed by Giuliani was true, and has borne a grudge against Ukraine since 2017.
The Post reported Trump and Giuliani started staging a pressure campaign against the Ukrainian government two years ago, in an attempt to obtain information that they believed would help in the Russian collusion investigation. They hoped to find proof that the claims against Manafort and the entire Trump-Russia investigation were part of a plot by Trump's political opponents in the Democratic Party.
The belief that Democrats enlisted the help of the Ukrainian government originated with Lutsenko, who provided no evidence to back it up, according to the Post report.
Lutsenko was close political ally of Ukraine's former president, Petro Poroshenko, who was defeated by Zelensky in elections earlier this year. It was on the eve of those elections, when Poroshenko was trailing Zelensky by wide margins in political polls, that Lutsenko made another series of public allegations against the U.S. Democrats. Even though he had no evidence, he claimed that Democrats collaborated with Ukrainian officials to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.