Top US diplomat threatened to quit over Ukraine dealings

A top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine suggested last month that he would "quit" his post amid concerns President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization House Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Artist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 MORE was withholding military aid to the country for political reasons, according to text message transcripts released by House Democrats on Thursday night.

William Taylor, who has served as chargé d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev since June, appeared to threaten resignation in a text message exchange with two other U.S. diplomats while outlining a "nightmare scenario" surrounding ongoing negotiations to set up a meeting between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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Over the summer, the other two diplomats — Kurt VolkerKurt VolkerPush to investigate Bidens sets up potential for Senate turf war Senate confirms Brouillette to replace Perry as Energy secretary How Democrats' missing witnesses could fill in the Ukraine story MORE, Trump's then-special envoy to Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union — had worked with Trump's personal lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTrump denies report that he still uses personal cell phone for calls Giuliani draws attention with latest trip to Ukraine White House, OMB say no calls between Giuliani and budget office MORE to win a statement from Zelensky addressing a pair of investigations sought by Trump.

The officials had worked to secure a commitment from Ukrainian leaders to investigate both Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that employed former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Democratic strategist: 'Medicare for All' exposes generational gap within party Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations MORE's son on its board, as well as probe Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Trump has suggested Ukraine was behind the election meddling, despite the determination of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia was the culprit.

In a Sept. 8 text to Volker and Sondland released by House Democrats on Thursday, Taylor voiced concerns that Ukraine would make good on providing an unspecified "interview" but that Trump would renege on providing military aid to the country.

"The nightmare is they give the interview and don't get the security assistance," Taylor texted to Volker and Sondland, according to the transcripts released by Democrats. "The Russians love it," he added of that prospect, "(And I quit)."

The next day, Taylor warned Sondland that Trump's previous decision to withhold almost $400 million in assistance to Ukraine had already strained relations between the two allies to the benefit of Russia, which launched an incursion into Ukraine in 2014 and still supports rebel forces in eastern parts of the country.

"The message to the Ukrainians (and Russians) we send with the decision on security assistance is key," Taylor wrote. "With the hold, we have already shaken their faith in us. This is my nightmare scenario."

Sondland, a hotelier and former Trump mega-donor, responded with confidence that "we have identified the best pathway forward."

Taylor, however, was skeptical, saying "it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

Sondland pushed back hard, saying Taylor was "incorrect" about Trump's reasons for withholding the funding.

"The president has been crystal clear no quid pro quo's of any kind," Sondland wrote. "The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelenskiy promised during his campaign."

The conversations were released late Thursday night by the Democratic chairmen of three committees leading the impeachment inquiry into allegations of misconduct against Trump.

Reps. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump denies report that he still uses personal cell phone for calls Schiff asks Pence to declassify more material from official's testimony Schiff: Impeachment testimony shows Trump 'doesn't give a shit' about what's good for the country MORE (D-Calif.), head of the Intelligence Committee, Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsImpeachment can't wait Adam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings Tucker Carlson calls Trump 'full-blown BS artist' in segment defending him from media coverage MORE (D-Md.), chairman of the Oversight and Reform panel, and Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHouse approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump House leaders: Trump administration asking South Korea to pay more for US troops 'a needless wedge' Trump administration releases 5M in military aid for Lebanon after months-long delay MORE (D-N.Y.), who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Democrats accusing Trump of enlisting foreign leaders to help his reelection campaign.

“This is not normal or acceptable. It is unethical, unpatriotic, and wrong," they wrote. "American Presidents should never press foreign powers to target their domestic political rivals."

The document dump came just hours after the three committees had led a marathon deposition of Volker in the Capitol, where lawmakers of both parties quickly used the interview to make their case either for or against the impeachment inquiry.

Democrats said Volker provided clear evidence that Trump had tried to "shake down" Zelensky for his own political gain. Republicans countered that Volker had both exonerated the president of any wrongdoing and raised damning new questions about Hunter Biden's work with Burisma.

"The administration is in an even stronger place today than they were this morning as a product of Ambassador Volker coming to testify," said Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinHouse approves two-state resolution in implicit rebuke of Trump House moves ahead on long-stalled resolution supporting two states for Israelis and Palestinians GOP lawmakers, Trump campaign rip 'liberal law professors' testifying in impeachment hearing MORE (R-N.Y.).

The depositions are scheduled to continue next week, when Marie Yovanovitch, Trump's former ambassador to Ukraine, is expected to be interviewed by the same three committees.