Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his team held a meeting two weeks before he took office during which they discussed pressure they felt from the Trump administration and Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiLev Parnas found guilty of breaking campaign finance laws Giuliani associate Lev Parnas won't testify at trial Four Seasons Total Landscaping comes full circle with MSNBC special MORE, the president’s personal attorney, to publicly open investigations that would benefit the White House.
Sources told both The Associated Press and CNN that Zelensky and his aides specifically discussed pressure they felt to publicly announce “corruption” investigations into Burisma. Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenRand Paul calls for Fauci's firing over 'lack of judgment' Dems look to keep tax on billionaires in spending bill Six big off-year elections you might be missing MORE, sat on the board of the Ukrainian natural gas company.
A source told CNN that the meeting was originally scheduled to discuss energy policy, but was eventually used to address ways to handle the pressure from President TrumpDonald TrumpSix big off-year elections you might be missing Twitter suspends GOP Rep. Banks for misgendering trans health official Meghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' MORE’s associates.
Zelensky advisers Andriy Yermak and Andriy Bogdan were in attendance, as well as an executive for the Ukrainian state-owned natural gas company and American Amos Hochstein, a former diplomat and energy expert, according to CNN.
The meeting occurred roughly two weeks after Zelensky and Trump spoke with each other for the first time. That call revolved around working together to “root out corruption,” according to a White House readout of the conversation. The president has said that the White House would release a transcript of the call, though one has yet to be made public.
A rough transcript of another call on July 25 showed Trump repeatedly lobbied Zelensky to open an investigation into corruption allegations against the former vice president and his son. No evidence of criminal wrongdoing by either Biden has emerged.
Trump’s dealings with Zelensky are at the heart of the House’s impeachment investigation, with Democrats claiming that the president tied $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to Zelensky’s compliance with his requests.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing, calling the July call with Zelensky “perfect,” and rejected allegations that the halted military aid was tied to his request.
However, William Taylor, who serves as the chargé d’affaires for Ukraine, testified Tuesday that he believed Trump withheld roughly $400 million in financial aid until he secured a commitment from Ukrainian officials that they would launch probes into the Bidens and 2016 election meddling.
“During our call on September 8, Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman. When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before singing the check,” Taylor told congressional investigators during his nearly 10-hour appearance behind closed doors, referring to U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.