Timeline: Trump, Giuliani, Biden, and Ukrainegate (updated)

(Editor’s note: The following timeline, originally published on Sept. 24, 2019, has been updated as of Oct. 8, 2019, to add new items, which are indicated in red.)

A months-long campaign by President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to reportedly pressure the Ukraine government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s potential rival in the 2020 election, has gripped the nation’s capital. The situation escalated following the Sept. 13 revelation of an intelligence community whistleblower complaint reportedly related to a “series of events” including a phone call between President Trump and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

As these events unfold, the aim of the chronology below is to provide a useful reference for the context and timeline on Ukraine, the roles of Joe Biden and his son Hunter there, and Trump and Giuliani’s efforts to persuade Ukraine to pursue investigations against them. We attempt to present an accurate picture of events, favorable and unfavorable to the players involved. Our assessments and views of the available public information are reflected in two pieces: Viola Gienger’s “Trump and Giuliani’s Quest for Fake Ukraine ‘Dirt’ on Biden: An Explainer” and our forthcoming, “The Swiftboating of Joe Biden.”

This chronology will be updated as new information becomes available.

November 2013 – Political revolution in Ukraine

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians begin protests in central Kyiv’s Independence Square (the “Maidan”) against the government of then-President Viktor Yanukovych. The protesters’ main concern is the government’s decision to abandon a planned “association agreement” with the European Union and to instead accept assistance from Russia. The protests grew to encompass broader concerns, especially about rampant corruption in Ukraine. The movement became known as the “Maidan Revolution” or the “Revolution of Dignity,” referring to the daily indignities Ukrainians suffered as a result of government corruption and ineptitude.

February 2014 – Pro-Russian government falls

Yanukovych’s security forces crack down on the demonstrators, killing more than 70 civilians and spurring a political backlash. The president, who had been in office since February 2010, flees to Russia.

March 2014 – Russian military invasion

Russian forces invade Crimea and stage an illegal and dubious referendum and declare their annexation of the peninsula. That month, the United Nations General Assembly votes to condemn Russian actions, including the referendum.

April 2014 – Russian and pro-Russian forces invade the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine and take control, starting a war that continues today and has killed more than 13,000 people.

April 2014 Hunter Biden joins Ukrainian firm Burisma

Joe Biden’s younger son, Hunter Biden, joins the board of Burisma Holdings, the largest private oil and gas extracting company in Ukraine, controlled by founder Mykola Zlochevskiy, who had served as a Cabinet minister under former pro-Russian Presidents Leonid Kuchma and Yanukovych. Both administrations had been suspected of corruption, and once they were ousted, successor administrations pledging reforms targeted previous officials, including Zlochevskiy, for investigation. Allegations against Zlochevskiy center on the funding schemes he used to form the company in 2002. But cases against him stall in each instance.

An American business partner of Hunter Biden, Devon Archer, also joins the board. The company issues a press release about the Biden appointment in May (see below). The appointment draws criticism for the potential perception of a conflict of interest with Vice President Biden’s role as the White House’s point man on Ukraine. News reports later in 2014 reveal that Hunter Biden had been discharged from the Navy in February for testing positive for cocaine (clearly just months before the Burisma board appointment).

April 16, 2014 U.K. investigates Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevskiy

The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) blocks accounts of Burisma’s majority shareholder, Mykola Zlochevskiy. A British court conducts a hearing on Dec. 3-5, 2014, and unblocks the accounts in a Jan. 21, 2015 judgment, (full text), finding that none of the evidence “establishes reasonable grounds for a belief that his assets were unlawfully acquired as a result of misconduct in public office.” The SFO apparently continued its investigation until at least May 2015, when a spokeswoman told The Guardian, “We are disappointed we were not provided with the evidence by authorities in the Ukraine necessary to keep this restraint order in place.” The newspaper said she “declined to comment further because she said the investigation was ongoing.” (In September 2015, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt heavily criticizes officials in the Office of Prosecutor General in a public speech for not cooperating sufficiently with and even undermining the British investigation. See below.)

May 12, 2014 – Burisma Holdings issues a press release saying Hunter Biden has joined its board, and that he will be “in charge of the Holdings’ legal unit and will provide support for the company among international organizations.” The release cites his then-current positions as counsel to New York-based law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP and co-founder and a managing partner of investment advisory firm Rosemont Seneca Partners, where he also served as board chairman.

May 25, 2014 – Chocolate and confectionary magnate/oligarch Petro Poroshenko wins the presidency in Ukraine in an election to succeed Yanukovych on a platform of turning Ukraine back to the West. Poroshenko previously had served as foreign minister and minister of trade and economic development.

June 7, 2014 – Petro Poroshenko takes office as president of Ukraine.

June 19, 2014 – The Ukrainian Parliament approves Poroshenko’s appointment of former law enforcement officer and member of Parliament Vitaly Yarema as prosecutor general.

Aug. 5, 2014 – Ukraine investigation of Burisma

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Vitaly Yarema opens an investigation of Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevskiy on suspicion of “unlawful enrichment.” (The investigation is referenced in the January 2015 U.K. court judgment, which concludes that the Ukrainian probe might have been started as a result of a misinterpretation of the British account freeze.) Zlochevskiy’s American lawyer, John Buretta, a former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general, says in a 2017 Q&A on the Burisma website that a court in Kyiv ordered the case closed in September 2016 because no evidence of wrongdoing had been presented. While suspicions remain over how Zlochevskiy obtained his wealth and what happened to taxpayer money while he held public office, the British judge in the January 2015 U.K. judgment observed, “Allegations of corruption against political opponents appear to have been a feature of Ukrainian political life at this time.”

Oct. 14, 2014 – Ramping up Ukraine anti-corruption forces

Ukraine’s Parliament passes a law establishing the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), a priority of anti-corruption campaigners who’d helped lead the revolution and of the U.S. government (led by Biden) and other international backers of Ukraine. The bureau, which is to include a special prosecutor for certain corruption cases, was created in part because of the recognized ineffectiveness and corruption of the Prosecutor General’s Office and the country’s judiciary. The country’s anti-corruption plans also include a special High Anti-Corruption Court, which Poroshenko and Parliament slow-rolled until domestic and foreign advocates again exerted pressure over the past year. In fact, the U.S. and Europe required the Ukrainian government to fund NABU in exchange for financial aid. NABU’s early years are an uphill battle in the face of documented efforts by Parliament and the Prosecutor General’s Office to undermine its work.

NABU later becomes a target of Giuliani’s (see Aug. 14, 2016 item below).

Feb. 10, 2015   Viktor Shokin takes office as Ukraine’s prosecutor general, replacing Yarema.

Sept. 24, 2015 U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt excoriates officials in the Prosecutor General’s Office for stymying anti-corruption investigations, including those involving Burisma

Pyatt’s speech was part of a regular drumbeat by U.S. and other Western leaders, including Vice President Biden, and a swath of Ukrainian civil society seeking to pressure President Poroshenko to force his officials, especially in the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) to crack down more, not less, on corruption. “Corruption kills,” Pyatt said in the address to the Odesa Financial Forum for business leaders. “It kills productivity and smothers inspiration. Ideas are lost in its shadow. Innovation and entrepreneurship lag under the weight of bribery, back room dealing, and bullying.”

While giving Shokin a last chance to shape up (Pyatt says, “We want to work with Prosecutor General Shokin so the PGO is leading the fight against corruption.”), the ambassador criticizes “officials at the PGO’s office” for not providing documents that were needed for the British investigation of Burisma owner Zlochevskiy and effectively allowing Zlochevskiy to transfer $23 million of what Pyatt says were Ukrainian taxpayer assets to Cyprus. In other words, Pyatt is critical of the prosecutor’s office for not aiding in investigations of Burisma’s owner, which was in line with Biden’s criticism that the office was blocking corruption investigations. Pyatt specifically called for the investigation and removal of officials who were involved in the failure to help the British authorities investigate Zlochevskiy:

“We have learned that there have been times that the PGO not only did not support investigations into corruption, but rather undermined prosecutors working on legitimate corruption cases.

For example, in the case of former Ecology Minister Mykola Zlochevsky [cq], the U.K. authorities had seized 23 million dollars in illicit assets that belonged to the Ukrainian people. Officials at the PGO’s office were asked by the U.K to send documents supporting the seizure.

Instead they sent letters to Zlochevsky’s attorneys attesting that there was no case against him. As a result, the money was freed by the U.K. court and shortly thereafter the money was moved to Cyprus.

The misconduct by the PGO officials who wrote those letters should be investigated, and those responsible for subverting the case by authorizing those letters should – at a minimum – be summarily terminated.”

Full text of Ambassador Pyatt’s speech. 

Oct. 8, 2015 – U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland continues the drumbeat on the need for stepped-up anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in testimony that “the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) has to be reinvented as an institution that serves the citizens of Ukraine, rather than ripping them off.” She continues, “That means it must investigate and successfully prosecute corruption and asset recovery cases, including locking up dirty personnel in the PGO itself.”

Fall 2015 – Biden, along with the EU, publicly calls for ouster of Prosecutor General Shokin for failure to work on anti-corruption efforts.

John E. Herbst, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine under George W. Bush, later testified before Congress:

“By late fall of 2015, the EU and the United States joined the chorus of those seeking Mr. Shokin’s removal as the start of an overall reform of the Procurator General’s Office. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke publicly about this before and during his December visit to Kyiv.” 

Dec. 8, 2015 Vice President Biden makes a speech to Ukraine’s Parliament urging the country to step up anti-corruption measures.

In a speech covered widely in news media, Biden implores Ukrainian lawmakers to move more quickly to fight the country’s “historic battle against corruption” and “make real the Revolution of Dignity.” (Many of the lawmakers themselves were former businessmen and suspected of corruption and therefore that much less interested in fighting graft.) He says, “The only thing worse than having no hope at all is having hopes rise and see them dashed repeatedly on the shoals of corruption…Not enough has been done yet.” Specifically citing Shokin’s Office of the General Prosecutor for lagging on corruption investigations, he continues:

“It’s not enough to set up a new anti-corruption bureau and establish a special prosecutor fighting corruption. The Office of the General Prosecutor desperately needs reform. The judiciary should be overhauled. The energy sector needs to be competitive, ruled by market principles — not sweetheart deals. It’s not enough to push through laws to increase transparency with regard to official sources of income. Senior elected officials have to remove all conflicts between their business interest and their government responsibilities. Every other democracy in the world — that system pertains.

Oligarchs and non-oligarchs must play by the same rules. They have to pay their taxes, settle their disputes in court — not by bullying judges. That’s basic. That’s how nations succeed in the 21st century.

Corruption siphons away resources from the people. It blunts the economic growth, and it affronts the human dignity. We know that. You know that. The Ukrainian people know that. When Russia seeks to use corruption as a tool of coercion, reform isn’t just good governance, it’s self-preservation. It’s in the national security interest of the nation ….

The United States is with you in this fight…We’ve stepped up with official assistance to help backstop the Ukrainian economy. We’ve rallied the international community to commit a total of $25 billion in bilateral and multilateral financing to support Ukraine. It includes $2 billion in U.S. loan guarantees and the possibility of more.

Yesterday I announced almost $190 million in new American assistance to help Ukraine fight corruption, strengthen the rule of law, implement critical reform, bolster civil society, advance energy security. That brings our total of direct aid to almost $760 million in direct assistance, in addition to loan guarantees since this crisis broke out. And that is not the end of what we’re prepared to do if you keep moving.

But for Ukraine to continue to make progress and to keep the support of the international community you have to do more, as well. The big part of moving forward with your IMF program — it requires difficult reforms.”

Full text of Biden’s speech.

Jan. 21, 2016 – Vice President Biden meets with Ukrainian President Poroshenko and discusses “the need to continue to move forward on Ukraine’s anti-corruption agenda,” according to a readout on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.

Feb. 11, 2016 – Vice President Biden speaks with Poroshenko by phone. A U.S. Embassy statement said the two agreed “that it is essential for Ukraine to continue to take action to root out corruption and implement reforms.”

Biden later boasts about the pressure he exerted on Ukraine during that time to address corruption. In a Jan. 23, 2018, Q&A following a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington, Biden touts his tough stance with Ukraine in 2016. He says he told Ukrainian leaders that the U.S. would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees unless they fired Prosecutor General Shokin. President Trump and Rudy Giuliani have cited that boast repeatedly as proof that Biden admitted pushing for Shokin’s firing, even though Biden was calling for the prosecutor to be fired because he wasn’t pursuing corruption cases vigorously enough. In the CFR appearance, Biden makes the comments in the context of expressing his concern that Ukraine still was not getting tough enough on corruption. “I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter.) He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.” Biden continued, “So they made some genuine substantial changes institutionally and with people. But … there’s now some backsliding.” (Biden had boasted about this episode in an interview in Aug. 2016.)

“The United States and other Western nations had for months called for the ousting of Mr. Shokin, who was widely criticized for turning a blind eye to corrupt practice,” the New York Times reported at the time.

Steven Pifer is a career foreign service officer who was ambassador to Ukraine under President Bill Clinton and deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs under President George W. Bush. He told PolitiFact that “virtually everyone” he knew in the U.S. government “felt that Shokin was not doing his job and should be fired. As far as I can recall, they all concurred with the vice president telling Poroshenko that the U.S. government would not extend the $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine until Shokin was removed from office.”

Note: Investigation of Burisma laid dormant at the time

Vitaliy Kasko, a former deputy prosecutor general who had worked under Shokin and resigned in frustration at his stymying of corruption investigations, told Bloomberg News (in a May 2019 interview) that the office’s probe into Burisma Holdings had been long dormant by the time Joe Biden issued his ultimatum in 2016. “There was no pressure from anyone from the U.S. to close cases against” Burisma owner Zlochevskiy, Bloomberg quoted Kasko as saying. “It was shelved by Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015,” Kasko said.

“Shokin was not investigating. He didn’t want to investigate Burisma,” Daria Kaleniuk a leading Ukrainian anti-corruption advocate, told the Washington Post. “And Shokin was fired not because he wanted to do that investigation, but quite to the contrary, because he failed that investigation.”

See also entries above: At time of British investigation in 2014-2015, Shokin’s Office sent letters to Zlochevsky’s attorneys attesting that there was no case against him. 

Feb. 16, 2016 Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin resigns, then returns to office before finally being ousted

Ukrainian news media report on Feb. 16 that Viktor Shokin resigned as Prosecutor General after months of intense criticism for failing to adequately pursue any major corruption cases. But wait … despite President Poroshenko’s public call that day that Shokin resign and the apparent submission of a resignation letter on Feb. 19, media cited a prosecutor in Shokin’s office on March 16 saying the chief prosecutor was back after a “long leave.” Finally, on March 29, the Parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve Poroshenko’s recommendation to dismiss Shokin.

The European Union issued a statement hailing his departure. The respected English-language Kyiv Post writes, “By the end of his term, he was likely one of the most unpopular figures in Ukraine, having earned a bad reputation for inaction and obstructing top cases.” The paper also says it “wasn’t able to find any public comments that Shokin made about [Burisma] during his 14 months in office.”

Feb. 18 and 19, 2016 – Vice President Biden speaks by phone with Ukrainian President Poroshenko. The Feb. 19 U.S. Embassy statement says Biden again urged the Ukrainian leader to “to accelerate Ukraine’s efforts to fight corruption, strengthen justice and the rule of law, and fulfill its IMF requirements.” 

April 14, 2016 – Vice President Biden speaks with Ukrainian President Poroshenko by phone, emphasizing “the urgency of putting in place a new Prosecutor General who would bolster the agency’s anti-corruption efforts and strongly support the work of its reformers.” Biden does the same in a call the same day with newly elected Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman.

May 12, 2016 – A new General Prosecutor

Yuriy Lutsenko, who had headed Poroshenko’s political bloc in Parliament, takes office as prosecutor general, after Parliament changed the law to allow someone without a law degree and legal experience to hold the position. According to the New York Times, “Lutsenko initially took a hard line against Burisma.”

Aug. 14, 2016 Evidence surfaces of payments to Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort by this time was Trump’s campaign chairman, and the evidence appeared to show off-the-books payments by the discredited, pro-Russian former Ukrainian President Yanukovych when Manafort served as his political consultant. The payments were recorded in a “black ledger” of Yanukovych’s political party that was turned over to Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU). On Aug. 19, 2016, days after the New York Times reported the story, Serhiy Leshchenko, a member of Ukraine’s Parliament who had been swept into office with the 2014 revolution, holds a news conference to discuss the ledger and criticize the payments to Manafort.

Rudy Giuliani has cited the revelations as evidence that certain Ukrainians, supported by the Obama administration at the time, were colluding with Hillary Clinton’s campaign to reveal information tainting Manafort and, by association, Trump, in order to influence the election. Giuliani in May 2019 accused Leshchenko personally on Fox News of colluding with Democrats.

Sept. 2016 – Case against Burisma closed 

In a 2017 Q&A on the Burisma website, Zlochevskiy’s American lawyer, John Buretta, a former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general, says that a court in Kyiv ordered a case closed in September 2016 because no evidence of wrongdoing had been presented.

May 10, 2017 — Trump hosts Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office at the White House, just months after taking office and the day after he fired FBI Director James Comey. A photographer for the official Russian news agency Tass was the only journalist allowed into the meeting. The Washington Post reported the following week that Trump had “revealed highly classified information” that “jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.” On Sept. 26, 2019, the Post reported further that Trump told the Russian officials that he “was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States did the same in other countries,” and that the president even “seemed to invite Russia to interfere in other countries’ elections.”

June 8, 2017 – Giuliani meets with Ukrainian leaders

Giuliani, who has had business of his own in Ukraine in the past, meets with President Petro Poroshenko and Prosecutor General Lutsenko, among other officials, during a visit to Kyiv, hosted by the foundation of billionaire Ukrainian metals magnate Victor Pinchuk, for a lecture on democracy and the rule of law. The meetings are cited in the joint U.S. House committee investigation launched later in September 2019 (see below) into Trump and Giuliani’s efforts to pressure Ukraine.

July 25, 2017President Trump issues a public call for an investigation of the 2016 Manafort revelations in Ukraine

Trump tweets a reference to what he calls “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump campaign — `quietly working to boost Clinton.’ So where is the investigation A.G.,” he writes, referencing then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and tagging Fox News host Sean Hannity. The tweet was referenced in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on possible obstruction of justice by the U.S. president to block the investigation into Trump campaign collusion with Russia’s 2016 election interference. It also is cited in the September 2019 joint U.S. House committee letter (see below) on the investigation into Trump and Giuliani’s pressure campaign against Ukraine.

 

Fast forward to late 2018

Sept. 28, 2018 — Congress passes a spending bill for the Department of Defense that includes $250 million in military aid under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI). The money must be disbursed by Sept. 30, 2019.

Late 2018 — Two Soviet-born Florida businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, arrange a Skype call between Giuliani and Shokin, according to an investigation by the nonprofit Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) published in BuzzFeed News. The two businessmen also connect Giuliani with then-Prosecutor General Lutsenko. Giuliani invites Lutsenko to his office in New York, a meeting they arrange for January.

Lutsenko told the LA Times that he had numerous conversations with Guiliani on the phone. He also tells the paper that Giuliani pressed him repeatedly to open an investigation on the Bidens and Burisma, even though Lutsenko had seen no evidence of legal wrongdoing.

January 2019 Giuliani and Ukraine general prosecutor Lutsenko meet for first time, New York

Giuliani and Lutsenko meet in New York over the space of two-to-three days. They discuss “the Ukrainian political situation and the fight against corruption,” Bloomberg News reports, paraphrasing Lutsenko. “Giuliani asked him about investigations into the owner of Burisma, Mykola Zlochevsky, as well as whether the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was `not loyal to President Trump,’” the article says.

The two met “multiple times” during those days in New York, and Lutsenko told associates that, during their first meeting in January, Giuliani excitedly called Trump to brief the President on what he had found, the New York Times reported. Giuliani “acknowledged that he has discussed the matter with the president on multiple occasions,” the Times wrote.

Mid-February 2019 Giuliani and Ukraine general prosecutor Lutsenko meet for second time, Warsaw

Giuliani meets with Lutsenko again in Warsaw, according to the OCCRP/BuzzFeed report

March 2019 – Ukraine prosecutor general Lutsenko opens two investigations—one into the 2016 U.S. presidential election and a second into Burisma and Biden.

Following his meetings with Giuliani, prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko announces he is opening two investigations.

“The decision to reopen the investigation into Burisma was made … by the current Ukrainian prosecutor general [Lutsenko], who had cleared Hunter Biden’s employer more than two years ago. The announcement … was seen in some quarters as an effort by the prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, to curry favor from the Trump administration for his boss and ally, the incumbent president,” the New York Times reported (in May 2019).

Lutsenko also tells the Hill’s conservative columnist John Solomon, “Today we will launch a criminal investigation about” the Manafort disclosure  in the 2016 election. (See following entry on March 20).

March 20, 2019 The Hill’s conservative opinion writer John Solomon publishes an interview with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Lutsenko, who by this point has been widely criticized as ineffective and likely corrupt.

[Note: Solomon and Fox News’s Sean Hannity are among a constellation of conservative media figures who regularly help spread Trump and Giuliani’s Biden and Manafort theories as well as other right-wing conspiracy theories, such as Uranium One, which have been debunked and shown to exclude vital information. Solomon was moved to the opinion section at The Hill, and announced Sept. 18, 2019, that he was leaving the publication. (See also an examination of Solomon in the Washington Post on Sept. 26.)]

The full video wasn’t available at this publication, but the text accompanying it says Lutsenko alleged that U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who took office in August 2016, gave him a “do not prosecute” list at their first meeting. The State Department says the claim was “an outright fabrication.” The article says Lutsenko was examining Ukrainian civil society activists who he suspected were misusing U.S. aid funding they had received, but he says Yovanovitch told him the U.S. Embassy is confident the funding was secure.

Lutsenko also reportedly says he would investigate the head of NABU for the 2016 Manafort disclosure. “Today we will launch a criminal investigation about this,” he says. Ukraine expert Melinda Haring of the Atlantic Council says Lutsenko is “woefully unqualified (he doesn’t have a law degree), has dragged his feet on every serious anti-corruption case since being installed, and protected his friends, including Poroshenko.” She continues, “Sean Hannity made Solomon the star of his prime-time show that evening. Trump watches Hannity, reportedly speaks with him multiple times daily, and tweeted the title of Solomon’s story. More than 25,000 retweets later, the Ukrainian collusion narrative went viral.”

Solomon later airs part of the video interview in which Lutsenko raises allegations against Biden and Burisma, and says he wants to present his information to Attorney General William Barr.

[Note: Lutsenko later retracts many of his allegations, including against the Bidens (May 16 Bloomberg interview, Sept. 29 LA Times interview) and the U.S. Embassy‘s involvement in the 2016 election.]

March 24, 2019 Donald Trump Jr. tweets criticism of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Yovanovitch, calling her a “joker” and linking to a conservative media outlet’s article about calls for her ouster. The two incidents are part of a pattern of conservative attacks against the ambassador. Within less than two months, Yovanovitch is recalled to Washington.

March 31, 2019 — First round of Ukraine’s presidential election, which results in runoff between Zelenskyy and Poroshenko scheduled for April 21.

April 1, 2019The Hill newspaper publishes another article online by the same conservative investigative columnist John Solomon that advances the Trump-Giuliani story about Biden. (See entry on March 20 about Solomon and conspiracy theories.) The article reports that Shokin had said in written answers to questions that he had planned an investigation of Burisma before he was fired, including questioning all executive board members. The article says Lutsenko, Shokin’s successor, and “a case file” indicate that the Prosecutor General’s Office had handled three cases related to Burisma, and that the “most prominent” case was transferred to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), which Solomon describes suggestively as “closely aligned with the U.S. Embassy in Kiev,” even though it had long been public knowledge that Western supporters of Ukraine and Ukrainian anti-corruption activists strongly backed the bureau. The article says NABU closed that case.

April 2019Hunter Biden leaves the board of Burisma Holdings, as his father announces his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

April 18, 2019 — Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report is publicly released, outlining the findings of his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

April 21, 2019 – New Ukrainian President elected on anti-corruption agenda

Volodymyr Zelenskyy is elected president of Ukraine, to succeed Petro Poroshenko. He ran on a “zero tolerance” anti-corruption agenda.

April 21, 2019 – First Trump-Zelenskyy Phone Call

President Trump calls to congratulate him, their first known direct communication. Trump “urged Mr. Zelensky to coordinate with Mr. Giuliani and to pursue investigations of ‘corruption,'” the New York Times reports (on Sept. 25, 2019). 

April 25, 2019 – Joe Biden formally announces campaign for President.

April 25, 2019 – President Trump tells Fox News’s Sean Hannity that Attorney General Bill Barr is considering allegations that Ukrainians sought to help Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign by revealing damaging information about Paul Manafort. “I would imagine [Barr] would want to see this. … I would certainly defer to the attorney general, and we’ll see what he says about it,” Trump said. “He calls ’em straight” (transcript). Fox News reports that “Trump echoed his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who wrote on Twitter on Wednesday [April 24]: `Keep your eye on Ukraine.’”

On or about April 29, 2019 — “U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the situation” told the whistleblower that U.S. Ambassador Yovanovitch was being “suddenly recalled” to Washington for “consultations” and “would most likely be removed from her position.” The State Department announced on May 6 that she would be ending her assignment. They said it was “as planned,” but in fact, her assignment had been curtailed because of Lutsenko’s allegations. Giuliani told a Ukrainian journalist in an interview published May 14 that Yovanovitch was “removed…because she was part of the efforts against the President,” the whistleblower wrote.

“President Trump ordered the removal of the ambassador to Ukraine after months of complaints from allies outside the administration, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, that she was undermining him abroad and obstructing efforts to persuade Kyiv to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden,” the Wall Street Journal reported (Oct. 3). “State Department officials were told this spring that Ms. Yovanovitch’s removal was a priority for the president” and “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo supported the move,” the Journal adds.

Around the same time, the whistleblower writes that he “learned from a U.S. official that `associates’ of Mr. Giuliani were trying to make contact with the incoming Zelenskyy team.” He didn’t know whether the associates were the same two businessmen (Parnas and Fruman (see entry under “late 2018”)) who connected Giuliani with Shokin and Lutsenko.

May 1, 2019 — Attorney General William Barr stumbles and appears to try to avoid answering U.S. Senator Kamala Harris during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing when she asks, “Has the President or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?” He finally states in his answer, “I don’t know.”

May 9, 2019 Giuliani plans trip to Kyiv as part of pressure campaign

Giuliani tells the New York Times he plans to travel to Kyiv and meet with President-elect Zelenskyy to urge him to investigate the Bidens as well as Ukrainians who might have worked with Hillary Clinton’s campaign to reveal the Manafort information. “We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do,” Giuliani tells the newspaper. “There’s nothing illegal about it,” he said. “Somebody could say it’s improper.”

The newspaper notes the trip is “part of a months-long effort by the former New York mayor and a small group of Trump allies working to build interest in the Ukrainian inquiries. Their motivation is to try to discredit the special counsel’s investigation; undermine the case against Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s imprisoned former campaign chairman; and potentially to damage Mr. Biden, the early front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.” The news ignites a firestorm of bipartisan condemnation that Giuliani is improperly seeking the help of a foreign government to benefit Trump’s re-election campaign.

In a later editorial for the Washington Post (on Sept. 21, 2019), former Ukrainian anti-corruption activist and member of Parliament Serhiy Leshchenko writes:

“Giuliani attempted to visit Ukraine in May 2019 with the express purpose of involving Zelensky [cq] in this process. His aim was quite clear: He was planning to ask Zelensky to intervene in an American election on the side of Trump.

I had been helping Zelenksy’s team since January

As a person who has had direct experience of many of these events, I express my readiness to testify to the U.S. Congress about what has been happening for the past six months.”

May 9, 2019 – Giuliani, in an interview with Fox News, raises his theory of Ukrainian collusion with Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016 to smear Trump with Manafort payments allegations. Giuliani says he received such information “about three or four months ago.” Giuliani also discusses his theory about the Bidens in Ukraine, and he tries to implicate the U.S. Embassy in both.

May 10, 2019 – President Trump says in an interview with Politico, “Certainly it would be an appropriate thing” for him to ask Attorney General Barr to open an investigation on Biden. “I have not spoken to him about it. Would I speak to him about it? I haven’t thought of that,” he adds. Trump says he sees Biden as the clear front-runner in the Democratic race and likens it to his own surge toward the Republican nomination in 2016. He also says he will speak with Giuliani about the former mayor’s planned trip to Ukraine and that they hadn’t discussed it “at any great length.”

May 11, 2019 Giuliani cancels trip to Ukraine

Giuliani tells Fox News he called off his trip to Ukraine because he believes he would be “walking into a group of people that are enemies of the president, and in some cases, enemies of the United States,” a particularly harsh reference that sounds like it is meant for Ukrainian anti-corruption reformers who are rejecting his and Trump’s conspiracy theories. The decision follows bipartisan backlash in the United States over Giuliani’s seeking foreign support for Trump’s re-election (see May 2 above).

Former Ukrainian member of Parliament Serhiy Leshchenko and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst say Zelenskyy actually had declined Giuliani’s request for a meeting, which could explain Giuliani’s tone of rejection. Herbst commented, “My understanding is that the president-elect’s party and his group said that the President-elect [Zelenskyy] sees no reason to have a meeting about an issue which is so transparently an American domestic political issue.”

On or about May 14, 2019 — President Trump instructs Vice President Mike Pence “to cancel his planned trip to Ukraine to attend President Zelenskyy’s  inauguration. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry led the U.S. delegation instead,” writes the whistleblower, who cites unnamed “U.S. officials.” “According to these officials, it was also `made clear’ to them that the President did not want to meet with Mr. Zelenskyy until he saw how Zelenskyy `chose to act,'” the whistleblower wrote.

May 14, 2019 — Attorney General Barr appoints John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to lead a probe into the origins of the Russia investigation. Barr had reportedly initiated the investigation of the investigation about three weeks earlier.

May 16, 2019 Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Lutsenko tells Bloomberg News that he has “no evidence of wrongdoing” by either of the Bidens and that neither Hunter Biden nor Burisma were the focus of any current investigation. He said he planned to give U.S. authorities information about Burisma board payments, so that the U.S. could check whether Hunter Biden had paid taxes on his income, though there were no restrictions in Ukraine on how much a company could pay to its board members.

May 18, 2019 — Giuliani repeats on Twitter his claim that Zelenskyy “has surrounded himself with some people that are enemies of Pres.Trump.”

May 20-24, 2019 – Zelenskyy is inaugurated as president, taking over from Poroshenko. Shortly afterwards, the whistleblower writes, “it was publicly reported that Mr. Giuliani met with two other Ukrainian officials: Ukraine’s Special Anticorruption Prosecutor, Mr. Nazar Kholodnytskyy, and a former Ukrainian diplomat named Andriy Telizhenko.” (Public reports of these meetings included Ukrainian and US media outlets.) Both, the whistleblower continues, “are allies of Mr. Lutsenko and made similar allegations” in a series of articles in The Hill. The two businessmen Parnas and Fruman who connected Giuliani with Shokin and Lutsenko (see entry for “late 2018”) reportedly join the meeting with Giuliani and Kholodnytskyy in Paris.

Mid May to early July –  According to the whistleblower’s complaint, in this period, “multiple U.S. officials told me that the Ukrainian leadership was led to believe that a meeting or phone call between the President and President Zelenskyy would depend on whether Zelenskyy showed willingness to ‘play ball’ on the issues that had been publicly aired by Mr. Lutsenko and Mr. Giuliani.”

May 23, 2019 — White House meeting including U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker, Energy Secretary Perry and/or U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. The meeting is referenced without elaboration in a Sept. 30, 2019 House of Representatives subpoena to Giuliani. On May 23, Volker tweeted that the meeting was to brief the White House on their and Republican Senator Ron Johnson’s recent trip to Ukraine. Volker and Sondland aimed to persuade Trump that Ukraine under Zelenskyy would be a reliable ally and would address corruption, and that the presidents should meet to signal to Russia that the U.S. continued to support an independent Ukraine, according to sources who spoke with CNN, though it’s unclear why Volker and Sondland thought an anti-Russia argument could be persuasive with Trump. “The President was very skeptical,” Volker told the House committees in his Sept. 30 deposition for their impeachment investigation, CNN reported. “He was clearly receiving other information from other sources, including Mayor Giuliani, that was more negative, causing him to retain this negative view” of a corrupt Ukraine, Volker added. It became clear in the meeting that Trump wanted them to work through Giuliani, and if the former mayor could be persuaded, Trump might heed his advice.

June 4, 2019 – Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is seated next to Zelenskyy at a dinner in Brussels hosted by U.S. Ambassador to the EU Sondland, part of an early Embassy celebration of the U.S. Independence Day. Kushner had dropped off from Trump’s visit to the U.K. to attend the occasion in Brussels.

June 11, 2019 Zelenskyy sends a motion to Parliament asking that it dismiss sitting Prosecutor General Lutsenko.

June 13, 2019 President Trump says he would accept dirt on his political rivals from a foreign government, a statement noted by the whistleblower, whose complaint references the relevant interview of the president with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos.

June 18, 2019 — The Department of Defense announces the $250 million plan “for additional training, equipment, and advisory efforts to build the capacity of Ukraine’s armed forces.”

June 21, 2019 — Giuliani tweets, “New Pres of Ukraine still silent on investigation of Ukrainian interference in 2016 election and alleged Biden bribery of Pres Poroshenko. Time for leadership and investigate both if you want to purge how Ukraine was abused by Hillary and Obama people.”

Early to mid-JulyTrump orders suspension and review of U.S. aid to Ukraine

President Trump tells his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold back almost $400 million in military aid to Ukraine at least a week before his phone call with Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy, the Washington Post reports. The decision was communicated by OMB to State and Defense department officials on July 18. The Post includes details of internal processes, including that “besides Bolton [the president’s national security adviser], several other administration officials said they did not know why the aid was being canceled or why a meeting was not being scheduled.” CNN reported on Oct. 2 that Trump ordered the freeze in June, earlier than others have reported. The Washington Post reported that “administration officials were instructed to tell lawmakers that the delays were part of an ‘interagency process’ but to give them no additional information.”

The hold on the funding contradicts the Trump administration’s stance in favor of aiding Ukraine’s defense against the Russian-backed forces fighting to control eastern Ukraine. The administration had approved lethal defensive weapons sales in 2017, a move the Obama administration had resisted. The Department of Defense conducted the ordered review and determined that the support should continue and informed the White House of its recommendation, according to Politico and CNN. National Security Adviser John Bolton also wanted to release the funds to help Ukraine curtail Russian aggression, the Washington Post reports. Fox News reports that “the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Council were `unanimous’ in supporting the aid to Ukraine, and that Trump acted alone in withholding the aid over the summer.”

About July 19, 2019 — Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Zelenskyy, reportedly requests assistance from the State Department’s special representative for Ukraine negotiations, Kurt Volker, to be put in touch with Giuliani. On July 19, Volker sends a text message to Giuliani saying, “Mr. Mayor—really enjoyed breakfast this morning. As discussed, connecting you here with Andrey Yermak, who is very close to President Zelensky.”

Yermak speaks with Giuliani for the first time by phone. They discuss the Trump-Giuliani demands for investigations and the new Ukrainian leader’s desire for a White House meeting to affirm continued U.S. support for Ukraine. “Mr. Giuliani in television appearances over the summer had repeatedly singled out Ukraine over corruption, putting pressure on Mr. Zelensky’s new administration. Yermak called Mr. Giuliani to ask him to tone it down, according to a person familiar with the call. Mr. Giuliani in response suggested that Ukraine investigate Hunter Biden’s relationship with Burisma,” the Wall Street Journal reports (on Sept. 26).

July 23-26, 2019 — “During interagency meetings on 23 July and 26 July, OMB officials again stated explicitly that the instruction to suspend this assistance had come directly from the President, but they still were unaware of a policy rationale,” the whistleblower wrote.

July 24, 2019 — Special Counsel Robert Mueller testifies in two hearings before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees on his report. 

July 25, 2019 Trump and Zelenskyy speak by phone for the first time since the call on May 20.

The two presidents have their second conversation. An English-language press release issued by Zelenskyy’s office about the call says:

“Donald Trump is convinced that the new Ukrainian government will be able to quickly improve [the] image of Ukraine, complete investigation of corruption cases, which inhibited the interaction between Ukraine and the USA. He also confirmed continued support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine by the United States and the readiness of the American side to fully contribute to the implementation of a Large-Scale Reform Program in our country.”

The two presidents “agreed to substantively discuss practical issues of Ukrainian-American cooperation during the visit of the Ukrainian head of state to the United States,” the release continued.

Zelenskyy had been hoping for a warm reception from the U.S. president and a White House meeting as an important signal to affirm continued American support for Ukraine’s war against Russian forces controlling the country’s east and for comprehensive reform and economic development efforts. Ukraine advocates in the U.S. also had thought a White House invitation would be forthcoming any day, but it was never scheduled.

An intelligence community whistleblower complaint revealed in September that reportedly involves the Trump-Zelenskyy July 25 call prompts a flurry of revelations about the conversation until the declassification of a transcript of the call.

Before the release of the transcript, Trump admits he discussed Biden on the call (see Sept. 22 below) and says U.S. funding for Ukraine is at stake (see Sept. 22-23 below).

US officials who listened in on the call include Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (by his own subsequent admission) and reportedly Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg. The whistleblower complaint says approximately a dozen US officials listened in on the call and also names T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, Counselor of the United States Department of State. The Pentagon stated that no Defense officials were on the call.

July 26, 2019 — Volker and Sondland meet with Zelenskyy in Kyiv.

Volker and Sondland advised the Ukrainian leader on “how to `navigate’ the demands that the President had made of Mr. Zelenskyy,” according to the whistleblower’s complaint.

July 28, 2019 Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats submits his resignation, effective Aug. 15. One of President Trump’s longest-serving Cabinet members, Coats also stirred his boss’s ire at times with his policy disagreements and lukewarm endorsements of the President’s positions.

July 31, 2019 – Giuliani meets in New York with Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, who is in a power struggle with Zelenskyy over a second title he holds as head of the city’s administration. Giuliani and Klitschko have known each other for years – the former Ukrainian boxing champion hired the former New York mayor as a consultant on his Kyiv mayoral campaign in 2008. On Sept. 4, Zelenskyy stripped Klitschko of the head of administration post, apparently in a move to restore checks-and-balances in the capital.

On or about Aug. 2, 2019 Giuliani meets in Madrid with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Zelenskyy.

Having been rebuffed in June for a meeting in Kyiv with Zelenskyy personally, Giuliani flies to Madrid to press the new Ukrainian president’s aide, Yermak, for an investigation of the Bidens as well as a probe of the allegation that Ukrainians conspired with Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016 to release damaging information about Paul Manafort. The Madrid meeting was a “`direct followup'” to the July 25 Trump-Zelenskyy phone call and specifically to their discussion of the cases the U.S. president raised in that conversation, according to the whistleblower’s complaint. From Madrid, Giuliani resurfaces his allegations against the Bidens in a tweet on Aug. 3.

Giuliani has said Yermak seemed open to considering the investigations, but also pressed for a Trump-Zelenskyy meeting as a sign of continued U.S. support to Ukraine in its war against Russia and its economic development and internal reform efforts. “I talked to him about the whole package,” Giuliani told the Washington Post. The Post reported that “U.S. officials and members of the Trump administration wanted the meeting [between the two Presidents] to go ahead, but Trump personally rejected efforts to set it up, according to three people familiar with the discussions.”

Aug. 12, 2019 – President Trump comments on President Zelenskyy

Trump speaks to reporters outside the White House about a range of issues, including the following exchange:

Q: Mr. President, do you plan invite your Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky [cq] to the White House?  And what would be your advice for him —

THE PRESIDENT:  Who are you talking about?

Q: The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.

Q: Do you plan to invite him to the White House?  And what would be your advice for him on how to communicate with Vladimir Putin to stop the conflict in Eastern Ukraine?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think he’s going to make a deal with President Putin, and he will be invited to the White House.  And we look forward to seeing him.  He’s already been invited to the White House, and he wants to come.  And I think he will.  He’s a very reasonable guy.  He wants to see peace in Ukraine.  And I think he will be coming very soon, actually.

Aug. 12, 2019 A whistleblower files a complaint to Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) Michael Atkinson related to an alleged “urgent concern” that news reports later reveal likely centers on activities involving President Trump and Ukraine. The ICIG determines the complaint meets the definition of an “urgent concern” and is credible, and forwards it on Aug. 26 to Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire, who under the law was required to transmit the complaint to the congressional intelligence committees within seven days. The Justice Department, however, takes the position that the statute does not apply on the ground that the complaint does not involve “an intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority of the Director of National Intelligence.” The complaint remains under wraps until House Intelligence Committee Chairman reveals its existence on Sept. 13 (see below).

Aug. 15, 2019 – DNI Coats leaves office. Principal Deputy Director Sue Gordon resigns too, after it became clear that Trump would not select her to succeed Coats.

Aug. 26, 2019 – The Inspector General forwards the intelligence community whistleblower complaint to Acting DNI Maguire.

Aug. 28, 2019 – Then-U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton becomes the first high-level Trump administration official to visit Kyiv since President Zelenskyy’s inauguration. Bolton says the two discussed a possible meeting between the two presidents during a trip Trump planned at the time to Poland.

Aug. 28, 2019 Politico breaks the news that President Trump was delaying the distribution of $250 million of fiscal 2019 security assistance that Ukraine needs to fight its war with Russia on its eastern flank, by asking his administration to review how it was being spent. The hold on the aid package at the same time as Trump and Giuliani were agitating publicly for Ukraine to investigate Biden raises the specter that the U.S. president was using congressionally appropriated taxpayer dollars as leverage to coerce a foreign government to investigate his potential rival in the 2020 election. It later emerges that a separate military aid package of $141.5 million in Foreign Military Financing also was included in the suspension, for a total of almost $400 million.

Aug. 29, 2019 – Zelenskyy appoints lawyer and former Deputy Minister of Justice Ruslan Riaboshapka as the new prosecutor general, replacing Yuriy Lutsenko, who steps down the same day.

Sept. 2019 – The Wall Street Journal reports, “Ukrainian officials earlier this month expressed concern to U.S. senators that the aid had been held up as a penalty for resisting that pressure.”

Sept. 1, 2019 — The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, chargé d’affaires Bill Taylor raises the specter of a quid pro quo in a text message to Sondland and Volker: “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Sondland replies only, “Call me.”

Sept. 2, 2019 – Vice President Mike Pence, a day after meeting with the new Ukrainian president, doesn’t directly answer a reporter’s question about whether he can assure Ukrainians that the delay in $250 million of U.S. security assistance for Ukraine is unrelated to President Trump’s and Rudy Giuliani’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

Sept. 5, 2019 — New Prosecutor General Ruslan Riaboshapka brings Vitaliy Kasko back to the office as First Deputy Prosecutor General, a move that promises to help restore integrity to the office. Kasko is the former deputy of Shokin’s who had quit out of frustration.

Sept. 8 and 9, 2019 — Taylor repeats concerns in two text messages with Sondland about the idea of holding out U.S. military funding until Zelenskyy agrees to investigate Biden. Though Sondland had texted a month earlier that Trump “really wants the deliverable,” he writes back this time about 4 ½ hours after the second such text over the two days to disavow such a deal, advising him to take any further such concerns directly to Pompeo. “The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign I suggest we stop the back and forth by text If you still have concerns I recommend you give [Pompeo] a call to discuss them directly.” The Wall Street Journal reported later that Sondland had spoken with Trump before his response to Taylor.

Sept. 9, 2019 — Inspector General for the Intelligence Community Michael Atkinson informs House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff and Ranking Member Devin Nunes of the whistleblower complaint’s existence (full text of the Inspector General’s letter) 

Sept. 9, 2019 Three U.S. House committees launch probe into Trump and Giuliani pressure campaign

The House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform committees announce a joint investigation of Trump and Giuliani’s alleged efforts to strongarm Ukraine into pursuing two investigations for the president’s political gain, including by threatening to withhold $250 million in security assistance. The joint press release says public records show the efforts have continued “for nearly two years” and were conducted “under the guise of anti-corruption activity.”

Sept. 11, 2019Trump releases the hold on U.S. security assistance to Ukraine

State Department notifies Congress that it will provide Ukraine with $141.5 million of military equipment and other assistance under its “Foreign Military Financing” program that is available for a number of countries. The news emerges the next day, Sept. 12, at the same time that U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham says the administration has released its hold on the separate $250 million of military assistance for Ukraine from the Defense Department under a program known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. President Trump gave permission to the OMB’s acting director, Russell Vought, to release the funds. The timing of the news on both aid packages leads to speculation that the Trump administration was topping up its bribe/extortion of Ukraine, but the Foreign Military Financing likely had been in the works for months, possibly a year.

Sept. 13, 2019 Intelligence community whistleblower complaint revealed 

House Intelligence Committee Chair Schiff announces that he has issued a subpoena to Acting DNI Maguire to obtain a complaint from a whistleblower filed under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA) that, under the law, should have been provided to the congressional intelligence committees. Schiff says he is concerned the complaint is being withheld “to cover up serious misconduct” and “to protect the President or other Administration officials.”

Sept. 17, 2019 – The Inspector General for the Intelligence Community sends letter to House Intelligence Chairman Schiff and Ranking Member Nunes outlining his disagreement with the administration’s decision to withhold the whistleblower’s complaint from the congressional intelligence committees. The Inspector General’s letter states, “the subject matter involved in the complainant’s disclosure not only falls within the DNI’s jurisdiction, but relates to one of the most significant and important of the DNI’s responsibilities to the American people.”

Sept. 18, 2019 – Vice President Pence speaks with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy by phone, discussing a scheduled meeting between the two presidents during the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York the following week. Pence “commended President Zelenskyy’s administration for its bold action to tackle corruption through legislative reforms, and offered full U.S. support for those efforts,” according to a U.S. Embassy statement.

Sept. 20, 2019 – A senior advisor to Ukraine’s Interior Minister challenges Trump to make official U.S. government request if he wants an investigation of Biden. The adviser, Anton Geraschenko, told The Daily Beast that “currently there is no open investigation.” He adds, “Clearly, Trump is now looking for kompromat to discredit his opponent Biden, to take revenge for his friend Paul Manafort, who is serving seven years in prison.”

Sept. 22, 2019 – After days of insisting there was nothing inappropriate about his telephone call with Zelenskyy, President Trump acknowledges discussing Joe Biden with the Ukrainian leader during their July 25 phone call. “The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Mr. Trump told reporters.

Sept. 22 and 23, 2019Trump himself connects phone call on Biden to U.S. aid to Ukraine

President Trump, in two sets of remarks to reporters asking about his July 25 phone call with Zelenskyy, appears to confirm a connection between U.S. financial assistance for Ukraine and his pressure for the country’s leaders to pursue the investigations he wants.

On Sept. 22 Trump says, “Certainly I’d have every right to [raise Biden with the Ukrainian President] if there’s corruption and we are paying lots of money to a country.”

Trump has repeatedly referred to what he falsely claims the Bidens to have done as “corruption.” “It’s very important to talk about corruption,” Trump tells the reporters on Sept. 23. “If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?…It’s very important that on occasion you speak to somebody about corruption.” 

Sept. 23, 2019 – The chairmen of the three House committees conducting the joint investigation into Trump and Giuliani’s efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government write Secretary of State Pompeo demanding he turn over the documents the committees had requested on Sept. 9. The letter characterizes Trump’s actions as “seeking to enlist a foreign actor to interfere with an American election,” and says, “if press reports are accurate, such corrupt use of presidential power for the President’s personal political interest – and not for the national interest – is a betrayal of the President’s oath of office and cannot go unchecked.” The chairmen note the earlier deadline of Sept. 16 to produce the material had passed and give a new deadline of Sept. 26 to notify the committees whether the State Department intends to comply.

Sept. 24, 2019 — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces the formal opening of an impeachment inquiry.

Sept. 25, 2019 Trump meets with Zelenskyy for the first time, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly opening sessions in New York. The rough transcript of their July 25 call had been released earlier in the day, but both men tried to downplay any idea of pressure on the Ukrainian government to conduct investigations favorable to Trump’s 2020 re-election prospects. “There was no pressure,” Trump said. “Nobody pushed me,” Zelenskyy said. Trump went on to say that Ukraine needs to address “corruption” and repeated his argument that European countries need to provide more support. Asked why Giuliani is acting as a go-between with Ukraine, Trump said Giuliani is trying to get to the bottom of the Russia investigation “hoax.”

Trump also urged Zelenskyy to make a “deal” with Russian President Putin to end the war in eastern Ukraine. “I really believe that President Putin would like to do something. I really hope that you and President Putin can get together and can solve this problem. That would be a tremendous achievement, and I know you’re trying to do that.” 

The meeting between the presidents had been delayed since the Ukrainians began requesting it in early summer, and still doesn’t equate to an invitation for a formal meeting at the White House that Zelenskyy has sought as an important signal of continued U.S. support for Ukraine’s war against Russia and its battle against corruption. During joint remarks after their meeting, Zelenskyy indicated Trump had invited him to the White House, “but I think you forgot to tell me the date.” Trump wasn’t forthcoming.

Sept. 27, 2019 — The House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform committees issue subpoenas to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to produce documents he had failed to provide two weeks earlier and compelling depositions for five State Department officials over the next two weeks: former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Ambassador Kurt Volker, Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent, Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, and U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland. 

Sept. 27, 2019 — Kurt Volker, the U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations, resigns. He had been named among those in the State Department facilitating communications between Giuliani and Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s office, and was among those subpoenaed by the House committees earlier in the day. The day before, Sept. 26, Giuliani had tweeted images of text messages that he had exchanged with Volker on July 19 to set up a telephone call between Giuliani and Zelenskyy advisor Yermak.

Sept. 30, 2019 — Three House committees issue subpoenas to Giuliani and three associates — Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and Semyon Kislin — demanding records related to efforts to pressure Ukraine to conduct politically motivated investigations, including of Joe Biden. The committees request records starting from Jan. 20, 2017, the day Trump took office, to the present.  

Oct. 2, 2019 — The State Department notifies Congress that the administration has approved a $39 million arms sale of 150 Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, which is paying for the weapons from its own funding, according to CNN. The transaction, intended to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian incursion on its eastern flank, is separate from the $391 million of other military financing that President Trump suspended in the summer before releasing it after a bipartisan backlash (see above). The administration in March 2019 approved a similar $47 million package for Ukraine for 210 Javelin Missiles and 37 launchers.

  

About the Author(s)

Viola Gienger

Washington Editor for Just Security and research scholar at NYU School of Law. Follow her on Twitter (@violagienger).

Ryan Goodman

Co-Editor-in-Chief of Just Security, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, former Special Counsel to the General Counsel of the Department of Defense (2015-2016). Follow him on Twitter (@rgoodlaw).