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In March 2019, the smear campaign against Yovanovitch ricocheted from articles in the US news outlet the Hill to Donald Trump Jr’s Twitter account. But Lutsenko’s own history of corruption was about to catch up with him, and Giuliani needed more.
The former mayor of New York turned to two Ukrainian oligarchs, Dmytro Firtash and Ihor Kolomoisky, each of whom was in the crosshairs of the US justice department for alleged financial crimes. Through Parnas and Fruman,
Giuliani offered to help the Ukrainians resolve their legal problems, the men said – in exchange for favors, including access to Zelenskiy.

Giuliani has denied wrongdoing and told the New York Times that there is nothing improper about seeking
information about the Bidens from the oligarchs. “Where do you think you get information about crime?” he said.

‘The Three Amigos’
With Yovanovitch out of the way, Trump began to exploit a new pressure point.
Ukraine had just elected Zelenskiy, a comedian and actor with no political experience other than playing the role of president in a TV series. He was inaugurated on 20 May, the same day Yovanovitch officially left Ukraine.
Zelenskiy had campaigned as a reformer who would stand up to Russia and end endemic corruption. To solidify that reputation, few gestures would be as valuable as a meeting with the US president at the White House.
For weeks after his inauguration the Ukrainians sought a date for a visit. Then a delegation of Ukrainians was invited to meet with then national security adviser John Bolton at the White House on 10 July.
Neither the Ukrainian officials nor Bolton and his team were prepared for what followed.

Sitting in Bolton’s office, near the Oval Office, the two sides spoke for nearly 45 minutes before the Ukrainians inquired about a date for a presidential meeting.
Before Bolton replied, Gordon Sondland, a little-known hotelier who leveraged a million-dollar contribution to Trump’s inauguration committee into an ambassadorship to the EU, pounced.
Sondland blurted out that an “agreement” had been reached. “There will be a meeting,” he said, according to testimony, “if specific investigations are put under way.”

Bolton stiffened.
“For me, that was unmistakable body language,” British-born Fiona Hill, then the top Russia adviser on the national security council (NSC), later testified, in her self-described distinctive working-class English accent. “Then he looked up to the clock and at his watch … and
basically said: ‘Well, it’s been really great to see you. I’m afraid I’ve got another meeting.’”

As the group spilled outside for a photo opportunity, which one attendee, the energy secretary, Rick Perry, commemorated on Twitter, Bolton took Hill aside and told
her to follow them into a “debrief” meeting in the White House basement.

There, she found Sondland, with Perry and Kurt Volker, then an envoy to Ukraine. The trio was known as the “Three Amigos” and together they helped carry out
Giuliani’s shadow foreign policy campaign in Ukraine.

“I have a deal here with the [acting] chief of staff, [Mick] Mulvaney,” Sondland said, pressing his case. “There will be a meeting if the Ukrainians open up or announce these
investigations into 2016 and into Burisma” – a reference to the Ukrainian natural gas company that once employed Biden’s youngest son, Hunter, while he served as vice-president.
Hill and her deputy, Lt Col Alexander Vindman, confronted Sondland. “I stated to Ambassador Sondland that this was inappropriate and it had nothing to do with national security,” Vindman testified.
Hill went back to Bolton, who ordered her to report the meeting to John Eisenberg, the senior lawyer on the NSC. “You tell Eisenberg, Ambassador Bolton told me, that I am not part of this, whatever drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland are cooking up,” she testified.
Asked by impeachment investigators whether she had relayed the message, Hill replied: “I relayed it precisely.”

There is no public record of Eisenberg ever acting on the complaint. Bolton has so far declined to step forward and say what he knows.
Sondland later said their “recollections of protest” jarred with his memory of the meeting, which he described as a “positive step toward accomplishing our shared goals”.

“Everyone was smiling,” he said. “Everyone was happy, and we took a picture on the lawn on a nice, sunny day
The ambassador testified that he worked “at the express direction” of the president on matters related to Ukraine. “Talk to Rudy,” he said Trump had instructed him.
Hill said she forewarned Sondland that this would not end well: “I said to him: ‘Ambassador Sondland, I think this is all going to blow up’ – and here we are.”The phone call
They gathered around a speaker phone in the White House Situation Room: Alexander Vindman, NSC adviser
Tim Morrison, and others. The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Mike Pence, were listening, too.

At 9.03 on 25 July, Trump picked up the phone and waited to be connected with Zelenskiy.

On the call, Trump congratulated Zelenskiy on his
parliamentary victory. Zelenskiy told Trump he wanted to “drain the swamp” in Ukraine and called his American counterpart “a great teacher”.

“I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine,” Trump replied, according to a call summary published by the White
House. “I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very, very good to Ukraine.”Zelenskiy replied that Trump is “not only 100%, but actually 1,000%” right.
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