Trump Envoys Pushed Ukraine to Commit to Investigations

WASHINGTON — Two of President Trump’s top envoys to Ukraine drafted a statement for the country’s new president in August that would have committed Ukraine to pursuing investigations sought by Mr. Trump into his political rivals, three people briefed on the effort said.

The drafting of the statement marks new evidence of how Mr. Trump’s fixation with Ukraine began driving senior diplomats to bend American foreign policy to the president’s political agenda in the weeks after the July 25 call between the two leaders.

The statement was drafted by Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt D. Volker, then the State Department’s envoy to Ukraine, according to the three people who have been briefed on it.

Mr. Volker spent Thursday on Capitol Hill being questioned by House investigators as Democrats pursued their impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump’s actions. He disclosed a set of texts in September in which Bill Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, alluded to Mr. Trump’s decision earlier in the summer to freeze a military aid package to the country. He told Mr. Sondland and Mr. Volker: “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

After speaking with Mr. Trump, Mr. Sondland texted back that there was no quid pro quo, adding, “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text.”

It was not clear if the statement drafted in August by Mr. Sondland and Mr. Volker came up in the closed-door session on Capitol Hill.

The statement was written with the awareness of a top aide to the Ukrainian president, as well as Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer and the de facto leader of a shadow campaign to push the Ukrainians to press ahead with investigations that could be of political benefit to Mr. Trump, according to one of the people briefed on it.

The statement would have committed Ukraine to investigating the energy company Burisma, which had employed Hunter Biden, the younger son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. And it would have called for the Ukrainian government to look into what Mr. Trump and his allies believe was interference by Ukrainians in the 2016 election in the United States to benefit Hillary Clinton.

The idea behind the statement was to break the Ukrainians of their habit of promising American diplomats and leaders behind closed doors that they would look into matters and never follow through.

It is unclear if the statement was delivered to Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, but no statement was released publicly under his name. Around that time, the Ukrainian officials indicated to the Americans that they wanted to avoid becoming more deeply enmeshed in American politics.

The drafting of the statement, which came in the weeks after the July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky, was an effort to pacify Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani and normalize relations between the two countries as Ukraine faced continuing conflict with Russia. Mr. Sondland and Mr. Volker believed that Mr. Giuliani was “poisoning” Mr. Trump’s mind about Ukraine and that eliciting a public commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue the investigations would induce Mr. Trump to more fully support the new Ukrainian government, according to the people familiar with it.

Mr. Giuliani said he was aware of the statement but that it was not written at his behest. He said the statement would include a commitment to investigations of Burisma and the circumstances around the 2016 election.