Ukraine’s efforts to strengthen ties to the United States were unraveled after the country’s new government was pulled into a scheme that got President Donald Trump impeached, according to a former top official there.
Oleksandr Danylyuk, the former chairman of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said Trump’s requests to announce an investigation into Joe Biden “rattled” the country’s newly elected president Volodymyr Zelensky, and Danylyuk eventually resigned from the government over the situation, reported The Daily Beast.
“At that time it was clear to me that we should not be dropped into this battle at all,” Danylyuk told the website. “If we were dragged into this internal process … that would be really bad for the country. And also, if there’s something that violates U.S. law, that’s up to the U.S. to handle.”
Danylyuk told The Daily Beast he worked with then-U.S. national security adviser John Bolton to craft a roadmap for cooperation between the two countries, but both men left their posts within two weeks of one another in September 2019.
“I would say it was definitely John who I trusted,” Danylyuk said. “I think John, because we worked together on trying to set up an official framework for a U.S.-Ukraine relationship.”
Bolton’s testimony could be pivotal in Trump’s impeachment trial, and Republicans face new pressure to call him after an excerpt from his upcoming book shows the president explicitly tied Ukraine aid to an investigation of Joe Biden.
“At the time I said there are some serious things that we need to discuss and agree on between the two countries, and that needs to be where the attention goes,” Danylyuk said. “And if we’re talking about dragging us into internal politics … using our president who was fresh on the job, inexperienced … that could just destroy everything.”
Danylyuk said relations between the two countries grew “worse” after the infamous July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky that prompted a whistleblower complaint — and then launched the impeachment inquiry.
“One thing I can tell you that was clear from this call is that that issue [of the Biden investigations] is an issue of concern for Trump,” Danylyuk said. “It was clear.”
Danylyuk said he first learned that U.S. aid had been withheld from Ukraine by reading an Aug. 28 report by Politico, although some impeachment witnesses said Ukrainian officials became aware of problems with the aid as early as July.
“I was really surprised and shocked,” Danylyuk told The Daily Beast. “Because just a couple of days prior to that … I actually had a meeting with John Bolton. Actually, I had several meetings with him, and we had extensive discussions. The last thing I had expected to read was an article about military aid being frozen.”
“After that,” he said, “I was trying to get the truth. Was it true or not true?”
Danylyuk saw Bolton a few days later at a meeting in Poland, where the two officials met on the sidelines, and tried to find out why the administration had paused the congressionally approved aid.
“I had my suspicions,” he said. “There was a special situation with one of our defense companies that were acquired by Chinese, and the U.S. was concerned about this. Bolton actually made the public comments about this as well, so somehow I linked this to things and tried to understand — okay, maybe this could be related to this.”
Both men were out of government by the end of that month.
“I never got an answer,” Danylyuk said.