Even as the Republican-controlled Senate voted almost entirely along party lines to acquit Donald Trump in his impeachment trial on Wednesday, new evidence emerged that Trump's pressure campaign against the government of Ukraine was more extensive and began months earlier than has been previously revealed. At the heart of the impeachment charges was Trump's holdup of military aid to Ukraine unless that country helped his reelection campaign by announcing an investigation into Democrat Joe Biden.
The impeachment investigation was ignited by a July 25, 2019, phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. In that call, Trump responded to a request for military aid from Zelensky by asking for "a favor" — the Biden investigation, as well an investigation into what Trump apparently believes was Ukraine's interference in the 2016 election, though the allegations against Ukraine have been widely debunked as Russian propaganda.
According to an investigative media report in December, the belief that Ukraine rather than Russia interfered in the election was fed to Trump by Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.
But Trump's pressure campaign against Ukraine did not begin in July of last year and did not even begin after Zelensky won that country's presidential election earlier in the year, according to a new report by the political news site Talking Points Memo. In fact, the effort to elicit an investigation of Biden began as early as March.
Text messages obtained by TPM show that the efforts were directed at Ukraine's previous president, Petro O. Poroshenko, and involved Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, and two of Giuliani's "henchmen," Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.
The three Trump associates nearly succeeded in forcing Poroshenko to announce the supposed investigation of Biden, according to the TPM report. The then-president of Ukraine was scheduled in March of last year to give an interview to conservative writer John Solomon of the political site The Hill. In that interview, Poroshenko would announce the Biden investigation, as well as a second sham investigation, into Ukraine's alleged role in the 2016 election.
But for reasons that remain unclear, Poroshenko backed out of the interview at the last minute, according to TPM.
"It was a months-long scheme, or effort, or whatever you wanna call it put together by the President, Giuliani, and others," Parnas said in an interview with TPM, as quoted in the site's Wednesday report.
In more evidence that emerged on Wednesday, shortly before the senate vote to acquit Trump, newly revealed emails show that Pentagon officials were "stunned" by Trump's order to hold back the military aid from Ukraine, according to a CNN report.
"The decision reverberated across the government for weeks," CNN reported.