GINTS IVUSKANS/AFP/Getty Images
Two weeks before Volodymyr Zelensky was sworn in as President of Ukraine, the new leader and his team discussed the pressure they were already feeling from the Trump administration and President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to launch public investigations into “corruption” cases, including Burisma, according to a source familiar with discussions at the meeting.
The source said the meeting was originally scheduled to discuss energy issues but the meeting evolved into a discussion on how to handle the pressure from Trump’s orbit.
Among those present in the May 7 meeting were Zelensky advisers’ Andriy Yermak, Andriy Bogdan, an executive for the Ukrainian state-owned natural gas company and American Amos Hochstein, a former diplomat and energy expert.
The Associated Press first reported this story, citing three people familiar with the meeting.
About the meeting: It happened about two weeks after the Zelensky spoke for the first time with Trump. A White House readout of the call said the two leaders discussed working together to “root out corruption.” It is not clear whether the President specifically asked for investigations of Ukraine’s role in the 2016 election or Burisma, the energy company that had hired former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, on the board.
The source said even in those early weeks, Zelensky and his team realized Ukraine’s relationship with the US and a potential face-to-face meeting with Trump could be at stake if they did not support the continuation of investigations like Burisma.
The Ukrainians continued to be sensitive to the issue. Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, said during this testimony this week, a top Ukrainian official told him in July that “President Zelensky did not want to be used as a pawn in a US re-election campaign.”
Zelensky himself, during a press conference with Trump in September, denied he felt any pressure, adding: “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be involved, to democratic, open elections of the USA.”
CNN has reached out to members of Zelensky’s transition team and government.