A number of officials in the Trump administration are growing concerned about the involvement of the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani with the Ukrainian government and Giuliani’s subsequent public statements about the matter, according to reports from several news organizations.
Giuliani was brought up in a July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which Trump pressured the newly elected leader to investigate his political rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter, according to a summary of the call released Wednesday. The call occurred while the U.S. was withholding nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine.
Trump told Zelensky that he should work with Giuliani on the probe, praising his attorney as someone who “very much knows what’s happening,” according to the call summary. The call led to a whistleblower complaint from someone within the intelligence community and became a catalyst for the announcement Tuesday of a formal impeachment inquiry.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The involvement of a personal attorney in government matters has sparked concern among lawmakers and White House officials. On Wednesday, a group of Senate Democrats demanded more information about Giuliani’s role in Ukraine.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thinks the attorney’s public statements “have been problematic,” as has his involvement in Ukraine, The New York Times reported Wednesday, citing multiple sources.
Before Trump admitted Sunday to asking Zelensky to help investigate the former vice president, Pompeo actually voiced support for Giuliani and said he approved of the lawyer and former New York mayor “inserting himself in foreign affairs” and pressing a foreign government to investigate Trump’s political rival. He declined to say at the time whether the State Department was giving support to Giuliani for his involvement.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that many State Department officials were concerned about being left unaware of Giuliani’s shadow interference in Ukraine.
“Rudy ― he did all of this,” an unnamed U.S. official told the Post. “This shitshow that we’re in ― it’s him injecting himself into the process.”
In an interview this week with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, Giuliani said he was working on behalf of the State Department, claiming it had requested he talk to Ukrainian officials. The State Department later denied Giuliani’s allegation, saying he’s a “private citizen” who does not speak for the U.S. government.
In that same interview, Giuliani threatened to sue Democratic commentator Chris Hahn and called him a “moron” and “idiot.” On CNN last week, he flipped between denying and admitting asking Ukraine to investigate Biden.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), an ardent supporter of Trump who doesn’t believe the president’s conversation with Zelensky was worrisome, has voiced concern over Giuliani’s recent television meltdowns.
“I don’t know what [role] he played,” Graham told HuffPost. “Rudy’s saying a lot of things, and I’m not sure he’s helping the president by being on TV every 15 minutes.”
A former Trump White House official who is allegedly familiar with such calls to foreign leaders told CNN that, although the call summary looks bad, the real legal problem relates to how Trump inserted a private attorney in foreign relations.
“If there is something really problematic, it’s Rudy,” the unnamed official told the network on Wednesday. “Because this is not proper government channels.”
The Atlantic reported Wednesday that an unnamed former senior White House official called Giuliani’s role in the Ukraine call “indefensible.” The official declined to be named out of fear of Trump, according to the publication.