POLITICS

Trump Denies Directing Rudy Giuliani To Conduct Ukraine Shadow Diplomacy

The president told former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly that "you have to ask" his personal attorney why he was in Ukraine on Trump's behalf.

President Donald Trump denied Tuesday that he sent his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine in order to pressure the country’s government to conduct investigations into his political rivals, which is at the center of the House’s impeachment investigation into the president.

In an interview with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump said he did not tell Giuliani to conduct a shadow diplomacy channel to Ukraine. The radio interview was on O’Reilly’s premium streaming service on his website.

“No, I didn’t direct him, but he is a warrior, he is a warrior,” Trump told O’Reilly.

When O’Reilly asked the president what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine on his behalf, Trump said, “you have to ask that to Rudy.”

“Rudy has other clients other than me,” Trump said, adding that he knew his personal attorney was going to Ukraine at one point but canceled the trip.

The statement contradicts public claims from Giuliani that he conducted an investigation “concerning 2016 Ukrainian collusion and corruption” on Trump’s behalf. Giuliani, along with several Trump allies, was working with Ukraine to get them to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election instead of Russia. 

Giuliani’s lawyer said Tuesday night that his client “never went to Ukraine for any probe” and that any information he received was given to him during former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, “before Biden was even announced,” according to Bloomberg.

Trump’s claim to O’Reilly also contradicts the White House summary of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he asked his Ukrainian counterpart to link up with Giuliani to go forward with investigating the Bidens. The call is an important aspect of the impeachment inquiry as the House looks into whether Trump’s reason for withholding nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine was to pressure Zelensky to agree to investigate the Bidens, creating an attempted quid pro quo.

Multiple witnesses in the House’s impeachment investigation have also testified that Giuliani directed a shadow U.S. diplomacy in Ukraine with the goal of pressuring the country to publicly announce investigations that Trump wanted. Republican donor and Trump-appointed U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, one of the key players in the impeachment inquiry, testified that the president gave him “express direction” to work with Giuliani on pressuring Ukraine to conduct investigations.

Earlier this month, Giuliani told Fox News’ Ed Henry that he has a “very, very good relationship” with the president and that, addressing rumors Trump is going to “throw him under the bus,” responded, “He isn’t, but I have insurance.” The attorney also told the Guardian he has “very, very good insurance” and that “all my hospital bills will be paid.” 

The former New York mayor later said that the comments were “sarcastic” and that they related to “the files in my safe” on the Bidens.

Federal prosecutors are investigating Giuliani and two of his business associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, in relation to their activities in Ukraine. Subpoenas issued to those connected to the three reportedly spell out a widespread investigation into nine potential charges, including obstruction of justice, fraud and money laundering, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post reported on Monday. The subpoenas indicate that prosecutors are investigating Giuliani’s consulting work, though the attorney has denied any criminal wrongdoing.

Giuliani defied a House subpoena in October from lawmakers seeking documents related to his involvement in the Ukraine scandal. His attorney at the time, Jon Sale, told Congress in a letter that the subpoena was “beyond the scope of legitimate inquiry” and called the impeachment investigation “baseless” and “unconstitutional.” 

The House Judiciary Committee will hold its first impeachment hearing Dec. 4 and has informed Trump of his rights in the process in a letter. That announcement came after the House Intelligence Committee held several public and private fact-finding hearings about the Ukraine scandal.

This article has been updated with a comment from Giuliani’s lawyer.

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