Just as the Washington Post reported that Ukraine was the subject of the mysterious whistleblower complaint causing a standoff between Congress and the intelligence community, President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was appearing on CNN Thursday night. In a heated interview, he first said he didn’t ask Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe Biden and his son for bribery and then, less than 30 seconds later, reversed himself and said “of course I did.”
He explained to host Chris Cuomo, “I found out this incredible story about Joe Biden, that he bribed the president of the Ukraine in order to fire a prosecutor who was investigating his son.”
Cuomo asked Giuliani, “Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?”
“No, actually I didn’t,” Giuliani responded. “I asked the Ukraine to investigate the allegations that there was interference in the election of 2016 by the Ukrainians for the benefit of Hillary Clinton —”
Cuomo pressed him, “You never asked anything about Hunter Biden? You never asked anything about Joe Biden?”
Giuliani replied that “the only thing I asked about Joe Biden” was to get to the bottom of how it was that the prosecutor who had been appointed to investigate Biden dismissed the case against him.
“So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden,” Cuomo asked.
“Of course I did,” said Giuliani.
Giuliani said he wasn’t ordered by Mr. Trump to investigate Biden and didn’t inform the president of his investigation until after the fact.
And when pressed on whether Mr. Trump had agreed to provide aid to Ukraine only after it investigated Biden, Giuliani told Cuomo the president has “every right” to tell the president of another country that it would only receive American financial aid once corruption is eliminated.
In May, Giuliani had planned to travel to Ukraine to ask its newly-elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to look into the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, as well as Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden’s past connections to the country. He had told The New York Times it was his right to travel to Ukraine to “defend” his client — to try to push for investigations he thought could be “very helpful” to the president.
The president’s lawyer told Cuomo he’s glad he investigated Joe Biden and that the current dispute swirling around the whistleblower’s complaint “doesn’t make a difference” because Mr. Trump did nothing wrong.
Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company owned by Mykola Zlochevsky, a wealthy associate of Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian Ukrainian president who was forced into exile in 2014. Zlochevsky was subsequently investigated for corruption, and Politifact notes that a new prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, took over the investigation in 2015.
It is true that Joe Biden, while he was vice president, threatened to withhold aid from Ukraine unless it ousted Shokin, which Ukraine agreed to do. However, Shokin was perceived by the U.S. and its allies as not pursuing corruption cases aggressively enough, Politifact points out, and he was suspected of trying to protect pro-Russian interests. The case against Zlochevsky languished while Shokin was prosecutor.
Hunter Biden has said he never spoke to his father about his service on the board. Nonetheless, the younger Biden has faced widespread criticism for accepting the position while his father was vice president.
After the CNN interview, Giuliani tweeted, “A President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects the US is doing his job. Maybe if Obama did that the Biden Family wouldn’t have bilked millions from Ukraine…”
Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut tweeted that he recently visited Zelensky and they discussed the pressure that Giuliani and the president had been exerting on Ukraine.
A few weeks ago in Ukraine, I met w President Zelensky and we discussed the surprise cut off of aid and the inappropriate demands the Trump campaign was making of him. The obvious question everyone in Kiev was asking was – were the two things connected?
Zelensky did not explicitly connect the two in our meeting, but he was VERY concerned about the cut off of aid, and VERY aware of the conversations that Rudy Giuliani was having with his team. I told him it was best to ignore requests from Trump’s campaign operatives. He agreed.
I don’t know what is in the whistleblower complaint, but it was clear to me that Ukraine officials were worried about the consequences of ignoring Giuliani’s demands. And of course they were. That’s why presidents shouldn’t have their campaigns talking to foreign leaders.
The whistleblower complaint involves a conversation Mr. Trump had with a world leader who has’t been publicly identified. Zelensky is one of the leaders with whom Mr. Trump spoke in the six weeks leading up to August 12, when the whistleblower complaint was filed with the intelligence community’s inspector general.
Nancy Cordes contributed to this report
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