In a lengthy report released late Monday, House Republicans threw out a range of defenses designed to poke holes in the Democrats’ case to impeach President Trump.
One defense that pops up repeatedly in the 123-page document: Rudy Giuliani went rogue.
Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, is at the center of Trump’s apparent push to compel Ukraine to secure him political favors. Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart, President Volodymyr Zelensky, to speak with Giuliani about the matter during their July 25 phone call. His instruction to U.S. diplomats working on Ukraine was similar: “Talk to Rudy” was the president’s order, testified Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.
The House GOP report, reflecting a key strategy of distancing Trump from some of the nitty-gritty of the Ukraine push, says Giuliani was not acting at the president’s behest and did not speak on his behalf.
“To the extent Mayor Giuliani was involved, he was in communication with these officials and the Ukrainians did not see him as speaking on behalf of the President,” the report says. That concluding phrase is repeated several times in the report. Instead, the GOP posits, the Ukrainians saw Giuliani as someone who had the president’s ear and was worth influencing—not someone trying to relay Trump’s demands.
“The Ukrainian government asked Ambassador [Kurt] Volker to connect them with Mayor Giuliani to help change Mayor Giuliani’s skeptical view of President Zelensky and ‘clear up’ information flowing to the President,” the report says. Out of that contact, testified several diplomats, came pressure from Giuliani for Kyiv to make a public commitment to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Indeed, the Republicans suggest that Giuliani might have been responsible for bolstering the president’s “negative” attitudes about Ukraine. “Evidence suggests that Mayor Giuliani’s negative assessment of President Zelensky may have reinforced President Trump’s existing skepticism about Ukraine and its history of corruption,” the report says.
At another point, the Republican report notes that the White House took steps to rein in Giuliani and “actively worked to stop potential impropriety.” The report uses as an example the administration’s denial of Giuliani when he attempted to secure a U.S. visa for Viktor Shokin, a former Ukrainian prosecutor who had helped lead the campaign to push out Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Whatever Giuliani’s role was, the GOP report stresses that it was fine, or at the very least, not illegal—even if “some pockets of the State Department and NSC grumbled” over it. Former National Security Adviser John Bolton famously said Giuliani was a “hand grenade” that would “blow up” everyone working on U.S.-Ukraine ties.
“The use of private citizens, such as Mayor Giuliani, to assist effectuating U.S. foreign policy goals on specific issues is not per se inappropriate and the Democrats’ witnesses testified that the use of private citizens can sometimes beneficial,” said the report. “There is no evidence that the arrangement here violated any laws or harmed national security.”