In late 2018, as he was just starting to look for dirt on the origins of the FBI investigation into Russian election meddling, President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani held a meeting with a top Ukrainian politician many in the administration believed would be the country’s next president.
The meeting with former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko took place on Dec. 5, 2018 in the U.S. and was set up with the help of two former Republican members of Congress. And it suggests that Giuliani’s involvement in Ukraine policy was more extensive than previously understood and involved more individuals than previously appreciated.
While the meeting was disclosed in a Department of Justice lobbying database, the contents of what was discussed have remained private. But a contemporaneous Ukrainian press report on the meeting said that Tymoshenko and Giuliani reportedly "discussed security issues, including the escalation of Russia's war against Ukraine and the US assistance to our country.”
Several sources said that among the topics discussed were U.S. military aid and future U.S.-Ukraine relations. And a source familiar with the arrangement told The Daily Beast the Tymoshenko meeting was brief, came at Giuliani’s request, that the attorney was “trolling for business,” and that Tymoshenko wanted to share “her substantive vision of Ukraine.”
Giuliani declined to reveal what he and Tymoshenko discussed, saying that their meeting was “private.” Later, he appeared to confuse the December 2018 meeting with a trip he made in 2017 to give “a report on security” in Kharkiv, Ukraine, in 2017.
“This is an obvious media onslaught to twist anything I do or did,” he added. “Good luck, it won’t work.”
At the time of her meeting with Giuliani, Tymoshenko was doing a tour through the U.S. ostensibly designed to gin up support for her efforts to capture the country’s presidency in elections months away. The vast majority of Tymoshenko’s other sit-downs were with elected officials or members of the Trump administration, including Kurt Volker, then-special envoy to Ukraine, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary for the bureau of Europe and Eurasian affairs at the State Department. The fact that she took the time to meet with Giuliani suggests that both she and her handlers understood the powerful role that he was playing in U.S. policy toward Ukraine well before that role became public and sparked congressional interest in Trump’s impeachment. That U.S. aid to Ukraine was a discussion topic raises additional questions about how involved Giuliani was in actually crafting American foreign policy despite playing no official role in State Department channels.
The meeting between Giuliani and Tymoshenko came at a time when Giuliani’s business and political interests in Ukraine were rising. He was actively looking for financial opportunities in the country, according to two individuals with knowledge of his ventures, and had already inked deals in the Ukraine, including in 2017 with the city of Kharkiv to work on municipal emergency services.
But Giuliani was also getting more involved in Ukrainian politics as well—specifically trying to unearth evidence that he believed existed that would show that actors in that country had facilitated the launch of the special counsel probe into Russian election meddling. Giuliani has said that he began “investigating Ukraine back in November” of 2018. Around the same time, Giuliani’s associates set up a Skype call between him and Victor Shokin, the former prosecutor general of Ukraine who investigated Burisma Holdings, the company on whose board former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, sat. And months prior to then, Giuliani pledged to put together a counter-report to the work being done by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was investigating the Russian interference efforts of 2016.
Giuliani currently stands accused of hijacking U.S. foreign policy by leading an effort to leverage the promise of military aid to Ukraine and a presidential visit in order to get more information on the origins of the FBI probe and to dig up dirt on the Bidens. Multiple Trump administration officials have said that he was effectively running a shadow diplomatic effort to get leadership in the country to announce an investigation into Burisma, a natural gas company.
Much of the investigative work that is now central to impeachment proceedings has focused on Giuliani’s interactions with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who won a surprise election in May of 2017. The meeting with Tymoshenko suggests that Giuliani’s involvement in the internal politics of that country extended well beyond that.
The person who set up that meeting was former congressman Bob McEwen, an Ohio Republican who has become a powerful advocate in conservative circles since leaving the Hill. A source close to Tymoshenko described McEwen as a “friend” of the former congressman but did not provide additional details about the relationship including whether the former prime minister was in business with McEwen.
Although McEwen is not a registered lobbyist, he did sign on as a “consultant” in a FARA registration filed by the Livingston Group to work on behalf of a company called “International Technology & Business Consulting LLC,” an organization run by a Ukrainian man named Sergei Krasnitsk. The Livingston Group is run by Robert Livingston, a former Republican congressman, who The New York Times reported was part of the effort to oust then-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch from her position in Kyiv.
Though Livingston’s lobbying shop has represented Ukrainian clients before, including the steel association Ukrmetalurgprom, it paid McEwen $15,000 a month to help with the International Technology & Business Consulting LLC portfolio.
Why they chose McEwen isn’t entirely clear. But his interest in Ukraine goes back more than a decade. In 2004 he traveled to Ukraine with a group of former congressmen, including former Rep. Jim Slattery (R-KS) who has represented Tymoshenko in the past for Wiley Rein., to monitor the country’s elections.
The former congressman did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
McEwen is close with Vice President Mike Pence and has been pictured with him several times throughout the last few years, including events with the Council for National Policy, an umbrella group for conservative activists that McEwen runs. Several weeks ago, Pence thanked McEwen publicly for the work he did at the Council.
McEwen and his wife have also met President Trump several times, according to pictures he and others have posted, including at last year’s White House Christmas party. In the fall of 2018, McEwen was photographed with Trump, then-White House Counsel Don McGahn, then- Chief of Staff John Kelly and Reagan-era Attorney General Edwin Meese, during a ceremony awarding Meese the Medal of Freedom.
For his work with Tymoshenko, McEwen reported that he set up a meeting with Meese on the same day that she met with Giuliani. Reached by phone, however, Meese said he had no recollection of that meeting.
McEwen’s work did not end with those late 2018 get-togethers. In July of 2019, he published an op-ed titled “Ukraine Needs A Political, Not a Technocrat, Prime Minister”. In the article, McEwen argued that recently elected President Zelensky should appoint Tymoshenko as prime minister.
Through it all, McEwen appears to have adopted the same criticisms and fears of the Mueller investigation that Giuliani himself espoused. On Twitter, he accused allies of Hillary Clinton of exploiting the FBI to “spread Russia conspiracy stories about Trump.” And in March of this year he retweeted a Trump tweet of conservative media figure (and conspiracy theorist purveyor) John Solomon alleging that there was a “Ukrainian plot to help Clinton.” In October, McEwen posted a Twitter comment by pro-Trump conservative activist Candace Owens who said people who believed in the “Ukraine collusion hoax” had low IQs.
McEwen is scheduled to host a talk with Sidney Powell, the attorney for former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, on the “corrupt Mueller investigations”.
-With additional reporting by Adam Rawnsley