President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, says he is heading to Ukraine to meet with the country’s incoming president in the hopes of persuading him to do Trump’s bidding.
“It’s not confirmed yet,” Giuliani told The New York Times of his planned meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky, the comedian-turned-president-elect due to take office on June 3.
Giuliani told the Times his goal is to make sure Zelensky has prosecutors continue investigations that Trump and his allies believe will prove Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe was a witch hunt and knock Joe Biden out of the running for 2020.
“It is a big story. It is a dramatic story. I guarantee you, Joe Biden will not get to Election Day without this being investigated,” Giuliani excitedly told Laura Ingraham on The Ingraham Angle late Thursday.
One investigation concerns the involvement of former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, in a Ukrainian oligarch’s gas company, and allegations leveled by Giuliani and Trump allies that Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to dismiss a prosecutor who was investigating that company in order to protect his son. Biden has denied the allegation.
The other investigation—which was bizarrely announced by Ukraine’s top prosecutor not to Ukrainian media outlets, but to Hill.TV in March—concerns claims that Ukrainian authorities intentionally leaked information about scrutiny of then-Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort’s lobbying work in Ukraine during the 2016 election to help Hillary Clinton.
In comments to the New York Times, Giuliani said he sees nothing wrong with traveling to a foreign country on Trump’s behalf in order to influence the country’s internal affairs.
“We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do,” Giuliani was quoted as saying.
“There’s nothing illegal about it,” he said, adding that he’s simply urging Ukrainian authorities to continue with an investigation “they’re already doing” that others want stopped. “And I’m going to give them reasons why they shouldn’t stop it because that information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government.”
While telling Ingraham about his plans after the Times story was published, Giuliani inserted another figure into the scenario: George Soros.
“My aim is to make sure that Soros' representatives, who have a lot of influence in that government, and a very highly corrupt Ukrainian who actually participated in creating a false document about Paul Manafort, actually, he has been found guilty of that by the Ukrainian court... that they do not prevent the continuation of this investigation.”
It wasn’t immediately clear which “highly corrupt Ukrainian” Giuliani was referring to, but a Ukrainian court ruled last December that the country’s top anti-corruption official, National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine head Artem Sytnyk, violated the law by releasing information about suspected illegal payments to Manafort by a pro-Russian political party in 2016. He was not, however, found guilty of “creating a false document.”
Giuliani’s announcement of his upcoming trip to Kiev comes after he has reportedly already met with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko multiple times to discuss the investigations. But the matter has apparently taken on a new urgency after Zelensky earlier expressed an interest in replacing Lutsenko once he takes office.
News of the trip also comes just days after Trump spoke for more than an hour by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who apparently sought to get Trump on Moscow’s side in that country’s ongoing conflict with Ukraine before Zelensky takes office. According to a Kremlin transcript of the conversation, Putin stressed to Trump that the new Ukrainian leader must uphold the Minsk Agreements, the same peace agreements that Russia has routinely been accused of violating in the five-year war.
When asked what he would tell Zelensky if they were to meet, Giuliani told the Times he would warn the political newcomer about “the people that are surrounding him, and how important it is to do a full, complete and fair investigation.”
Victoria Toensing, a lawyer for the president in the Mueller probe, will reportedly be accompanying Giuliani on the trip. According to Giuliani, Toensing also represents Lutsenko and is traveling to Kiev because “she’s concerned for [Lutsenko] that the new president promptly understand what he’s trying to do.”
The White House has not yet commented on Giuliani’s voyage, but he told the Times that Trump supports his efforts.
“He basically knows what I’m doing, sure, as his lawyer.”
-- Justin Baragona contributed reporting