President Donald Trump’s White House gatekeeper helped facilitate a phone conversation between Rudy Giuliani and Mike Pompeo right as the former New York City mayor was beginning to pursue political investigations in Ukraine, according to newly released emails.
On March 27, 2019, Madeleine Westerhout, who formerly served as director of Oval Office operations at the White House, reached out to an official at the State Department asking for a phone number for Pompeo. Westerhout was forwarding a request from Giuliani’s own assistant, Jo Ann Zafonte, who had relayed that she’d been trying to get in touch with Pompeo but had been “getting nowhere through regular channels.” The State official—whose identity is not revealed in the emails—said Zafonte was “welcome [to] coordinate with us.” By the next day, Giuliani’s name was on Pompeo’s “Schedule Card” for a 20-minute discussion between 8:15 and 8:35 a.m.
The exchange was uncovered as part of a 100-page response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the non-partisan (though Democratic leaning) watchdog group American Oversight. And it binds the Trump White House even tighter to an effort led by Giuliani to commandeer U.S. diplomacy to fit the president’s domestic political agenda.
Around the time that Giuliani was leaning on the office of the president to get him a direct line to the secretary of state, he was also whipping up a smear campaign against the then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch—one that involved a major disinformation operation. In late March, The Wall Street Journal reported, Giuliani gave Mr. Pompeo “a nine-page document dated March 28 that included a detailed timeline of the Bidens’ dealings in Ukraine and allegations of impropriety against Ms. Yovanovitch.” The dossier itself was included in the American Oversight FOIA results.
And this past week, David Holmes, a top staffer at the US Embassy in Ukraine, testified that in March, “the situation at the embassy and in Ukraine changed dramatically.”
“Specifically, the three priorities of security, economy and justice and our support for Ukrainian democratic resistance to Russian aggression became overshadowed by a political agenda promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a discreet channel to the White House,” Holmes added. “That change began with the emergence of press reports critical of Yovanovitch.”
All told, Giuliani appears to have had three calls with Pompeo during this time period. In addition to the one on March 28, his name also appears listed on the secretary of state’s call logs for the 29th. There is also an email that says Giuliani spoke with Pompeo on the 26th. It is not entirely clear how the two could have spoken on that day, only for Giuliani to suddenly not be able to get through to Pompeo by “regular channels” on the next day.