Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani (R) with Giuliani’s indicted business associates Lev Parnas (2nd from L) and Igor Fruman (L) (Miami Herald)
Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani implicates Trump in the campaign to remove US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, seen as a barrier to the Trump-Giuliani effort for Kiev’s investigations to tarnish political rivals and cover up Russia’s involvement in the 2016 US election.
Giuliani has just returned from a visit to Europe, accompanied by the right-wing attack outlet One American News Network, to interview former Ukrainian officials who assisted him in the campaign that began last November.
The former New York City mayor told The New York Times on Monday that he spoke to Trump “a couple of times” about Yovanovitch’s frustration of the effort, which sought Ukraine’s statement of investigation of Presidential candidate Joe Biden and of a conspiracy theory that Kiev and not Russia stole e-mails from the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016.
Giuliani also implicated Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying Pompeo asked for more information after Trump connected Giuliani with him.
Last month documents, released under a court order, established two phone calls between Giuliani and Pompeo in late March.
One of the documents was a timeline of meetings between Giuliani, his now-indicted business associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and former and current Ukrainian officials. Giuliani confirmed on Monday that he sent the timeline to the State Department after Pompeo requested information.
After the two calls, the Secretary of State requested even more material. Giuliani sent memoranda, hand-delivered in an envelope to Pompeo’s office.
What I thought was, a really smart guy and he’s going to see what else is involved. And then he’ll be the one referring it to the FBI. And maybe they’ll take it from him and also it won’t look like I’m pushing the FBI to do it.
Yovanovitch was removed from Kiev in April, just before the election of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Trump and Giuliani turned their attention to the new leader, culminating in Trump’s July 25 call with Zelenskiy seeking the investigations — a call which would trigger a formal complaint, by the CIA liaison with the White House over Ukraine, and then impeachment hearings.
The House is likely to vote on Wednesday for Trump’s impeachment, setting up a trial in the Senate on Monday.
“I Needed Her Out of the Way”
During the hearings, a series of current and former US officials spoke about the disinformation effort against Yovanovitch, in which Giuliani was assisted by Parnas and Fruman.
Yovanovitch testified about feeling “threatened” by Trump, as he told Zelenskiy in the July 25 call that she was was “bad news” who was going to “go through some things”.
Giuliani is under investigation by Federal prosecutors over his activities, including in Ukraine. Revelations have linked his political activity to his business interests, with offers to Ukrainian oligarchs — including one sought for extradition by US authorities, and one being investigated by the FBI — of legal assistance if they helped provide dirt on Biden.
He told The New Yorker in another interview published Monday that he needed Ms. Yovanovitch “out of the way”: “[She] was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody.”
In the Times conversation, Giuliani stopped short of saying that he recommended Yovanovitch’s recall to Trump and Pompeo — “I just gave them the facts” — but said, “I think my information did [influence them].”
He said he told Trump and Pompeo that Yovanovitch was blocking visas for the former Ukrainian Prosecutor Generals who could damage Biden and his son Hunter, a board member of a Ukrainian gas company.
The State Department denied the visa to former Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin — removed by the Ukrainian Parliament in March 2016 for failing to investigate corruption — because Shokin was deemed to have wasted US money for anti-corruption programs.
Giuliani also said the former prosecutors could speak about Ukrainians who distributed documents that led to the resignation of Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in August 2016.
Manafort is currently serving a 7 1/2-year sentence on fraud and tax charges linked to his consultancy, including for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians and businessmen.
Giuliani aadded that he spread vague claims to Trump that Yovanovitch was bad-mouthing the President.