It was his latest effort to distance himself from his personal attorney.
November 27, 2019, 8:12 PM
8 min read
President Donald Trump said that he did not direct his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to travel to Ukraine on his behalf, despite telling Ukraine’s president earlier this year that he should talk to Giuliani.
Asked in a radio interview that aired Tuesday whether he directed Giuliani “to go to Ukraine to do anything or put any heat on them,” Trump replied, “No, I didn’t direct him but he’s a warrior, Rudy’s a warrior.”
In another sign that he was distancing himself from his personal lawyer’s work in the Ukraine — despite frequently praising Giuliani and endorsing his activities in Ukraine — Trump said that Giuliani provides legal representation to not just him but for other clients, too.
“I think he’s done work in Ukraine for years,” Trump said during an interview for former Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly’s “No Spin News” program. “He’s done a lot of work in Ukraine over the years and I think, I mean that’s what I heard. I might have even read that someplace, but he’s a good man and he’s an honorable guy and he’s a great crime fighter, corruption fighter.”
Giuliani told ABC News in a statement that Trump “is correct” and that he “never went to Ukraine for any probe.”
But according to a rough transcript of a call Trump held on July 25 with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump brought up Giuliani’s name — calling him “a highly respected man” — and encouraged the Ukrainian leader to talk to him.
“I would like him to call you,” Trump told Zelenskiy, according to the call record released by the White House. “I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great.”
Giuliani has said in the past that he kept Trump informed about his work in Ukraine.
After news broke in May of a trip Giuliani planned to take to Ukraine, the lawyer told The New York Times that the president “basically knows what I’m doing, sure, as his lawyer.”
Trump himself told Politico at the time that Giuliani had “very briefly” “mentioned” to him what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine — and Trump said then that he would talk to Giuliani about it more in the coming days.
The House of Representatives is conducting an impeachment inquiry into whether the president held up support for Ukraine to pressure the eastern European nation to investigate his political opponents.
Witnesses have told lawmakers that Giuliani played a central role in pushing a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election and a disputed theory that Joe Biden, as vice president, pushed Ukraine to dismiss its top prosecutor to prevent him from looking into a Ukrainian company where Biden’s son sat on the board.
In his July 25 call with Ukraine’s president, Trump referred to those theories Giuliani had been pushing and echoed Giuliani’s criticism of the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who was recalled this spring.
But asked by O’Reilly what Giuliani did on his behalf in Ukraine, Trump said, “I don’t even know.” He added that Giuliani “possibly saw something.”
“He felt personally insulted by what happened during my campaign, because there were a lot of bad things happening,” Trump said.
The president has repeatedly praised Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, as witnesses alleged Giuliani conducted his own channel of diplomacy contradicting official U.S. policy on Ukraine.
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Over the past few weeks, Trump has called his lawyer a “great person,” “great guy,” and “great gentleman.” In the interview, he called him “a warrior.”
Questions about Giuliani’s role featured heavily during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in recent weeks. The committee plans to transmit a report on its findings to the House Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to hold its first impeachment hearing on Dec. 4.
The Judiciary Committee’s chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler, on Tuesday sent a letter to Trump reminding him that he or his counsel could attend the hearing and request to question witnesses.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Wednesday morning that the White House was reviewing Nadler’s letter.
ABC News’ Mike Levine and John Santucci contributed to this report.
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