Donald Trump denied directing Rudy Giuliani to go to Ukraine to look for dirt on his political rivals, in an interview with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.
“No, I didn’t direct him, but he is a warrior, he is a warrior,” Trump told O’Reilly in an interview streamed on the internet on Tuesday.
Giuliani has said publicly that he conducted an investigation “concerning 2016 Ukrainian collusion and corruption” on Trump’s behalf.
Asked by O’Reilly what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine, Trump said “you have to ask that to Rudy.”
“Rudy has other clients, other than me,” the president added. “He’s done a lot of work in Ukraine over the years.”
It wasn’t clear if Trump intended to somehow distance himself from Giuliani with his remarks to O’Reilly. The former New York City mayor is under investigation by federal prosecutors related to his activities in Ukraine. Trump’s effort to force Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to open investigations that could be damaging to his political rivals including former Vice President Joe Biden is the subject of the House impeachment inquiry.
Giuliani said in an email provided by his lawyer, Robert Costello, that he never physically traveled to Ukraine on the president’s behalf.
“President is correct,” Giuliani said. “Giuliani never went to Ukraine for any probe. The information he received was given to him in U.S. by Ukrainians while Mueller probe was still ongoing and before Biden was even announced.”
Trump again proclaimed he “did nothing wrong” in the Ukraine affair during a campaign rally in Sunrise, Florida, on Tuesday night, pointing to public statements by Zelenskiy and other Ukrainian officials that they never felt pressure to open the investigations Trump requested.
“Never once, never, did Ukraine or the officials say anything that was wrong,” Trump said.
But Laura Cooper, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Ukraine and Russia, testified to the House that her staff received emails as early as July 25 -- the date of a call in which Trump asked Zelenskiy to conduct the investigations -- indicating that the Ukrainians were aware of a hold on American military assistance to the country.
Witnesses in the House inquiry have testified that Giuliani directed a shadow U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine aimed at securing the investigations Trump desired.
Trump himself told Zelenskiy to get in touch with Giuliani in the July 25 phone call that is at the heart of the impeachment probe.
“Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the attorney general,” Trump told Zelenskiy.
“Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy,” he continued. “If you could speak to him that would be great.”
In early August, Giuliani flew to Madrid to meet with a Zelenskiy adviser as a follow-up to the call. Giuliani told the Washington Post that he told the adviser, Andriy Yermak, to have his government open an investigation of a Ukrainian tycoon whose company once had Biden’s son Hunter on its board, as well as an allegation that Ukrainian officials colluded with Democrats to release information on Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who is now in federal prison.
“Your country owes it to us and to your country to find out what really happened,” Giuliani said in the Post story that he told Yermak.
— With assistance by Jordan Fabian, Ryan Beene, and Josh Wingrove