Giuliani boasts, then backtracks on some details of engineering Yovanovitch ouster

"She was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody," Giuliani told The New Yorker of the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Image: Marie Yovanovitch
Former U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies during the House impeachment inquiry on Nov. 15, 2019.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images file

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Allan Smith and Kristen Welker

Rudy Giuliani, after saying in interviews that ousted U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was an obstacle to getting the country to announce investigations desired by his client President Donald Trump, claimed Tuesday that she "needed to be removed for many reasons."

"Yovanovitch needed to be removed for many reasons most critical she was denying visas to Ukrainians who wanted to come to US and explain Dem corruption in Ukraine," Giuliani said on Twitter, echoing claims he made Tuesday to NBC News. "She was OBSTRUCTING JUSTICE and that’s not the only thing she was doing. She at minimum enabled Ukrainian collusion."

Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, was tweeting after two news outlets published interviews with him in which he revealed more details about his involvement in Yovanovitch's abrupt removal from her post, as well as what he says Trump knew.

"I believed that I needed Yovanovitch out of the way," Giuliani told The New Yorker in a report published Monday afternoon, adding, "She was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody."

In text messages to NBC News Tuesday morning, Giuliani repeated the assertion that the former ambassador was impeding his attempts to investigate his claims about the Bidens and Democrats.

Speaking with The New York Times following publication of The New Yorker story, Giuliani shed more light on his role in her removal and said he provided Trump with information showing that Yovanovitch was, in Giuliani's assessment, blocking investigations into the Bidens and Democrats. That led Trump to have Giuliani speak with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Yovanovitch, The Times reported, adding that Yovanovitch was recalled as ambassador within weeks.

"I think my information" played a role in her ouster, Giuliani told The Times. "I don’t know. You’d have to ask them. But they relied on it," he said of Trump and Pompeo.

Yovanovitch was one of the key witnesses to testify in the House's impeachment inquiry into Trump, telling Congress that she was subjected to a smear campaign based on lies that led to her abrupt removal from Kyiv. The full House will vote on two articles of impeachment against Trump on Wednesday, one of which charges that he abused the power of the presidency in pushing for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, and Democrats. The push for information about the Bidens ramped up as the elder Biden emerged as a 2020 Democratic front-runner.

There has been no evidence of any wrongdoing by the Bidens in Ukraine.

Giuliani, who has for months pursued information that could damage the president's opponents, emerged as a central figure in the House's impeachment inquiry. Giuliani recently took a trip to Europe to meet with Ukraine's former top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was removed after the U.S. and other international agencies and governments alleged he was not pursuing corruption cases. Giuliani also met with Shokin's successor, Yuriy Lutsenko, who was fired after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy took office this year.

Giuliani tweeted that he met with officials in Vienna, Budapest and Kyiv.

Asked about his comments to The New Yorker by Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Monday night, Giuliani said "of course" he helped oust Yovanovitch, but contradicted his earlier remarks regarding why he desired her removal.

"I didn't need her out of the way," Giuliani told Ingraham. "I forced her out because she's corrupt. I came back with a document that will show, unequivocally, that she committed perjury when she said she turned down the visa for Mr. Shokin because of corruption."

Shokin was denied the visa by the State Department because he was seen as having wasted U.S. aid meant to battle corruption, according to testimony in the impeachment probe.

Shokin "wanted to come to the United States to share information suggesting that there was corruption at the U.S. Embassy," George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, testified. "Knowing Mr. Shokin, I had full faith that it was bunch of hooey, and he was looking to basically engage in a con-game out of revenge because he’d lost his job."

Giuliani has promoted many claims about Yovanovitch, including that she "perjured" herself before impeachment investigators, bad-mouthed Trump and had a do-not-prosecute list of people Ukraine's top prosecutor could not go after.

That latter claim came from Lutsenko, who along with a former aide, described to The New Yorker an October 2016 meeting between Lutsenko and Yovanovitch at the prosecutor general's office in which Lutsenko drew up a list of anti-corruption experts and activists he said he had the right to probe. They said Lutsenko called this Yovanovitch's "do-not-prosecute" list and then ripped it up in front of her.

Yovanovitch has strongly denied having such a list.

"I want to categorically state that I have never, myself or through others, directly or indirectly, ever directed, suggested, or in any way asked for any government or government official in Ukraine or elsewhere to refrain from investigating or prosecuting actual corruption," Yovanovitch testified before impeachment investigators.

Impeachment witnesses have cast doubt on claims made by Giuliani and his Ukrainian sources, saying they were unsubstantiated or taken out of context. A U.S. official said this year that Lutsenko was the unnamed Ukrainian official referred to in a federal indictment as directing a plot to oust Yovanovitch.

"My opinion of Prosecutor General Lutsenko was that he was acting in a self-serving manner, frankly making things up, in order to appear important to the United States, because he wanted to save his job," Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, testified to impeachment investigators.

Giuliani told NBC News in a text message Tuesday that he plans to provide the Justice Department with a report on his recent findings in Ukraine as Trump suggested his lawyer would, but said he "can't comment beyond what" Trump has said. On the timeline for such a submission, Giuliani said, "All in good time."

Giuliani did not respond to an earlier request for comment from NBC News asking if he planned to provide Congress with such a report, nor if he would testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the invitation of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

One of Trump's staunchest allies, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said this month it was "weird" for Giuliani be back in Ukraine digging for dirt on the Bidens, adding that having Giuliani provide "that clarity to the Congress will be helpful in resolving what seems to be odd having him over there at this time."

An attorney for Yovanovitch and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.