Trump says he didn't direct Giuliani's Ukraine efforts. Witnesses say otherwise.

"No, I didn't direct him," Trump said in an interview on Tuesday, appearing to distance himself from his personal lawyer.
Image: U.S. President Donald Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani is seen during a visit at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem
Rudy Giuliani during a visit at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem on June 7, 2018.Ronen Zvulun / Reuters file

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By Lauren Egan

President Donald Trump claimed on Tuesday that he did not direct his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to have Ukraine dig up dirt on his political rivals, contradicting testimony from several witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry.

"No, I didn't direct him but he's a warrior, Rudy's a warrior. Rudy went, he possibly saw something,” Trump told former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in an interview.

Asked by O’Reilly what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine on Trump's behalf, the president said: "You have to ask that to Rudy, but Rudy, I don't, I don't even know. I know he was going to go to Ukraine and I think he canceled a trip. But, you know, Rudy has other clients other than me. I'm one person."

Trump added that Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, had 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.”

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The New York Times reported that Giuliani was planning a trip to Ukraine to encourage then-President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy to move forward with investigations that could be politically beneficial to Trump's re-election campaign. Giuliani ultimately canceled the trip after political blowback.

Public testimony in the impeachment inquiry from multiple senior diplomats portrayed Giuliani as the driver behind Trump’s pressure campaign to get Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden and a leading voice in the spread of debunked conspiracies that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

Trump asked Zelenskiy to get in touch with Giuliani in the July 25 phone call that ultimately led to the impeachment inquiry.

“Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy,” Trump said according to a summary of call released by the White House. “If you could speak to him that would be great.”

In testimony from two key witnesses alone, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and Kurt Volker, then the U.S. special representative for Ukraine, Giuliani was mentioned more than 430 times, highlighting his outsize influence in Ukraine policy.

"Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the president of the United States," Sondland said. "We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we were playing the hand we were dealt."

Sondland added: "Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelenskiy. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the president of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the president."

Two of Giuliani's associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were charged with funneling money from foreign entities to U.S. candidates to buy influence. Giuliani has previously said that they were helping him to encourage Ukraine to open an investigation into the Bidens. Parnas and Fruman have pleaded not guilty.

Giuliani has maintained that there was nothing illegal or improper about his actions, even tweeting publicly about conducting an "investigation" on Trump's behalf.

"The investigation I conducted concerning 2016 Ukrainian collusion and corruption, was done solely as a defense attorney to defend my client against false charges, that kept changing as one after another were disproven," he tweeted in November.