Giuliani’s Ukraine gambit at core of whistleblower complaint

Politics

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks at a rally supporting a regime change in Iran outside United Nations headquarters on the first day of the general debate at the U.N. General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

WASHINGTON (AP) — When it comes to Ukraine, Rudy Giuliani became President Donald Trump’s courier, attack dog, fixer and a self-described meddler in another country’s affairs. His purpose was single-minded: get information “very, very helpful to my client.”

To hear the intelligence-community whistleblower tell it in the complaint unwrapped Thursday, Giuliani was a one-man wrecking ball, breaking things in a complex international landscape and leaving actual diplomatic envoys to clean up his “damage.”

To hear Giuliani tell it, “I will be the hero” in this episode and those who criticize him now are “morons.” So he told The Atlantic magazine.

He was once called America’s Mayor, the man whose moxie and grace in the death and rubble of 9/11 personified his stricken city and won him admiration around a shocked world.

Now he blends a sentiment that was familiar from that time and is familiar again in the world view of Trump himself: You’re with us or against us. If you’re not with me, you’re the enemy — of the president, the people, the country.

Citing the accounts of mostly unidentified U.S. officials, and buttressed by Giuliani’s own words from countless turns on Fox News, his tweets and newspaper interviews, the anonymous whistleblower pieces together a systematic effort by Giuliani on behalf of Trump to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his businessman son, Hunter.

Trump made that appeal explicitly in a July phone call with Ukraine’s new president that is at the heart of the whistleblower’s complaint. “I would like for you to do us a favor,” Trump said.

But the whistleblower goes well beyond the phone call to lay out Giuliani’s efforts back to late last year. He or she also traces the consternation that Giuliani’s machinations were causing inside the U.S. administration and even among some people in the White House itself.

“Starting in mid-May, I heard from multiple U.S. officials that they were deeply concerned by what they viewed as Mr. Giuliani’s circumvention of national security decisionmaking processes to engage with Ukrainian officials and relay messages back and forth between Kyiv and the President,” says the whistleblower.

“These officials also told me that State Department officials, including Ambassadors Volker and Sondland, had spoken with Mr. Giuliani in an attempt to ‘contain the damage’ to U.S. national security,” the whistleblower continues.

Kurt Volker, official U.S. envoy for Ukraine negotiations, and Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, also met officials from the new Ukrainian administration and “sought to help Ukrainian leaders understand and respond to the differing messages they were receiving from official U.S. channels on the one hand, and from Mr. Giuliani on the other.”

The complaint cites published reports of meetings Giuliani held with Ukraine’s chief prosecutor in New York in January and Warsaw, Poland, in February, after a phone call he had late in 2018 with the prosecutor’s predecessor. Giuliani associates later traveled to Kyiv and met the chief of the security service and another close adviser to the newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the complaint states.

This was the month Giuliani himself planned to go, and he was blunt to The New York Times about his purpose when his intended trip came to light. He intended to press for an investigation that would be helpful to Trump’s reelection.

“We’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do,” he said. “There’s nothing illegal about it,” he went on, though “somebody could say it’s improper.”

The next day, he canceled the trip and complained about the lack of cooperation from the new Ukrainian administration. Zelenskiy is “surrounded by enemies of the (U.S) president,” he said, “and of the United States.”

In this period, the whistleblower says, citing the “general understanding” of U.S. officials close to the matter, the Ukrainian leadership was led to believe that the prospects for a meeting or phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy would depend on whether the Ukrainian president “showed willingness to ‘play ball.'”

In June, Giuliani tweeted his frustration about Zelenskiy’s “silence” on the matters he wanted him to pursue.

Then in July, says the whistleblower, “I learned of a sudden change of policy with respect to U.S. assistance for Ukraine” — namely that Trump had personally instructed all U.S. agencies to suspend all military aid to Ukraine.

A week later, Trump and Zelenskiy had their July 25 phone call.

The complaint states that about a week after the call, Giuliani traveled to Madrid, Spain, to follow up with a Zelenskiy aide about matters arising from the phone call.

And about a week after that, Trump took a conciliatory tone, calling Zelenskiy a “very reasonable guy” and dangling the possibility of a White House visit for him. The two met this week at the United Nations. The military aid that had been held up was eventually released. There’s no sign that the Bidens are under any official Ukrainian investigation for Hunter Biden’s business relationships in that country when his father was vice president.

To the whistleblower, the episode shows Trump “using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election,” with Giuliani “a central figure in this effort.”

During the special counsel’s Russia probe, Giuliani proved more useful for commanding headlines than in the courtroom. He became a staple on cable news, the face of a legal team that helped Trump emerge from the investigation with a less damaging result than many had expected.

Now Giuliani is doing some damage-control for himself, as some Republicans suggest Trump was ill-served by his interventions.

“It is impossible that the whistle-blower is a hero and I’m not,” he told The Atlantic. “And I will be the hero! These morons — when this is over, I will be the hero.”

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Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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