Rudy Giuliani Worked Behind The Scenes To Pressure Ukraine On Biden

Working as the President's private attorney, Rudy Giuliani has spent months working behind the scenes to pressure Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden's son.

The Washington Post reports this morning on the efforts behind the scenes of President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to pursue what effectively amounts to a shadow foreign policy vis a vis Ukraine, including his efforts to pressure the Ukrainians to reopen a closed investigation of a gas company that former Vice-President Biden’s son was involved with:

President Trump’s attempt to pressure the leader of Ukraine followed a months-long fight inside the administration that sidelined national security officials and empowered political loyalists — including the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani — to exploit the U.S. relationship with Kiev, current and former U.S. officials said.

The sequence, which began early this year, involved the abrupt removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the circumvention of senior officials on the National Security Council, and the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars of aid administered by the Defense and State departments — all as key officials from these agencies struggled to piece together Giuliani’s activities from news reports


“Rudy — he did all of this,” one U.S. official said. “This s—show that we’re in — it’s him injecting himself into the process.”

Several officials traced their initial concerns about the path of U.S.-Ukrainian relations to news reports and interviews granted by Giuliani in which he began to espouse views and concerns that did not appear connected to U.S. priorities or policy.

The former New York mayor appears to have seen Zelensky, a political neophyte elected president of Ukraine in April and sworn in in May, as a potential ally on two political fronts: punishing those Giuliani suspected of playing a role in exposing the Ukraine-related corruption of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and delivering political ammunition against Biden.

The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, became a primary Giuliani target.

Yovanovitch, a longtime State Department Foreign Service officer, arrived in Ukraine as ambassador at the end of the Obama administration, more than two years after an uprising centered on Kiev’s Independence Square ousted the Russian-leaning government.

Though she was widely respected in the national security community for her efforts to prod Ukraine to take on corruption, Giuliani targeted Yovanovitch with wild accusations including that she played a secret role in exposing Manafort and was part of a conspiracy orchestrated by the liberal financier George Soros.

“She should be part of the investigation as part of the collusion,” Giuliani said in a recent interview with The Washington Post, adding that “she is now working for Soros.” Yovanovitch is still employed by the State Department and is a fellow at Georgetown University. She declined to comment.

Giuliani canceled the trip amid an ensuing backlash over his purpose but later met with one of Zelensky’s senior aides in Madrid and pressed the issue of Ukraine’s helping against Biden.

In a May 19 interview on Fox News, Trump recited repeatedly disproved allegations that then-Vice President Biden had coerced Ukraine to drop an investigation into the owner of an energy company, Burisma, for which Biden’s son Hunter was a board member.

The allegations were baseless. Though Hunter Biden had served on the Burisma board for five years — a questionable decision given his father’s influential position — he was never accused of any wrongdoing by Ukrainian authorities. The probe had been shelved before any action by the vice president, and the elder Biden’s efforts involved removing a prosecutor widely criticized by the West as failing to tackle corruption.
Nevertheless, Trump is alleged to have used his July 25 call with Zelensky to get Ukraine to revive this dormant inquiry and widen it to include possible wrongdoing by Biden.

To say that this is unusual is an extreme understatement. Were Giuliani a White House employee, a State Department employee, or even part of the White House Counsel’s office, then one could make a case for his being involved in a shadow foreign policy effort. Giuliani, though, is none of these things, he is a private attorney for Donald Trump outside of his capacity as President. His chief job in that role has seemingly been to be an advocate for his client on cable news outlets such as CNN and Fox News Network. In that respect, his travels to Ukraine and his behind the scenes efforts regarding American policy toward Ukraine and regarding the effort to pressure the Ukrainian government.

Even before the controversy regarding the whistleblower complaint and President Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky became public, it was fairly well-known that Giuliani was making frequent trips to Kyiv to meet with Ukranian government officials. It was largely also fairly well-known, thanks to the fact that Giuliani was admitting as much during interviews on cable news, that the purpose of these meetings was to put pressure on Ukrainian officials to reopen an investigation that had been closed years earlier and during which no wrongdoing was found. During his cable news appearances, it was also made clear that the purpose behind these meetings was to pursue the largely discredited allegations against the former Vice-President and his son. Given all of this, it’s not entirely incorrect to argue that Trump and Giuliani were working in tandem to pressure Ukraine to cooperate regarding the Biden issue.

Obviously, all of this means that Giuliani is likely to be a witness called before one or more of the committees investigating the President as part of what is now officially an impeachment inquiry. No doubt Trump will seek to block any such testimony on the ground of attorney-client privilege, however whatever conversations Giuliani may have had with parties other than Trump are not covered by that privilege. Additionally, since he is not a White House employee he cannot be covered by Executive Privilege, although there might be an attempt to do so. Given how Giuliani has performed as an advocate for the President on cable news, those appearances could be very entertaining indeed.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Impeachment, Intelligence, Joe Biden, National Security, Politicians, Russia, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. mattbernius says:

    Last night on Laura Ingraham’s show Giuliani again restated that he was acting on behalf of, and with the full support of State. Looking forward to hearing Pomepo’s take on this (he dodged the issue on Sunday).

  2. I saw excerpts from that on Morning Joe this morning.

    Rudy is clearly losing it.

  3. mattbernius says:

    Oh and he’s on Fox and Friends and now blaming the President of Ukraine for bringing up Biden.

    Damn the spinning continues…

    The best part is you know that PoTUS is watching all of that. Like Patrick Stewart, he sees everything.

  4. JohnSF says:

    Not far enough behind the scenes, obvs.

  5. Jax says:

    The SNL cold open on this is gonna be hilarious.

  6. Argon says:

    Despite the fecundity of Rattus americanus, is it possible that Giuliani is running out of rats for his carnal relationships?

  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    The 5-page “transcript” is out…and it’s a lot worse for Trump than I ever imagined Baghdad Barr would let happen…it shows quite clearly that the POTUS is both corrupt and mentally ill.
    The fact that they let this out…makes me wonder how bad the stuff they are hiding is.

  8. Teve says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: well, as Geoff Peterson would say, “Balls.”

  9. Kathy says:

    Well, I was wrong. the transcript of one call is out.

  10. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I was thinking Colonel Jessup…”damn right I ordered that Code Red”

    If the Republican Party were not as corrupt as it is, Trump would be out of office by the weekend.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    This is what they tossed out to distract us from the whistleblower report, which tells you just how bad that’s going to be.

  12. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Fascinating. The usual pro-Trump websites are saying that this transcript totally exonerates their boy.

  13. Jen says:

    A 5-page transcript seems awfully short for a purported 20+ minute call. I have a feeling this might not be a full and complete version of what was discussed (nor did I actually expect it to be).

    Michael is right, they rushed to get this out there so that it would be the “ha ha nothingburger” discussion point in an attempt to head off the whistleblower’s testimony.

  14. Mikey says:

    @Jen: It’s not a full transcript. Such calls are never recorded for transcription. This is a call summary, created from notes taken by someone who was also on the call.

    It is probably a good readout of what was discussed, but done in a way that would make it most readable (which necessarily precludes a verbatim transcription of Trump’s generally disjointed and run-on blather).

    We can, however, be forgiven for not trusting the product of an administration that leaned on weather forecasters to change facts and then used a Sharpie on a forecast map.

  15. Kathy says:


    Some world leaders do speak English fluently, but many make use of translators during the call. If so, you want a translator of your own as well. The ongoing translation takes up time. But not as much as to make this last 20+ minutes.

    Or maybe Dennison was taking Twitter breaks during the call.

  16. Jen says:

    @Mikey: Yes, I know it’s not a full transcript, I was being facetious which doesn’t translate well online. I’m well aware that the White House doesn’t record phone calls (practice ceased circa 1974 or so).

    The point that @Kathy makes about translators is a good one, but I’m not sure that even that covers it. The note at the top says the call lasted from 9:03 to 9:33, so a solid 30 minutes. Even with translators, that would roughly double the length…I still think that we’re under 15 minutes even with translations.

    I deeply distrust this administration, so it’s unlikely they could have produced any document that I wouldn’t question. I’m willing to admit to that.

  17. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It’s enough. Frankly I’m amazed the WHC allowed this to be released.

  18. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Maybe I’ve missed it, but I don’t think I’ve seen your name around here recently.
    Glad to see it again.

  19. Joe says:

    Do we know whether this call was translated? I would have expected some notation of that in the intro, but saw nothing.

    I think there will be (already is) a quick division between those who say it is appropriate for the US president to insist on rooting out corruption (making this ok) and those who say it is targeting a political opponent (making this game, set, match).

    For any who think the real focus of this is corruption, I give you this, which was linked to an earlier thread, too. For the rest of us who find it inconceivable that Trump would have cared about any “corruption” not involving Biden, it speaks volumes that Trump directs this to the combination of Giuliani and Barr.

  20. michael reynolds says:

    I know, you’re supposed to toss the baby from the sled, not yourself.

  21. mattbernius says:

    Man, I am looking forward to weeks and weeks of our troll only retort being “but what about Biden…”

  22. EddieInCA says:

    It was a thirty minute phone call.
    It’s a 2000 word document.
    The President of Ukraine is totally fluent in English.
    That’s about 66 words per minute.
    The average American speaks between 125-150 words per minute.
    So this transcript refers to two people speaking at roughly half the speed of normal speech.
    Alot is missing from this transcript.

  23. mattbernius says:

    This morning, the finely oiled White House Machine sent out their Memo talking points ASAP.

    The only problem was they mass emailed them to the Democrats…

    I really think the staff are trying to get PoTUS impeached.

  24. JohnSF says:

    It’s amazing, really.
    The sheer awesome stupidity of it.

    You barely slide past the Mueller Report still standing, and then go and do this.
    In such a obvious way.
    It really is Watergate for morons, a death-wish level of dumb.

    In the executive idiocy Olympics steeplechase, Team USA pulls past the UK again and is looks set for clear run for the medal.

  25. CSK says:

    @JohnSF: Trump’s gut knows best, and he has always done exactly what he wants. Why should the presidency be different?

  26. Jen says:

    @mattbernius: Oh. My. Goodness.

    I don’t even know how something like that happens. I’ve been laughing for a solid minute, and I’m really glad I hadn’t just taken a big drink of water, it’d be all over my screen.

    They are having some epic bad days at the WH.