Trump Basically Let Rudy Giuliani Hijack American Foreign Policy

New testimony from a former Trump adviser details how Rudy Giuliani was able to hijek American foreign policy.

Fiona Hill, who once served as President Trump’s top adviser on Russian matters, told members of the House Intelligence Committee yesterday that American foreign policy toward Ukraine had essentially been hijacked by Rudy Giuliani long before the President’s now-infamous July 25th phone call with the President of Ukraine:

Fiona Hill, the White House’s former top Russia adviser, told impeachment investigators on Monday that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, ran a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine that circumvented U.S. officials and career diplomats in order to personally benefit President Trump, according to people familiar with her testimony.

Hill, who served as the senior official for Russia and Europe on the National Security Council, was the latest witness in a fast-moving impeachment inquiry focused on whether the president abused his office by using the promise of military aid and diplomatic support to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals.

In a closed-door session that lasted roughly 10 hours, Hill told lawmakers that she confronted Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, about Giuliani’s activities which, she testified, were not coordinated with the officials responsible for carrying out U.S. foreign policy, these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to disclose details of her deposition.

Sondland played a leading role in the Trump administration’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to open investigations of the president’s political rivals, text messages obtained and later released by House Democrats show. Three congressional committees are now probing how Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, as well as a debunked theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election in an attempt to damage Trump’s candidacy.

Sondland is set to appear before lawmakers later this week.

The New York Times, meanwhile, reports that former National Security Adviser John Bolton was outraged over the influence that Giuliani was asserting over American foreign policy, calling him a “hand grenade” who could blow up the whole Administration:

WASHINGTON — The effort to pressure Ukraine for political help provoked a heated confrontation inside the White House last summer that so alarmed John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, that he told an aide to alert White House lawyers, House investigators were told on Monday.

Mr. Bolton got into a tense exchange on July 10 with Gordon D. Sondland, the Trump donor turned ambassador to the European Union, who was working with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, to press Ukraine to investigate Democrats, according to three people who heard the testimony.

The aide, Fiona Hill, testified that Mr. Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Mr. Sondland, Mr. Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the people familiar with the testimony.

“I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Ms. Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at the deposition. (Another person in the room initially said Mr. Bolton referred to Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mulvaney, but two others said he cited Mr. Sondland.)’

It was not the first time Mr. Bolton expressed grave concerns to Ms. Hill about the campaign being run by Mr. Giuliani. “Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up,” Ms. Hill quoted Mr. Bolton as saying during an earlier conversation.

The testimony revealed in a powerful way just how divisive Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to extract damaging information about Democrats from Ukraine on President Trump’s behalf were within the White House. Ms. Hill, the senior director for European and Russian affairs, testified that Mr. Giuliani and his allies circumvented the usual national security process to run their own foreign policy efforts, leaving the president’s official advisers aware of the rogue operation yet powerless to stop it.

At one point, she confronted Mr. Sondland, who had inserted himself into dealings with Ukraine even though it was not part of his official portfolio, according to the people informed about Ms. Hill’s testimony.
He told her that he was in charge of Ukraine, a moment she compared to Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr.’s declaration that he was in charge after the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt, according to those who heard the testimony.

According to whom, she asked.

The president, he answered.

What’s truly problematic about this, of course, is that Giuliani is neither a foreign policy expert nor has he at any time been a White House or State Department employee. He was, and remains, an “attorney,” (I put the word in quotes because it is utterly unclear if Rudy was even acting as an attorney for anyone throughout this matter) who was acting as a representative of his client, Donald Trump. In that respect, he was using his connections to the President to attempt to extort information out of the Ukrainian government that would be helpful to his client in the 2020 Presidential campaign. This includes not only information on Vice-President Biden and his son Hunter regarding Hunter’s business dealings, but also information to support the fever swamp conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that was behind the inference in the 2016 election and that Ukraine was colluding with the Clinton campaign, the Obama Administration, and the so-called “Deep State” to bring down Trump. The fact that he was able to use this as leverage to give him what effectively amounted to the hijacking of American foreign policy to serve the interests of the President and his “attorney” is to say the least alarming.

All of this means, of course, that Bolton is likely to be the next big witness that Congressional investigators are going to want to talk to about all of this. Given the circumstances of his departure and the fact that he apparently strongly objected to much of what he saw going on around him, it seems likely that he would be a willing witness who would be unlikely to listen to White House instructions on how to testify. Especially important will be what he knows about the efforts of Giuliani, Sunderland, and others to gain influence over policy toward Ukraine and what that meant for his own ability to do his job. It also reminds one of the facts that when he did leave office, Bolton made clear in background communications with reporters that he didn’t intend to remain silent about his time in the White House and that he would be speaking out in due course. It appears that this will happen sooner rather than later,

Or, as I put it on Twitter this morning:


FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Impeachment, National Security, Politicians, Ukraine, 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. Andrew says:

    Makes sense…Giuliani has been Trump’s Conciliary.

  2. CSK says:

    When Trump fired Bolton, I observed on this forum that Trump had just made himself a bad, bad enemy. Apparently I was correct.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    How ironic would it be if John Bolton came out of this mess as one of the good guys?

    Unlikely Bolton saw Giuliani as anything but a threat to Bolton’s campaign to hijack American foreign policy.

    But this seems to go pretty deep. From Adam Silverman at Balloon Juice,

    I amazed that all of this current brouhaha is just a really bad Russian mob shakedown. The play here is to get Parnas’s and Fruman’s boss in the Russian mob, Dmitri Firtash, off of house arrest and out from under the extradition warrant to the US so he can go back to Kyiv and take over the Ukrainian natural gas industry, strip it of every last penny, then crash it on behalf of Putin and the Russian mob. This then forces Ukraine to buy natural gas from Russia, which allows Putin to then further knuckle Ukraine by sucking resources out of Ukraine to create leverage to force Ukraine back into his orbit. … The Biden stuff is simply disinformation recycled from the Russians from 2014 as part of the maskirovka.

    This is going to get interesting, in the Chinese proverb sense.

    Trevor Noah described Giuliani as the presidency’s Gollum, an evil presence that seems to be lurking everywhere.

  4. @Andrew:


  5. Kathy says:

    Remember the complaint that Dennison is governing only for his base?

    Boy, did we get that wrong.

    He’s “governing,” i.e. using the powers of government, only for himself.

  6. CSK says:

    @Kathy: Well, his base thinks he’s governing for them. Don’t try to tell them differently.

  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Colludy Rudy is supposed to turn over subpoenaed documents today.
    He could end the day in contempt of Congress.

  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    In Trump’s mind there is no possibility of anyone but himself mattering. He’s not doing it to be a POS, he’s just inherently a POS. He can’t help himself, he’s fkin nuts, to use the psychological term. He’s a human black hole from which no light can escape and into which everything falls to its destruction.

    The Shakespearean element is almost too spot-on: a weak ruler whose paranoia causes his own destruction.

    If I wrote characters as stick-figure, garden-variety obvious as Trump I’d still be waiting tables. He’s not a man, he’s a self-parody. No one but a goddam idiot would buy this clown’s act for ten minutes.

  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    This all still goes back to friggin’ Russia. Every single piece of it.
    Mueller never answered the question, because he wasn’t tasked with a counter-intelligence investigation, and so we still don’t know what kind of sway Russia might have over Trump.
    But the fact remains that Trump just keeps acting in Russia’s best interest; and if everyone above is correct, and he is only really concerned with his own best interests…then how exactly are Trumps and Russia’s interests so closely aligned???
    That’s what we all need to know. I’m not sure the system is capable of finding the answer.

  10. gVOR08 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Mueller never answered the question, because he wasn’t tasked with a counter-intelligence investigation

    There supposedly was a counter-intelligence investigation. What happened to it?

  11. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    In Trump’s mind there is no possibility of anyone but himself mattering.

    Not quite. Other people matter, to the extent that they flatter him or make him look good.

    No one but a goddam idiot would buy this clown’s act for ten minutes.

    “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” Misattributed to H. L. Mencken.

  12. CSK says:

    According to The Daily Beast, Trump suspects Bolton of being a leaker of info to the press.

  13. Beth says:

    One thing I’m trying to shake out of my brain is whether Bolton has a reputation for being a liar or even all that “scummy”. If I remember correctly, he’s an abusive warmonger lunatic. I don’t think there’s any whiff of corruption, he’s just a sledgehammer with a flamethrower attached.

    Also, wouldn’t it be absolutely hilarious if he was the whistleblower.

  14. Grewgills says:

    Bolton could end up being a ‘good guy’ in the same way that a mob thug that turns witness because he’s on the outs with the boss is a ‘good guy’.

  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    BTW, I think the headline: Trump Basically Let Rudy Giuliani Hijack American Foreign Policy is a bit off. He isn’t letting Giuliani hijack foreign policy, he needs Giuliani to run the corrupt, self-enriching criminal scam that is Trump foreign policy. Giuliani is a henchman, a servant of the larger evil. Giuliani is Iago to Trump’s Jafar. He’s Trump’s mini-me.

  16. Michael Reynolds says:

    The Joe Valachi of the Trump Crime Family.

  17. Moosebreath says:

    I don’t think Giuliani’s actions were a hijacking of Trump’s foreign policy. Rather, he was carrying out Trump’s foreign policy goals exactly as Trump wanted it to be done. Trump’s foreign policy goals are what helps Trump personally the most, and getting dirt on Biden and providing evidence that Trump was the subject of collusion with foreign countries helps Trump.

  18. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Likely the counter intelligence report was buried. The impeachment investigation will likely uncover it, but they’ll need to interview the right people. Bolton arrived too late to have first hand info, though it is possible that someone in the intelligence community quietly briefed him over bourbons some evening.


    I believe the vast majority of commentators here at OTB suspected that Bolton would leak information and it wouldn’t surprise me that he was one of the whistle blowers.

  19. Moosebreath says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Ack. Ninja’d.

  20. Neil Hudelson says:

    Explaining the Trump Presidency, 2036: “Yeah, and so to all of our surprise it was really lucky that we had Jeff Sessions and John Bolton around. No, stick with me here it will kinda make sense in a moment…”

  21. Kathy says:

    Bolton’s failing is an over-reliance on military force to achieve policy objectives. The reason why this is a big problem, is that such methods have been proven not to work well, and to raise more problems than they solve (see Iraq and Afghanistan).

    But he is knowledgeable in his area of expertise (and what does this say about our time that we have to make such mentions?), and he understands that even when relying on a military solution you also require diplomacy. Lastly he does have respect for established norms and the rule of law.

  22. al Ameda says:

    Fiona Hill, who once served as President Trump’s top adviser on Russian matters, told members of the House Intelligence Committee yesterday that American foreign policy toward Ukraine had essentially been hijacked by Rudy Giuliani long before the President’s now-infamous July 25th phone call with the President of Ukraine:

    I don’t think Rudy hijacked it at all.

    Trump actually has a proven mob-tested method in doing these kind of things; Rudy is doing what Trump wants and Trump always has insurance – if things go awry Rudy is sufficiently implicated in the illegality/stupidity. And Trump? He’ll deny personal involvement in the whole thing. It’s worked for him his entire life.

    To me, this is what a Gotti presidency would have looked like, although I suspect that Gotti would have been less impulsive and less vindictive.

  23. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Indeed. Trump came into the presidency assuming he could run it as he did the Trump Organization: by lying, cheating, swindling, stealing, and backstabbing. He doesn’t know how to do any kind of business any other way.

  24. Gustopher says:

    Given the clusterfuck that Donald J. Trump personally created in Syria, which now has NATO countries suspending arms sales to another NATO country, and US planners pondering how to get nuclear weapons out of Turkey…. The Donald J. Trump Clusterfuck Of Enormous Long-Term Consequences For Us And Not Just All Those Dead Kurds…. maybe someone hijacking his foreign policy is a good idea.

  25. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I think this is true.
    I think Bolton is an idiot, along with the rest of the Project for a New American Century idiots who gave us the Iraq War. But ultimately I believe that THEY believe they were doing what was good for this country. I think they still believe in America as described in the Constitution. My differences with these people largely boils down to policy, even in the case of Iraq which was policy writ large. My differences with Bolton are along the lines of how we used to practice politics…he is on the far right of the spectrum, I am more to the left, but we are on the same spectrum.
    Trump, Pompeo, Baghdad Barr; these people are interested in installing Authoritarianism in order to serve the narrow interest of themselves and their own personal policy agendas.
    As an example, look at the speech Barr gave at Notre Dame on Friday. Barr is a devout Catholic. Barr is also the chief prosecutor of the United States, a secular nation with no official religion and in which the establishment of one is forbidden by the First Amendment of our Constitution. Yet he spent this speech thundering against “secularists and their allies” and decrying the loss of the influence of religion .
    He is also up to his neck in the effort to fabricate evidence against the Biden’s in Ukraine.
    This is not how someone who believes in the Constitution of the United States talks or acts.
    In the Trump era the old political spectrum doesn’t apply. Today’s politics are binary; you are either in favor of liberal democracy as described in the Constitution, or you are in favor of Authoritarianism as personified in Trump and his minions, like Barr.

  26. Hal_10000 says:

    One of my co-writers had a great thread on this today. Basically, what we have is a President who doesn’t care what his underlings are doing and is himself thoroughly corrupt. As a result, everyone who works for him is basically in it for themselves, trying to milk whatever they can out of the situation while they can. Everyone wants to fit this into one big grand conspiracy. But that’s not what we’re seeing. We’re a thousand small and medium crimes committed by people all over the place because of a culture of lawlessness that cascades from the top down.

    This is one of the reasons why I think a “narrow” bill of impeachment would be wrong. List everything he’s done. Everything he’s allowed. And force the GOP to vote on every single charge.

  27. Joe says:

    @Gustopher: I question whether Giuliani is a shadow Secretary of State. Since foreign policy flows from the president, perhaps Giuliani is pursuing the actual policy of the country. It’s the State Department that is both the shadow policy and the show policy at the same time, and Pompeo is shadow and show Secretary of State. Apparently Pompeo is ok with that. The professionals at State and in the National Security structure are not. In this sense, these professionals really are the deep state since they insist on treating show policy as real policy, thus attempting to thwart the actual policies of the duly elected president.

  28. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Colludy Rudy is supposed to turn over subpoenaed documents today.

    Rudy is refusing to turn over documents…essentially daring Congress to act.

  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Joe: these professionals really are the deep state since they insist on following the law.


  30. DrDaveT says:


    I don’t think there’s any whiff of corruption, he’s just a sledgehammer with a flamethrower attached.

    …and now I have this image I can’t get out of my head of a robot called “Bolton” on next season’s BattleBots…

  31. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I don’t think Trump has a plan to insert authoritarian rule, so much as that goes better with his brand of corruption. Plus his large ignorance about what even authoritarianism is, or what democracy os, or how they differ between them, or the nature of the country he inhabits, etc.

    This can be just as bad.

  32. Andrew says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The two youts. That’s what’s I said, the two youts.

  33. Gustopher says:

    @Joe: One of us is having a moment of incoherence — either you writing that, or me reading it. Maybe both of us. Usually you’re clear, so I’m assuming it’s me.

    I will say that I agree with you that all the claims of Giuliani running a parallel foreign policy with Ukraine are nonsense — this was the foreign policy, and the president knew it and Pompeo knew it, and they’re all guilty as hell.

    I’m not sure if that’s what you wrote, but I’m going to pretend it is to agree with you anyway.

    Mere corruption while staggering along the status quo, however, proves to be so much less damaging than whatever Trump thought he was doing with pulling troops from Syria.

  34. Gustopher says:


    When Trump fired Bolton, I observed on this forum that Trump had just made himself a bad, bad enemy. Apparently I was correct.

    The mustache of war shall become the mustache of vengeance.