Rudy Giuliani said he has canceled a trip to Ukraine to seek help from the incoming administration there to target President Donald Trump’s political opponents, including the family of Democratic candidate Joe Biden and people affiliated with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
Giuliani planned to travel to Kiev on Sunday, but as news of
the trip made
headlines on Friday, the president’s personal lawyer had an abrupt change
of heart, claiming the meetings he had planned with incoming President Volodymyr
Zelensky were a setup by Democrats.
In reality, the former New York mayor’s activities looked a
lot like a brazen conspiracy with a foreign government to disrupt U.S. elections
and possibly could have led to campaign finance law violations.
Trump claimed not to know too much about Giuliani’s plans,
despite making several comments this week about the subject of the trip, an
investigation into the business interests of Biden’s son, Hunter, and Special
Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, as
well as Russian attacks on the 2016 U.S. election.
“I have not spoken to him at any great length, but I
told Politico, referring to Giuliani. “I will speak to him about it before
Yet in the same interview, Trump said Hunter Biden’s links
to a Ukrainian energy company owned by an oligarch should be looked into. He
also said it would be “appropriate” to discuss the issue with U.S. Attorney
General William Barr.
“Certainly it would be an appropriate thing to speak to him
about, but I have not done that as of yet,” he told Politico. On Thursday,
Fox News’ Sean Hannity that Barr “would want to see this.”
“It sounds like big stuff, very
interesting with Ukraine,” Trump added.
At the center of the issue, which is making the rounds on
conservative media sites, is the allegation that while vice president, Joe
Biden intervened to help oust a prosecutor who was investigating the company with
links to Biden’s son. According to Politico, there is no evidence that this happened
or that the prosecutor actually was investigating the company in question.
Trump allies also are claiming
that Ukrainian officials worked with pro-Clinton operatives to damage Trump’s
campaign, specifically by going after Manafort. Manafort has since
been sent to prison for a slew of felonies revealed by the Mueller probe.
When Giuliani announced the trip this week, he told The New York Times, “We’re not meddling
in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to
He added: “There’s nothing illegal about it. Somebody could
say it’s improper. And this isn’t foreign policy — I’m asking them to do an
investigation that they’re doing already and that other people are telling them
to stop. And I’m going to give them reasons why they shouldn’t stop it because
that information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to
be helpful to my government.”
The reaction by Democrats was
prompt and scathing.
“First Don Jr.’s ‘I love it’ & now this,” tweeted Sen.
Richard Blumenthal, a former state attorney general who now sits on the Senate
Judiciary Committee. “Despicable, unpatriotic, & a blatant violation of
campaign finance law…My Republican colleagues need to wake up,” he added.
The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., responded by calling
Blumenthal “Da Nang Dick.”
Rep. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee,
reporters on Friday, “We have come to a very sorry state when it is
considered OK for an American politician, never mind an attorney for the
president, to go and seek foreign intervention in American politics.”
Giuliani, perhaps sensing that conspiracy in plain sight
might not be a good idea, switched course on Friday night. On Fox News, he said
he had become convinced that Zelensky was surrounded by
people who are “enemies” of Trump and “people who are clearly corrupt.”
Giuliani also claimed the purpose of the trip wasn’t to
influence the 2020 U.S. election. “The reality is, this has nothing to do with
the election of 2020,” he said. “If I wanted to meddle in that election, which
I don’t, I could have held this for a year and dropped it right before the
Then, he said he had decided not to go to Ukraine “because I
think I’m walking into a group of people that are enemies of [Trump], in some
cases enemies of the United States…”
One issue with his latest comments, however, is that
Giuliani already had made his intentions clear in a tweet on Friday. “Election
is 17 months away. Let’s answer it now,” he tweeted.