In an interview Thursday, President Trump, who has been enjoying a victory lap after being acquitted on both articles of impeachment by the Senate last week, openly acknowledged that he sent Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to pursue corruption investigations and explained his rationale for choosing to use his personal lawyer rather than intelligence officials.
The transcript of Trump’s famous July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — which Trump released to the public in September along with the whistleblower complaint that sparked the impeachment inquiry — contains Trump stating that Giuliani would be involved in follow-up conversations about corruption investigations. Though Trump clearly states that Giuliani will be involved, he later denied in a November interview having “directed” Giuliani to “do anything” in Ukraine.
On Thursday, the recently acquitted Trump felt free to openly discuss Giuliani’s role in Ukraine and the reason he feels more comfortable turning to the former trial lawyer than intelligence officials.
“Was it strange to send Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine, your personal lawyer? Are you sorry you did that?” Geraldo Rivera asked Trump in an interview for the “Roadkill with Geraldo Rivera” podcast Thursday, as reported by CNN.
“No, not at all,” said Trump, describing Giuliani, as he has multiple times in the past, as a strong “crime fighter.”
Trump then offered a succinct explanation of his rationale for turning to Giuliani for such a task. “Here’s my choice: I deal with the [Former FBI Director James] Comeys of the world, or I deal with Rudy,” he said, citing his “very bad taste” for the intelligence community, with which Trump has been in a longtime public feud over how they’ve handled his 2016 campaign and the early stages of his presidency.
“So when you tell me, why did I use Rudy, and one of the things about Rudy, number one, he was the best prosecutor, you know, one of the best prosecutors, and the best mayor,” the president told Rivera. “But also, other presidents had them. FDR had a lawyer who was practically, you know, was totally involved with government. Eisenhower had a lawyer. They all had lawyers.”
The open acknowledgment of having sent Giuliani to Ukraine is the first by Trump since he told former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in a late-November interview, in the midst of the Democrats’ impeachment campaign, that he didn’t “direct” Giuliani to do anything in Ukraine.
“So you didn’t direct him to go to Ukraine to do anything or put any heat on them?” asked O’Reilly, as CNN reported at the time.
“No, I didn’t direct him, but he’s a warrior, Rudy’s a warrior,” said Trump. “Rudy went, he possibly saw something. But you have to understand, Rudy (has) other people that he represents,” said Trump, who noted that the former New York City mayor has “done work in Ukraine for years.”
Giuliani’s actions in Ukraine became a major focus of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. In late September, Democratic impeachment leaders subpoenaed Giuliani, who argued that he was protected by attorney-client privilege.
“Our inquiry includes an investigation of credible allegations that you acted as an agent of the President in a scheme to advance his personal political interests by abusing the power of the Office of the President,” read the letter, signed by multiple Democrat-led committee chairmen. “A growing public record, including your own statements, indicate that the President, you, and others appear to have pressed the Ukrainian government to pursue two politically -motivated investigations. The first is a prosecution of Ukrainians who provided evidence against Mr. Trump’s convicted campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. The second relates to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who is challenging President Trump for the presidency in 2020.”
“For example, on September 19, 2019, you admitted on national television that you personally asked the government of Ukraine to target Vice President Biden,” the letter continued. “During an interview on CNN, Chris Cuomo asked you, ‘Sir, you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?’ You responded, ‘Of course I did.’ In addition to this stark admission, you stated more recently that you are in possession of evidence — in the form of text messages, phone records, and other communications—indicating that you were not acting along and that other Trump Administration officials may have been involved in this scheme.”
Rather than waiting on the courts to rule on whether some Trump administration officials would be required to testify, the Democrats fast-tracked the impeachment inquiry, resulting in some key figures, particularly former national security adviser John Bolton, never testifying — an issue that Senate Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to use slow down the Senate trial. Trump was ultimately acquitted on both impeachment articles, abuse of power failing 48-52 and obstruction of justice 47-53.