- REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
- President Donald Trump in an interview Tuesday said he didn’t instruct his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to travel to Ukraine to gather damaging information about Joe Biden.
- “No,” Trump said, when asked by Bill O’Reilly whether Giuliani went to Ukraine on his behalf.
- Several key witnesses in the impeachment investigation, however, have testified that Trump directed them to work with Giuliani on his mission to get Ukraine to announce investigations that could benefit Trump politically.
- Giuliani has in interviews suggested he has “insurance” should the president abandon him as the impeachment inquiry moves closer to the heart of the White House.
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President Donald Trump distanced himself from his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in an interview with the radio host Bill O’Reilly on Tuesday night when asked about Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine.
Trump said he didn’t instruct the former New York mayor to travel to Ukraine in a search for damaging information on Trump’s political rival Joe Biden.
The exchange is likely to further inflame suspicions that Trump and his allies are thinking about portraying Giuliani as a rogue actor for his actions in Ukraine, which have proved pivotal in impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Here’s the full exchange of the conversation between Trump and O’Reilly, which was streamed on the former Fox News host’s internet show.
O’Reilly: What was Rudy Giuliani doing in Ukraine on your behalf?
Trump: Well you have to ask that to Rudy. But Rudy … I don’t even know if … I know he was going to go to Ukraine and I think he canceled a trip. You know, Rudy has other clients, other than me … He’s done a lot of work in Ukraine over the years.
O’Reilly: You didn’t direct him to go there on your behalf?
Trump: No, I didn’t direct him, but he is a warrior, he is a warrior.
LISTEN: President Trump is now distancing himself more than ever from lawyer Rudy Giuliani, claiming he did not direct Giuliani to act on his behalf in Ukraine in a new interview with Bill O'Reilly. pic.twitter.com/6JaP9oOLMI
— TheBeat w/Ari Melber (@TheBeatWithAri) November 26, 2019
In a statement to Bloomberg issued by his attorney, Robert Costello, Giuliani said the president’s claim that Giuliani did not travel to Ukraine on his behalf was true.
“President is correct,” Giuliani said. “Giuliani never went to Ukraine for any probe. The information he received was given to him in US by Ukrainians while Mueller probe was still ongoing and before Biden was even announced.”
But Trump in Tuesday’s interview struck a different tone from the adamant defense of his attorney he had issued in recent weeks.
In recent weeks, some GOP lawmakers have portrayed Giuliani as a rogue agent, acting alone when he traveled to meet former Ukrainian officials pushing unsubstantiated accusations about Biden.
House Democrats’ impeachment investigation is centered on whether Trump committed an impeachable abuse of power in seeking politically motivated investigations from Ukraine.
Giuliani has responded with thinly veiled warnings to the president.
“I see things like, ‘He’s going to throw me under the bus.’ I say he isn’t, but I have insurance,” Giuliani said in an interview with Fox News.
Giuliani later said he was being sarcastic, but it was not his first time making the claim. He also told The Guardian earlier in November that he had “insurance” should the president throw him under the bus.
When asked by reporters about Giuliani’s remarks Monday, before the O’Reilly interview, Trump had stuck by his personal attorney. He described him as a “great crime fighter” and “a great guy.”
By Tuesday, his message had shifted.
Should Trump choose to further distance himself from Giuliani, it may prove unconvincing, as it contradicts testimony from several key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry.
Both Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, have testified that they were directed by Trump to work with Giuliani on the bid for Ukraine to announce a Biden investigation.
This suggests that, far from being on a lone mission, Giuliani was acting as Trump’s voice in Ukraine.
In the July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that sparked the impeachment investigation, Trump asked Zelensky to speak with Giuliani.
“Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy,” Trump said. “If you could speak to him, that would be great.”
According to reports on Sunday, there may even be recorded evidence that proves that Giuliani was acting on Trump’s orders, as Parnas is believed to have handed recordings of Trump and Giuliani over to the House Intelligence Committee.