Rudy Giuliani, US President Donald Trump‘s personal lawyer, said in an interview with the New York Times that he provided the president with information that the United States ambassador to Ukraine was impeding investigations that could benefit Trump politically. Within weeks, she was recalled from her post.
In the interview, published on Tuesday, Giuliani portrayed himself as directly involved in the effort to remove Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and he provided details indicating Trump’s knowledge of that effort.
Giuliani’s comments come as Trump faces near-certain impeachment on Wednesday by the House of Representatives for abuse of power over his pressure on Ukraine to announce investigations of Democrats while he was withholding aid to the Eastern European nation.
Giuliani said he passed along information to Trump “a couple of times” about how Yovanovitch had frustrated efforts that could help Trump, including efforts to have Ukraine investigate political rival Joe Biden.
Trump, in turn, passed the information on to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Giuliani said. Within weeks, Yovanovitch was told Trump had lost trust in her and she was recalled as ambassador.
Trump has said he did nothing wrong and his pressure on Ukraine was aimed at rooting out corruption there.
‘I just gave them the facts’
Early last year, Giuliani said he told Trump that Yovanovitch was impeding investigations in Ukraine that could benefit Trump.
“There’s a lot of reasons to move her,” Giuliani told the New York Times. He said Trump and Pompeo “relied on” his information, likely leading to Yovanovitch’s removal last April.
“I just gave them the facts,” Giuliani said. “I mean, did I think she should be recalled? I thought she should have been fired. If I was attorney general, I would have kicked her out. I mean – secretary of state.”
Testimony in the Trump impeachment inquiry showed that the claims about Yovanovitch were either unsubstantiated or taken out of context.
In the New York Times interview, Giuliani portrayed himself as directly involved in the effort to derail Yovanovitch’s career. He said he told Trump and Pompeo that Yovanovitch was blocking visas for Ukrainian prosecutors to come to the US to present evidence that he claimed could be damaging to Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
“I think I had pointed out to the president a couple of times, I reported to the president, what I had learned about the visa denials,” Giuliani said, as well as claims that she ordered one Ukrainian prosecutor to drop cases.
According to an article published on Monday in The New York Times, Giuliani said that he needed Yovanovitch “out of the way” and that she “was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody”.
“I forced her out because she’s corrupt,” Giuliani told Fox News on Monday. He claimed that Yovanovitch “committed perjury” when she said she turned down the visa requests for a prosecutor because he was corrupt. Giuliani claimed he had witnesses “who will testify that she personally turned down their visas because they were going to come here and give evidence either against Biden or against the Democratic Party. “
Yovanovitch, testifying in October in defiance of Trump, said there was a “concerted campaign” against her based on “unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives”.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Giuliani insisted, “Yovanovitch needed to be removed for many reasons most critical she was denying visas to Ukrainians who wanted to come to US and explain Dem corruption in Ukraine. She was OBSTRUCTING JUSTICE and that’s not the only thing she was doing. She at minimum enabled Ukrainian collusion.”
Trump and his allies falsely claim that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. The special counsel’s investigation, as well as US intelligence agencies, found that Russia, not Ukraine, meddled in the election.
Impeachment vote looms
Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens are at the centre of the Democrats’ impeachment investigation.
The impeachment inquiry, launched in September following a whistle-blower complaint, was centred on a July 25 phone call during which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to open an investigation into Biden and his son, Hunter, who had served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.
Trump also wanted Zelenskyy to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.
At the time of the call, the Trump administration was withholding nearly $400m in Congress-approved military assistance from Ukraine.
Trump denies wrongdoing and has accused Democrats of conducting a “sham” impeachment to remove him from office.
The full House is expected to vote on Wednesday on two articles of impeachment, including abuse of power and obstruction of justice.