As the impeachment proceedings against him were unfolding, Donald Trump strongly denied that he had personally directed his lawyer Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine in an effort to dig up political dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden — who at the time appeared to be Trump’s most likely Democratic opponent in the 2020 presidential election. But on Thursday, according to a CNN report, the president seemingly changed his tune, with his acquittal in the impeachment trial now in the books.
In an online interview with longtime friend and supporter Geraldo Rivera, Trump openly admitted that he dispatched Giuliani to Ukraine. Responding to the reporter’s question about whether he regretted sending the former New York City mayor on the anti-Biden mission, the president replied, “No, not at all,” as quoted in the CNN report.
In a November 2019 interview, Trump was asked point-blank if he “directed” Giuliani to go to Ukraine. The president denied that he did, according to an earlier CNN report.
“No, I didn’t direct him, but he’s a warrior,” he said in November. “Rudy went, he possibly saw something.”
But on Thursday, in the interview with Rivera, the president said that he chose to send Giuliani because he did not want to “deal with the Comeys of the world.” This was a reference to former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by Trump in May 2017 — and who has since been described by him as a “sleaze” and a “dirty cop.”
Trump also said that he preferred not to rely on information from the United States intelligence community, which had left him with “a very bad taste.”
The president’s November denials were directly contested not only by witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry but by Giuliani himself in a May 10, 2019, letter to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
In that letter, Giuliani informs Zelensky that he is acting in Ukraine with Trump’s “knowledge and consent” in requesting a face-to-face meeting. Though the document does not specify the reason for his request to meet Zelensky in person, the presidential lawyer told The New York Times the previous day that he planned a trip to Ukraine in order to “press ahead with investigations that he hopes will benefit Mr. Trump.”
In the July 25 phone call with Zelensky that set the impeachment process against him in motion, Trump asked the Ukraine president to speak with Giuliani, referring to the former mayor as “a highly respected man.” This was a point reportedly brought up three times during the call by the U.S. president.
With the impeachment process over the Ukraine scandal now completed, Giuliani’s perceived attempts to gather derogatory information on Biden appear to be continuing. Attorney General William Barr said on Monday that he had created an “intake process” specifically for receiving information from Giuliani — who holds no official position in the administration or in the government at all, according to a report by Mother Jones magazine.