Energy Secretary Rick Perry led the U.S. delegation to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's inauguration in May. In a subsequent May 23 meeting in the White House, President Trump said he wouldn't agree to meet Zelensky until the Ukrainians "straightened up their act," Perry told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, adding that he later understood Trump to be referring to concerns about his 2016 presidential campaign. In order to resolve those concerns, Perry said, Trump told him to "visit with Rudy," meaning Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Perry says he agreed to call Giuliani in the hopes it would ease the way for Trump to meet with Zelensky. "And as I recall the conversation, he said, 'Look, the president is really concerned that there are people in Ukraine that tried to beat him during this presidential election,'" Perry told the Journal. "Rudy didn't say they gotta do X, Y, and Z," he added. "He just said, 'You want to know why he ain't comfortable about letting this guy come in? Here's the reason.'"
Those reasons, Perry recalled, involved three conspiracy theories: That Ukraine was responsible for former British spy Christopher Steele's dossier on Trump; that Ukraine had Hillary Clinton's email server; and that Ukrainian's "dreamed up" evidence that led to Paul Manafort's conviction and imprisonment.
Trump's former homeland security adviser, Thomas Bossert, said last month he was "deeply frustrated" that Giuliani had poisoned Trump's mind with those "completely debunked" conspiracy theories. Perry had a more detached response. "I don't know whether that was crap or what," he said, "but I'm just saying there were three things that he said. That's the reason the president doesn't trust these guys."
Trump finally called Zelensky on July 25, and their conversation — specifically Trump's request that Zelensky investigate Joe Biden and his son — led to a whistleblower complaint and a House impeachment inquiry. In that inquiry, several diplomats have expressed concerns about Giuliani's shadow diplomacy in Ukraine on behalf of Trump and possibly other clients. Federal prosecutors in New York are also reportedly investigating Giuliani's Ukraine business dealings. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.