Rudy Giuliani claimed he was working with Donald Trump’s consent when he and a now-indicted associate were pushing for Ukraine’s president to announce an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden, newly-released evidence suggests.
The documents, which the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees released approximately a day after receiving them from Mr Giuliani’s associate Lev Parnas, include a letter purportedly from Mr Giuliani to Volodymyr Zelensky, then Ukraine’s president-elect, and a handwritten note which reads: “Get Zalensky [sic] to announce that the Biden case will be investigated.”
The note, written on stationery from the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Vienna, Austria, also mentions that the author should “start [communicating] with [Zelensky]”.
According to House investigators, an attorney for Mr Parnas confirmed the note was written by his client, a Florida-based businessman who was born in the former Soviet Union in what is now Ukraine.
After he was arrested for campaign finance violations in October, his then attorney, John Dowd, said in a statement to Congress that Mr Parnas and business partner Igor Fruman had been assisting Mr Giuliani in his work on Mr Trump’s behalf.
Mr Dowd previously represented Mr Trump during the investigation conducted by former FBI Director Robert Mueller. While legal ethics rules would ordinarily have prevent him from representing Mr Parnas, an email to Mr Dowd from current Trump attorney Jay Sekulow (which was included in the tranche released by House investigators) dated 2 October states that Mr Trump “consents to allowing your representation of Mr Parnas and Mr Fruman”.
Mr Trump would deny even knowing Mr Parnas just eight days later when federal agents arrested him and his business partner at Washington’s Dulles International Airport as the pair prepared to leave the country on one-way tickets to Vienna.
The letter, dated 10 May 2019, is printed on stationery belonging to Mr Giulani and undermines the defence offered by Trump allies who say the president was using him as a “back channel” to advance legitimate foreign policy interests.
It says: “I am private counsel to President Donald J. Trump. Just to be precise, I represent him as a private citizen, not as President of the United States”.
The message added that such an arrangement was not unusual in American law because “the duties and privileges of a President and a private citizen are not the same”.
It went on to request Mr Zelensky meet “in [his] capacity as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent” on 13 or 14 May 2019, when he had planned to be in Kyiv as part of his push to have Ukrainian authorities open an investigation into Mr Biden.
“We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do,” Mr Giuliani told the New York Times on 9 May, the day before the letter was set to be delivered to Mr Zelensky.
He later cancelled the trip amid criticism that he was helping the president enlist foreign help in his re-election campaign.
In a joint statement, House Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, Intelligence and Oversight Committee Chairs Eliot Engel, Jerrold Nadler, Adam Schiff and Carolyn Maloney said the newly released documents “demonstrate that there is more evidence relevant to the president’s scheme” that has been “concealed by the president himself”.
“All of this new evidence confirms what we already know – the President and his associates pressured Ukrainian officials to announce investigations that would benefit the president politically,” they wrote, adding that “there cannot be a full and fair trial in the Senate without the documents that President Trump is refusing to provide to Congress”.