Trump waves away questions about Giuliani's phone calls with OMB

By Caitlin Oprysko

President Donald Trump on Wednesday downplayed his personal attorney’s multiple phone conversations with someone in the Office of Management and Budget, dismissing records made public Tuesday as “no big deal.”

Speaking with reporters during a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump was asked about the series of calls in August, which were disclosed in phone records obtained for the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment report.

But despite Giuliani having little conceivable role in the federal budgeting process, Trump argued Wednesday there was nothing untoward about Giuliani’s contact with OMB. As he’s often done throughout the investigations plaguing his presidency, Trump directed reporters to ask his lawyer about what he was doing calling the budget office.

“I really don't know — you’d have to ask him,” Trump responded when asked to explain why Giuliani would need to talk to OMB. “Sounds like something that’s not so complicated, frankly, but you’d have to ask him. No big deal.”

Records show that on Aug. 8, as nearly $400 million in military assistance for Ukraine was being held up and several U.S. officials were urging Ukrainian officials to publicly announce investigations that could be politically advantageous to Trump, Giuliani received a phone call from someone using a phone number associated with the White House budget office. That call lasted nearly 13 minutes, according to the report, and was one of nearly two dozen phone calls between Giuliani and the White House that day.

OMB is one of a handful of federal agencies ensnared in the impeachment proceedings, with several congressional witnesses testifying that beginning in July, if not sooner, Trump and his aides directed the budget office to withhold the military aid for Ukraine.

Democrats concluded in their report Tuesday that Trump abused the power of his office by pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Trump's political rivals, allegedly using the frozen military aid and a White House visit as leverage.