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 that 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 (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 adds 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 goes on to request that 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”.
The evidence Mr Parnas provided to the committee may also shed light on the circumstances under which the top US diplomat in Kyiv, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, was spirited out of Kyiv after being removed following a pressure campaign orchestrated by Mr Giuliani.
Approximately one month before Mr Trump ordered Ms Yovanovitch’s recall, Mr Parnas was using the secure messaging application WhatsApp to communicate with Robert Hyde, a Connecticut businessman with ties to Mr Trump who is currently a congressional candidate.
After Mr Parnas sent Mr Hyde a series of negative articles about Ms Yovanovitch, the documents suggest Mr Hyde responded: “F*ck that b*tch,” adding later that he “can’t believe [Trump] hasn’t fired this b*tch”.
The messages alleged to have been sent to Mr Parnas by Mr Hyde strongly imply that he had Ms Yovanovitch under surveillance.
At one point, he noted that the veteran diplomat was “under heavy protection” outside Kyiv, telling Mr Parnas that she was to be moved the next day.
Mr Hyde also appeared to be monitoring Ms Yovanovitch’s electronic devices. In one text message, he tells Mr Parnas that her phone and computer were off, and that she had spoken with three people that day.
The documents suggest he later told Mr Parnas that unnamed sources would “let [him] know when she is on the move” and added that they were “willing to help if we/you would like a price,” though he did not explicitly say what that “help” would consist of.
“Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money,” one message said, adding later that if Mr Parnas “want[ed] her out,” he would have to “make contact with security forces”.
During Mr Trump’s phone call with Mr Zelensky on 25 July, he told the Ukrainian president that Ms Yovanovitch was “going to go through some things”.