According to Nicole Lafond of Talking Points Memo, Rudy Giuliani made an appearance Wednesday morning on the Fox & Friends show and made some interesting comments.
For one, he claimed that someone in Ukraine read him a transcript of the now infamous July 25, 2019 phone cell between President Donald Trump and President Volodymr Zelensky. According to Giuliani, this was the only way he could access the transcript because it’s classified in the United States.
Considering that the president sent him on a Ukraine-related post-call trip to Spain, is seems ludicrous he’d be cut out of access to the transcript. He could just call Trump at any time and ask to take a fresh look. But if what he said is true, this means Giuliani is still colluding with Ukrainian officials, only now it’s less to help Trump’s political career than to save it.
His purpose in “disclosing” this was so he could talk with some authority about its contents.
“Here is the truth. [Trump] never mentioned $250 million. He never mentioned military aid. He didn’t tell them there was a condition for [Zelensky] getting anything,” Giuliani said. “He didn’t tell him he had to investigate.”
In the context of the call, scheduled military aid was being held up by the administration and even members of the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Council could not figure out why. Zelensky certainly hoped to find out. If Trump didn’t explain, then his requests did the explaining for him. He allegedly requested eight separate times that Zelensky investigate Joe and Hunter Biden and told him to work with Giuliani in furtherance of that plan.
As I discussed yesterday, there is no merit to the conspiracy theory Trump and Giuliani were pursuing. Supposedly, while serving as vice-president, Biden forced the removal of Ukraine’s top prosecutor to protect his son who was serving on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company suspected of money laundering. What actually happened is that Biden threatened to withhold aid if the prosecutor was not replaced because the U.S. Government and the European Union believed that the prosecutor was corrupt and failing to investigate corruption within the Ukrainian government. In this, Biden was successful and parliament replaced the prosecutor. Giuliani told the Fox & Friends hosts that this was an example of extortion.
[Trump] didn’t tell [the Ukrainian president] like Biden did, ‘you have to get rid of the prosecutor or you don’t get your $1.2 billion in six hours.’ If you compare the two conversations, you’d say one seems perfectly appropriate and the other seems — and I’m not saying it is because he’s presumed innocent — seems like extortion and bribery much more clear than probably 10 that I prosecuted where I put people in jail for 20 years.”
What Biden did was coercive, but even Trump has argued in recent days that foreign or military aid should not just be handed out with no conditions, especially when the recipient country is experiencing rampant corruption. Perhaps some in Ukraine did not like Biden’s conditions and felt like they were being bossed around, but beggars can’t often be choosers, which is precisely why it matters greatly why a donor country puts conditions on their aid.
In Biden’s case, the conditions were not personal as Giuliani and Trump allege, but the official position of the Western Alliance with respect to Ukraine’s top prosecutor. In Trump’s case, the conditions were completely personal and aimed at promulgating a lie and a smear of one of his top rivals for the presidency.
I’d like to point out two more inaccuracies in Giuliani’s remarks. In 2016, the year in question, Congress appropriated a grand total of $667 million to Ukraine, so it was not possible for Biden to withhold $1.2 billion. Also, Biden made his threat in December 2015, but the aid was never cut off despite the fact that the Ukrainian parliament did not respond satisfactorily until March 2016. So, the Obama administration gave Ukraine considerably longer than six hours to meet their demand.
Finally, Giuliani suggested on Fox & Friends that perhaps the subject of Hunter Biden was first broached on the call by Volodymr Zelensky rather than by Donald Trump. Based on the reporting in Wednesday’s Washington Post, that seems unlikely.
Several officials described tense meetings on Ukraine among national security officials at the White House leading up to the president’s phone call on July 25, sessions that led some participants to fear that Trump and those close to him appeared prepared to use U.S. leverage with the new leader of Ukraine for Trump’s political gain.
As those worries intensified, some senior officials worked behind the scenes to hold off a Trump meeting or call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky out of concern that Trump would use the conversation to press Kiev for damaging information on Trump’s potential rival in the 2020 race, former vice president Joe Biden, and Biden’s son Hunter.
If, for some reason, it really was the Ukrainian president who first mentioned Hunter Biden, it was undoubtedly because he was prepped to do so by the same kind of Ukrainian officials who supposedly later read the transcript of the call to Giuliani.
Based on reporting from Reuters, it’s almost certain that the Americans did not make a recording of the call and instead relied on several transcribers. I don’t know what the common practice is in Ukraine but Giuliani had access to their version so Congress should be entitled to it as well. There’s a pretty good likelihood that the two versions will not agree. The Trump administration has every incentive to produce a self-serving version that is as exculpatory as possible. Versions that already exist in Ukraine were not created with that in mind, and could as easily be read to a New York Times reporter as a former New York City mayor.
One final complaint I have with Giuliani’s cable news performances relates to his Tuesday night appearance on Laura Ingraham’s show. He called himself a “simple country lawyer” when he’s really the former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. That’s as far as it is possible to get from being a simple country lawyer.
Giuliani has created many more problems for Trump than he has solved, and when Trump is impeached it will be largely Giuliani’s fault. I hope he keeps talking. I hope he never stops talking.