President Donald Trump’s attorney and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks to reporters outside the White House on July 1, 2020 Credit – Chip Somodevilla – Getty Images
“Let us let these investigations move forward,” Rudy Giuliani told the presidential headquarters in Kiev, Ukraine. “Have someone investigate this.” On the other end of the line, two Ukrainian officials, bent over a loudspeaker, listened in disbelief as Giuliani demanded investigations that could help his client, then President Donald Trump, win another term.
The 40-minute call, which TIME obtained a transcript of, provides the clearest picture yet of Giuliani’s attempts to pressure Ukrainians on Trump’s behalf. The president’s personal attorney has alternated between veiled threats – and repeatedly warned against “be careful” – and promises to help improve Ukraine’s relations with Trump. Giuliani said, “My only motive – not to get anyone in trouble does not deserve to be in trouble.” For the sake of our country and for the sake of yours, we are [need to] Get all these facts straight. “We fix it and put it behind us.”
The conversation on July 22, 2019 triggered the campaign of intimidation that resulted in the first impeachment trial of Trump. For a year and a half, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his aides have said little about their interactions with Giuliani, and they don’t want to upset an envoy of the U.S. president. But now, with the Trump era ending with a historic second trial, Ukrainians are beginning to talk about the circumstances that led to the first trial. They are also taking steps that could endanger Giuliani and his Ukrainian allies.
Igor Novikov, who served as a close advisor to Zelensky during Trump’s first impeachment trial, says he is willing to assist with an ongoing federal investigation of Giuliani reportedly taking place in New York, as well as a separate attempt to strip Giuliani of his license to practice. Law. Zelensky’s government took legal action against Giuliani’s Ukrainian associates. They have opened up to the media about the pressure campaign of Trump and his allies. On February 3, Novikov sent TIME a copy of Giuliani’s call, which was independently verified for accuracy.
Giuliani did not respond to a detailed list of questions about the transcript of his call with Ukrainian officials, Ukrainian support for his expulsion and the federal investigation.
In a series of interviews, Zelensky’s advisors have said that their motives are not even with Giuliani or simply clarifying the historical record. Their goal is to rebuild ties with the United States now that President Joe Biden is in office. “The past is the past,” Zelensky told Time magazine in a statement on February 4, “I care deeply about the future of our relationship with the United States, so I want to focus on that.”
Ukraine’s moves highlight a host of new threats to Trump and his associates now that he has left office. Under the constitution, accountability by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate are remedies for presidential misconduct. Trump now It will likely survive conviction For the second time. However, his critics do not have to rely on Congress to punish Trump and his allies. They find ways to do this themselves: through Defamation lawsuitsAnd the Criminal investigationsAnd the Pressure to ban His accounts on social media and other means.
The costs are mounting for Giuliani and his cronies, especially Russian agents and Ukrainian politicians who helped his crusade to reelect Trump in 2020. In the final days of Trump’s term, the United States government Seven of these men authorized– All Ukrainian citizens – for being part of the “Russian-linked foreign influence network” that promoted Giuliani’s bogus claims against Biden.
Zelensky’s government launched its counter-offensive against Giuliani and his aides in Ukraine. that Moved to shutdown Several Ukrainian media outlets broadcast baseless corruption allegations against the Biden family, which Giuliani spent more than a year trying to prove and spread. One of the Ukrainian lawmakers who helped him, Oleksandr Dubinsky, He was fired Zelensky’s political party on February 1.
Probably Giuliani’s biggest concern is Ukrainian support for the investigations he is said to be facing in New York. Novikov told TIME he is helping a Legal campaign To revoke the Giuliani Act license. Novikov is also open to help Investigation The former New York City mayor reportedly encounters him in the Southern District of New York, the same office where Giuliani introduced his name as the attorney general in the 1980s.
“If I receive an official request from SDNY or any other nonpartisan effort, such as the possibility of Rudy Giuliani’s cancellation, I will be open to helping them,” says Novikov, who left government in August but remains close to the Zelensky administration. He adds, “This is because I believe that Mayor Giuliani’s actions in Ukraine threaten our national security.” “It is our responsibility to ensure that any effort to draw our country into the internal politics of our allies will not go unpunished.”
The SDNY investigation began in 2019 and has reportedly focused on Giuliani’s alleged lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian politicians, as well as the business deals sought by colleagues in the country’s energy sector. A spokesman for the Southern District declined to comment on the status of the investigation, although NBC News report He indicated that it was continuing as of December. At least two Ukrainian officials told TIME that they had already discussed Giuliani’s case with SDNY investigators. “It was weird,” says one, describing a visit in 2019 to their Manhattan offices that Giuliani led before he became mayor of New York City. “Here I am to testify against Giuliani, and [hanging on the wall] They have these pictures of him shaking hands with people. “
Giuliani has always insisted that there is no basis for SDNY to investigate him. After NBC News reported in December that prosecutors are seeking access to his communications, Giuliani chirpThey want to seize my emails. For no reason[.] no mistake. On his video blog and other media, the former mayor also defended his moral standards. “I’m not stupid.” He said on his radio program Jan 14 “I don’t want to get in trouble. I personally have a high sense of morality. I hate it when people attack my integrity.”
On the phone call with Zelensky’s aides in 2019, Giuliani was careful to avoid outright requesting a service, according to the transcript. “I have no interest in anyone not telling the truth or exaggerating. It’s not about political interests,” Giuliani said on the call. He also seemed keenly aware of the dilemma he was creating for Ukrainians, and how that might make them feel. He said, “It shouldn’t be. You feel dread. ”“ All we need from the president is to say, “I’m appointing an honest public prosecutor [on these investigations], And will search for evidence that exists today. “
But from Ukraine’s point of view, the invitation put the Zelensky government in a precarious position. “That first phone call left me in shock,” says Novikov, who shared the call with Andrei Yermak, who was Zelensky’s chief advisor and now his chief of staff. “After we turned off the phone, I knew without a doubt that we were in great danger.”
Three days after that conversation, Trump had a phone call with Zelensky that would become A figure in the first impeachment investigation. He used the call to make some of the same requests from Ukrainians that his attorneys had made earlier that week. Trump famously asked Zelensky to “do a favor for us” by opening investigations into Biden and his son Hunter, who had served on the board of directors of a Ukrainian gas company.
At the dawn of the Biden administration, Zelensky and his top aides embarked on a mini-media tour to discuss some of these events. During an interview with Axios broadcast on January 31Zelensky was asked if he was “a little angry” with Trump. The Ukrainian leader laughed and answered, “A little bit?” The day before that interview was broadcast, the details of Giuliani’s first phone call with Zelensky’s aides were broadcast She appeared in Washington Mail, Which cited Novikov’s notes from the conversation.
Trump ordered a freeze on about $ 400 million in aid to Ukraine in the summer of 2019. Knowing about this step, Zelensky and his aides prepared to announce the investigations that Trump and Giuliani wanted. But before they pass by, A complaint from whistleblowers Inside the White House, Giuliani’s lobbying campaign was exposed, and Trump agreed to release aid to Ukraine.
Given those events, Zelensky’s advisers are still wondering what the repercussions would have been if the investigations were opened with the Biden family. “The consequences could have been dire,” says Yermak, chief of the Cabinet of the President of Ukraine. “I think we avoided American domestic politics,” he told Time magazine. “At least that’s been our job the whole time.”