America’s top diplomatrolled his eyes when he was told aboutRudy Giuliani’sback channel outreach to topUkraine officials, impeachment investigators were told.
Diplomacy and engagement with foreign nations is typically carried out by professional officials, under the direction of the state department.
But as more information has been made public concerning the background toDonald Trump’scontroversial July phone call to the president of Ukraine, it has emerged his private lawyer was carrying out a parallel outreach on behalf of the White House. At the behest of Mr Trump, Mr Giuliani was seeking to persuade Ukraine to launch an investigation into the president’s political rival, Joe Biden, and his son.
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He also sought Ukraine’s help to try and get to the bottom of a conspiracy theory that has circulated among conservatives, who allege the Democratic National Committee, whose server was allegedly hacked by Russia in 2016, was actually kept in Kiev.
Mr Giuliani has never tried to hide his actions and has given television interviews about them. Yet, as more officials testify to impeachment investigators on Capitol Hill, a fuller picture of the scale of his involvement has emerged.
The US’s EU ambassador,Gordon Sondland, wasaskedwhether he had discussed Mr Giuliani with secretary of state Mike Pompeo,according to a transcript of a deposition released on Tuesday.
He said Mr Pompeo rolled his eyes when he did so, and said “Yes, it’s something we have to deal with”. He was also asked if he discussed Mr Giuliani with White House counsellor Ulrich Brechbuhl.
“I may have,” he said. “Again, people usually smiled when they heard Rudy’s name because he was always swirling around somewhere.”
Mr Sondland said that in phone calls with Mr Giuliani, the former New York mayor “kept repeating Burisma and the 2016 election ”- a reference to the energy company that employed Mr Biden’s son, Hunter.
Republicans have accused the then vice president of interfering to get rid of a Ukrainian prosecutor said to be looking into the company, though Mr Biden has denied this and there is no evidence to support it.
Mr Sondland said he became aware in September that Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani wanted a quid pro quo from Ukraine, and was “alarmed” about what the President wanted.
He said he heard a different message from Mr Giuliani about what Mr Trump wanted.
“I am assuming Rudy Giuliani heard it from the president, but I don’t know that,” he said.
“President Trump changes his mind on what he wants on a daily basis. I have no idea what he wanted on the day I called him, ”he added.
He said he later understood Mr Giuliani wanted Ukraine to investigate Mr Biden and his son, and involve the nation in the 2020 election campaign. He was asked “why do you think that either of those activities are problematic”.
He replied: “Because I believe I testified that it would be improper to do that.”
He was then asked whether Mr Giuliani’s were illegal. He replied: “I’m not a lawyer, but I assume so.”
A whistleblower from the US intelligence community accused Mr Trump of seeking Ukraine’s help in interfering in the 2020 election, something that would be in breach of the US constitution. Mr Trump has dismissed the accusations, but Democrats have launched a formal impeachment probe.
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