Washington (CNN)Energy Secretary Rick Perry said he spoke with President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani at the President’s direction this spring about alleged Ukrainian corruption,The Wall Street Journalreported Wednesday.
In his first interview about theescalating Ukraine scandal, Perry told the Journal that, at Trump’s direction , he called Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, seeking a better understanding of Trump’s Ukraine concerns.
“And as I recall the conversation, he said, ‘Look, the President is really concerned that there are people in Ukraine that tried to beat him during this presidential election, ‘”Perry said of his conversation with Giuliani. “‘He thinks they’re corrupt and … that there are still people over there engaged that are absolutely corrupt.'”
Perry told the newspaper that Giuliani didn’t make explicit demands on the call – “Rudy didn’t say they gotta do X, Y and Z” – but did blame Ukraine for theSteele dossierabout Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, claimed the country had former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server and linked Ukraine to unfounded evidence that helped send former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to prison.
“I don’t know whether that was crap or what,” Perry told the Journal, “but I’m just saying there were three things that he said. That’s the reason the president doesn’t trust these guys. “
Giuliani recalled his conversation with Perry to the Journal, saying, “Everything I said there I probably said on television 50 times. “
Perry’s description of his call with Giuliani builds onprevious CNN reportingthat Trump had told Perry and two top State Department officials to deal with Giuliani when the Ukrainian President sought to meet Trump – a clear circumvention of official channels, according to two sources familiar with the conversation.
Trump believed Ukraine was still rampantly corrupt and sai d that if Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wanted to meet with him, Giuliani would have to be convinced first, one source said.
“If they can satisfy Rudy, they can satisfy the President, “a person familiar with the meeting told CNN.
Perry has found himself as one of the players in the middle of the Ukrainian controversy stemming from a whistleblower’s allegations that Trump asked Zelensky earlier this year to investigate former vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his family, and that the White House attempted to cover up the conversation.
Perry was one of what one official called the “three amigos” leading US relations with the country, meeting at least three times with Zelensky.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden or his son, Hunter Biden, in Ukraine.
In his interview with the Journal, Perry disputed recent reports that he ispreparing for his exit from the Trump Cabinet, but would not specify if he would stay at the Energy Department past Thanksgiving.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m working at the will of the President, just like I always have.”
CNN’s Arlette Saenz, Rene Marsh and Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.