WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Tuesday denied sending his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to Ukraine to dig up dirt on his opponents, or for any other reason.
“No, I didn’t direct him,” Trump told former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in an online interview. “No, but you have to understand, Rudy is a great corruption fighter.”
Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine have come under scrutiny in the House Democratic impeachment inquiry. Federal investigators, meanwhile, are conducting an investigation into Giuliani’s associates, two of whom were charged with campaign finance violations.
Giuliani to Ukraine
Trump repeatedly said he never directed his personal attorney to go to Ukraine.
“He never did and I never did,” Giuliani told USA TODAY in response to Trump’s remarks. “I never went to Ukraine and I was always seeking evidence to defend him against false charges in my role as his lawyer.”
Giuliani said his effort started long before Biden was a candidate and while the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election was still underway.
Whether Trump sent Giuliani to the country is not the center of the investigation, however. The summary of the president’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky shows the president urged Kyiv officials to reach out to Giuliani about the investigations.
State Department officials have told lawmakers under oath as part of the impeachment inquiry that Giuliani and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, appeared to be running a diplomatic effort in Ukraine outside of the official channels.
Giuliani was also among the critics who appeared determined to undermine former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Giuliani has acknowledged he was conducting an investigation into Ukraine to defend Trump.
“The investigation I conducted concerning 2016 Ukrainian collusion and corruption, was done solely as a defense attorney to defend my client against false charges, that kept changing as one after another were disproven,” Giuliani posted on Twitter last month.
Despite speculation about whether Trump will continue to stick by his personal attorney, the president has so far generally defended him.
Giuliani raised eyebrows recently by saying he did not think Trump would turn on him during the investigation – and that, even if Trump did, he has an “insurance policy.” Giuliani later said he was joking and that his insurance was his case against Biden.
On Monday, Trump called Giuliani “a great guy” and the “best mayor” New York City ever had.
Giuliani has refused to provide information to House investigators about his dealings in Ukraine on Trump’s behalf.
Giuliani has done business in Ukraine since at least 2008. In June 2017, he delivered a speech called “Global Challenge, the Role of the U.S. and the Place of Ukraine,” according to a post on the website of the Pinchuk Foundation.
Fritze and Jackson cover the White House for USA TODAY. Follow them at @jfritze and @djusatoday.
Contributing: Kevin Johnson and Kevin McCoy