President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said he plans to travel to Ukraine in the coming days to meet with the country's president-elect in the hopes of persuading him to press the gas on investigations he believes could benefit Trump.
Giuliani intends to urge the nation's comedian-turned-incoming-leader, Volodymr Zelensky, to examine the origins of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as former Vice President Joe Biden's past influence over the country, The New York Times reported Thursday.
"We're not meddling in an election — we're meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do," Giuliani told the newspaper. "There's nothing illegal about it."
"Somebody could say it's improper. And this isn't foreign policy — I'm asking them to do an investigation that they're doing already and that other people are telling them to stop," he added. "And I'm going to give them reasons why they shouldn't stop it, because that information will be very, very helpful to my client and may turn out to be helpful to my government."
The inquiries in Ukraine were previously launched during the term of the country's current president, Petro Poroshensko. He lost his re-election bid last month to Zelensky, who said he would like to replace the prosecutor who oversaw some of the inquiries when he takes office June 3. The country's current chief prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, has met with Giuliani multiple times to discuss the issues, the Times reported.
Giuliani said his meeting with Zelensky is "not confirmed yet," but he noted that if the meeting does occur, he is "going to tell him that I know about the people that are surrounding him and how important it is to do a full, complete and fair investigation."
The former New York mayor said Trump supports his efforts in Ukraine, although he declined to tell the Times whether he had briefed the president on the planned meeting.
Giuliani last week called for an investigation into Biden for his previous actions in Ukraine in the wake of a report published by tThe Times that detailed the former vice president's dealings with the country.
Biden in 2016 reportedly threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees unless the nation's leaders removed its top prosecutor, who had been accused of ignoring corruption in his own office and among the political elite. The pressure campaign was a success — the Ukrainian Parliament voted to oust the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, shortly thereafter. Yuriy Lutsenko replaced him.
The Times also revealed that Biden's younger son, Hunter, served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company that Shokin was investigating before he was removed. Biden's campaign told the newspaper that the former vice president carried out U.S. policy in Ukraine without regard to his son's activities, he never discussed the matter with his son and he first learned of his son's role with the energy company through news reports.
Biden's connection to Ukraine has come under renewed scrutiny in recent months after new details about Hunter Biden's business activities in the country emerged and after Lutsenko announced he would reopen the investigation into the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma Holdings. Lutensko, who has met with Giuliani and is considered an ally to the incumbent president, has denied any political motivation in reopening the case.
The Bidens' work in Ukraine has come under the political spotlight light just as the former vice president is beginning his campaign for the White House. The Trump campaign has appeared eager to promote and encourage the Burisma investigation, as well as other Ukrainian inquiries that could bolster Trump's political interests, highlighting the Trump campaign's concern about the electoral threat posed by the former vice president.
Biden's campaign, meanwhile, has cast the resurrection of the Burimsa investigation as politically motivated and pointed to Giuliani's involvement to question the motives behind the new probe.
Hunter Biden on Wednesday said that his term on Burisma's board of directors had expired last month, and that he would step down from the company in a political climate "where my qualifications and work are being attacked by Rudy Giuliani and his minions for transparent political purposes."