House Democrats announced they will investigate the role of Rudy Giuliani, the personal lawyer of President Donald Trump, in what they described Monday as a "scheme" to influence the government of Ukraine to boost his client’s re-election campaign.
The chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees sent letters to the White House and State Department requesting information and documents about the alleged "scheme" by Trump and Giuliani "to coerce the Ukrainian government into pursuing two politically motivated investigations under the guise of anti-corruption activity."
"As the 2020 election draws closer, President Trump and his personal attorney appear to have increased pressure on the Ukrainian government and its justice system in service of President Trump's re-election campaign, and the White House and the State Department may be abetting this scheme," Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings wrote, noting that Giuliani and Trump "appear to have acted outside legitimate law enforcement and diplomatic channels."
The New York Times has reported extensively on an effort by Giuliani to persuade the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden's diplomatic efforts in Ukraine, as well as his son's role on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Giuliani also sought to have the country's government investigate whether Ukrainian officials tried to harm Trump's 2016 campaign by releasing damaging information on the president's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, the Times reported.
House Democrats cited a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which they said the president apparently focused on the investigations, telling Zelensky that he is "convinced the new Ukrainian government will be able to quickly improve [the] image of Ukraine, [and] complete [the] investigation of corruption cases, which inhibited the interaction between Ukraine and the USA."
The next day, the U.S. special representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, was sent to meet with Zelensky, the Democrats said. Days later, they added, Giuliani met Andriy Yermak, an aide to Zelensky, in Spain, where the Ukrainian president's personal attorney, who has no official administration or diplomatic position, reportedly suggested a "possible heads of state meeting" between Trump and Zelensky and "tweeted an accusation" about Biden's son.
Though the State Department has insisted that Giuliani is a "private citizen" who does not hold an official role in the U.S. government, the Zelensky adviser "publicly stated that 'it was not clear to him whether Mr. Giuliani was representing Mr. Trump in their talks,'” the Democrats wrote.
The chairmen also cited a recent Politico report that said the Trump administration was threatening to withhold more than $250 million in security assistance to Ukraine, already appropriated by Congress, which lawmakers and advocates have argued is critical to pushing back against Moscow.
"If the president is trying to pressure Ukraine into choosing between defending itself from Russian aggression without U.S. assistance or leveraging its judicial system to serve the ends of the Trump campaign, this would represent a staggering abuse of power, a boon to Moscow and a betrayal of the public trust," the lawmakers wrote.
"That the State Department has apparently acted as a broker between President Trump's personal attorney and Ukrainian officials raises serious concerns that the department is complicit in a corrupt scheme that undercuts U.S. foreign policy and national security interests in favor of the president's personal agenda," they added.