Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, announced late Friday that he was canceling an upcoming trip to Ukraine after he came under criticism for saying he planned to talk to the country’s new leaders about investigations that could boost President Donald Trump politically.
Giuliani had said he was planning to meet with Ukraine’s president-elect, Volodymyr Zelensky, to encourage him to look into Hunter Biden’s involvement with a Ukrainian energy company and Joe Biden’s attempts as vice president to oust a Ukrainian prosecutor accused of ignoring corruption among the country’s elite.
But the move came under attack from Democrats and former law enforcement officials who accused Giuliani of trying to pressure a foreign government to target Biden, who’s running for president, ahead of the 2020 election. Giuliani also said he hoped to discuss a Ukrainian investigation into the origins of the FBI probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“Today, Giuliani admitted to seeking political help from a foreign power. Again,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff wrote on Twitter.
The former New York City mayor told POLITICO he was planning to leave Sunday and return Wednesday. But late Friday, Giuliani said he had canceled his trip, explaining his change of plans in a text message that the original offer for a meeting was a “set up” orchestrated by “several vocal critics” of Trump who are advising Ukraine’s new president-elect. “Only got name yesterday and told pres elect is in hands of avowed enemies of Pres Trump,” Giuliani wrote. “Useless meeting.”
“It is all part of one large conspiracy that has a two or three parts to it. … So I’ve decided I’m not going to go because I’m walking into a group of people that are enemies of the president,” Giuliani said on Fox News Friday night.
On Saturday morning, Giuliani sought to further explain his decision in another text message to POLITICO. “I concluded that the President elect is being advised by people who were very vocal opponents of President Trump and peculiarly vocal supporters of Hillary Clinton,” he said, offering no evidence for his claim.
In a telephone interview with POLITICO on Friday, Trump said he didn’t know much about Giuliani’s planned trip to Ukraine, but wanted to speak with him about it. “I have not spoken to him at any great length, but I will,” Trump said in the interview. “I will speak to him about it before he leaves.”
Separately, the president said he felt it “would be an appropriate thing” to speak to Attorney General Bill Barr about launching an investigation into Biden, or his son, Hunter, over their actions in Ukraine. But the president said he has not done so. Still, the comment was swiftly rebuked as a trampling of the long-held norms that the White House does not influence Justice Department decisions.
The Bidens’ connections to Ukraine have become a subject of deep interest among the president’s political allies, who charge that Biden as vice president during the Obama administration pressured the Ukrainian government to oust a prosecutor in order to benefit his son. No evidence has emerged that Joe Biden was acting to assist his son, and it is not clear that the official was even probing the Hunter Biden-linked company at the time.
The Biden campaign declined to comment, but has previously said that Biden acted properly as vice president and only learned of his son’s role with the Ukrainian company through news reports. Hunter Biden has also previously said he has no connection to the investigation of the company, Burisma Holdings.
The New York Times earlier this week reported that prosecutors for the outgoing Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, had opened investigations into the origins of the Russia probe and the Ukrainian energy company, which Hunter Biden at one time did work for. The status of the investigations under the incoming Ukrainian president is unclear.