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Never-before-heard audio, sourced exclusively from CNN, shows how of the former US President Donald Trump Long-time advisor Rudy Giuliani put relentless pressure on the Ukrainian government in 2019 and persuaded it to investigate unfounded conspiracies surrounding then-presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The audio comes from a phone conversation in July 2019 between Giuliani, US diplomat Kurt Volker, and Andriy Yermak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj. The call preceded Mr Trump’s infamous call with Mr Zelensky, and both conversations later became a central part of Mr Trump’s first impeachment, in which he was accused of seeking Ukrainian aid for his campaign.
During the roughly 40-minute call, Mr. Giuliani repeatedly told Mr. Yermak that Mr. Zelensky should publicly announce investigations into possible corruption by Mr. Biden in Ukraine and allegations that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election to win Mr. Trump damage. These separate claims are both untrue.
Rudy Giuliani urged the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden. (CNN)
“Everything we need from the president [Zelensky] that is, I will hire an honest prosecutor, he will investigate and dig up the evidence that currently exists and whether there is any other evidence of participation in the 2016 elections, and then the Biden thing must end, “said Mr Giuliani according to audio.
“… Somebody in Ukraine has to take this seriously.”
The new audio shows how Mr. Giuliani aggressively persuaded Ukrainians to obey Mr. Trump’s commandments. And it undermines Mr. Trumps often repeated assertion that “there was no consideration” that Mr. Zelensky could secure the support of the US government if he did Trump a political favor.
The call was one of the opening salvos in Mr Trump and his allies’ years of searching to harm Mr Biden and undermine the 2020 election process – by soliciting foreign interference, lying about voter fraud, trying to overturn the results and the deadly attack on Nov. January to the Capitol.
A criminal investigation is ongoing against Mr Giuliani and his dealings with Ukraine, including whether he violated lobbying laws in coordinating with ex-officials who messed him up on the Bidens. The federal investigation intensified when the FBI searched Mr. Giuliani’s home and office in late April. It is unclear whether the call with Mr. Yermak is part of the investigation. Mr. Giuliani denies any wrongdoing.
A partial transcript of the telephone conversation between Giuliani and Yermak was first published by BuzzFeed news in April and Time magazine published some important excerpts from the tender for the first time in February.Former US President Donald Trump has been charged with his interactions with his Ukrainian counterpart. (AP)
According to the audio recording, Mr. Giuliani kept pushing for the investigation. Mr. Giuliani even said that diplomatic relations between the US and Ukraine would improve if Mr. Zelensky opened the investigation. Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Volker suggested during the call that a public announcement could pave the way for Mr. Zelensky’s much-anticipated visit to the US or for face-to-face meetings with Mr. Giuliani.
“That would clean the air really well,” said Giuliani, according to the recording.
“And I think it would allow me to come and allow me to speak to the President (Trump) to see what I can do to make sure all misunderstandings are put aside … I kind of think that this could be a good thing for having a much better relationship. “
The tape offers a firsthand perspective on one of the most momentous moments of Mr. Trump’s presidency. Sometimes you can hear the Ukrainians shuffling through papers, and the phone that is dialed into the call rings a few times during the conversation – but Mr Yermak stays on the line with Mr Giuliani.
Mr. Giuliani did not respond to CNN’s request to comment on the new audio tape. In the past he said he had done nothing wrong in Ukraine and was only pursuing the best interests of his clients. He was Mr. Trump’s personal attorney at the time. Mr. Giuliani too sentenced Impeachment of Mr Trump over the Ukraine affair, saying Mr Trump’s conduct was constitutional and appropriate.
Flatter and arm twisting
The call was a big moment in Mr Giuliani’s quest to damage Mr Biden’s candidacy.
The former New York City mayor had spent months meeting with Ukrainians to find filth on the Biden family and confirm right-wing conspiracies that anti-Trump forces in Ukraine undermined his 2016 campaign. Mr Giuliani met with officials who were considered untrustworthy by US diplomats in Ukraine, including Mr Volker – but they told Mr Giuliani what he wanted to hear.
Mr. Zelensky, who was a comedian and actor before entering politics, was sworn in as President of Ukraine in May 2019. Mr. Giuliani sounded eager to get in touch with the new president and his team.
As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden was the subject of conspiracy theories. (AP)
A few weeks later, Mr. Volker put a call between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Yermak, a long-time friend and advisor of Mr. Zelensky. This was Mr. Giuliani’s first opportunity to pitch his pitch on the Biden investigation in front of Mr. Zelensky’s inner circle, who is desperate to meet Mr. Trump’s team and provide U.S. military support for Ukraine’s ongoing war against Russian proxies in the east wanted to consolidate.
The call started with Mr. Giuliani explaining several tangled right-wing conspiracy theories about Mr. Biden’s diplomatic dealings in Ukraine and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 elections.
Mr. Giuliani advocated many of these theories even after Mr. Volker warned him that the Ukrainian officials who provided him with information were untrustworthy, saying the corruption allegations against Mr. Biden were “simply not credible,” according to Mr. Volker in the house investigation of impeachment.
“I received information from a reliable investigator, an international investigator, that there was some activity during the 2016 elections in Ukraine,” Giuliani said during the call to Mr. Yermak, dispelling the false claim that US embassy officials were trying , “to produce”. Dirt on then-candidates Trump and Paul Manafort. “
“Another was involved with (George) Soros … Soros is apparently behind a lot,” Giuliani said, referring to the liberal billionaire and philanthropist who is the subject of many GOP conspiracies.
Mr Giuliani also made the false claim that Mr Biden acted corruptly as US Vice President when he urged Mr Zelensky’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, to dismiss the country’s chief prosecutor in 2016, and that the Ukrainian prosecutor had to leave, because he was corrupt.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was asked to publicly announce an investigation into Biden. (AP)
“To me as a lawyer that sounds like bribery,” said Giuliani.
“A bribe offers something of value in exchange for official action. So, in return, he offered Poroshenko a loan guarantee of $ 1.2 billion ($ 1.55 billion), which is vital to Poroshenko’s success as president for the abolition of an attorney general. “
Throughout the conversation he added several disclaimers, for example saying he was not sure the corruption allegations against Mr. Biden were true and that he just wanted “the truth” to come out. Mr. Giuliani also told Mr. Yermak, “I’m not (Zelensky) saying what to say”, although on a number of occasions he was very clear that Mr. Zelensky should announce the specific investigations that Mr. Trump wanted.
One of the Ukrainians who overheard the phone call, former Zelenskyi adviser Igor Novikov, told CNN last month that Giuliani’s antics threatened Ukraine’s already fragile national security situation.
“We are a country that has been at active war with Russia for many years,” he said.
“Anything to do with trading favors in our bilateral relationship to include us in US domestic politics is morally, ethically, and possibly even legally wrong on many levels.”
“That would do us all good”
During the call, Mr. Yermak listened patiently and tried to redirect the conversation to official diplomatic matters, such as making appointments for Mr. Zelensky to make his first official visit to the United States. But he also gave the Americans signals on the line that he would work to get the ball forward in the “investigation”.
“I am absolutely certain that as soon as the dates of President Zelensky’s upcoming visit to the United States are confirmed, I will be ready to personally take over the preparations,” said Yermak.
“And of course I am ready to come, and we can (be) personally (sit down) and discuss in detail all the questions, all these investigations that you listed in our conversation.”
The tone of the Americans changed – Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Volker liked what they heard. And Mr. Volker mentioned that Mr. Trump should speak to Mr. Zelensky soon and congratulate him on his big parliamentary victory.
At the end of the call, it seemed to Mr. Yermak what had to happen to get on Mr. Trump’s good side.
Mr. Giuliani has consistently denied any wrongdoing. (AP)
“I’m sure Zelensky will say that,” said Yermak, referring to the requests from Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Volker that Mr. Zelensky mention the investigation when he called Mr. Trump.
“Believe me, Andriy, that would be good for all of us,” replied Mr Giuliani.
“That would get it moving very quickly. And I can assure you that I think you should talk this week.”
Mr. Volker said, “I’ll push for it too,” referring to Mr. Trump calling Mr. Zelensky.
Mr. Trump connected with Mr. Zelensky three days later, on July 25, 2019. According to a crude transcript released by the White House, Mr Trump and Mr Zelensky had some of the same baseless theories Mr Giuliani mentioned to Mr Yermak. Mr Trump said “I want you to give us a taste” and investigate the allegations.
His conduct during that now infamous phone call with Mr. Zelensky led to a whistleblower complaint from a U.S. intelligence agency alleging that Mr. Trump had abused his powers and asked Ukraine for foreign aid in the 2020 elections. The plan was unraveled within a few months and Mr Trump was indicted by the House of Representatives. He would be acquitted after a Senate trial.