Rick Perry telephoned Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in the spring to feel out the president's attitude toward then newly-elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the energy secretary has told the Wall Street Journal.
According to Perry, Giuliani relayed to him the administration's concerns about alleged Ukrainian meddling in favour of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.
Trump, Perry said, was not sure that the Ukrainians had "straightened up their act," and had told him to "visit with Rudy."
"As I recall the conversation, [Giuliani] said, 'Look, the president is really concerned that there are people in Ukraine that tried to beat him during the presidential election. He thinks they're corrupt and…that there are still people over there engaged that are absolutely corrupt," Perry said, recalling the telephone call.
"'You want to know why he ain't comfortable about letting this guy come in? Here's the reason.'," Perry added, paraphrasing Giuliani.
According to Perry, Giuliani pointed out to him that the previous Ukrainian government had helped to concoct the (since debunked) allegations of Trump's alleged Russia ties, and helped 'dream up' the alleged 'black book' ledger that prompted Trump to fire chairman Paul Manafort in 2016.
Perry said he never heard Trump, Giuliani, the president's appointees or Ukrainian officials specifically discuss a possible investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden or his son Hunter over alleged corruption schemes in Ukraine under the Obama administration.
Giuliani confirmed to the WSJ that the phone call with Perry had taken place, and said he told Perry to "be careful" regarding the new president amid White House concerns over alleged malicious Ukrainian government activities against Trump in 2016.
Anonymous officials told the newspaper that Trump had called on Perry and then-Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker in May after Zelensky's inauguration and told them to work with Giuliani to help resolve the president's concerns about Ukraine before he would agree to meet with the new president. Perry said Trump dismissed Kiev's requests to meet with Zelensky on several occasions. Trump and Zelensky did end up meeting in September, nearly four months after the Ukrainian president's inauguration.
House Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry against Trump late last month, accusing the president of applying 'pay-to-play' pressure against Kiev to force Zelensky to restart a corruption investigation against Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump has denied the charges, and called the impeachment proceedings against him "witch hunt garbage" and an attempted "coup." Late last month, the administration released a transcript of the Trump-Zelensky phone call, showing no direct evidence of pay-to-play pressure on Trump's part.
The Democrats have accused Trump of attempting to 'dig up dirt' on Biden, a contender for the Democratic nomination in 2020. In the Zelensky transcript, Trump accused Biden of publicly "bragging" about having the Ukrainian prosecutor investigating his son fired. In 2018, at an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, Biden recalled how he successfully pressured then-President Petro Poroshenko to have the prosecutor sacked on pain of withholding a $1 billion loan to Ukraine. Biden maintains that he has never spoken to his son about his business dealings in Ukraine, and says that he did nothing wrong.
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