Politics

Giuliani spoke to White House and Nunes at key points during Ukraine campaign, Trump impeachment report says

Key Points
  • The House Intelligence Committee's report on its impeachment investigation includes never-before-seen call logs that show a web of communications the president's private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, built with key figures in the White House and Congress.
  • On the day that then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was abruptly recalled from her post, Giuliani spoke to the White House 11 separate times.
  • Other calls cited include Giuliani communications with the Office of Management and Budget, which steered a freeze on U.S. aid to Ukraine that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, talks the former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani at a fundraising event in the Bronx borough of New York, Monday, July 6, 2015.
Seth Wenig | AP

WASHINGTON — On the day that then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was abruptly recalled from her post, President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who led a campaign for Yovanovitch's removal, spoke to the White House 11 separate times.

The day before that, on April 23, Giuliani placed three calls to the White House, and received one call back from an unidentified number, according to a sweeping new report published Tuesday by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.

A few weeks before these calls, the report revealed, on April 12, there was a web of 27 separate calls involving various combinations of Giuliani, his indicted associate Lev Parnas, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, former Trump attorney Victoria Toensing, then-columnist at The Hill John Solomon, the White House, and the Office of Management and Budget.

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House impeachment inquiry report accuses Trump of obstruction

What was discussed on these calls is still unclear. But their inclusion in the 300-page report adds a remarkable new chapter to Democrats' account of a monthslong campaign to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations that would help Trump politically.

Tuesday's report laid out in painstaking detail the evidence so far gathered by the Intelligence Committee in its impeachment inquiry into the president. The committee has spent the past two months investigating whether Trump abused his presidential powers by withholding foreign aid and a White House meeting from Ukraine unless the country's president agreed to launch investigations into Trump's domestic political opponents.

According to the report's introduction, the committee "uncovered a months-long effort by President Trump to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election."

The president's actions, they wrote, "subverted U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine and undermined our national security in favor of two politically motivated investigations that would help his presidential reelection campaign."

Much of what follows in the report has already been revealed in public testimony and closed-door depositions taken from more than a dozen witnesses over the course of October and November. These witnesses included current and former diplomats, national security officials, Trump political appointees and career staff from the Pentagon, the White House and the State Department.

The unexpected call logs, however, paint a far more precise and damaging picture of what was occurring behind the scenes at the White House than has been previously known.

Giuliani's unexplained calls with OMB

They show, for instance, that Giuliani, who is not a government employee, was in frequent contact with the White House Office of Management and Budget, which carried out an order this summer that witnesses said came directly from Trump himself, to freeze $391 million in foreign and military aid to Ukraine.

Trump and congressional Republicans have insisted since the beginning of the inquiry that the hold on aid to Ukraine was not connected to Giuliani's pressure campaign on Ukraine's president to launch investigations beneficial to Trump. But if there was, in fact, no connection, then it is unclear why the president's personal lawyer would have needed to speak repeatedly to OMB officials.

On Wednesday, Giuliani posted two tweets that appeared to be his response to the phone logs. "The mere fact I had numerous calls with the White House does not establish any specific topic. Remember, I'm the President's attorney," Giuliani tweeted shortly before 8:00am.

The former New York City mayor then followed up with a seemingly contradictory tweet, in which he implied that his calls with the White House were, in fact, related to events at issue in the impeachment probe.

"They've already taken away [Trump's] right to call witnesses, cross-examine, confront his accusers, or be represented by counsel at hearings. Now he can't talk to his counsel on the telephone?" wrote Giuliani.

The suggestion that the president's lawyers are being barred from impeachment hearings is not true, however. The White House has until December 6 to decide whether to participate in Judiciary Committee hearings, to which White House lawyers have been invited. But White House counsel Pat Cipollone has so far refused to do so, complaining in a recent letter to committee chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., that the hearings would not provide Trump with "any semblance of a fair process."

Giuliani has not so far addressed why he was exchanging calls with OMB, an internally-focused budgeting agency which would appear to have little reason to communicate with the president's private lawyer. 

Trump Wednesday told reporters he did not know why his attorney was exchanging phone calls with the budget office, telling reporters at a NATO summit in London, "I really don't know. You'd have to ask [Giuliani]. It sounds like something that's not so complicated, frankly. But you'd have to ask him. No big deal."

Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has so far declined to say how his committee obtained Giuliani's phone records. But Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., another member of the committee, confirmed during a recent TV appearance that the committee had issued subpoenas for third-party phone records, although he did not say who the targets of the subpoenas were. 

New questions for Nunes

Another key figure whose role in events was further illuminated by the new phone records is Nunes, R-Calif., whose name appeared 49 times in the report in relation to contacts Nunes had with Giuliani and his associates.

These include calls that Nunes had with Giuliani and Parnas on April 10, 11 and 12, as well as calls that Nunes' staff held with Giuliani and with Parnas throughout the spring, starting in February of this year and continuing through at least May.

Nunes did not reveal any of those contacts either before or during the monthlong public phase of the impeachment hearings. A spokesman for Nunes did not respond to questions Tuesday from CNBC about the lawmaker's contacts with Giuliani and Parnas, who was helping Giuliani dig for dirt on Biden in Ukraine.

An attorney for Parnas has previously confirmed that his client had helped arrange a meeting for Nunes in late 2018 with a Ukrainian prosecutor who claimed to have "evidence" of wrongdoing by Democrats.

The same lawyer, Joseph Bondy, told CNBC last month that Nunes' staff had canceled a planned trip to Ukraine for additional meetings with potential sources of dirt, out of fear that Schiff, who became committee chairman in early 2019, would learn of their plans.

Instead of Nunes' staff making the trip themselves, Parnas set up Skype calls for them with several Ukrainian prosecutors eager to help promote the narrative that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Asked Tuesday about Nunes' role in the yearlong campaign to acquire political ammunition for Trump to use against Biden, Schiff said Nunes had been "complicit" in the events at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. He declined to comment on Nunes' decision not to disclose his contacts with Giuliani and Parnas, even as both men were mentioned by name repeatedly during public hearings over which Nunes served as the top Republican.

"In terms of the ranking member," Schiff said, "it won't surprise you that I'm going to reserve comment. It is, I think, deeply concerning that at a time when the president of the United States was using the power of his office to dig up dirt on a political rival, that there may be evidence that there were members of Congress complicit in that activity."

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take up the next phase of the impeachment process, with a public hearing to consider what the U.S. Constitution says about the grounds for impeaching a president. The scheduled witnesses for the hearing are constitutional scholars and experts on American government.

This story has been updated to include reactions from Giuliani and Trump that occurred after publication.