Rudy Giuliani, the personal lawyer of President Donald Trump, met last week with former Ukrainian diplomat Andriy Telizhenko, who claims that Ukraine conspired with the Democratic National Committee to procure dirt linking Trump’s presidential campaign to Russia in 2016.
“We discussed what’s happening in Ukraine: political updates, what the new (Ukrainian presidential) team is up to, what are the reforms going to be,” Telizhenko told NBC News.
Giuliani reportedly interviewed the former diplomat Tuesday in his Manhattan office about his allegations of election interference, though Telizhenko told the news outlet their recent meeting was not focused on investigations.
“We’re friends now,” Telizhenko said of Giuliani. “He respects our country.”
Last week’s meeting was not the first time Telizhenko met with Giuliani, who has emerged as a central figure in the House-led impeachment inquiry into Trump amid allegations that he pursued a shadow foreign policy operation intended to damage the president’s political rivals. The former diplomat, now a political consultant, reportedly met with Giuliani in May, August and September.
“Nobody else would listen,” he said of Giuliani, noting that the FBI and State Department had declined to interview him. “I am the witness of a robbery, or a killing or whatever. You’re questioning the guy who’s allegedly the robber, and you’re not questioning me as a witness?”
Telizhenko previously worked for Ukrainian businessman Pavel Fuks, who was a potential partner in Trump’s unsuccessful bid to build a hotel in Moscow. He told NBC News he is continuing to press for investigations to protect himself and to clear himself, including from allegations that he is a Russian intelligence agent.
“I’m not a Russian spy,” he told NBC News. “I’m doing this because I’m afraid for my security now, and I just want the story to be heard and questioned.”
The news report suggests that efforts to solicit Ukraine to investigate Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden, has moved ahead in spite of mounting scrutiny from Congress, law enforcement and the media.
In recent weeks, a host of current and former U.S. officials have testified in the House-led impeachment inquiry that Trump and his envoys leveraged a White House meeting and withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to pressure newly-elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to commit publicly to investigations into both the 2016 election and the Biden family. (Trump has repeatedly denied the existence of a “quid pro quo” and has decried the impeachment investigation as a “hoax.”)
A group of parliamentarians in Ukraine are working to investigate what they allege was a government campaign to falsely smear former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort as part of an broader effort to take down Trump in 2016, according to NBC News. They reportedly also want to investigate the Bidens. The effort by the lawmakers, which would require 150 lawmakers to vote in favor of it, is reportedly unlikely to be met with success.
“Ukraine was involved in like the biggest scandal in U.S. political history, let alone Ukrainian. Definitely most of my colleagues here pretend it doesn’t exist,” Oleg Voloshin, a lawmaker and Manafort associate, told NBC News in an interview outside Ukraine’s parliament. “It started here, and it should finish here.”
Even Zelensky, the target of Trump’s pressure campaign, has said he is “ready to investigate interference in the election from the Ukrainian side, if it took place.”
Trump has repeatedly questioned and attacked the U.S. intelligence community’s findings that Russians hacked and disseminated emails from the DNC and Clinton in an effort to help him clinch the presidency. He has frequently cited an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that the hacked DNC server ended up in Ukraine — a claim which he noted in his call with Zelensky. The Department of Justice is investigating the origins of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
There have been no indications that Ukraine directed or was aware of efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. In fact, U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia’s extensive efforts to interfere in the election were directed by the Kremlin.