‘Somebody could say it’s improper’: Giuliani asks Ukraine for favours

Washington: Rudy Giuliani, US President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, is encouraging Ukraine to wade further into sensitive political issues in the United States, seeking to push the incoming government in Kiev to press ahead with investigations that he hopes will benefit Trump.

Giuliani said he planned to travel to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, in the coming days and wanted to meet with the nation's president-elect to urge him to pursue inquiries that allies of the White House contend could yield new information about two matters of intense interest to Trump.

Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, waves to people at the White House.Credit:AP

One is the origin of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election. The other is the involvement of former vice president Joe Biden's son in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch.

Giuliani's plans come after Trump spent more than half of his term facing questions about whether his 2016 campaign conspired with a foreign power.

"We're not meddling in an election; we're meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do," Giuliani said on Thursday, US time, when asked about the parallel to the Russia inquiry.

"There's nothing illegal about it," he said. "Somebody could say it's improper. And this isn't foreign policy – I'm asking them to do an investigation that they're doing already and that other people are telling them to stop. And I'm going to give them reasons why they shouldn't stop it because that information will be very very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government."

Outgoing Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.Credit:AP

Giuliani's planned trip is part of a months-long effort by the former New York mayor and a group of Trump allies working to build interest in the Ukrainian inquiries. Their motivation is to try to discredit Mueller's investigation; undermine the case against Paul Manafort, Trump's imprisoned former campaign chairman; and potentially to damage Biden who is a Democrat contender for the presidency in 2020.

Ukraine’s president-elect, popular comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy.Credit:AP

The investigations had been opened by Ukrainian prosecutors serving during the term of the country's current President, Petro Poroshenko. He lost his re-election bid last month to Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian and political newcomer. Zelensky has said he would like to replace the prosecutor who oversaw some of the matters, Yuriy Lutsenko, who has met multiple times with Giuliani to discuss the issues. Zelensky is set to take office on June 3.

Giuliani said he had been planning for several weeks to travel to Kiev to deliver a paid speech to a Jewish group about Middle East policy.

But in recent days, Giuliani reached out through intermediaries to request a meeting with Zelensky, he said, adding, "It's not confirmed yet."

If the meeting does occur, Giuliani said, "I am going to tell him what I know about the people that are surrounding him, and how important it is to do a full, complete and fair investigation."

He said his efforts in Ukraine have the full support of Trump. He declined to say specifically whether he had briefed the President on the planned meeting with Zelensky, but added, "He basically knows what I'm doing, sure, as his lawyer."

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump has called attention to the scrutiny of Biden's son Hunter Biden, and to questions about the former vice president's involvement in the removal of a Ukrainian prosecutor whose office had authority over investigations of the oligarch whose company paid Hunter Biden.

Donald Trump and Paul Manafort.Credit:AP, Bloomberg

Trump has also sought to stir up interest in claims that Ukrainian officials tried to benefit Hillary Clinton in 2016 by focusing attention on Manafort's business in Ukraine. The attention forced Manafort to resign from the Trump campaign, but allies of the Ukrainian officials involved have denied that they acted improperly to benefit Clinton's campaign.

Trump has recently suggested he would like Attorney-General William Barr to look into the material gathered by the Ukrainian prosecutors.

The New York Times

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