Giuliani brags he's still pushing for Ukraine to implicate Biden -- even as Trump faces impeachment
Sondland corroborated much of the House Democrats’ narrative that President Donald Trump instructed administration officials to work with Giuliani to pressure Ukraine into investigating Burisma — a company that employed former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter — and the baseless conspiracy theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 election.
"Secretary [Rick] Perry, Ambassador [Kurt] Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the President of the United States," Sondland told the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. "Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt. We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the president's orders."
Sondland testified that a White House meeting sought by new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was conditioned on him publicly announcing investigations into Burisma and the Ukrainian conspiracy theory linked to a nonexistent DNC server.
"Mr. Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky," Sondland said. "Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the President."
Despite even Fox News describing Sondland’s testimony as potentially damning to the president, Giuliani told Blaze TV host Glenn Beck on Wednesday that he is still working on pursuing the same investigations that triggered the impeachment inquiry.
Giuliani continued to push allegations made by former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, who was forced out of his position under pressure from Biden, as U.S. and European government leaderships agreed Shokin was corrupt and had solicited bribes to end investigations.
Giuliani complained to Beck that the State Department had refused to grant visas to Shokin and other Ukrainian officials.
“All I can tell you is that for three or four years, that embassy has deliberately interfered with the ability to develop this story by not giving visas to Shokin and now four or five other parliamentarians, who are ready, willing and able to testify to this," Giuliani said.
“They have direct evidence about the bribery, the collusion. The case is a massive pay-for-play, multimillion-dollar scheme,” Giuliani claimed. “I was in contact with two of them today.”
Giuliani also told Beck that he fed information to conservative columnist John Solomon, formerly of The Hill. Solomon was mentioned multiple times in the whistleblower complaint that triggered the impeachment inquiry and during the impeachment hearings after he pushed a debunked narrative about Ukraine and Biden in his columns for The Hill. Much of his reporting was based on statements from former chief Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, even though Lutsenko later retracted his comments. Lutsenko’s retracted comments were described as “self-serving” during impeachment hearings, in which multiple witnesses pointed out he was accused of corruption.
Giuliani said that he pressed Solomon to publish Lutsenko’s allegations against Biden instead of taking them to the Justice Department. Lutsenko has since said there was no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden.
"I said to John, I think you should take the lead and we should put this all in the newspapers because if I go to the Justice Department now, they're going to say Trump is forcing the Justice Department to do it," Giuliani told Beck. "Let's put the darn thing out, and let's see if any of these crooked media people will follow up on a proven case of bribery. And of course what we prove is, the double standard is so bad that they are faced with absolute proof that Biden paid a bribe."
Along with Lutsenko, other prosecutors have confirmed that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing by Biden, who pressed for Shokin’s firing over corruption on behalf of the U.S. government, a stance European Union leaders and international financial institutions shared, according to Amos J. Hochstein, former coordinator for international energy affairs at the State Department.
Solomon published dozens of columns related to the effort and appeared on Fox News dozens of times before he was formally hired by the network in October.
Senior State Department George Kent testified last month that Solomon’s reporting, “if not entirely made up in full cloth,” was filled with “non-truths and non-sequiturs.”
Giuliani also cited Lutsenko’s claims that Ukraine took away prosecutors’ power to investigate purported election interference at the behest of billionaire Democratic donor George Soros, the subject of countless baseless conservative conspiracy theories.
After Solomon’s reporting became a focal point in the impeachment hearing, The Hill, which has not retracted his columns despite Lutsenko’s retraction, announced that it would now fact-check his writing.
"Because of our dedication to accurate, non-partisan reporting and standards, we are reviewing, updating, annotating, and when appropriate, correcting any opinion pieces referenced during the ongoing congressional inquiry," editor-in-chief Bob Cusack said in a staff memo obtained by CNN.
Jimmy Finkelstein, the owner of The Hill, has also come under scrutiny as a result of his ties to Trump and Giuliani and his outlet’s role in pushing the debunked Ukraine narratives.
Giuliani’s work in Ukraine and his dealings with indicted associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, his associates working on the ground in Ukraine, have come under scrutiny from federal prosecutors in New York. Investigators are also reportedly looking at whether Giuliani violated laws requiring him to register as a foreign agent and whether he personally stood to profit from his efforts in Ukraine.
Parnas recently fired his attorney, former Trump lawyer John Dowd, and announced through his lawyers that he is willing to testify in the impeachment probe, all because Trump claimed not to know him even though they had met numerous times.
“President Trump’s recent and regrettable disavowal of Mr. Parnas has caused him to rethink his involvement and the true reasons for his having been recruited to participate in the President’s activities,” Parnas’ attorney Ed MacMahon told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “Mr. Parnas is prepared to testify completely and accurately about his involvement in the President and Rudy Giuliani’s quid pro quo demands of Ukraine.”