Rudy Giuliani Subpoenaed By House Intel Committee In Impeachment Inquiry

Sep 30, 2019
Originally published on October 1, 2019 9:58 am

Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET

Majority Democrats in the House subpoenaed President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, on Monday for documents related to his communications with Ukraine.

The House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena for information about the role Giuliani played in Trump's request of Ukraine's president to investigate the family of former Vice President Joe Biden.

In a letter unveiled on Monday, the chairmen of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees wrote that they had conferred about the need to compel Giuliani and all three House leaders signed the document.

The committees set an Oct. 15 deadline for Giuliani to produce documents and communications back to Jan. 20, 2017.

Giuliani has acknowledged he has messages and other materials that Democrats argue are pertinent to what they call an inquiry that could lead to Trump's impeachment.

"In addition to this stark admission, you stated more recently that you are in possession of evidence — in the form of text messages, phone records, and other communications — indicating that you were not acting alone and that other Trump administration officials may have been involved in this scheme," wrote the Democrats.

The chairmen also sent separate letters seeking materials from three of Giuliani's business associates.

The signatories on the letters were Democratic House Reps. Eliot Engel of New York, chairman of the Foreign Affairs panel; Adam Schiff of California, chairman of the House Intelligence panel; and Elijah Cummings of Maryland, chairman of the Oversight Committee.

House pursues new line of inquiry

Democrats say they want to move with alacrity in what they've called a pressing new phase of their investigations into Trump.

Their theory of the case is that Trump halted congressionally authorized military assistance for Ukraine until he got a commitment from its president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, about a Biden investigation.

The White House released an account of Trump's conversation with Zelenskiy last week in which the American president asks for a "favor" and mentions the Bidens.

An anonymous whistleblower within the intelligence community alleged in a complaint that the Ukrainians had been primed beforehand to expect that topic.

What isn't clear is how that pre-call message might have been delivered or by whom. Members of Congress want to hear from Giuliani and others who worked on the Ukraine issue, including some State Department diplomats, about that part of the story.

A number of witnesses may appear before the House Intelligence Committee this week behind closed doors.

White House unmoved

Trump and his Republican supporters dismiss the Democrats' threats of impeachment.

The president does not concede there was anything amiss in what he has called a "perfect" conversation with Zelenskiy, one that prompted Trump to praise his own niceness.

Republicans also have sought to go on offense against the process still churning within officialdom in Washington; Trump said on Monday he's trying to find out the whistleblower's identity, even though the person is supposed to be protected under the law.

Trump's 2020 reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee also have said they're buying $10 million worth of cable TV ads to underscore what they say should be the real focus of the Ukraine affair: alleged "corruption" by Biden and his family.

Trump also has defended what he called the propriety of broaching "corruption" with his Ukrainian counterpart and said that he halted military assistance because he sought more contributions from European governments.

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House Democrats have subpoenaed President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. And we are also learning tonight that the president may have asked foreign governments to help a Justice Department investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation.

NPR justice reporter Ryan Lucas is in the studio with us, and I hope you're going to shed more light on both these developments. Hey, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hello there.

KELLY: Start with Giuliani. Why has he been subpoenaed? What do House Democrats want to know?

LUCAS: So the House Intelligence Committee issued this subpoena. The committee says it's looking into credible allegations that Giuliani acted as an agent of the president in a scheme to advance the president's own personal political interests by abusing the power of the office of the president. The subpoena is not for testimony at this point. This is for records.

What lawmakers want is all documents related to Giuliani's contacts with Ukrainians, so basically anything related to his efforts to dig up information tied to the allegations that he's made against Joe Biden and Biden's son Hunter. And it's, of course, those allegations that President Trump himself raised in his phone call with the Ukrainian president when Trump urged Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. And it's that call and those actions that, of course, are the subject of the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

KELLY: OK. And you said, Ryan, they are looking into whether Giuliani was involved in some scheme to advance his own...

LUCAS: Right.

KELLY: ...Personal political interests. What does Giuliani say?

LUCAS: Well, Giuliani has been the public face pushing these allegations against Biden and his son for some months. I've spoken with Giuliani a number of times recently, including today. Giuliani says he first got word of the allegations against Biden about a year ago. He's met with former Ukrainian prosecutors and others since then to follow up with his own investigative efforts.

One big meeting in that took place in early August in Spain. That's where Giuliani met with Andriy Yermak, a senior adviser to Ukraine's president. Giuliani gave Yermak information about the Bidens' alleged improprieties and said that it should be fully investigated. Now, we have to say that Giuliani's allegations against the Bidens are unproven.

KELLY: Right.

LUCAS: Public evidence actually rebuts it.

Giuliani says that this meeting in Spain was facilitated by Kurt Volker. At that time, Volker was the U.S. special representative to Ukraine under the State Department. Volker resigned on Friday. He's going to sit down for an interview with investigators on the Hill later this week.

KELLY: OK, a lot of names to keep track of here, but let me pause you on that last one, Kurt Volker, who you said worked for the State Department, at least until Friday. Why would he have been involved in helping set up a meeting between the president's personal lawyer, Giuliani, and the Ukrainian government?

LUCAS: Right. Volker's role at the State Department was to help support Ukraine and its development, its democratic reforms. There's been a lot of negative news about Ukraine over the past year-plus - its corruption, its general struggles. The conservative media here in the United States has picked up on that, and Giuliani has certainly picked up on that.

The Ukrainian government reached out to Volker and asked him to put them in touch with Giuliani. It's my understanding that Volker did so in part because that would give the Ukrainians a chance to show Giuliani on their own that the new Ukrainian government had the right priorities, that they were the good guys, so to speak - so, in a sense, giving Ukraine a chance to kind of correct the record with somebody who has the ear of the president.

KELLY: And that meeting you mentioned was at the initiative of the Ukrainian government, just to...

LUCAS: Right.

KELLY: OK. So to this other story today that has to do with Australia and reports that President Trump pushed the prime minister of Australia to help William Barr - U.S. Attorney General William Barr - in the Justice Department's review of the origins of the Russia investigation. Just walk us through what's happening here.

LUCAS: Right. It's a complicated story, but we've known for a long time that the U.S. attorney John Durham is looking into the beginnings of this Russia investigation. The New York Times first reported today that Trump pressed Australia's prime minister to help Barr with that probe. The Justice Department now says in a statement that it was Barr who asked the president to contact foreign countries to put Barr and Durham in touch with the appropriate officials.

Now, this is unusual. There are lots of other channels through which such requests can be made, say, the director of national intelligence or the State Department. Having the president make the request takes it up a level. But, of course, it also raises questions about the president's motivations because he has a personal political interest in the outcome.

KELLY: Yes, he does.

That's NPR's Ryan Lucas. Thanks very much.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.