President Trump tried to enlist then-national security adviser John Bolton in the Ukraine pressure campaign in early May, according to a manuscript of Bolton’s forthcoming book reported by the New York Times.
Trump allegedly ordered Bolton to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and have him meet with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.
The President reportedly gave the order in person at an Oval Office meeting where Bolton and Giuliani were in attendance, along with White House counsel Pat Cipollone and acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
Trump’s defense in the impeachment scandal over his attempt to pressure Ukraine into helping him in the 2020 election is being led by Cipollone.
Giuliani had initially planned on traveling to Ukraine to meet with Zelensky in early May. But after news reports exposed Giuliani’s plan, he cancelled the trip.
Documents released by Giuliani henchman Lev Parnas show that Giuliani proposed a meeting with Zelensky, and also with Victoria Toensing, a right-wing TV personality who was hired over the summer as an attorney for Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash.
Cipollone’s presence at the meeting comes after he spent the past week arguing, and overseeing a legal team arguing, that Bolton should not be called as a witness in the Senate’s impeachment trial.
The revelation adds to a timeline which suggests that Trump and his associates were forced to scramble to make Kyiv aware of the Trump administration’s demands in the aftermath of Zelensky’s late April 2019 victory.
It also came as Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was ousted from her posting in Kyiv. The New York Times reported that Giuliani brought up another name at the meeting: George Kent, a top State Department official who Giuliani said had ties to George Soros.
Yovanovitch departed Kyiv on April 25, and was officially recalled May 7.
After the meeting, two Bolton aides reportedly entered his office and said that Trump had directed them to learn more about Kent.
Trump denied the allegations in a statement.
POTUS statement: “I never instructed John Bolton to set up a meeting for Rudy Giuliani, one of the greatest corruption fighters in America and by far the greatest mayor in the history of N.Y.C., to meet with President Zelensky. That meeting never happened” https://t.co/f9SOgKs9VO
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) January 31, 2020