There’s a prelude to the now-infamous July call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump leaned on the foreign leader to manufacture dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
According to a CNBC report Tuesday, Zelensky campaign advisers dined with former Trump administration officials and lobbyists at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., in the months leading up to the phone call that spurred the whistleblower complaint, which has formed the basis of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
The dinner in question took place April 16 at the Trump International Hotel’s BLT Prime — just a few days before Zelensky’s April 21 election victory, according to the report. According to sources familiar with the event who spoke to CNBC, Mike Rubino, a former Trump campaign adviser and an ex-representative in the Health and Human Services department, and Matt Mowers, a State Department appointee, were in attendance. Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer also made a brief appearance, but he left for another event.
According to CNBC, the dinner was set up by Signal Group Consulting. Signal is a lobbying firm that the Zelensky campaign paid at least $60,000 to organize meetings with government officials, according to a lobbying disclosure report. Signal executives also attended the dinner, according to CNBC.
According to sources with knowledge of the meeting, the dinner focused on Zelensky’s campaign and did not veer off into a discussion about investigating the Bidens.
Rubino told CNBC that he attended the dinner as a “favor.”
“Honestly, I think Signal was trying to impress them,” Rubino told CNBC, while explaining that he didn’t learn that the Ukrainians at the meeting were part of Zelensky’s campaign until later. “I just did it as a favor. I showed up, sat down, ate dinner and left. I didn’t really speak to anybody because they spoke in a different language.”
Read CNBC’s report here.