President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani spoke on the phone with the president of Venezuela in September 2018, a pivotal moment in the rising tensions between the U.S. and the South American country, the Washington Post reported.
Giuliani and then-Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) — who is believed to be the congressman mentioned in the indictments of two Giuliani pals for campaign finance violations — spoke with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as part of a behind-the-scenes effort to negotiate the terms of Maduro’s resignation, an outcome the Trump administration was working toward, but through aggressive sanctions. According to people familiar with the plan who spoke to the Post, White House officials were confused by Giuliani’s involvement when word of the call got back to the White House.
Sessions reportedly had visited Maduro in Caracas that spring as part of the backchannel effort and the September 2018 call was a follow up to that visit, according to the Post. It is unclear why Giuliani was on the call.
But the involvement of the President’s personal attorney in the matter is just another example of Giuliani’s ongoing efforts to unofficially insert himself into official foreign policy matters for either personal or private business interests. Giuliani orchestrated the Ukraine pressure scheme now at the center of Trump’s impeachment and is currently being scrutinized by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for possible foreign lobbying violations.
At the time of the phone call, Giuliani reportedly was pushing ousted National Security Adviser John Bolton to sign off on his backchannel effort to slowly push Maduro out of office, which Bolton did not approve of. At the time, Bolton was leading the charge to eventually officially recognize Maduro opponent Juan Guaidó as the president of Venezuela. Bolton’s opposition to Giuliani’s position is notable in this second case of foreign policy meddling, given the former national security adviser was vehemently against Giuliani’s scheme to pressure Ukraine to probe the Biden family, which Bolton called a “drug deal.”
Read the full WaPo report here.