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November 21, 2019

Politics

U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel
U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel

U.S. Rep. Engel Seeks Proof Of Trump, Giuliani Efforts To Encourage Ukraine Probe Of Joe Biden

U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel is leading a growing chorus of congressmen calling for an investigation of President Trump's alleged interference in a federal whistleblower case and a 2020 Democratic presidential challenger.

Thursday night, President Trump's personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani admitted making direct contact with top Ukrainian officials. Giuliani acknowledged he asked them to investigate Biden, an admission that comes as Capitol Hill Democrats investigate whether Trump and Giuliani pressured Ukraine’s government to meddle with the 2020 presidential candidate.

“So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?” CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Giuliani in a the Sept. 19 interview.  “Of course I did,” Giuliani replied.

His comments come amid House Democrats’ intensifying look at allegations that Giuliani and Trump were squeezing Ukraine’s recently elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to reopen an investigation of a company connected to Biden’s son, Hunter. 

The chairmen of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees wrote to White House counsel Pat Cipollone on Sept. 9 demanding all documents that reference the allegations against Hunter Biden, as well as the transcript of a July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky. Their letter can be accessed by clicking here. 

“If the President is trying to pressure Ukraine into choosing between defending itself from Russian aggression without U.S. assistance or leveraging its judicial system to serve the ends of the Trump campaign, this would represent a staggering abuse of power, a boon to Moscow, and a betrayal of the public trust,” the three House committee chairmen, U.S. Reps. Eliot Engel, Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings wrote.

Engel represents parts of Westchester County and the Bronx.

A Ukrainian version of the call notes that Trump said Ukraine could improve its image by completing the “investigation of corruption cases, which inhibited the interaction between Ukraine and the USA.”

After Giuliani’s interview, Sen. Murphy recounted his recent meeting with Zelensky in which he characterized the Ukrainian leader as very attuned to Giuliani’s demands and Trump’s handling of Ukraine’s military aid.

“I told him it was best to ignore requests from Trump’s campaign operatives. He agreed,” Murphy wrote on Twitter

“I don’t know what is in the whistleblower complaint,” Murphy said, “but it was clear to me that Ukraine officials were worried about the consequences of ignoring Giuliani’s demands. And of course they were. That’s why presidents shouldn’t have their campaigns talking to foreign leaders.”

"This story has a long tail on it. I made my first request for an investigation into Giuliani’s overtures to Zelensky in May," Murphy also wrote on Twitter.

The House investigation and Giuliani’s comments take on added significance in light of new reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post that suggest a whistleblower complaint about Trump, filed on Aug. 12 by a member of the intelligence community, centers on Ukraine.

An intelligence community watchdog deemed the complaint credible and “urgent,” a designation that typically triggers an automatic referral to Congress. But the nation’s top intelligence official, acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, intervened to prevent it from reaching the Capitol, instead referring it to the Justice Department, which determined that the matter was privileged.

“In the course of investigating that, I found out this incredible story about Joe Biden, that he bribed the president of the Ukraine in order to fire a prosecutor who was investigating his son,” Giuliani said on CNN on Thursday. “That is an astounding scandal of major proportions which all of you have covered up for about five or six months.”

Democrats have noted that within days of Trump’s call to Zelensky, Giuliani met one of the Ukrainian president’s aides in Spain, a meeting that the State Department later said had been facilitated by the American ambassador to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. Around the same time, Politico reported that Trump held up a $250 million package of military aid to Ukraine, meant to shore up the country’s defenses against neighboring Russia.

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