CNN has obtained a “never-before-heard audio” showing Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer Rudy Giuliani relentlessly pressuring and coaxing the Ukrainian government in 2019 to investigate baseless conspiracies about then-candidate Joe Biden in exchange for a meeting with then-president Trump.
“The audio is of a July 2019 phone call between Giuliani, US diplomat Kurt Volker, and Andriy Yermak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky,” CNN reported, noting that “the call was a precursor to Trump’s infamous call with Zelensky, and both conversations later became a central part of Trump’s first impeachment.”
The new audio contradicts Trump’s oft-repeated assertion that “there was no quid pro quo” where Zelensky could secure US government support if he did political favors for Trump.
During the roughly 40-minute call, Giuliani repeatedly told Yermak that Zelensky should publicly announce investigations into possible corruption by Biden in Ukraine, and into claims that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election to hurt Trump. (These separate claims are both untrue.)
“All we need from the President [Zelensky] is to say, I’m gonna put an honest prosecutor in charge, he’s gonna investigate and dig up the evidence, that presently exists and is there any other evidence about involvement of the 2016 election, and then the Biden thing has to be run out,” Giuliani said, according to CNN, citing the audio recording.
Yermak listened patiently and tried to reroute the conversation to official diplomatic matters, like arranging dates for Zelensky to make his first official visit to the US. But he also gave signals to the Americans on the line that he’d work to move the ball forward on the “investigations.”
“I’m absolutely sure that as soon as the dates of President Zelensky’s upcoming visit to United States will be confirmed, I am ready to be personally assume control of the preparation,” Yermak said. “And of course, I will be ready to come, and we can (be) personally sitting (down), and in detail discuss all the questions, all this investigation which you listed in our conversation.”
“Giuliani and Volker liked what they were hearing,” noted CNN. And Volker mentioned that Trump was scheduled to speak with Zelensky soon and congratulate him on his major parliamentary victory.
By the end of the call, it seemed clear to Yermak what needed to happen to get on Trump’s good side.
“I’m sure that Zelensky will say that,” Yermak said, referring to the requests from Giuliani and Volker that Zelensky should mention the investigations during his upcoming call with Trump.
“Good,” Volker said.
“Believe me, Andriy, that would be good for all of us,” Giuliani replied. “That would move it along very fast. And I can assure you that, as far as I’m concerned, I think they should talk this week.”
Volker said, “I will press that as well,” referring to getting Trump to call Zelensky.
Trump connected with Zelensky three days later, on July 25, 2019. During that call, Trump raised with Zelensky some of the same baseless theories that Giuliani mentioned to Yermak. Trump said, “I would like you to do us a favor” and investigate the allegations.
Trump’s conduct during that now-infamous phone call with Zelensky led to a whistleblower complaint from a US intelligence official who claimed Trump abused his powers and solicited foreign help in the 2020 election from Ukraine, leading to Trump being impeached by the House of Representatives. He was acquitted by the Republican-led Senate.