Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to add a comment from the State Department.
Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, has alleged that Democrats, financier and philanthropist George Soros, and the former U.S. ambassador in Kyiv were engaged in efforts to undermine Trump’s authority in Ukraine.
Giuliani made the vague accusations in an interview with Ukrainian news site Censor.net. He provided no evidence to back up the claims.
Earlier this month, Giuliani announced that he would visit Kyiv to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and urge his administration to continue two investigations beneficial to Trump. However, just days later on May 11, the former mayor announced that he had cancelled his trip, blaming “enemies” of the United States and the U.S. president.
Giuliani’s interview with Censor.net — held on May 22 in Paris, France and published on May 27 — offers the latest window into the politician’s view of the forces he claims are working against Trump in Ukraine.
Giuliani told Censor.net that he cancelled his trip after a “leak to the press” that Ukrainian lawmaker Sergii Leshchenko, an unofficial advisor to Zelenskiy, and “somebody else” were advising the Ukrainian president to drop the investigations that interested Giuliani and not to meet with him.
“I was told by people in my country that I shouldn’t go, because it was a trap that was being worked out with (Democrats), people loyal to Soros,” Giuliani said. “And now I see that he’s put around them — (Ihor) Kolomoisky’s lawyer and a couple of guys who work with Soros.”
It was not clear to whom the words “he” and “them” were referring. “Kolomoisky’s lawyer” was a reference to Andriy Bohdan, whom Zelenskiy named his chief of staff on May 21, and who previously had the notorious oligarch Kolomoisky among his clients.
Giuliani said he would send a message to Zelenskiy: “It’s not a good idea to surround yourself with enemies of President Trump.”
“It’s one thing to surround yourself with decent people who may have a different political ideology — but another thing is to surround yourself with a guy who was the lawyer for this major oligarch who has reputed to have taken billions from your bank and then has some kind of unholy alliance between Soros and that Embassy that has to be broken,” Giuliani added.
Attacking the ambassador
Giuliani also accused former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch of working for Soros and against Trump.
Asked why the ambassador was removed from her post on May 20 and what would happen next in her career, Giuliani said: “Somehow she’ll go working for Soros, directly or indirectly. All I can tell you is the things I heard about her. Which is that her embassy was involved heavily in finding dirty information and creating it on people in the Trump campaign. That they were heavily involved in helping Soros (including getting a case dismissed that would hurt him), and (U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State) George Kent and her were the deputy.”
Neither Yovanovitch nor Kent could be reached for comment. After reaching out to the embassy, the Kyiv Post received an emailed statement from an unnamed State Department spokesperson. The spokesperson characterized Giuliani as a “private citizen,” and said that the U.S. Embassy remains committed to helping Ukraine combat corruption, build accountable institutions, and ensure resiliency against Russian aggression.
“They actually put together that whole Special Prosecutor thing,” Giuliani also said. It was unclear whether this was a reference to Robert Mueller, the U.S. special counsel charged with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, or Ukrainian Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Nazar Kholodnytsky, whom wiretaps revealed helping powerful suspects in corruption cases avoid prosecution.
“It was before she got their payoff with the ambassador (post) then. And they put that together and then used it as a way to protect Soros, which is a horrible thing to do,” Giuliani continued. “If we are lecturing you on corruption we can’t have our own corrupt person sitting in the background that we’re doing the bidding of.”
Giuliani offered no evidence to back up his claims, which were often semi-coherent.
Yovanovitch was removed from her post on May 20, after coming under attack from right-wing media, U.S. politicians and Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko. In the U.S., critics have accused her of having an anti-Trump bias. In Ukraine, Lutsenko accused her of handing him a list of Ukrainians the country should not prosecute — a claim the State Department has vehemently denied. No evidence has been offered in support of these accusations.
Two U.S. Democratic congressman have termed Yovanovitch’s removal a “political hit job.”
Abortive Ukraine visit
On May 9, the New York Times reported that Giuliani was planning a trip to Ukraine to meet with Zelenskiy. Among the goals of that trip was to convince the newly elected Ukrainian president to continue two investigations into two matters with significant public resonance in the United States and of potential benefit to Trump.
The first issue in question was events surrounding the release of the “black ledger” of ousted former President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. That document revealed that then Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort had allegedly received more than $12 million dollars in illegal payments from the party since 2007. That revelation forced the political consultant to resign from his role in the Trump campaign.
It also helped fuel the U.S. investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. At the same time, it led to a counternarrative that the Ukrainian government had interfered in the election in favor of Trump’s opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Both conservative media and the Trump administration have advanced that narrative.
The second matter was the role of former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s son in Burisma Holdings, a Cyprus-based gas company owned by Yanukovych-era Ecology and Natural Resources Minister Mykola Zlochevsky. The younger Biden had worked for the company while his father served as vice president and the Barack Obama administration’s point-person on Ukraine.
Giuliani and Prosecutor General Lutsenko have suggested that Biden pressured Ukraine to sack then Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin in order to halt an investigation into the Burisma Holdings, where the younger Biden sat on the board of directors.
Both Ukraine experts and Ukrainian anti-corruption activists have disputed this narrative as fundamentally flawed and untrue.
However, this has not stopped Giuliani’s pursuit of damaging information on Biden, a possible opponent for Trump in the 2020 presidential election.
On May 24, the Washington Post reported that, a week earlier, Giuliani had met with Andrii Telizhenko, a political consultant and former Ukrainian diplomat who has supported the narrative that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Read more: Facing criticism, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani cancels visit to Ukraine
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